I Will Reply

I Will Reply
#1
I Will Reply
After the Burst,

then the dozen years of silence, of emptiness, of loneliness,

and in the vastness of the world, populated by Several Billion, but spread so thinly (and so small) that no one person knows more than a handful nearby,

the average Insect, no matter shape or size, might be desperate for accompaniment.

The notion that they could send out a message, a shout into the darkness--

--and feel a reply.

Cent Wrote:To: All Who This May Concern
I realized my purpose in the world gradually, and even then I don't know for sure. But after some test runs, I want to give this a go.

If you send me an email, I will reply.

I'll dedicate as long as it takes to give a sufficient, meaningful reply. I'm alright completely opening up and dedicating myself to each and every bug who puts something forward. I have no special interest or price. It doesn't matter to me if you already have a friend, or several friends, because I know sometimes that isn't enough.

I know the world is vast. I know my story, and the stories of the people who live close to me, but it doesn't make sense for a cockroach to travel the planet crawling underneath each and every City hoping to find people to comfort. I don't know what the world is to you. I don't know what your story is.

But I'm willing to hear it.

Cent sat back weakly in the chair as she clicked with one upper leg to send the rather vaguely-worded message out, out, out. Her home, cramped in the endless apartment complex carved into the brick-and-mortar of an apartment complex, was coated in a brownish gray tint, ugliness and emptiness. She felt some solace in the paper cup of coffee sat within her lap, within four legs which held it tight. A cockroach could manage alright without thumbs, like her ancestors before her, but she supposed they had never been caffeinated. Needed to drink and revitalize. Needed to drink and live. Legally, medically, socially, she wouldn't need a sip for another couple of hours, but with the email sent and her body desperate for comfort, she crooned her insectoid head down, prodded the lip of the cup with two mandibles, and began to drink.

Mocha, in this case, was the shadow standing over Cent, who had limbs which jittered just like her caffeinated self. It sunk down her mouth and spread throughout her body like a sickness, like a band of musicians all banging out their own rhythm-- hitting her body and limbs each individually until her whole self was back alive again, back to full. This was prevention from the Long Sleep, the one which had come for trillions before her, and which she now supposed she would never have to face head on, not like they did.

To be caffeinated meant to live as long as she could survive. To have a world full of insects living so long meant that the crawling, chittering overpopulated world, dead of Human and all else, could not exist. One day it ceased, it Burst, and now Cent was left in the remnants.

She had always wondered what else there was in the world, beyond the dispensed coffee, tea, and occasional acquaintance. The old mini-computer monitor was blaring forth a window into all else, all that she had not seen, all that she could not bear to see. She wasn't ready. But the miracle and curse in her body which was now running rampant forced her body into ready stiffness, ready action.

Here it was, Cent supposed.

Here it was.

The messages would come in, and perhaps, if she didn't give up like the hundred times she'd given up before, she would reply.


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#2
RE: I Will Reply
Hello? Hello? Who is this?? Are you a member of the Carapace Clique? I don't want no trouble ya hear.
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#3
RE: I Will Reply
Subject: Hello th�re
Is this coming thr����right? I tend to have problems wit���around here.
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#4
RE: I Will Reply
Cent Wrote:To: Not A Member Of The Carapace Clique
Hello! Hi! Greetings. My name is Cent. I live in a complex in Bends, Brooklyn; nowadays the place only has about a dozen residents, including a millipede and centipede who have been transforming all the empty rooms into various sorts of insane mazes and recreation rooms. I'm a cockroach.

I've known a few cliques to run through this tiny, tiny part of town, but they've been of such varying quality and purpose that there's really no pattern in it. Sometimes it's just a group of nomads, and I've seen a couple cases where a dung beetle was leading the charge- of course- but other times it's people searching for territory. Not that there's any lack of that, haha.

What carapace clique are you worried about? What's their deal, exactly?

Oh, and I figure this is a little more friendly and low-stakes to ask... what's your choice of caffeine?

Cent Wrote:To: Hello There
Oh, if your Internet is failing, that's the worst! Strictly speaking, there are things to do around here, around me, but I only make it through the days by connecting to the outside world. God forbid you're trying to deal with living underground with whatever spotty reception that brings, or just staying in one of those towns where the residue pollution makes it impossible to broadcast...

I'm Cent, by the way, a cockroach. I live in Bends, Brooklyn, where population density is (I guess) fairly average. Still lonely, and still spread apart. Sometimes I'll take a break from the computer and walk out to one of the many, many balcony rooms, and just stare down at everything from above.

It's weird, you know? They built these skyscrapers to seem tall, but even the second floor feels infinite for you or I.

Are you living somewhere like that?
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#5
RE: I Will Reply
Hi.
Kinda unsure what to write here, but that's no problem, I'm sure I'll get the hang of it.
What do you spend your time doing? Have any hobbies?
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#6
RE: I Will Reply
I would love to share my story with someone, but I'm concerned about my safety if I do. You're not going to show my emails to someone else, are you?
Watch in awe as I end every comment I've ever written and ever will write with the greatest and most anticlimactic signature in the universe!!!!!!!!!

poopy
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#7
RE: I Will Reply
Cent Wrote:To: Kinda Unsure
Hey, that's no problem. I sort of coast through conversations in real life, and it can feel even more difficult to open up an email window to compose a message. It helps to think about it like you're... talking to an old friend, trying to let things off your chest. Though I know I'm a stranger, I want to try and be the kind of person who replies.

I don't have too many hobbies. I've spent some years just drifting through the world not paying too much attention. I'm a cockroach living in Bends, Brooklyn, so caffeine comes free from Gov, but that's only enough to let your physical body continue. I'm sure you get what it's like, being sustained but not... living. Right?

Lately this centipede and millipede (envy) couple living near me have been inviting me to social things. They're kind of kooky, up to all sorts of projects like they're taking twice the dosage. Who knows? Maybe I should spring on it and try to get to know these weirdos better, but some part of me wanted to just stay alone. I guess until now.

How's life for you, wherever you might be? More exciting than the smog-aired cities?

Cent Wrote:To: Concerned
No, I don't think so! I think these emails all should be confidential. Something might be buggering things so that you can see who else is sending emails to me, since this system isn't exactly designed well...

Anyhow. If that little thing isn't too much of a qualm, or even if it is... regardless, I'm Cent. I'm a cockroach living in Bends, Brooklyn, one of those places that used to hold trillions of us back in the day. It's kind of bizarre to think about. I've gotten so used to... well, Human Equivalent. That's what I heard a friend call it, once. We're a thousand times smaller, but the same number of us live in New York City as once lived here.

Bends, Brooklyn used to be just this one building, a place with its own swirling microcosm millions strong. Now, first floor to seventieth, I don't think there are many more than a hundred. And the last trek I took to the top took weeks.

How's life been for you since all that changed? Was it as big a change as it was here?

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#8
RE: I Will Reply
Honestly, nothing much has changed around here. This place is about as weird as it's ever been. I don't expect you to believe this, but just outside is a patch of growing plants shaped like human fingers... The similarity is uncanny. Trust me, I know human fingers when I see them, which is not that often these days admittedly, but these are the real deal. Or at least they look like the real deal. From what I understand, humans don't just grow out of the ground. They snatched up my buddy last week when he got too close. Squeezed the life out of him, they did. Ever since I've been warning travellers to stay away from them, but they never listen. I guess it's just too curious a sight to ignore.

How about you? Got some interesting plantlife where you live?
Watch in awe as I end every comment I've ever written and ever will write with the greatest and most anticlimactic signature in the universe!!!!!!!!!

poopy
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#9
RE: I Will Reply
To: Realized Their Purpose

Hullo! Kinda bored so I went skimming my emails and I found this! I don't get many emails anymore, what with being a drab, brown moth like myself. Here I'm just sitting in this old hollow log, enjoying some caffeinated hot cocoa mixed with orange juice, the usual for myself. How about you?
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#10
RE: I Will Reply
Subject: Cl�ser to ���th
I live pretty low to the ground, myself. Fear of he�ghts and all that. I really envy those who can just up an��y whenever they want; I'm sure they have instincts tha�� them from that kind of thing.

My internet loads pretty fast but there are just always thes����rrors, both with sending and receiving. I have a cons�racy theorist neighbor who insists the government is censoring our ���, but I think what it hits is way too random and generally easy to gue����at to be the case. I mean, unless it's a "mass annoyance attack" or something I don't see how this could be helpful to anyone. Besides, if someone wanted to h���information why do it so blatantly? You could just replace ���with other words that look like they plausibly fit.
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#11
RE: I Will Reply
Cent Wrote:To: Concerned
That sounds terrifying!

On one hand, I'm inclined to get all kinds of nutty ideas about what that might mean, but I think it's more likely just some kind of freak occurrence which happens to mirror our planet's past. If they're snatching up bugs, maybe it's some flytrap variant, though I can't imagine that there's much grub to go around these days. Let's hope that's a dying breed...

Around here, plant life is nearly gone. It doesn't help that most of the pollinators are overworked to all hell, and NYC isn't really their favorite spot, what with the smog. I met a wasp who came by Bends for a few weeks looking for work, but she started heading up north instead in pretty short order. Some part of me wants to say that with all the dead greenery and pollution, cities aren't really made for us. But we were here in ancient times, too. We've been here a long time. I think we're coded to want to hang around these grand concrete constructions like we built it all, even when we're not feeding off of it anymore.

Self-pollinating plants are the new 'thing', you know. Only reason countrysides still exist. So long as the sun doesn't burn out, I don't think we'll starve to death anytime soon. And, well... so long as the caffeine keeps flowing.

It sounds like you're at a crossroads, of sorts. Stonehenge, maybe? Haunted house of some sort? Never really developed a sense for the weird and paranormal.

Cent Wrote:To: Hollow Log
There's nothing wrong with having someplace a bit solitary to live! I remember dreaming when I was younger of living in the wilderness somewhere, in a little hovel or log, like you're doing now. I was born after the Burst, so I never experienced a world where there wasn't enough room for me. One of my friends went off and lived inside of a dead antelope-- I think he's still there, come to think of it. Very little competition!

I'm Cent, a cockroach. You're the first person who's actually told me what kind of bug you are, and I appreciate the honesty and openness! Right now I'm living in Bends, Brooklyn, NYC, so I happen to get my coffee through dispensers. Mocha is my main choice, though there's some decent tea, too. Anything that packs enough of a punch that I don't have to go outside often. (Maybe that's not for the better, though...) I can imagine hot cocoa would be perfect this time of year, though the orange juice throws me. I'll have to try that sometime, if I ever come across a good coffee place that isn't a week's journey from Bends.

What's it like living in a log? Do you have many neighbors? Friend or two to help bring you caffeinated cocoa, I'd hope?

Cent Wrote:To: Closer To Earth (Previously: Hello There)
Sounds pretty irritating. Well, emails are about free, so don't be afraid to ask me to repeat myself if something important gets obfuscated!

I can relate pretty heavily to that conspiracy theorist thing. I have a couple neighbors, a millipede and centipede, who just go crazy for those kinds of things. When I'm not isolate, they'll pull me into conversations about space travel, human resurrection, social pacts, gliders... whatever thing happens to be on their mind in that moment. They're very project-oriented, if that makes sense. I really do think they're double-dosing on caffeine, or maybe I happen to be under-dosing to the point of sanity.

The government (around here, at least) hasn't been so bad. They've even sent an envoy every month or two, which is a hell of a lot better than in some places. The one who comes by Bends uses a little glider machine with an electric engine, and she says she can hit a couple of buildings, top to bottom, in about a day. Mostly it's just refilling dispensers and taking any arrests from our building's Leo, but sometimes she stays and chats.

God, sometimes connection can be so fleeting. Even when I know somebody online, there's always the existential worry that they won't reply, you know?

Anyhow. It seems like your internet qualms might be fixed if you moved somewhere else. Something holding you down, maybe? Or is it not really a big enough deal?

Cent sat back after sending the third email. There was a little more of an influx than she expected so soon, but it wasn't a bad thing. Her legs had gotten tired from typing, and her head tired from thinking, but a sense of satisfaction rolled over her. At least for these few brief moments, she had prolonged the inevitability of loneliness.

Still, she wasn't ready to rest. These words on the screen, although far away, still gave her blossoming ideas of what these people on the other side might be. The cockroach retrieved a small makeshift notebook from somewhere amidst the piles of notebooks, flipped it open, and cautiously placed a charcoal implement between two legs. There were several souls vying for her reply, and she gave them nicknames, via their vaguely-worded replies--

Not A Member Of The Carapace Clique

Closer To Earth

Kinda Unsure

Concerned

Hollow Log


And her own little nickname, cutesy enough, written at the bottom:

Realized Their Purpose

That made her chuckle a little bit, mandibles clattering. Though there weren't yet faces to these names, and though she felt a little strange cataloging them like this, it was already helping her collect the many thoughts which surrounded them. From so far away, Cent was beginning to feel closer to the world and its far-away inhabitants.
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#12
RE: I Will Reply
hey ratrace roach howd you get this address????? This is meant to be a private network so?? Who gave you an in and it better not of been Cutter cuz ive already been down to the mulch this moon and i aint going back just to tell that fungusbrained ant about proper cybersecurity
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#13
RE: I Will Reply
I'm confused what you mean by "crossroads" here. As far as I know, there aren't any roads around Stonehenge. Anyway, I suppose one might say this place is a "shoddy gas station at the edge of town", just without the gas. Or the station. Or the town.

The plantlife here doesn't strike me as paranormal, there's no ghosts or whatever, it's just weird plants. I think my favorite one is a lone flower growing on a hill nearby. It produces a unique scent that sort of makes you a better person, I guess? Well, a nicer person, I should say. People who approach the flower feel compelled to say nice things to everyone around them. Prolonged exposure can amplify the effect to the point where you feel compelled to give hugs and kisses to even inanimate objects. I saw someone hug one of the finger plants and strangely didn't get attacked by it.

I feel like this one is harmless enough, so I don't warn people about it usually. I find it interesting to watch a relatively grumpy fellow take one whiff and instantly become such a pleasant friend. I've named it The Devil. Not sure why, the name just came to me and it felt right. There's nothing sinister about the flower, as far as I can tell, but for some reason I can't think of a better name for it. Maybe that's one of the side effects of it. I dunno, what would you call a plant like that?
Watch in awe as I end every comment I've ever written and ever will write with the greatest and most anticlimactic signature in the universe!!!!!!!!!

poopy
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#14
RE: I Will Reply
Subject: RE: Cl��r t��th
To be clear, the e-mail server I'm loading from is fine. If I'm not sure what���says I can always just reload it. But I've found I enjo����how much of the gaps I can fill in for myself as a bit of mental exercise. It's inflicting tha�� other people unwillingly that I'm not so fond of. So perhaps I could start sending in triplicate if things start getting incom�ensible for you.

I know the pain of nobody replying all too���, and in person at that! I'm a bit tied to where I am by my job, teac��ng the so-called 'next generation'. Nothing worse than standing before a dead silent class��ing for a response to a basic question! (Well, I'm sure you meant it more exi��entially, so I hope you'll pardon the lighter us��the phrase.) I could move elsewhere and find similar employment perha��ut I feel like I'm needed here, and I've mos�ly adapted to the���aside from needing to apologize to other people on account of it.

I tend to insist on getting my own caff��, usually on the way to and from work. But then I'm sure someone delivers it to��I get it from so it's���ess the same thing. Ah, for an electric glider and the��ge to use it.
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#15
RE: I Will Reply
Oh gosh sorry, this slipped my mind. I want to be the kind of person who replies too. I dislike leaving messages and waiting, wondering if the other person forgot, or simply doesnt want to talk to me anymore. I dont want to inflict that on anyone else.

Anyway, I live in a pretty rural area, no highrises for me. I have an interest in history, well, i dont actually know much history, but i like to imagine whats happened in the past. Like just the other day, i saw this metallic circular thing, smooth and shiny, just lying on the ground. I had all these thoughts about it, how it was made, how it came to be there. I like wondering about those things.
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#16
RE: I Will Reply
Six months.

Cent made the realization, connected the dots and saw that it had been an approximate six months since she had sent out the last batch of emails to unknowns so far off. In the time since, they had blossomed in her mind and become phantoms with shadows the size of block buildings, they had loomed over her for an impossibly long time. They had become parts of her day-to-day and she had never noticed them tear at her mind. The depression which swirled around her head like a cloudy, painful sickness was manifest at least partially because of these phantoms, and then she saw it had been seven months instead of six, and then she realized it'd soon be eight, then nine, then ten, then eleven.

There was no sense to cry out in sudden pain, because this pain was not sudden, but residual. It was lashing its slow lash against her soul again.

She couldn't even recall where the notebook was. She'd stuck it behind something a long while ago in favor of something else, but it would be impossible to determine what that 'else' even was. A slurry of malignant and pointless ventures into the darkness below her, a slew of mismanaged projects and attempts at connection, and now weeks upon weeks spent slumped in her carapace watching archival and recent footage day in and day out, ingesting as much caffeine as she needed to live but not a drop more.

She couldn't even recall where the notebook was. In her near upheaval, stomach contents riled up as her legs trembled, she rummaged through the cabinets and shelves near her desk. Her body was moving for the first time in ages, and when she retrieved the dusty thing from a corner within a corner, Cent let out a gasp of relief. She was surprised to be excited at all. Her path led her to slam the tome on her empty desktop and flip it open to the middle, where it was- of course- blank. She flipped back with a fading expression on her mandibles to just the first page, just the solemn first page of notes she was supposed to have to guide her, where she saw the list of monikers in thin charcoal:

Not A Member Of The Carapace Clique

Closer To Earth

Kinda Unsure

Concerned

Hollow Log


Realized Their Purpose

Another pang of frustration and pain found its way inside her armored chest again. The bug slid the cover back over the pages, regretted it, and then pulled it back open, clutching her head in two legs and straining a bit.

How could she go ahead further with this? How could this be enough? Instantly she was working out escape mechanisms-- ways to delve deep into some dripfeed of serotonin on the internet which wouldn't require much attention, or any thought. Even as she kept it open, she was sure any ounce of motivation would seep away soon, but she figured she could... try.

She tried. She looked at the list of open, unreplied emails, and her promise that she would reply, and tried to clam her mandibles shut and get to work on the impossible, easily-avoided task. With four deft legs, Cent began to type a reply to the first on her list.

Privately Networked Wrote:To: Cent

SpoilerShow

Cent Wrote:To: Privately Networked

I am so, so deeply sorry to not have replied sooner. I'm sure that given you care about the privacy of your network you

Cent stopped typing. The emotion had quickly drained, and now all she had at present was an inability to move. Her body was falling limp, or the half-limp of somebody without a care either way. Certainly, she had no idea how to proceed with this line of thought. Maybe something shorter. With effort too much, she started again.

Cent Wrote:To: Privately Networked

Whoops, took too long to reply!

No, hopefully you haven't blamed Cutter by now, but

She grasped at her head and shut her beady eyes, huffing out in frustration. Every bit of the message would become more turbulent with six- no, seven- months between replies. Who was this bug? Surely they had moved on by now. It wouldn't be tough. It would be easy to have moved on for everyone else. This wasn't their project. If she replied now, none of them would care.

But was that what she was scared about? Maybe. It was part. The other half was the worry this would be only a coincidental twitch of a dead bug.

She tried again.

Cent Wrote:To: Privately Networked

Guess I'm better at hacking in than I thought I would be, but

She banged at her carapace.

Cent Wrote:To: Privately Networked

Guess it turns out I can hack into private networks, it just takes seven months! Also I didn't hack into anything, I just picked up some public

Gaaaah.

Cent Wrote:To: Privately Networked

Don't worry, nobody gave me an in! Don't go and blame Cutter for whatnot, I've just lucked on your address while trying to find people to reply to. Unfortunately I've been busy and haven't been able to

She stopped herself and gently, painfully muttered, why didn't you do this four or five or six months ago? The answer bubbled up: she had been feeling unable since the moment she missed a beat. Jumping back in, having to explain why she'd been incapable, was an impossible task after only a week of missed replies. The impossibility was only growing exponential, but what did it matter? She'd be unable the moment she screwed up once.

Cent wriggled in the chair and tried again with a dying demeanor.

Cent Wrote:To: Unknown

I know it's been quite a while, which means you probably didn't mean to reply to me, but just in case you did and I missed it: hey, I'm Cent! I think my previous reply might have gotten bounced off because it seems like you might be part of a private network, but this time I

She banged at her carapace again. How could it possibly be fair to lie to somebody, insinuating that they were the one who failed to reply? No, it wasn't hardly blame, but she was the one responsible. She was the one lying.

The idea came to her head to abandon everyone and just find a new list of emails to reply to. To try again. But it came to the same issue, that she would surely screw it up again soon and stop. Cent wouldn't even have the benefit of a head start, which is what she had now. A head start and a head full of guilt.

No, there had to be some way through. Some easy way through.

Cent Wrote:To: Privately Networked

Hey, who are you calling ratrace? Sure, I do live in Bends, Brooklyn, so there's a pretty ratty relationship around here, but I'm roach through and through! Though I guess I've never prided myself on any ability to circumvent cybersecurity, so I don't know what that's all about. I get if you'd like to block me, but

She sat back again, staring blankly at the screen. Of course this bug had probably already blocked her. Seven months was enough time to change a life, let alone enough time to talk to an ant about an errant email. As useless as she felt in the last half-year, Cent knew that there was an awfully good chance even she could do that.

Maybe it was time to try with somebody else. She scanned down the next reply and began to type once she'd agonizingly crawled through the contents.

Concerned Wrote:To: Cent

SpoilerShow

Cent Wrote:To: Concerned

Well, I think I get that naming scheme. When I put nicknames on stuff, those meanings are personal and sometimes kind of hard to describe! But 'the Devil' for a helpful plant is funny on its own merits. It's contradictory, and defies expectation when you tell people about it.

I'm sorry about not having replied until now, but

Cent shook her head and stopped, and started again.

Cent Wrote:To: Concerned

Well, I think I get that naming scheme. When I put nicknames on stuff, those meanings are personal and sometimes kind of hard to describe! But 'the Devil' for a helpful plant is funny on its own merits. It's contradictory, and defies expectation when you tell people about it.

So it's a metaphorical gas station at the edge of town? Makes enough sense! I'd say that my outlook on gas stations is probably different than yours, but for me they spell a very wide collection of varied and strange people coming to refuel. Nowadays that has to do with caffeine dispensers, but history has all kinds of these stations. And in your case it seems that the plantlife is the varied group of people, not the people themselves! It's good to hear that at least one flower seems quite positive. In another time, you'd see that kind of thing mass-produced, but maybe it's nice that we get to have our own special things to ourselves.

You know, I don't think I can totally dance around the fact that I haven't replied for a while! I've read that the internet is an effective asynchronous medium, but it's still a shame, because

Maybe she could just dance around it. She was doing a pretty good job up until that point, and maybe she could just...

Cent Wrote:To: Concerned

Well, I think I get that naming scheme. When I put nicknames on stuff, those meanings are personal and sometimes kind of hard to describe! But 'the Devil' for a helpful plant is funny on its own merits. It's contradictory, and defies expectation when you tell people about it.

So it's a metaphorical gas station at the edge of town? Makes enough sense! I'd say that my outlook on gas stations is probably different than yours, but for me they spell a very wide collection of varied and strange people coming to refuel. Nowadays that has to do with caffeine dispensers, but history has all kinds of these stations. And in your case it seems that the plantlife is the varied group of people, not the people themselves! It's good to hear that at least one flower seems quite positive. In another time, you'd see that kind of thing mass-produced, but maybe it's nice that we get to have our own special things to ourselves.

But... you know, life does lose a lot of magic if it's only things for ourselves. I'm glad I get to hear a little slice of your story in addition to my own. The world can feel so tiny when you can't see anything but what's right in front of you, or when you just don't look for a half-dozen months.

Thank you for replying to me when you got the chance, Concerned. How's life been at this metaphorical gas station?

It didn't feel perfect. But it didn't feel hopeless, either, and Cent took in a somewhat cautious breath, starting down the list once more. Without a clue for how many more replies she would have to make, she kept that one in its draft form, ready to send at a moment's notice, and dug into another.

Closer to Earth Wrote:To: Cent

SpoilerShow

Cent Wrote:To: Closer to Earth

It's alright, I can make things out just fine! Only a few characters are missing, and

...No, for this one, she definitely needed to start it with some honesty.

Cent Wrote:To: Closer to Earth

Oh, wow, that took me some time, huh.

The spotty messages are completely alright, I can make things out just fine! Only a few characters are missing, and like you said, it's a pretty fun puzzle when it doesn't obscure something too important.

She read further down at the comment about 'nobody replying'. She shivered. A lot of her messages were revolving around that, weren't they? She needed to address it. She needed to.

Cent Wrote:To: Closer to Earth

Well, I've done what I said I didn't like, and failed to reply to you for months. I'm deeply sorry, but I hope that like the pauses in your class after a simple question, the inkling of a reply is at least... promising, right? Ha.

Don't worry about the spotty messages. Like you said, they're a fun puzzle, and they rarely obscure anything that can't be figured out. I'm not sure what you teach, but I remember loving word puzzles like this when I was just a nymph. I wonder if you could weave it into something relating to computers and packet loss or whatnot?

There's plenty of confusion for me about where caffeine comes from, overall. I know at a granular level it's produced in factories by mass-growing the plant, and the scale works out easily due to our size, but it has to go through so many deliveries down the chain to make it home! Even the envoy who comes by can't get it from the direct source, and I'm sure that source is obfuscated from the factories themselves. But a glider really does help, and though I've only been on something like it once, if you get a chance, you should find somebody who can have you ride as passenger! I know heights are terrifying, but they can also transform your perspective. They put your thoughts in context, the kind that you normally can't get, just typing to a vacuum.

A vacuum that doesn't reply for seven months, especially!

Cent rubbed at the space between her eyes and sighed, tapping the backspace.

Cent Wrote:To: Closer to Earth

Well, I've done what I said I didn't like, and failed to reply to you for months. I'm deeply sorry, but I hope that like the pauses in your class after a simple question, the inkling of a reply is at least... promising, right? Ha.

Don't worry about the spotty messages. Like you said, they're a fun puzzle, and they rarely obscure anything that can't be figured out. I'm not sure what you teach, but I remember loving word puzzles like this when I was just a nymph. I wonder if you could weave it into something relating to computers and packet loss or whatnot?

There's plenty of confusion for me about where caffeine comes from, overall. I know at a granular level it's produced in factories by mass-growing the plant, and the scale works out easily due to our size, but it has to go through so many deliveries down the chain to make it home! Even the envoy who comes by can't get it from the direct source, and I'm sure that source is obfuscated from the factories themselves. But a glider really does help, and though I've only been on something like it once, if you get a chance, you should find somebody who can have you ride as passenger! I know heights are terrifying, but they can also transform your perspective. They put your thoughts in context, the kind that you normally can't get, just typing to a vacuum.

Thank you for replying to me when you got the chance, Closer to Earth. How's life been with teaching, in this meantime?

A copypasted ending at least gave her some closure, again. It felt coyly apologetic, and far from perfect, again... but at least it was done. She could move on to the next.

Kinda Unsure Wrote:To: Cent

SpoilerShow

Cent Wrote:To: Kinda Unsure

Well, apparently I'm not the kind of person who replies! Aha, well,

Cent retracted from the chair and took in an extra-light breath. Her shell was now unaccomodating as it could be, and she struggled to approach the impossible-to-approach in any decent manner.

Cent Wrote:To: Kinda Unsure

I'm sorry. It isn't that I didn't want to reply or that I forgot, it's just

No.

Cent Wrote:To: Kinda Unsure

When trying to keep up on a project like this, it's always really hard for me to

No.

Cent Wrote:To: Kinda Unsure

This slipped my mind too! I mean, obviously much worse, but

No.

Cent Wrote:To: Kinda Unsure

You must hate me.

No.

The issue couldn't be confronted. In no meaningful capacity could it be confronted. Cent would always, to this person, be the terrible cockroach filled with inhibition. She would never reply on time and never be an adequate friend or companion, and she would just have to live with it.

And she would just have to live with it.

Cent Wrote:To: Kinda Unsure

You sound like you could be great at creative projects! Seeing the world and coming up with possible answers is the foundation of our modern system of science-- the second step is just trying to prove them right or wrong. There's still plenty of blind spots in human history, and even some in our own. And it's not like one of these skills or professions locks you out of the others. They can all intertwine pretty well.

Creative projects are... a difficult thing. But they're so rewarding when you really get into the groove! It's

Cent immediately began to hammer the backspace once again, huffing out. What could she say about creative projects? Every single one would die in a pit of neglect sooner or later. This one most quickly.

Cent Wrote:To: Kinda Unsure

You sound like you could be great at creative projects! Seeing the world and coming up with possible answers is the foundation of our modern system of science-- the second step is just trying to prove them right or wrong. There's still plenty of blind spots in human history, and even some in our own. And it's not like one of these skills or professions locks you out of the others. They can all intertwine pretty well.

Have you ever had yuenyeung? It's a mixed tea and coffee drink that I'm not... sure how I feel about, but it's a way a few bugs take their caffeine. It's supposed to represent bringing those things you're interested in together.

By the way, thank you for replying to me when you got the chance, Kinda Unsure. How's life been in the meantime?

...but it was done. This was progress, at the very least. She had written three of four. Cent managed a weak, slightly satisfied smile on her mandibles, slightly shaky along with the rest of her. Every instinct to retract into her own dopamine palace started to slip away. In the back of her mind she heard a scratchy voice telling her-- just go for it! Write a message to the last bug, even if it's for nothing! You can do this!

Cent Wrote:To: Privately Networked

Nope, no in was granted to me, I'm just an errant soul on the Internet trying to make some connections. It's hard to make those! And it takes... effort, and... time. And it seems like an insurmountable goal almost every moment that I try to make it happen. But I want to try for it, so here I am. A bit late, but if Cutter hasn't fixed up your address being public, then hello!

I'm Cent, a cockroach. I live in Bends, Brooklyn, a long way from most other bugs, it seems. I mean... physically and emotionally. I imagine if you're on a private network, you've got a small pool, too, right? Or maybe a small pool, but an even more connected one! So far it's hard for me to stay in contact with anyone for long enough to justify having reached out. Or, at least, that's how I feel about it sometimes.

Well, sorry to bother if you're not looking for intruders. But if you are, hey! If you'd like to just talk about whatever, maybe how that ant you mentioned is doing now that seven agonizing months have passed, feel free to shoot a message back.

Either way, thank you for replying to me when you got the chance, Privately Networked.

She sat back with her carapace lifted by air. Was this it? Was another batch of replies actually done? Cent rattled her mandibles in surprise at the fact that she'd gotten over the hump, out of the pit-- she'd escaped and actually done what she wanted to do! It only took seven months, but she...

...she...

...the cockroach sat up weakly, and then collapsed back into the chair, and heard it squeak back with her chitinous weight. She had done something that took seven months. Maybe she'd pick up the pace for one, maybe two, batches... maybe a few, but then she'd falter again. There would be no continuation or completion.

It was pointless to send out any more messages, even completed as they might have been. All that would happen was the same thing, again. Another period of silence. Another seven months of lingering, LOOMING guilt.

She stared at the four completed messages, each in their own window, and kept staring for a while. Her beady eyes contracted inward, and she glanced briefly at the multitude of browsers and programs she could be enjoying otherwise. None of them would require her particular thought. She could grab caffeine from right outside of her house and wander back in without seeing the sky, as she had been doing for seven months. She could keep having short and sometimes meaningful but never earth-shattering conversations with her millipede and centipede neighbors, she could keep loose and occasional contact with close friends online, she could continue being alive without ever wandering out to the balcony to see the city.

Her legs gently and painfully moved the cursor to click away from the windows of failed obligation and fleeting contact to the browser window behind them. She already had twenty or thirty tabs open, which would surely absorb her for hours.

...then, at the last moment, she stopped herself.

Cent's entire body clenched up, and then breathed out. Then, she slapped at her own leg, and then forced herself up like a puppet on unsteady strings. She nearly fell to the ground and felt the floorboards creak as legs took her up for no pragmatic purpose she could ascertain. Her shell was not meant to be moving, but here it was. She needed it to move for no reason. She just needed to move. Her legs took her slumped and limp body, corpselike against walls and doors and sliding through hallways and hallways into hallways into hallways, then to the door to the balcony, then to the balcony.

She stood on the edge of the balcony and took in the thinly polluted air of Brooklyn. There was so much of it below her, so much she had seen before. The infinite flitting of fading lamplight, moths dancing on the streets below and fireflies greeting one another in tiny metal flying machines. She watched caffeine slurry drip from a float-tube and into the wide, gaping gutters off the road. Cent stared with her upper legs folded against the railing at a New York awash with the tiniest things living the smallest lives. She had long accepted that only two stories of height above it all would make her quake in her carapace, but it was when she got the sudden and painful and hopeless inkling to look up that she disassociated.

The bug was no longer there. No longer thinking about being in a place. She just took in the staggering sight of the skyscraping buildings above.

Scale or comparison would always fail to capture that height, that significance. It took all she could muster not to shout up at it desperately. But the thought was embarrassing, as was the concept of being in such mortal peril over a few damn email replies. What difference would it possibly make? What difference could it make if she spent her whole life unable to complete a single thing?!

...it meant everything to Cent. This was a crossroads she had never reached. She could revel in the street below or she could fly and improve. But she had never done that, even though she had wanted to since the beginning. All she had ever done was start and never finish, obligate and never fulfill. What in the world could it mean to promise something and follow through? What could it possibly mean to do something consistently? What could it mean to really, and truly, and without a doubt say that she would reply?

The cockroach had no clue.

But she wanted to know.

All she wanted was to know.

Cent stumbled back inside and began to draft again in a flurry. The hard work was already done. She knew that she couldn't keep up this pace, not now, not ever. She was inspired, and soon she wouldn't be. But she wanted to make use of it while she still was, knowing that the only thing she wanted was not to need such fleeting muse.

Cent Wrote:To: Concerned

Well, I think I get that naming scheme. When I put nicknames on stuff, those meanings are personal and sometimes kind of hard to describe! But 'the Devil' for a helpful plant is funny on its own merits. It's contradictory, and defies expectation when you tell people about it.

So it's a metaphorical gas station at the edge of town? Makes enough sense! I'd say that my outlook on gas stations is probably different than yours, but for me they spell a very wide collection of varied and strange people coming to refuel. Nowadays that has to do with caffeine dispensers, but history has all kinds of these stations. And in your case it seems that the plantlife is the varied group of people, not the people themselves! It's good to hear that at least one flower seems quite positive. In another time, you'd see that kind of thing mass-produced, but maybe it's nice that we get to have our own special things to ourselves.

But... you know, life does lose a lot of magic if it's only things for ourselves. I'm glad I get to hear a little slice of your story in addition to my own. The world can feel so tiny when you can't see anything but what's right in front of you, or when you just don't look for a half-dozen months.

I'm sorry I didn't reply. I am desperate for answers on how to reply more consistently. Sometimes, very rarely, inspiration will strike to finally do something, but most of the time it's not there. I just... want to be able to reply even when it's not there. I want to be able to fulfill my name. I have no idea how doable such a thing is, and so I'm asking you, somebody I suppose I really don't know, if you know a thing about it. How do you improve at following through? How do you work when you're not inspired? How do you reply when you can't bring yourself to reply?

Regardless.

Thank you for replying to me when you get the chance, Concerned. In whatever state I end up in after sending this, I can only, only hope to do the same.

- I Will Reply

Cent Wrote:To: Closer to Earth

Well, I've done what I said I didn't like, and failed to reply to you for months. I'm deeply sorry, but I hope that like the pauses in your class after a simple question, the inkling of a reply is at least... promising, right? Ha.

Don't worry about the spotty messages. Like you said, they're a fun puzzle, and they rarely obscure anything that can't be figured out. I'm not sure what you teach, but I remember loving word puzzles like this when I was just a nymph. I wonder if you could weave it into something relating to computers and packet loss or whatnot?

There's plenty of confusion for me about where caffeine comes from, overall. I know at a granular level it's produced in factories by mass-growing the plant, and the scale works out easily due to our size, but it has to go through so many deliveries down the chain to make it home! Even the envoy who comes by can't get it from the direct source, and I'm sure that source is obfuscated from the factories themselves. But a glider really does help, and though I've only been on something like it once, if you get a chance, you should find somebody who can have you ride as passenger! I know heights are terrifying, but they can also transform your perspective. They put your thoughts in context, the kind that you normally can't get, just typing to a vacuum.

Typing to a vacuum, I suppose, like the one I was for the last seven months.

I'm sorry I didn't reply. I am desperate for answers on how to reply more consistently. Sometimes, very rarely, inspiration will strike to finally do something, but most of the time it's not there. I just... want to be able to reply even when it's not there. I want to be able to fulfill my name. I have no idea how doable such a thing is, and so I'm asking you, somebody I suppose I really don't know, if you know a thing about it. How do you improve at following through? How do you work when you're not inspired? How do you reply when you can't bring yourself to reply?

Regardless.

Thank you for replying to me when you get the chance, Closer to Earth. In whatever state I end up in after sending this, I can only, only hope to do the same.

- I Will Reply

Cent Wrote:To: Kinda Unsure

You sound like you could be great at creative projects! Seeing the world and coming up with possible answers is the foundation of our modern system of science-- the second step is just trying to prove them right or wrong. There's still plenty of blind spots in human history, and even some in our own. And it's not like one of these skills or professions locks you out of the others. They can all intertwine pretty well.

Have you ever had yuenyeung? It's a mixed tea and coffee drink that I'm not... sure how I feel about, but it's a way a few bugs take their caffeine. It's supposed to represent bringing those things you're interested in together.

...I suppose the worst thing about trying to write creatively is how easy you can run into a block that seems insurmountable for months on end. And to me, this project was a creative one, or at least it's using the same juices, and it's as hard. And I'm sorry.

I'm sorry I didn't reply. I am desperate for answers on how to reply more consistently. Sometimes, very rarely, inspiration will strike to finally do something, but most of the time it's not there. I just... want to be able to reply even when it's not there. I want to be able to fulfill my name. I have no idea how doable such a thing is, and so I'm asking you, somebody I suppose I really don't know, if you know a thing about it. How do you improve at following through? How do you work when you're not inspired? How do you reply when you can't bring yourself to reply?

Regardless.

Thank you for replying to me when you get the chance, Kinda Unsure. In whatever state I end up in after sending this, I can only, only hope to do the same.

- I Will Reply

Cent Wrote:To: Privately Networked

Nope, no in was granted to me, I'm just an errant soul on the Internet trying to make some connections. It's hard to make those! And it takes... effort, and... time. And it seems like an insurmountable goal almost every moment that I try to make it happen. But I want to try for it, so here I am. A bit late, but if Cutter hasn't fixed up your address being public, then hello!

I'm Cent, a cockroach. I live in Bends, Brooklyn, a long way from most other bugs, it seems. I mean... physically and emotionally. I imagine if you're on a private network, you've got a small pool, too, right? Or maybe a small pool, but an even more connected one! So far it's hard for me to stay in contact with anyone for long enough to justify having reached out. Or, at least, that's how I feel about it sometimes.

Well, sorry to bother if you're not looking for intruders. But if you are, hey! If you'd like to just talk about whatever, maybe how that ant you mentioned is doing now that seven agonizing months have passed, feel free to shoot a message back. I'm far from owed, considering how long it took me, but I really, genuinely wished I had, because you seem like a primely interesting bug.

I'm sorry I didn't reply. I am desperate for answers on how to reply more consistently. Sometimes, very rarely, inspiration will strike to finally do something, but most of the time it's not there. I just... want to be able to reply even when it's not there. I want to be able to fulfill my name. I have no idea how doable such a thing is, and so I'm asking you, somebody I suppose I really don't know, if you know a thing about it. How do you improve at following through? How do you work when you're not inspired? How do you reply when you can't bring yourself to reply?

Regardless.

Thank you for replying to me when you get the chance, Privately Networked. In whatever state I end up in after sending this, I can only, only hope to do the same.

- I Will Reply

SEND

Cent sat back limply as the emails went out. They were far from perfect. They felt too self-centered, but at least they felt real, to some degree. She had no clue if she would ever reply, or if she would ever receive replies for them. But she decided that this state, this formless state at the edge of her rope, would allow her a little restructuring of her original message, which she decided to send again to a new list of public email addresses.

Cent Wrote:To: All Who This May Reach
I don't know what it means to create something and keep it going. This is my attempt, and after many failed attempts, this one is sure to fail, too. But here it is, regardless.

If you send me an email, I will reply.

If I can, if I possibly can, I'll dedicate as long as it takes to give a sufficient, meaningful reply. I'm alright completely opening up and dedicating myself to each and every bug who puts something forward. I have no special interest or price. It doesn't matter to me if you already have a friend, or several friends, because I know sometimes that isn't enough.

I know the world is vast. I know my story, and the stories of the people who live close to me, but it doesn't make sense for a cockroach to travel the planet crawling underneath each and every City hoping to find people to comfort. I don't know what the world is to you. I don't know what your story is.

But I'm willing to hear it.

And if you know a thing or two about writing, you know that I may hear it and never reply. But I want to get better at that, as I think I a lot of us do. And if you have a single thought about that subject, and have experienced anything along those lines... then I suppose we'll have that pain in common.

I Will Reply, as the mantra will go, is completely counter to the name. If you'd like to take your chances, then you now know my email address, and you know the risks of a story unfinished.

And I hope that the fleeting contact that an inhibited bug can provide is still somehow meaningful.

Thank you, if you choose to reply to this. And if you don't, don't worry! I know the feeling.

Well, that's all.

- I Will Reply

SEND

Late in the worst hours of night, it surely wouldn't reach a single person. Better for that, Cent supposed. But the little tingle in her gut, the inspiration as it faded away, no longer needed to exist. She no longer had expectations for it, or her fleeting muse. It would be what it would be.

The cockroach slid out of her chair, clicked the monitor off, and skittered to bed.
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Quote
#17
RE: I Will Reply
Oh geeze
I don't know what to say, but
Gosh I'm sorry, my last message was meant to be talking about myself, I don't know what you're thinking right now but I can guess. You don't have to reply, please dont feel bad about that.
Um. Let me start over.
I've been in your position before. There are people who to this day I've never gotten back in touch with after an awkward pause just kept stretching on and on. Its very easy to just, not say anything rather than possibly break the silence, and it just gets harder as time goes on. And I know I said I dislike that, and that's true, but only because it makes me feel regretful, that my interaction with a person just ends, and I never hear from them again. Its like losing a book when you're halfway through, i wouldnt be angry  at the book or anything. So I didn't expect to get this message today, but when I saw it, and who it was from, I was happy. I'm glad you've, continued to reply. A lot of people get trapped in that cycle.
I don't really have a profession. I don't think I'd have the rigour to be an actual scientist or historian. When I get curious about the history of objects, I'm mostly just daydreaming to be honest, heh. I've heard about libraries and museums, and I would love to go see one, but there aren't any around my area.
I mostly just take my coffee plain. Don't really go in for anything complicated. Its not very important to me.
About creative projects, well, I tend to just let ideas sit in my mind for a long time and just kinda, crystallize over time, until they get big enough that I can just do something in a single go. Well, not a single go. But I've never actively worked on something over a really long period of time. This might not be very helpful to you though. Creative processes are pretty personal things.
You're right about one thing, you don't really know me, and I don't really know you. But I would like to. What's your earliest memory?
My name is Dalorh, by the way.
Quote
#18
RE: I Will Reply
Lmao hey

you've reached jazzmon. idk where brooklyn is at but you've probs got just as fuckall clue where kiawah island is yeah? us bugs resident on Ocean Course had this intranet set up by cutter's grandqueen some way back when. cutter blesst be he in the sporethroes climbed his stem three spring tides ago, i dunno if it was him or Glidant you were hopin to talk to but yeah. soz if that comes as a shock or sad bad news but thats par for the course yknow? i stepped up to the sysdamin role after cutter took his last clamber and im still learning the ropes but yeah. i checked cutter's records and Glidant got rl steamed that some city bug had got his email n figured it was gonna be easier to just set up Glidant up with a new one and just. keep the old one you ended up msging in case there was somethin important? im sorry that like. lettin you know that happened wasn't on his list but hey at least i got to see it! sure i ain't been around much like Glidant did in his younger years so my life probs aint too exciting for you to hear about but it's still kinda cool ig for me to make a random connection like this? idk even if cutter wouldve msg'd you back if you had replied while he was still around as sysadmin n keepin half an eye on Glidant's og email. Well i say og but accordin to cutter Glidant got himself in this mess near once every long chill lmao. dude kept forgettin we had limited inter-network bandwidth n wasted it all lookin up hot pillbug gifs. guess ol gliddy kept signin up to weird mailin lists to get his gif on and mayb thats where you got his address? who the eff knows tho tbh. but uh yeah glidant? cool guy. sad to say tho if you were hopin to talk to him none of us in Ocean Course know where hes at exactly. dude went off on another one of his expeditions, actually lookin back thru the hole 11 msg board he was off to the beach? One of Flimsy's sprats (note to self: get those kids their own device set up before next long chill) posted on here saying Glidant told em he was off to the 'pod races down at boardwalk 40. Wild if tru. 

jeez this got long my b. but yeah Glidant's a rl interesting dude but doesn't really get tech as a way of stayin in touch much. idk when he'll next be back on the Course but if you wanted to know more about him then maybe shoot me some questions n i could like? ask him when he next stops by? or yknow get one of the hole 11 locals to ask for me cuz its a bit of a hike for a cicada nymph like myself. don't be a stranger yeah?

-jazzmon
Quote
#19
RE: I Will Reply
Kinda Unsure Wrote:To: Cent

SpoilerShow

Cent Wrote:To: Dalorh, Kinda Unsure

Well, thank you for replying, Dalorh. It means a lot, and I know it takes a lot, too. I guess we'll both keep giving it our best shots for as long as that lasts. If this is a creative project, and an ongoing one at that, then it's a foray into that idea for you. Try not to feel negative thoughts just because you aren't working on something, yeah?

My earliest memory is kind of a corny one, but it's of my mom. We've lived in Bends my whole life, but she used to take me on treks when I was a nymph to the top floor, so we could just sit together and watch the stars. We'd look at constellations and point them out with our legs together. I always felt pretty proud I could find Nadezhda and Laika even with all the light pollution. In my mom's time, there were infinitely more of us, and so much more light, so I guess in retrospect, it was as mystifying for her as it was for me.

You know, it's alright not to have a profession. We live in times of shaky abundance, and though it's made life very confusing for me personally, it helps not to have the ever-encroaching worry to do something.

Even if that worry never really goes away, I guess. Hard not to feel driven to make a mark, especially when we've got so much space left for us. My neighbors, a couple of the last people in Bends, try to spread their 'wings' as far as possible, but there's no way to fill empty halls. Along with the urge to create, there's also this present worry that nobody will ever see what you've made.

It's hard to be a scientist or historian. Still, rigor can be learned, and... well, I don't know. Do those actually sound like things you want to do? What do you do for fun?

- I Will Reply

SEND

Privately Networked Wrote:To: Cent

SpoilerShow

Cent Wrote:To: Jazzmon, Privately Networked

God, sysadmin? That's a heck of a job. I can't imagine trying to wrangle everyone on a network when there's so many individual factors that go wrong. But I guess there's also a lot to get good at, a lot to master, so maybe that's part of the appeal.

I'm sorry to hear about Cutter. I know, a million miles away, that doesn't mean much, but losing someone is always, always its own unique process, and I wish you the best for it. I know caffeine doesn't affect everyone the same, but for my family it keeps us from dying out our natural way, same as most species of roach. So when people do die, it's hard to abstract it away as some natural occurrence that was peaceful or sleepy or something. And when there are bugs that don't last as long on the stuff, it's... something that makes you scream at the moon. It does sound like you've taken up the mantle well, though-- I'm sure the ant would appreciate you keeping up the intranet, you know?

Anyway, Brooklyn is just a part of New York City. I actually can't remember what the exact limits are, something about residential and commercial districts or something... but regardless, once humans winked out cities were incredible grounds for way, way too many bugs. Now we've got way too few, and we're way less of a city and more of a big molehill gone too vertical.

I don't really know Glidant or you better than each other, but I wouldn't mind two people to talk to, if you wanted to be the penpal messenger, or whatever. That sounds like a pretty neat deal out of a random email-call! Though make sure to let him know I'm no pillbug (ha), just a roach who doesn't mind being company.

Is Kiawah Island some kind of resort? The term 'ocean course' makes me think of golf and boardwalks aren't exactly an unfamiliar concept around the city, but it also sounds like you're not from one of the big cities. It sounds like a cool place, getting to know more than just a few people who live around you, but I gotta say, I've got this phobia of golf courses! Maybe it's ancestral, but fields of turf green that used to get swept up under gigantic blades on repeat don't give me any good feelings, and the space between everything must make staying on the outer internet hard, hm?

Oh, and good luck if your wings are coming in soon, yeah? I know I still like being on the ground most of the time, and it's NOT fun to learn working entire new body parts. Not to mention I only had to do that at six years-- if you're old enough to be working computers, well... take your time with it, yeah?

Anyway, sorry to get extremely long-winded and rambly. Thank you for replying, Jazzmon, 'cus I know that it isn't an easy task.

- I Will Reply

SEND

From a square-inch window, no brighter than as dim as the world could get, no slower than the fastest it could go, Cent watched the metal sealed cup of sloshing, heated mocha tumble down the caffeine dispenser's inner contours until it toppled right-side-up on the face of the bottom slot and clattered to a halt. It was her cup and weighed almost as much empty as it did full, but there was still a relieving sensation, heaving it in her upper legs and downing the sweet, chocolatey contents. She hated being reduced to such a pitiable state, gulping down something just because it tasted good, but every hiccup of espresso and cocoa was helping her lifeline along. She wasn't yet sure if it was fitting to reward the basic act of living by double-dosing on caffeine, but it was certainly what she was doing at present.

She needed a moment to rest. She leaned against the dispenser, gently curling her head back along the plastic-etched exterior. The thick viscous mixture was already a bit unpleasant on the throat, like mud.

The hallway shuddered with her body-- somebody had snuck up. From Cent's left, the centipede who lived in the building approached with a silent, forceful, loud demeanor, and jutted in, nearly pushing the roach aside as she banged at the dispenser. "Well, looks like it's time to just get the dang thing open!"

Cent sidestepped and nearly fell back against a wall, staring blankly at the centipede. "...yeah?" she murmured.

"Indeed! Who-r'ever's supposed to fill it has been out how many days? Still no tea. Come on, help me dislodge it from the wall and get some tisane before I start dying!"

"You can take my, uhm--" Cent waggled the sealed metal cup over, offering the mocha.

Trisk, the centipede, huffed out dismissively. "No, you need not. You were clearly waiting for the refill like me. This is a two'r-bug job, I have done it before, so simply help me, will you?"

She felt a tingle in the back of her throat as caffeine itched, but Cent couldn't find the will to refuse. She stepped back over, following the centipede's motions to stand in front of it, so as to help lower it down when she forced it away from the wall, in a sudden, heaving burst. Cent barely caught it, lowering herself to the ground and shakily using her legs to bring the front face of the caffeine dispenser onto the boarded floor.

She let out a weak exhale. "...You couldn't have gotten help from your partner?" the roach asked.

"No, no, of course not. Folks would get upset if it were a couple vandalizing their fountain of youth." The centipede snickered. "It's easier if it's two acquaintances." She brought her many spindly legs across the back of the machine, beginning to pull open tiny hinges and wrangle out pins.

"Are we just acquaintances?" Cent asked, hesitant.

The centipede nodded her head, antennae flaring. "Of course. Well, perhaps you're less acquaintance to me. You spend very little time talking, yet you know everything about who'r I am!" More cackling.

With that, Cent gently exhaled and took another long, drawn-out drink of mocha, swallowing it down and trying not to let it stick. "...so when is she coming back to fill it up?"

"Who knows? Supposed to be back plenty earlier than she's back right now. They're draining us dry, roach, so you might want to'r take some other kinds of lifeblood for yourself."

The roach stepped over, shaking a little, as Trisk brought one of the back panels open, revealing a glass container below the main heating element, containing a few doses' worth of looseleaf. Her eyes narrowed a little, and she glanced up, staring at the outer exit-- the one leading to one of many flight platforms for that flightless mantis. "She'll come sometime soon."

Trisk slammed the panel back down once she'd retrieved the glass container, cackling again. "What, Cent, are you going to look for her?"

With the sealed metal cup held between her upper legs, Cent could feel exceptionally safe from the outside world.

But a lack of sickness meant she would never build an immunity.
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#20
RE: I Will Reply
Oh, that's a great memory! I wasn't, actually around back then. The world's always been a mostly empty place to me. My parents have told me some stories, but I can't really imagine what it was like, to be around so many people constantly. They don't really know what happened, either, we live in a pretty out of the way place. They only heard about it from other bugs after, whatever it was happened. I guess that's part of why i like imagining the past of things, everything feels like it has a mysterious history to me, like, at some time it probably meant something to someone.
I did look up some stuff about science once, but from what I read, it seems like it used a lot of math, in order to check that everything made sense I think? I'm not very good with numbers, or, well, I'm not very good at remembering all the different things you do with them, and which one you would do depending on what you want. I think I would like doing it, though, if I knew how.
For fun, I guess I'd say I go on a lot of walks? Pretty much every day, in fact. That's when i find stuff and think about it, or, just think about things in general. I choose different paths each time, usually. Our internet's out of date, or has a connection problem, or something, and can't really load pictures or video properly, so I don't use it that much.
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#21
RE: I Will Reply
Dalorh, Kinda Unsure Wrote:To: Cent

SpoilerShow

Cent Wrote:To: Dalorh, Kinda Unsure

Well, we occupy ourselves with what's near, I think. I've nearly always had internet in one form or another, so it's tougher for me to think about life without it, but... a life without it wouldn't be bad at all. Just have to get used to it. We grow to fit our bubble, you know? Going on walks, living more for-real in a world, that's a totally viable path. I imagine it really lets the mind race, a heck of a lot more than cooped up in an apartment in Bends!

I've actually been trying to get out of the apartment, actually. I guess I read your message way back when you sent it (ha!) and thought walking around could be helpful. Also, I started out having a good reason to, and I guess it just expanded from there. Now I go out and trawl the building with a friend, because having somebody to talk to is a surprisingly great motivation to get moving. Bends is so big, we'll probably never run out of places to explore. At least not before we've went through a few hundred dispensers' worth of caffeine, haha.

Maybe walking around has been enough. I'm sorry for not replying sooner, but I'm also not mortified at being completely unable to. I guess for now we're living the best lives we can.

Our parents' parents and so on-- they definitely lived in a different era. My mom was lucky enough to see both sides of it. I feel like looking back on it is impossible, because it's a different world than we ever could imagine. It escapes our scope of reality and enters a whole new one. I mean, we can imagine, but we can't ever actually be there. If we only trust our eyes and antennae to know what's real, then the bug-filled past is just what we hear about, what we guess about. We're more like the humans whose world we got, but they never could have known our lives, either. They never could have guessed what living such an isolated existence is like.

Or maybe they could, I guess. But if you only trust your eyes and antennae...

Well, it gets harder to imagine anything but the present. There's still so much that's good about the present, so many people with stories I haven't heard about. Sure, there are great stories of people living before they could live forever, but I'd like to think that it's all just explanation for the real stories going on right now, in every place, every passing second.

Maybe writing about people's lives in the moment is the way to go. After all, you're not helpless in doing it. I guess if I were writing fantasy or science fiction, I'd probably write it like a journal-- day by day. What do you think?

- I Will Reply

SEND

The wind could never be considered gentle around Bends. Whatever New York City had lost when the humans left, the buildings' dizzying scope had never gone away, and the strange contours ended up making the windflow nigh-unbearable. Still, Cent bore it with stride. She sat against a metal floor by the entrance back in, only a few inches, with the mantis further out, riskier, sitting on a tiny bit of the grate with only a small railing to either side of her. The human-designed scale of the fire escape meant holes in the floor about her size, and a bad step, being carried by the wind, could mean a turbulent fall. But the mantis didn't seem to care, much.

Cent had no clue how to act around her. She was at once completely approachable and utterly impenetrable. The roach was struggling to display any more than surface-level emotions around her, but there was this aching need to be more genuine, more honest, more real. Conversations had been calming and easy, and she didn't feel the need to pull away and retract. It was the easiest friendship she'd ever had. Sitting out at the edge of the world, watching the cracked concrete road flicker stories below, Cent was happy to just shoot the shit.

"I'd actually be willing to bet you wouldn't need any flying to make it down, Cent," the mantis chittered. "If you went totally flat, the wind would carry you pretty softly. You'd need to be kind of lucky, still."

Cent shrugged with four arms, stepping near the railing just to get a taste of the height. "I don't love the idea."

Tieni grinned with elongated mandibles. "Okay, but you wouldn't DIE if you fell. It'd just suck."

To that, the roach could only laugh. "...yeah, it'd suck."

"I could probably get in the glider and pick you up," Tieni mused, now prancing around looking off. "The timing would be tight. What's your terminal velocity?"

Cent snickered again. "I don't know that stat off hand."

"There's totally a formula for it!" The mantis honed in on her, examining her height carefully. "I mean, I don't recall it off hand, but we could find out. Your phone gets connection, right?"

She let out a short breath. "Actually, since you're lighter," Cent said, "it seems like it'd be tough for you to even catch up with me."

"It'd be a race." Tieni continued examining her out of curiosity. "...eh, I don't think I could get to you. So if you do fall, just be safe and fly, yeah?"

"I'll try not to forget."

The idea of falling with promise of being saved was vaguely exciting. Cent wasn't all that invested in aviation, but there was an unspoken requirement for her to care more, and thus she found herself caring a good bit more. Hearing the mantis happily chitter about her flying machine- the autogyro- woke her up more than coffee.

Tieni sat down a bit, letting her snazzy-looking jacket (for aviation purposes, clearly) flap in the wind. "I love these grates they put on fire escapes. They're accidentally crazy dangerous for us."

Cent mused, "Maybe it was cheaper to make them this way? Less metal used?"

"Maybe. It didn't seem to compromise safety, I mean, it's a fire escape, and it's held up this long."

"I wonder when the railings got put up."

Tieni perked up again. "Probably right after humans left. There were probably a million bugs just slipping through the cracks, all the time."

The roach just snickered. "Oh, God, that's really horrible."

"I mean, not all of 'em died." Tieni laughed softly. "You wouldn't, for example. And there were a lot of cockroaches in New York that could fly." She glanced off further, thoughtful. "Actually, I can't think of a lot of building dwellers who'd die from the height. Were there a lot of beetles?"

Cent shrugged. "I know that we've got millipedes and centipedes now, so the railings are nice. Well, one millipede and one centipede. Neighbors."

"Yeah, I think I met them?" Tieni nodded slow. "I totally don't blame people for wanting to stay indoors if they're shaped like that. I can't imagine you get a lot of control midair, which is really all falling is about."

"Makes sense." On reflection, it really did. Gliding was just falling with control. "It's cool being able to hang out with the whole world below. It's genuinely fun. I guess I didn't do a lot of it-- before recently, I guess. Just to get out of the house."

"I definitely started my job wanting to get out of the house. Not a bad reason for stuff." Tieni grinned again, mandibles folding up in that specially-contorted way.

Cent nodded slowly, took a long breath, and smiled in response. "I still like the house, but yeah, it's good to get out. Usually it's pretty exhausting, but this feels OK."

"Does it?" Tieni's expression, and tone, got to be more emotive. "That's really nice of you."

"Yeah," Cent said, realizing she was pushing the bounds of a milquetoast conversation just that little bit more. "I'm pretty much always at home being alone, and I like doing that, but I also... like, uh. Good people. You're good people."

The mantis sat back against a railing. "Hey, thank you, Cent. You're good people too." There was a ringing to it that a lot of people wouldn't put in their voice. There wasn't any sarcasm, just that easily-reached friendliness. Like Tieni wasn't trying to reciprocate the gesture, but that it just... made sense.

Inevitably, the conversation would discard any mention of stakes once more, and it'd be about aviation and falling and the life of a caffeine delivery-bug. But the little moment of honesty was fuel for Cent. Even as they parted ways, she felt a little giddy. Still apprehensive, but giddy. Excited to exist and be alive, to put herself out there for more than a few moments.

Home, and replying to the lone email which had sat for what felt like eons, was easier than ever to return to. When she sat, thoughts came flooding back. She wasn't worried if she couldn't make it happen, because there'd always be the next day, the next conversation with Tieni, the next walk through halls she hadn't seen and words she hadn't said. But the message did complete, the email did get sent, and she sat back with that giddiness still resounding through her cockroach shell.

It took a lot to exist outside of a chair, talking to a new friend about things she was hardly familiar with. Maybe it was a good kind of exhaustion.

She fell asleep in seconds.
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#22
RE: I Will Reply
To: I Will Reply

Man, I dunno what to say. Took me a while to get around to replying as well, so not like I'm very wise on the subject either. The reason I replied initially was cause of a desperate need to get my story told to at least one person before my death, and your email seemed like my only option at the time. Perhaps a bit close-minded of me, in retrospect. So I guess my advice is to pretend like your life depends on you replying. I'm evidently terrible at giving advice.

Anyway, I gotta come clean. I was lying about those plants. They were just dumb stories from the religion of my old hive. I kinda ran away from home and have been paranoid about being hunted ever since. The finger plants probably don't look like human fingers, we just say they do. And I'm pretty sure them killing bugs is a superstition, but I'm sure as heck not testing it. I was hiding out near them to scare people away from looking for me. Nobody wants to go near the MURDEROUS HUMAN PLANTS OF DEATH, right? The Devil flower is seen as the reproductive organ of a god, because of how good it smells I assume. My kind does get pretty aroused by good smells, so flowers are always cherished holy symbols. And that flower is universally agreed to be the best one. I call it The Devil just to piss people off.

I uh, would love to keep talking about the hive and its weird plant religion, but I don't want that to take up the whole conversation. How have things been going on your end? My name is Mimir, by the way. The first i has a special dot over it that I don't know how to get on a keyboard.
Watch in awe as I end every comment I've ever written and ever will write with the greatest and most anticlimactic signature in the universe!!!!!!!!!

poopy
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#23
RE: I Will Reply
It's great to hear you've got someone to spend time with, it's always better to have someone to talk to than be alone. And don't worry about not replying.
I get a bit overwhelmed trying to think about what the whole world was like before, to be honest. Not just the number of bugs around, and humans, but also the size of everything else. I guess you're probably used to it in Bends, but the biggest thing around where I am are the trees. The idea of cities... I can't imagine it, it's just impossible. When I imagine the past, I always think about what it was like for a single person, or a family, if it's much larger than that I can't picture it actually happening. I like hearing personal stories from that time though. Do you have any other memories, or stories your parents told you? I don't think the present is boring or anything, but... I'm a curious person, and my parents are tired of me quizzing them, heh.
I actually kept a journal for a while! It was nice to have a place to just put down any thoughts i had without worrying that other people would see them. Although, now I'm kind of curious what someone who saw them would think. I've never read any books that are written like a journal, but I think I would like to. It would be very personal, like you would really get to know the journal's owner... that would be nice.
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#24
RE: I Will Reply
To: I Will Reply

Saw this in my inbox during a slog through my email backlog, and I figured I'd send something. Was on an extended trip into an internet dead zone. Have some family there that prefers it that way, you see. I suppose it can be healthy to disconnect every once in a while, though it can take some time to fully acclimate.

At any rate, hello! Going from the email, you seem like a pretty cool individual. I would be happy to chat.
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#25
RE: I Will Reply
Mïmir, Concerned Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose

SpoilerShow

Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Mïmir, Concerned

Hey, Mïmir! I can't type that with my keyboard either, but you can look it up if you just search 'i with umlaut'. That's the name of that symbol above it, though I have no clue where it comes from, and if I'm being honest, what it actually does to the sound. Anyway.

On the subject of replying to an email as a last resort-- that sounds really, monumentally stressful. I mean, I'm absolutely willing to help try and listen, but if you're no longer in that place where you feel your life's at risk, that seems like a good thing overall, right? I completely get that fear for crazy folks from home-- I guess I never experienced it personally, but I know it's a pretty common story for people who don't fit in some arbitrary 'norm'. I'm sorry that just getting away from it put you at risk!

I like the name 'The Devil' a lot more now. Names mean a lot, and if they like their flower so much, you're taking away their self-imposed responsibility for it. It's taking the power out of their rhetoric. Maybe the best course, though, would be to go a lot further from home. I mean, it's probably nontrivial for you to stay on caffeine given the circumstances, right? Maybe there's someone out there who could help you move to a town, or at least a safer part of the woods, you know? Just because we're the last animals doesn't mean plants are all safe. Neat trick hiding out by the fingers, but it doesn't sound like a fun time overall.

Don't worry about talking a lot about that all, either way! I'm happy to listen, because if I'm being honest, I think my life is about the last thing anyone would care to hear about. By in large I'm just... at home, sitting around, not doing a lot. I've been getting out more lately, but that's just a few moments in a non-depressive state, then it's right back.

I met this friend a couple months ago who I really like hanging out with, and actually she's kind of forcing me to get out more. I mean, I could turn it down, but having another bug's pressure has been nice. I think. Too early to say for sure?

She's thinking of flying us down from Bends way over to the Sequence Break, on Halloween night, since it's actually not far from there, and being tourists could actually be a pretty refreshing time. There's bound to be a lot more people there, anyway, probably dressing up like bartenders or whatever.

I don't know. It's going to be a hell of a long journey and I'm pretty nervous about... everything. And it feels like I could just cancel and hang out at home that day and feel so much more neutral, instead of constantly exhausted. I don't know how to guarantee I'll actually make it.

I guess I'll keep you up to date?

- I Will Reply

SEND

Dalorh, Kinda Unsure Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose

SpoilerShow

Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Dalorh, Kinda Unsure

You know, trees are actually about the same size as buildings. Well, in the same ballpark, at least. When you're in the thick of it, sitting in an apartment within the floorboards of a skyscraper, it seems impossible to grasp the size of it. Sitting on the ground, at street level? That totally changes the gig. I've only gone that far down with family, on holidays, and... we haven't really had a lot of those get-togethers in the last few years.

I get the same problem trying to think of so many people all together. There's plenty of pictures on the human end of the internet of billions of us all together in some place, and it gets my mind racing, like... what if I were there, in the thick of it, surrounded by more people than exist today? It'd be loud, I think. Really loud.

And there wouldn't be enough coffee.

When my mom was a nymph after humans left, she lived in a small, surrogate family, kept alive with small doses of caffeine. Her brothers and sisters didn't make it past the Burst, but she was kept alive by circumstance, being the one that a passing stag beetle happened to help. She told me that the bugs she was with were brought together entirely at random, having found some abandoned coffee cup in a convertible and found a corner of a convenience store in upstate New York to live in. She's got a lot of stories from back then-- and I think a lot of those bugs are still alive and kicking today.

One story that I thought was pretty great- and not so depressing- was when the stag beetle tried dragging in a thermos they were all sure was filled with coffee, right after the Burst. There wasn't any competition, but it was a serious endeavor, because it was like, a half-mile trek-- they all dedicated themselves to it, almost working to death trying to stay alive before there was a system for keeping them alive. Finally, they get it home, they spend some days getting it open, and they find...

...tea. I remember how she described everyone's reactions. It was such an, 'oh, welp,' moment. I mean, it's not like they weren't thankful. But if you're living on coffee for a year and have to switch to the weaker stuff, you can't help but feel a little let down! Turns out it was a bonding experience, though-- not the buried treasure you wanted, but still treasure nonetheless. Kept them alive, at least.

I guess I'd feel weird contacting that group of bugs nowadays. It's not like my mom is dead or anything. It's just that everything she's a part of is worse now. Thinking about her in the third person, as a collection of stories and interesting events, is a lot easier.

Journal sounds nice. I don't like to vent usually, but I'm in a weird place in my life right now and wouldn't mind to have that tracked to tape, so to speak. I guess these emails are a start.

Trying to decide if I should go on a Halloween trek further into the heart of the city right now. It's to the Sequence Break-- not like there's an event or anything, but my friend thinks it'd be a good time. I guess I keep convincing myself I'll just cancel last minute, which sounds... shitty. How do you keep yourself to a promise when the alternative is so much easier, when your body's telling you not to go anywhere or do anything all day?

- I Will Reply

SEND

Disconnect Connection Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose

SpoilerShow

Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Disconnect Connection

Hello! Thanks for the compliment-- I guess even if I'm not a cool individual, the email was cool, at least. I appreciate you reaching out to this mildly empty inbox.

Personally, disconnecting from the Internet seems completely impossible. I've grown up on it, since I live in Bends, Brooklyn, New York City, and I've never gone far enough away from home to lose signal. Even if the Internet gets zapped out of existence, somebody kooky in the city will end up wiring all the buildings together, I'm sure.

How was the trip? I imagine it's refreshing to get to spend time with family, since I know a lot of bugs move away easy enough. It's in our nature, or at least a lot of our natures, it seems like. Family at leg's length. But it's still easy to miss them.

- I Will Reply

SEND

A body not in motion would have no reason beyond basic nutrition or obligation to go into motion. A roach not in motion would see it as hopeless to stand up and be lively. Exhaustion from nowhere had overwhelmed Cent-- she would spend hours with Tieni, who made her feel at ease, and then she would sink home, sit down, and do nothing for hours. She was barely even content with doing nothing. There was plenty on the Internet to watch, and she had her mantis friend easily accessed via message, but she just... sunk.

Sunk, and sunk, and sunk. The chair could not accommodate the hole going to the center of New York City.

Confronting Tieni in any capacity except a meaningless one was going to be impossible. She would just wait until Halloween, turn down the offer to go out (which she was sure Tieni would forgive her for (which she was ashamed to be so sure of)) and sink (and sink) into her chair (at home (alone.))

The emails were easy enough, and then she stared at the wall behind the monitor waiting for time to pass with anxious, heaving breath.
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