I wake, slowly, limbs trying to unfold, wings trying to spread, confined, constrained in a shell that tastes like food. I push at the walls and they creak but hold. I push again, feel something give. I prod at the minute tear with my…my something, my sting? It passes through easily. I shift, trying to push my head down, to see what I am causing. The wall tears more, in a swift, smooth movement. Tears off, when I shift again, and I emerge from my shell, and spread my wings.
I have been in this place before. Without wings or legs or this body, but I have been here—the shell smelt familiar, and this place smells like the shell, though it is covered smooth, and the shell was torn when I left it. The floor is the colour of the walls of my shell, and the walls are the same. There is sound coming from within one of the walls.
It is a sound that sounds familiar, as though I have made it. It is a sound of joy—it is the sound I made shifting, trying to come out of the shell. There is a me in that shell. I watch as she stabs through the wall of the shell, as it comes off and hangs to one side, as she emerges. She is large, my eyes are staring, and her wings are spread. There are others, too, standing at a distance, some above, and some at the place as, me. But they are different. Only one other and I are me. The other me moves towards me, and I move towards the other me. My wings shiver and shift and I rise above her. I fly behind her and I open skin like I opened shell, but this does not tear as easily. The me I am tearing shifts, makes the sound again that she and I made, though this sounds nothing joyous. I pull myself from her, push in again. The other me makes a different sound and stops moving. I pull out again. She lies still. I repeat the sound I made earlier—the sound she made.
One of the others—one of the workers, I remember, I know—moves towards me, and then many others. They move around me, and take up the dead me, and move away, speaking amongst themselves, ignoring me. “Trepindesu,” one says, and the others bob in the air. Those not carrying the still me stop, move away from the crowd, dropping in mid-flight. I look into the torn shells—they are the same—that housed me and me.
I hear the sound again, this time from a distance, and I move to it. Workers move away from me, move together past me, and all mutter “trepindesu”. The shells with me in them shiver, and they sound. I stop in front of one, and I turn and stab into it. Something shifts inside, and I stab again. It stills. I pull out, stab a last time, then tear the shell open. What falls out is not me, is nothing like me—its eyes are larger, and it has nothing to stab it me with. Drone—I know this like I knew the workers. Drone and not me. But the sounds are still going on, higher and louder, and the shell beside the drone’s quivers, shifts. Something stabs out of it, and I stab in, keep stabbing till all movement stops. The shell rips and the me inside it falls out. She is still, like the me whose shell was beside mine. Two of me are still. I shift, spread my wings, rise and hover. Two of me are still, but I am not. There is still a sound. More of me are waking, trying to push out of their shells. They will try to keep me still. I will make them lie still.
The next me is already still when I find her—another me has made her lie still outside her torn shell, made her silent. The sound starts, stops—the other me has stilled another me.
The sound starts again, and I fly to it. This me is looking away from me, spreading her wings, and I stab her before she turns. Workers pass, carrying the drone; three stop to pick up the me who is lying still. I fly behind them. “Trepindesu,” one says. Another asks, “how long?” The first, holding the drone’s head, says, “Till all but one are still.”
I fly away from them. The shells carry only workers. I fly further, and see drones emerging. And then again I hear the sound—joyous, triumphant, the sound I made when I emerged, the sound I made when the other me lay still and I did not. There is a me lying still on the ground, and, hovering above her, a me in the air. I rise into the air and she flies at me, and I shift, move, stab at her wing. She falls and I hover over her, stabbing repeatedly till she stills.
I fly away from the me I have stilled and the me she stilled. I fly between the walls and above the floor that look like my torn shell, and I wait for sound. There is no sound, though all is quiet save the whirr of the workers’ wings. I see me lying still, outside and inside torn and pierced shells. I am the only me flying. I sound my joy, and no other me replies. I am the only me not silent. The workers carry away all the others—I have made some still, some have stilled each other. “Any more?” asks one. “It is ended,” another answers, shifts the thorax of a me I have not stilled. “Trepindesu is over.”
I am the only me left. I sound my triumph.