The waters of this river will make anybody drunk.
In: 5000 Writing Prompts by Bryn Donovan
The group of ragged men and women cheered gleefully as they finally reached the water. Their baggage was scattered on the hot sand, as they drank from the river and bathed in it to cool down.
Tkiz’kxix was watching the humans through their multifaceted eyes from the shadow of a huge palm tree. Their mandibles clacked in a soft rhythmic melody.
The humans had been reluctant to ask for help. But being lost in the desert for several days changed every prejudice towards Tkiz and their people the merchant caravan had.
The leader of the caravan stepped up to where Tkiz sat. Nervously, she was wringing her hat with both hands.
“I wanted to thank you,” she said. Her words were slightly slurred, and her cheeks flushed red. Tkiz knew that humans showed those signs after drinking from the oasis. “Without you, we wouldn’t have survived another day.”
While saying that, she gestured to her people, laughing and dancing in the water. Some had started to pull off their clothes. Some elders of Tkiz’s swarm had tried to find explanations for this but had failed. It didn’t matter to Tkiz, though. The pursuit of knowledge wasn’t they understand. They had been born into a different caste. Tkiz was serving a different cause.
They made a clacking sound with the sharp tools that were protruding from their mouths. It was a gesture of happiness among their people. But it seemed to make the human leader uncomfortable.
“Rest.” The words in the human’s language didn’t exactly roll off easily. But Tkiz had learned to imitate the sounds in a way humans could understand. “Tomorrow. Help. Lead to city.”
The leader nodded and bowed deeply. She thanked them again before rejoining her people’s celebration of survival.
Their predecessors had taught Tkiz’kxix well. They were Surface Walkers. Exiles of the swarm, but crucial for its survival. Tkiz stretched their six limbs from them, ruffling the short wings that were hidden under a shell of chitin. Tracking humans had come naturally to Tkiz. Leading them astray without them noticing was easy. Knowing just the right time to reveal yourself to them to gain their trust was the real challenge.
Tkiz’kxix knew that they would keep celebrating until late at night. They had seen it often enough. Tonight the dark gods of the swarm would feast again.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Writing time: 20 minutes
Editing time: 30 minutes
This prompt. I didn’t know what do to with it. I thought about it for quite a while. The story turned out rather short in comparison to the others. Again I felt the need to go dark with it in the end. I just can’t help myself.
Somehow I pictured a desert in my head and the joy of finally finding water after being lost. Here the water literally makes them drunk and behave that way. I changed the body of water from a river to an oasis because it fits the setting better.
I wanted to experiment with a non-human character and viewpoint, so I put in this insectoid being. I don’t really know how to pronounce the name. It’s supposed to imitate the sounds it makes, but it feels rather clunky to me.
Their society is clearly different from those of humans. They have no apparent gender and are born into doing specific work for the swarm. They clearly are intelligent enough to understand human behavior sufficient to manipulate them and even imitate their speech. But they never doubt their purpose inside the hive. Even if that means to be exiled.
Those poor traveling merchants were misled by the insectoid without even noticing. They revealed themselves as their savior. But little do they know that their fate is already decided. They will be sacrificed to the gods of the swarm.
Those things must be pretty scary if it’s crucial enough to have a dedicated group of bugs wandering the desert to find the right food for them. It seems like a scary place to cross.
Do you write non-human beings in your stories? How do you construct their societies?
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