Entomological Ascendance

bug girlby William Bradley

Although her parents told her that the wings made her special, Estelle still hated them. She hated having to cut her shirts so that they could poke through, she hated that she couldn’t wear a bra like the other girls because the strap painfully pinched and smashed her wings, and she hated the way they sometimes seemed to vibrate of their own accord when she was nervous, creating a low buzz that embarrassed her and drove her classmates to distraction during exams. Most of all, she hated the way the kids at school teased her, especially the way Denny Davis called her “Bug Girl,” in the halls or shouted across the cafeteria. 

On the brighter side, Estelle had always felt a kinship to the insect life in her town. The wasps didn’t sting her the way they sometimes stung the other kids, often without reason, it seemed; the moths would perch on her finger like parakeets; ladybugs freckled her arms and legs as she danced in the field on the outskirts of the subdivision where she lived. And though, as far as she could tell, her wings were merely decorative, incapable of flight, these friends seemed to regard her as one of their own. Perhaps, she often thought, all God’s winged creatures lived in harmony, sharing the same fear of the Denny Davises of the world, with their taunts and their flyswatters and their windshields. 

On what turned out to be Estelle’s last day of school, she left her English class to use the restroom. Teachers didn’t have to worry about Estelle abusing hall pass privileges to sneak smokes or to meander among the lockers. Estelle was well-behaved and not one to flitter. But on this day, Denny Davis was skipping Global Studies and happened to be in the hall when she walked into the bathroom. Looking around to make sure no one saw, he followed her. 

“Hey Bug Girl,” he called to her from outside the stall. Her bladder clenched mid-pee as her wings began a panicked buzz. “Come out here, Bug Girl. I got something to show you.” 

Later, after decades of therapy and tormenting bugs in his parents’ garage, Denny would admit and embrace the desire he had for all arthropods. He would appear on television and write books and proclaim that it wasn’t a fetish—this desire was part of who he was, as important to his sense of self as his Southern Baptist faith. But that was years away. 

Estelle managed to pull her pants back up before he broke the stall door’s latch and stood facing her, unzipped and buzzing madly. He grabbed her arm and sneered at her. “Bug Girl,” he whispered. 

And all over town, bees vacated hives, mosquitoes rose from puddles, dragonflies buzzed from the fields, and all of the town’s insects converged upon the school, flying in through open windows and doors that had not closed all the way. They poured through the halls, past the lockers, towards the restroom, a cacophony of angry buzzing announcing their approach. 

By the time Denny noticed the noise, they were already on a collision course. Some bugs flew under and over the bathroom door—the larger ones crushing themselves to death in an effort to get through. Others bombarded the windows until they cracked, then crashed inwards. They flew towards his face, into his eyes and mouth. Those that could stung his arms. He stumbled backwards blindly, fell down. Estelle stood over him, and she finally understood. 

When the bugs moved from his face and he could see again, he gazed at her. She was levitating above him, lifted by her angel wings. 

“I’m not the Bug Girl,” she told him. “I’m the Insect Queen. You don’t want to fuck with us.” 

Denny Davis nodded, and with a wave of her hand her loyal subjects began to fly back towards the window and the cracks in the door. Estelle—having molted the shy and fearful girl she had been—opened and went through the door herself, down the hallway, out the main entrance, took to the sky, spread her flies and winged away.

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William Bradley mostly writes personal essays, so when he writes fiction, he generally likes to avoid anything that resembles a realistic plot. He dreams of one day reinventing Santa Claus for the 21st century as a grim and gritty antihero who uses his surveillance technology to reward niceness but who has also declared a one-man war on naughtiness.
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