Nic scrunched his eyes together in heavy concentration. “Hurry, Hurry!” he said testily to his large friend, who was across the room from him looking through a mountain of Nic’s colored pods. “I am trying to find it” Ben replied shaking his head with quiet amusement at his friend’s behavior.
The Annual Great Glow Off was only 3 days away and Nic knew he had much to do to be ready.
The two fireflies were inside a stump in Nic’s laboratory trying to perfect a new concoction.
The floor was polished wood with dark rings emanating from the center, a rectangular table made of willow stalks and bark was in the middle of the room. In the back of the stump was a fireplace and a cozy nest filled with soft leaves and different grasses. All around the room there were shelves and cupboards precariously stacked with bark bound journals, leafy papers and ill-boding containers of all shapes and sizes. Small translucent flowers full of glowing amber fluid dimly lit the edges of the room. As Ben looked through the different pods trying to find the one Nic needed, his light would flare and brighten the room. Nervously Nic tapped his foot and looked into strange pulsing ooze in the bowl on the table, “Hurry please, Ben. Its gonna set up again. And I really don’t want to spend another day cleaning.” He said, thinking back briefly to the accident that had happened a few days before.
“This one?” Ben asked grinning hopefully, holding up a pod filled with things only Nic could keep track of. “No No, you big happy lumux” scolded Nic, “That one!”
There were endless stacks of different colored pods, some different shades of the same color and a few looking very similar. Ben grabbed one as quickly as possible and held it up so his nervous and frantically stirring friend could see. “No, the yellow one!” Nic replied hopping around agitatedly. Ben grumbled “They are all yellow it seems to me.”.
A warm pink and purple glow was coming from the substance inside the bowl Nic was standing over. Nic stirred the ichor furiously with a twig as he looked at Ben and said in his high pitched fast paced voice, “The yellow pod! The yellow pod! Yes, that one, Finally” Nic gasped. “Now hurry, bring it here and squeeze it with all your might.”
Ben hurried over to the liquid that was looking more foreboding by the second. It was bubbling and burping with strange swirls of green and purple when Ben started to squeeze the pod. He felt something crack and grind together and slowly a few small yellow dust particles floated down into the ooze. “Shake it just a tad more.” piped Nic.
Ben shook the pod a few more times and watched as the yellow dust settled into the ooze. The gel was turning to a gold glowing glop not unlike illuminated honey. A grin spread from mandible to mandible on Nics little firefly face. “Ooooooooo, yesssssss, so nice” he whispered to the gel. Ben just shook his head with a smile, patted his friend on his back and headed over to a chair by the fire. He grabbed a bit of dew, plopped down into a creaking rocking chair and asked, “So what now Nicster?”.
Nic was a genius. For a firefly that is. And genius although rare in other creatures was almost nonexistent in firefly society. He wasn’t much to look at by firefly standards and often got chided about his strange behavior,the odd odors originating from his stump, and the often dangerous contraptions he tested on the different flies of the Brightback tribe. Unfortunately he lacked the most important attribute of the culture-blinking. He was dull. He was a dull bug. The most light poor Nic could conjure was much less than any other firefly in the tribe. And every year Nic would be made fun of because of his inability to glow. All the males in the Brightback tribe were required to take part in the great glow festival. This was a festival that celebrated the life of the firefly, it was also the time when lady fireflies choose their annual mates. For the last 4 cycles Nic had come away alone, and last year he vowed to find a solution.
“Now we sleep and let it mix and set up real well. Tomorrow we should be able to go and test it out.” he said with a wicked grin.
The next morning Ben woke to the sound of Nic clacking and clicking around. He wiped the sleep from his eyes and peered at Nic, “What time is it?” he asked. He knew it must be early, he could still hear the morning birds singing their songs looking for worms and unwary beetles.
“Time, Time, Time to go.” rattled Nic. “Out of bed, now now now” he continued as he ran to and fro stuffing things into his grass-blade belt. Ben smiled as he lifted his huge frame out of the little nest and stretched. “Ok, ok, calm down, I just need to eat before we can be on our way.” It seemed his friend was over-packing a bit for a day trip. He had vine rope, bone hooks, his little sling shot and a slew of other items. Oh well, Ben thought, he is just excited.
After both were fed and Nic had all his provisions, they set out. “Where are we headed anyhow?” Ben asked, as they flew down the path into the thicket. “Hmmmm, Hmmmm?” replied Nic as he flitted purposely to the south and sped up quite a bit. “Where are we headed?” Ben asked again a little more suspiciously after easily catching up to his much slower friend. He knew his Nic didn’t have a hearing problem and he also knew there was only trouble to the south.
“Wellllllll………” replied Nic, “I forgot that we needed one more ingredient for my potion, and we have to go into the endless bog to get it.”
Ben stopped suddenly. “The endless bog? The endless bog? We never go into the endless bog! Do you know what happens to fireflies that go into the endless bog?” Ben’s glow was turning orange and his wings were flapping more quickly, revealing his anxiety.
“Umm, they win the Great Glow off?”‘ quipped Nic.
“No Nic, No.” Ben said flatly. “We don’t know what happens to them, do we? And why don’t we know what happens to them?”
Nic shrugged his shoulders and pleaded, “Please Ben! You’ve always been a big bright blinker, I barely glow bright enough to make a shadow. This is my one chance. I could actually woo Lyla.” he scuffed the dirt with his foot and looked down sheepishly. “I think I would have a chance, Ben, I really do.”
Ben sighed and said, “If I get smooshed I am not gonna be very happy with you, my friend. But I owe ya, so of course I’ll try and do what you need me to do.” He flew over to a nice looking leaf, grabbed some dew and sat down. “Let me figure out what you’ve gotten me into.” Ben said as he took a long sip from the dew drop and look at his friend uneasily. “So where are we going in the great bog?” he asked.
Nic grabbed a dew drop and shoved it into his mouth and mumbled something too quietly for Ben to make out.
“Where. Are. We. Going, Nic?” he asked again warily, already knowing, dreading the answer.
Nic replied in a quiet and hushed voice, eyes wide with fear, “We have to go see……. Drago!”