Cent's Yuenyeung [ Too Much Tea, Not Enough Coffee ]

Cent's Yuenyeung [ Too Much Tea, Not Enough Coffee ]
RE: I Will Reply
Wow! New York City, huh? That’s always seemed like such a fascinating place to visit. Sadly, monumental geographic distance doesn’t give me much hope for it. Though at some point, I want to go somewhere with mind-blowingly-tall buildings.

Yeah, it was tough disconnecting at first, and I'd probably have to disconnect for much longer than I did to be 100% okay with it, but it did get easier, which was a relief. I will say I missed my friends a lot. Not sure I’d make the lifestyle choice of giving up internet for its own sake, but it was an interesting experience to have.

Seeing that part of my family again was nice. I have a lot of fond memories of visiting when I was little, so I was looking forward to the reunion. They visit my hometown every so often, but they always seem a bit uncomfortable outside their element. Was good to see them in full spirits again.

I spent some time exploring the surroundings, which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I was never allowed to wander far when I was a nymph, but they sometimes took me with them on their excursions, and I remember wanting so badly to explore every little path or opening I could see. I was an obedient child, so I never did. I remember I told myself I would become an explorer one day… Which never ended up happening either.

Even now, they were a little wary of me going out too far. They live in pretty untamed territory, so leaving the bounds of their little community carries some risk. I’m proud to say, though, that I was brave enough to explore anyway.

The place is incredible. They live inside the outer walls of an old factory, and I’ve wanted to explore the factory proper my whole life. Though I was a nervous wreck by the end of it, I think it was totally worth it.

I do feel a bit bad for worrying them, however.

Anyways, how’s life for you? What’s it like living in a place of such vertical magnitude?
RE: I Will Reply
Hello, to Sender:

What an impossible message. You know this feeling?

I wanted to send something earlier, but - typically you already know how that goes.
So, it is difficult to create a message. Other burdens weigh in.
Just to say "hello" regardless of anything else? Too little for any proper correspondence.

I don't have a guide for this.
Not especially advantaged in seeing through time, long ago it all started activating flows of thought.
Connecting holes in a paper spool, waiting for new responses.
Typically you already know how it is. You already know the messages.
You've been there. What you receive to reduce this situation.

So, it is difficult. Do you ever experience that?

An impossible cage between any two.
How do you not know that I exist and you do not?
How do I know that you exist and I do not?
Impossible to know. Connecting holes in a philosopher's cage.
Of course I'm sure you've been there. Isolation does strange things, mostly detrimental to functioning.

Long ago it all started and now it will never end.

Unless you know this feeling? If you can remove it?

I would like to see more messages from you. Wherever you might be, as you stated.
If you will, provide me with some methods or information to reduce this situation.
Too little to send something earlier, but - other burdens weigh proper correspondence.

To you, now.
RE: I Will Reply
To: I Will Reply

Out in the forest, there's a clearing with a really big crater full of trash. It is the grave of a dark god who ruled this forest long ago. Out of the ground he would grow human bodies that he could pilot into human society and earn political power towards some unknown goal. Perhaps he knew of the doom that awaited the humans and wanted to save them, or perhaps he had a much worse fate in mind for them. When the humans found out about the dark god's plan, however, they tracked him down and blew him up. The only thing he left behind were the plants he'd use to grow his human clones. Now, without his presence they are unable to grow past the fingers.

I made that story up a while back, based it off something I read on the internet once. Stories are basically my lifeblood, it's the only thing that keeps me going these days. That and caffeine. I've been living at the local gas station ever since I ran away from home. Every two months the caffeine delivery bug shows up for a few days. She has to travel a lot to get caffeine all the way out here, I imagine it's very exhausting. She's tried to explain to me the logistical nightmare that comes from transporting caffeine to such an isolated community. There's multiple refueling outposts along her route, and each outpost needs its own supplies delivered. It's all too complicated for me to understand. Her name is Ore, she's really nice.

Obtaining caffeine hasn't been too much of a trouble, really. The vending machine is a small trip away from the station, cause otherwise it would be right next to the finger plants and then nobody would want to use it. And then we'd all die, presumably. Anyway, as long as I time my trip right, I can get there and back without running into anyone.

The hive forgave me pretty fast. I think they all just got high on The Devil that day though. I've been invited back to the hive multiple times but have always refused. I feel safer at the station. I like the idea of moving further away, but I just don't know where I'd go. I'll ask Ore about it when she comes by next. Until then I'm content with living alone. I found a garden gnome to keep me company, but I think it might be a bad omen.

That is a whole bunch of random things I just said. I don't know how to organize all this information and structure it into a coherent narrative. I just wanna tell my story while I still can, so you'll have to forgive me for being a bit scatterbrained. It's great to know you're doing well. It sounds like you've made an important kind of friend. It's probably too late for me to say this, but I don't think it's wise to cancel that outing. If you don't go out and meet new bugs, then when will you? If I had that opportunity, I'd jump on it in a heartbeat. I dunno, maybe that's mean of me to say, maybe I'm assuming too much or something.

Also, it's not an umlaut. I don't know what it's called but the special dot over my i is not an umlaut. I appreciate the attempt though!
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!!!!!!!!!

RE: I Will Reply
..What happened with your mum? You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but I promise I won't judge if you do. I know I'm pretty, lucky, I guess, in the relationship I have with my parents. Most of the bugs I've met don't keep touch with theirs either. Although maybe that's just because I'm young. I can't really imagine just, picking everything up and moving somewhere else though.
Um. Anyway, what's this Sequence Break thing? It sounds like a good idea. Keeping a promise can be hard sometimes, what I usually do is, try to get someone else to be on my case about it, heh. When I'm feeling like I can do it and be committed, I tell someone (well, usually one of my parents), and then later, when I lose motivation, having their expectation just kinda, helps I guess? I don't know if that would work for you though. Could you put a reminder on your computer or something like that?
RE: I Will Reply
Disconnect Connection Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Disconnect Connection

Oh, wow, I can imagine having a factory that big can be enticing as a nymph. If there's not a lot of bugs around, there's gotta be so much to explore-- so many pipes and conveyors and nooks and crannies within nooks and crannies. For places like where I live, the places to explore are still places that humans designed to be lived in, but that's not true for factories. Nobody's really meant to crawl up into a chute or between two metal walls.

I'm glad you had a good, revitalizing time with family. Sounds like a good thing that you got to see their home as much as they've seen yours, right? I guess there'll always be a compromise either way-- one side is going away from comfort to someplace else. Maybe eventually both places become comfortable, but I've always settled into home and nowhere else.

New York is... itself, still. I just worked up the courage to go on a trip with a friend and, wow, it's exhilarating to make a long trek. We used her travel plane (she's a caffeine carrier!) to go from Bends to Manhattan proper, to the 'spacebar', as she called it, for Halloween. We spent most of the flight a storey above ground level, but you can still get a view of so much. There's still some dung beetles making steady progress moving the cars out of the roads, and they're nearly empty (and safe) enough to start driving on.

The roads really do cut right into the buildings. It's like, they could have built more on top of the street, but they left it empty to air. In spite of the size of it all, it's possible for me to imagine all of the city like a single building, no space between anything, just... endless. But New York City has enough distance to make it bearable.

Anyway, the expedition to the bar was really... tiring, I guess. Good, but tiring. Especially with the flight back, I think the size of the buildings really started to loom over me. I could see Bends twenty minutes before we got back to the fire escape, just sitting there in view, tantalizing.

It's supposed to have been a fun experience, but all I can remember is how exhausted it made me. Is that weird?

- I Will Reply


Impossible Messenger Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Impossible Messenger

I always experience that. I'm never not experiencing that. Even when I'm desperate to reply to somebody, it rips me apart trying to do it. It compounds on the social anxiety to have to be artistic or composed in the whole thing.

Isolation might not be bad on its own, but I barely feel fully 'alone'. Alone with my thoughts, but my thoughts are... anxious! yelling! screeching. My thoughts are primal, needy, deeply addicted to feeding myself through the Internet and barely anything else. I don't think if I were alone in isolation that it'd be so bad.

Sometimes I'll find that I just sat still for a few minutes without so many thoughts blaring. Usually this comes off the tail of a panic attack, so it's not sweet, but it's peaceful.

I live in Bends, Brooklyn, in-between floors of the building, with two neighbors for the most of it. I think these emails have been the only creative thing I've been able to muster any energy for in the last few years, or at least they're an outlet for every other inability. Advice, given by other people online, has been basically useless for me, so take it with a grain of salt from me, for sure.

All the help I can provide, I guess, is saying that I get it. I get not being able to word it in so many ways, and I get the helplessness. I went six months without composing an email and now I'm trying, desperately, to get out one batch a week. If it fails, OK. Right now, I've already given up, and that makes every small success feel like I'm fighting the system.

But I do hear you. Above all that other stuff, I am actually here, listening, reading what you write. If it's not so much a burden, I'd love to hear more, be able to reply in a meaningful way.

I'm Cent. Without meaning to be invasive, do you have something you like to go by, online or otherwise?

- I Will Reply


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


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

I like that story. I like it a lot, actually. There's so much explicable that becomes massively more interesting if we give it some mythology, some intrigue. That'd be a lovely plot for any kind of thriller, or even a fictional documentation-- it's also pretty horrifying! Humans coming out of the nothing pretending to fit in with normal society is a nice use of the fact that humans already look pretty terrifying on their own.

You say that this stuff is all sort of scatterbrained, but I guess that's just the fact that you haven't organized it all yet, and it's going to be impossible to organize if you can't compile all the things that are in the story. Maybe if you know the most important parts, you can work out a timeline, and then you might notice all the important sections in-between. I noticed when I used to hang around people a lot more, I'd always stop midway through a story to tell important details, which can jumble up your understanding of key events. And your life seems to have plenty of key events, haha.

And-- well, if you like that kind of mythology and storytelling combined, why not write your story as magical realism? Tell the important events with an associated fantastic element to exacerbate how important they are. If you keep the distinction at least somewhat clear, you won't lose any clarity about what happened, just how you've interpreted those things after the fact.

You did end up convincing me to go on the outing. It helps that I wasn't the one who had to make the flight, else I think I'd have cancelled. It was a hell of a time, but I guess I won't sit here whining about being tired of being mildly social, haha.

The main thing that caught my eye is that you mentioned your caffeine carrier! The one for Bends, she's actually the friend who took me on the Halloween expedition. I think that's the whole reason I went for it, anyway. She's a mantis (though I don't exactly know what kind), and her name's Tieni, which is hilarious to me, because she's about twice my size. I know she's got a ton of work in the city, but she somehow makes time to hang out even in spite of it all, and I guess I'm just... really liking her company.

It's not an interest kind of thing, because she's not my type in the least, and I much more enjoy her company as a friend. But she's funny, and welcoming, and makes the exhaustion of being friends actually bearable, unlike a lot of people I've met in my life.

I'm a little conflicted, because, if I'm being honest, I think she just really reminds me of somebody I knew a couple years ago. They're plenty different people, but they're both queer, they both make me feel like I'm actually worth more than dirt, and they just get stuff that other people don't. For this other friend, I told them a lot about myself that I was barely comfortable with, and they made me feel so much more... okay, with life. And Tieni, I guess I wish I could get the courage to say those things to her, too. It's not exactly easy to segue into, in any random shoot-the-shit conversation.

Anyway, after we had a caffeine shortage for a couple days, earlier this year, I went out and ended up seeking her out, and meeting her for real. Now it's this tentative friendship that makes me feel happy having. I guess it's been a while since I've known people that make me happy to know, haha.

Maybe you should talk to Ore after all. I guess being a caffeine carrier can be as lonely a job as living alone, you know? Seems like you'd have some stuff in common there.

- I Will Reply


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


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

It's alright to ask about my mum, so don't stress-- I mentioned it, after all. It's several things she just wasn't really equipped to understand about me, and so she decided to treat me like trash as a result. Maybe it isn't trash in her mind- she grew up in a way different time!- but it's still so awful of her. She moved away because of me. It's weird for a parent to do that, isn't it? It sounds so weird to me, but it's what she did, and now I'm just in Bends because it's home.

I ended up keeping the promise! I have you and another person over email to thank for it, I think, because having that extra bit of pressure ended up making the hurdle just barely makeable. I mean, I regret it a good bit, because I felt so exhausted I slept the whole of the next day, but I'm also really glad I went. The person I went with, Tieni, made it a great outing. There were thousands of bugs in the bar, and she managed to convince me to play stem flute, which I hadn't done in something like a year!

Maybe folks outside the city haven't heard of the bar, but it's the Sequence Break, like-- the one the bartender appeared in. I guess the actual name might not be something every bug knows, but that's what the bartender called it, and humans must've listened and put up a sign outside. God, that was a wild time. It ended up being the reason we don't have humans anymore, but in the moment, it was just something people made image macros about, or invented cutesy conspiracy theories about, or just ignored.

Now bugs from all over the world come to it and dress up like a crazy alien because it's apparently important we adopt the same fascinations as humans. Meeting some of those people was the highlight, even if I felt absolutely trashed the next day. I'm not exactly a social butterfly (weird expression considering some of the butterflies I've met) so by the end, there was just nothing left in me, for anything.

Overall, though, thank you for the expectation. It did, actually, help. It'd have sucked harder if I didn't go, so that's the risk, but this time it happened to be alright.

I mean, on Sunday I was supposed to do something with another friend who lives in Brooklyn somewhere, but it eventually morphed into doing that thing online, and then it morphed into... nothing. There's still not a lot of energy left in me.

- I Will Reply


Cent sat back against the chair, checking incessantly for a reply from Tieni. They hadn't talked much online at all, so there wasn't a lot of expectation, but she'd sent a message asking when they could next meet up, and she hadn't received response in a day.

Maybe she'd missed the message.

Maybe the roach, being so incessant in trying to befriend her, was much more of a burden than it was worth.

Maybe she'd missed the message.

Maybe Cent was overbearing and trash and not worth the response, and this person she wanted to confide in was weirded out, alienated, uncomfortable.

Maybe she'd missed the message.

Maybe there isn't any way to go back to a previous time, and trying to hook onto anybody resembling previously-known good people is forcing things to stay stagnant.


maybe she'd missed the message.

Cent sat back against the chair, checking incessantly for a reply from Tieni.
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RE: I Will Reply
Hello, Cent,

I appreciate your reply.

My first name is something that has grown to disgust myself.

Alternatively, you may use another one. I had a friend once who remained on the fringes of many things. In their memory, I took the name Visilit, meaning "boundary walker." So that the memory is kept in our own walks along these boundaries, let us use that name for myself.

It's good to hear that there is plenty out there, interesting and creative things. Being cloistered too often you get the impression that there's not much ever. Though there hasn't been much recently.

A long time ago I also felt the constancy of thought. These days, more and more often, it all fades into a certain silence. Sometimes it is like an animal that has been fed too little, and has decided to lay down for eternal sleep.

Other times small things flit about and demand attention, but I know that they will never be addressed. So I have left them also to rot, and now even the resentment towards myself comes less and less. Without even this tether, would that also be my fate, in the end? Slowly, it's like you fall out of the world.

I wonder if ... something should change. How do you establish footing once again? It's too easy to lose your grip and forget what it's like to really exist, to take comfort

There is so little here. So little about. And the messages that we can exchange, as they are, are little sustenance in that way. The energy that we all use in keeping these connections... how much of that well is dried up with each draw?

With good wishes.
RE: I Will Reply
To: I Will Reply

Okay, mystery solved. My special dot is something called an "acute" and it looks like this: í 

I'm sure if I'd let that question remain unanswered it would have developed into a hilarious inside joke or something. Oh well. Individuality wasn't really a thing back at the hive, so none of us were ever given names other than the queen. So I picked mine myself. I just one day scrolled through a list of mythological characters from an old human religion and found one I liked. I also named some of my hivemates this way. That friend who I said got squeezed dead by a finger plant, I named him Baldr. Um, he actually died from caffeine deprivation. I liked my version better honestly. Oh, and the one who I said gave hugs to the finger plants when high on The Devil, I named her Njörun. And that did actually happen.

So funny story, the flower I originally dubbed "The Devil" was long dead before your first email. It's just sort of become what I call flowers now. You'd think a hive of bees would help the flower population tons, but for some reason the worker bees have been unable to carry pollen ever since the queen died eight years ago. So things have just sort of been slowly dying off. Caffeine keeps the bugs alive, and a stash of seeds keep the Devils returning.

I'm not actually alone at the gas station. I'm technically violating some sort of contract by being here, so I'm really shy about talking to him. He's really huge. He chopped down the finger plants and ate them for lunch! He punched the dark god in the face! His name is Berry, and he's one of those massive armored beetles. He showed up a few months ago to replace Kron, the previous station caretaker, who disappeared last year.

Berry is from the east, where the ant wars are still in full force. He keeps talking about how the tractor ants are gonna kill us all someday. Apparently there's an ant colony that has hijacked a broken down tractor and turned it into a war machine. It sounds absolutely devastating. And amazing. If the ant wars ever calm down, I might just head over there to see the ant tractor for myself.

Your replies are an absolute joy to read. Life is bleak, and being sent some positivity now and then is just really nice. So I've decided to disregard the garden gnome's warning. What does it know anyway? Nothing, it's an inanimate object. It's not even real, I made it up to foreshadow that this would be my last message. Not anymore, though! So take that, stupid imaginary garden gnome! Right now I'm really just waiting for Ore to come by with the next shipment of caffeine. I'll try to join her on the way back, and I'll figure things out from there I guess. Messages from me might become more rare if I'm gonna be on the go most of the time. So if it takes me a while to respond from now on, that's probably why.
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!!!!!!!!!

RE: I Will Reply
To: I Will Reply

Hello. Hello. Hello!

Just saw this email. I don't check this address very much ... But I am very glad someone is out there with a project like this! I'm a little late, I know, but if you're still doing this, I would love to be part of it!
RE: I Will Reply
Visilit, With Good Wishes Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Visilit, With Good Wishes

I get not wanting to use a given name completely, so I'd be happy to call you Visilit. Names we go by have a lot of significance, and that significance can change and be warped. I guess it can feel like pain and trauma with one name can be set aside sometimes, if you're going by a better one.

Does seem like our problems with thought are different in some ways, yeah. My mind is always running with stress, but moreso anxiety, and it has trouble going anywhere productive. I can think of things I'd like to work on, but my mind drifts away from those things in a 'pragmatic' sense. Like, it's telling me, Cent, you aren't going to be able to do that. Why even bother thinking about it?

But the thinking about it is always an option. Getting excited over it is still possible. And I suppose even if those things were gone, too, I'd still want to remind myself that I've made good things before, that I've done decent things before, and I'm not a tractor whose parts fall out and can't be replaced. My chitin's always growing out, you know?

...I guess that isn't a catch-all. I don't want to throw my own weak advice at you with any promise it'd help. I'm barely getting by right now, and not with flying colors. It does seem good that you're reaching out, if nothing else. And... I really do empathize with what you're saying.

What sort of stuff is going on in your life right now? You can be vague if you'd like, but a tether to physical happenings can be a nice thing from time to time. Have you eaten anything nice lately? Maybe a really good cup of coffee, or tea?

Honestly, even a good night's sleep can be something to celebrate. More and more I'm thinking of it as a well, like you mentioned. It dries up, it fills up. There's so much external and internal that it's impossible to predict, but you know the feeling when it's empty.

Recently I slept for a full night, from before New York got dark to after it got bright again. That's a weird feeling. When you're addled on actual rest, the artificial rest of caffeine is like nails on chalkboard, for a second.

Sorry if that's not a great topic, but like I said, trying to give legitimate advice seems like a real fallacy to me! After all, I'm far from a shining example.

But, I guess, I'm messaging you now. And you've messaged me back. So we've done better than nothing together.

Thanks for the good wishes, Visilit.

- I Will Reply


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


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

Acute observation on the acute! Glad to finally have the right name in the subject line, haha.

I've heard the occasional thing or two about bee life in the current era, but I didn't know there were still hives out there that didn't name their people-- that sounds... demoralizing. I think names let us discover ourselves in all sorts of ways, and taking away someone's name takes away their ability to be known and spoken to by other people. Without the name Baldr, that bee could have been just about anyone, could have been made up. But with the name, that story and that name represent a person, not just a thought.

There are some books out there about people that hesitate to name anyone. It feels less like a book about people and more about a book about that person's experience, like everyone else involved is just some cog in a machine about them. That's what the hive experience seems like-- nobody is anything but their purpose and their actions. The reality is we're all living something internal, and that's what a name gives us. It validates us having feelings about our lives.

I guess you've probably thought about this kind of thing, since you've given names to yourself and others!

Maybe that's a sign of things to come, bees not carrying as much pollen. I read something the other day that a lot of flowers in the northern hemisphere have totally shifted to self-pollination. There just aren't enough of us around to give them anything better. I'm not exactly a botanist, but I wonder if trees are going to face the same issue? I always hoped there'd be a boom in plantlife when I was young, because I heard we get to grow bigger the more oxygen is in the atmosphere, but that doesn't seem to be happening anywhere except cities, where it used to be constantly trimmed.

And, I mean, my neighbors eat all the ivy anyway, so home has never been the green paradise I was picturing as a nymph.

Berry sounds like a fun person-- I've always liked bugs who are willing to punch dark gods in the face. Tractor ants don't sound nice at all, though. I've heard of the occasional war, but that sounds downright terrifying, if it's at all real. The world mostly feels calm right now, since nobody's fighting over space, but it's still shitty to hear about conflict of any kind. Are ants really getting attacked- killed- even nowadays? Maybe I'm still too naive over things. I feel like it's only in the last couple of years that I've been wary about shitty people and betrayal.

It's really nice to hear that these replies give you joy, Mímir. The emails I get from folks like you give me a ton of joy to read, too. I'm starting to not feel as awful trying to write replies, even! There's still plenty of worry that it'll stop, but until then...

I hope Ore's as nice as my friend Tieni, and you get to see some more of the world. At the least, you aren't going to have to worry about caffeine shipments getting to you, haha.

- I Will Reply


Part Of Things Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Part Of Things

Hey, you're not late at all. We're all working on life at our own pace, and I guess the huge advantage of the Internet is that it is appropriately asynchronous. We don't have to be anywhere near each other, or anywhere near the same time, to speak like it's casual. It isn't like anyone's going to be signing up to deliver physical mail, haha.

Welcome to the project, I suppose! I'm Cent, I live in Bends, Brooklyn, so the ground's a little further down for me than a lot of people I've met over these emails. I've explored a slight bit more of the city now, and I can report that at least one of the tourist destinations is pretty fun, even with the bartender gone.

I just started hanging out with the caffeine delivery bug for our building, and it's been pretty exhilarating, pretty exhausting. I think it might've just been these emails that convinced me to try meeting someone like that.

How about you? Any big changes-- anything about the world you're living in that might rock someone else's?

- I Will Reply


It'd be easier to visit if he were down a few floors, not in an entirely different building on the fifty-second floor. Still, now and then, when things didn't feel so exhausting, Cent would make the trek. She didn't want to inconvenience Tieni by asking for a ride upward ever, so it was the few hours up Craters' stairwell in solace, and then an exhausted roach peeled herself off the concrete and into her dad's hovel,

then a couple more hours waiting for her stepdad to head to sleep before she could do much more than make small talk anxiously,

then a couple more hours watching television with her dad, and then it was too late to do much of anything but sit on the balcony and muse.

Conversation was fleeting and temporary, and generally she wouldn't get to talk about any of the things she wanted to. They'd joke plenty and find time to laugh with each other, because her sense of humor and his sense of humor had partial overlap and partial clash, and they'd talk a little bit about the world, and Cent would mention bees having names, and flowers dying out, and the bartender who told humans to go to space and leave their little planet behind.

"Yeah," she said, to not much in particular, "I don't know. I don't talk to people... for 'real', lately. It feels like they don't want to talk to me."

He tilted his roach head. "Really?"

Cent wasn't sure. "I'm not sure," she said, unsure. Being sure of anything relating to people would clear things up and remove anxiety, it would make her feel comfortable with interaction without constantly questioning intent, but she wasn't at all. "I met Bends' caffeine carrier, and she's really, really nice. And I've been talking to the neighbors more. But, uh... there's no... I don't know, it's easier to talk to friends from when I was younger, somehow. It feels like there's a barrier." She'd heard of such things, and was hoping he'd put forth some kind of sympathy.

Instead, Sir Penney sipped at the mug of tea and nodded slowly. "Yeah." Obviously there was understanding, but he wasn't going to say much of anything. That was his way.

"Tieni's really nice, though. Really nice. I guess I just feel like it's a brick wall with some things I say, like I have the whole wrong idea how she is."

"Probably not. I'm sorry you feel like that, though," he mused.

Cent let out a weak sigh and sat and stared. There was so much more distance above the ground, but it rarely felt that way. It was so much effort to get here, and she wasn't sure what it'd do to her once she got home. She'd already sent the emails, so what was she going to do except sit in a pit and go on the Internet? The roach spoke, even though she wasn't completely sure about it. "Have you, uh-- had you met Tieni at all? She probably fills your building's things up too, right?"

Penney nodded. "The mantis? Yeah, I remember her from Bends. Your mom didn't love the, uhm." His beady, slightly damaged eyes glanced away, off towards blinking lights on a rooftop. "Yeah."

"Yeah," Cent agreed. There was some shared bitterness there. "I guess I might-- I don't know. I had the idea maybe I could try and go with her on a trip, or learn about caffeine mixing, or something like that. It seems interesting to me. It's pretty important."

To this, her dad nodded and chuckled deep, mandibles buzzing. "Holy hell, it's important. If that's something you'd be interested in, that sounds great."

She shrugged, but now she was riding a little bit of a high, like she finally had a little direction in life. Cent didn't know how to explain how much the email gig meant, but maybe other things would have meaning in time, too. "It's interesting to me when she talks about it. I remember Mom used to have me make her coffees when I was old enough, and it was always so much fun."

"It'd probably be a lot of delivering things to people," Penney noted.

"See, but I'd like that too." She turned to face him, clenching one leg against her side to stay grounded on the no-ground balcony. "I mean, I think I would. I like meeting new people, and I've gotten better at it. I guess it's all just... theory in my head right now, so, yeah."

He slowly nodded with a little grin on his mandibles. "It's good seeing you excited, so it sounds like it'll be a good thing." His beady eyes went back towards the horizon line, then down at the big mug in his lap, and then finally to Cent as he offered it forward. "You want some to keep you up?"

The roach took in a soft breath. She hadn't had tea in some years. "...Oh, yeah, why not? I guess I have to get going to make the trek down."

"You could spend the night, if you're too tired right now."

"No, no, it's totally okay." She nodded and took the mug. A waft of herbal smell almost sent her antennae flying. "I don't really... I have to do some stuff online early tomorrow at home, and I've got to head down eventually anyways."

Penney nodded slow. Cent had no idea if the act of leaving would hurt his cockroach soul, and she wouldn't know unless he spoke of it, which he tended not to. "It is past midnight. You really have to be careful going down the stairs-- they're apparently never going to fill the middle."

"I'm fiiine." The tea tasted like mildly burnt flowers. Cent drank most of the mug and smiled with exhaustion.

"Alright, good," he said, and nodded again. He stood up. She stood up.




"Alright, sounds good."


Eventually, Cent was outside the apartment again, then slumping down the stairs, then she was deep into a half-hour of surreal, repetitive pacing. She could leap down the center and hope her wings were enough to keep her upright, but she'd learned early enough and thoroughly enough not to do so, to keep her cool, to reduce leaps and flight, to return to ground as safely as the caffeine made her. The tisane kept her buzzing another few hours once she'd trekked to Bends, then she spent another hour trying to detach from the computer,

then another half-hour on the computer anyhow

and then

caffeine buzzing through her system, she figures a coffee might as well go down, and she sleeps once she's drunk it all,

a terrible kind of sleep where nothing feels restful

because nothing is

Cent ruined her week for one night of sleeplessness. It would be impossible to get that back. It would be impossible to wake back up with any sense of continuity. When she listened to music as part of the dopamine drip, she would never be able to listen from the beginning of an album, because every single one would be half-way-listened. This would be her week. She would wake halfway awake and sleep halfway asleep. Each day would blend together.

She knew all this on the Tuesday night before it happened, and woke unprepared to divert from her inevitable course towards the center.
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RE: I Will Reply
To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose

So, um... Ore showed up the other day. And I told her I wanted to join her on the way back. So that's happening. Excited for that. Now I'm just waiting for her to finish delvering caffeine to all the local spots. It's not just the vending machine near the station. There's a couple of families further into the forest that need direct deliveries for a variety of reasons. So Ore left to take care of that. She was supposed to be back last night, so I'm a little concerned, I guess. Berry decided to go look for her. I'm looking after the station in the meanwhile.

At times like this I just need to stay positive, I guess. If I'm leaving with Ore, I'll have to go say goodbye to the hive. Despite all the bad things I can say about it as a whole, the bees there are family, and I do care about them a great deal. I'm going to print out that paragraph you wrote about the importance of names so I can read it aloud to them, because you say it so much better than I ever could.

The ant wars are definitely going on in some form somwhere in the general direction of east. Sometimes travelling bugs come through with stories about it. To my knowledge it's not really so much about space anymore. It really is just a senseless war fueled by an ancient rivalry. That's my interpretation, at least. It's not something I have given much thought to, but I think anything you hear about the ant wars should be taken with a grain of salt. There's likely a lot of misinformation going around. I was tempted to imagine the ant tractor as just an ant that grew as big as a tractor, but maybe that's the sort of topic I shouldn't be making things up about.

Out of curiosity, I did ask Ore if she knew of a bug named Tieni, but nah, guess that would be too much of a coincidence.
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!!!!!!!!!

RE: I Will Reply
To: I will reply

Hey. I'm here to respond to your email. I received it quite a while ago, but I couldn't bring myself to spill my guts to a stranger. Bugs change, though.

I'm Rose Hotel. I named myself after a musician. I know that's an odd concept. Most of the bugs where I live only experience sound in a vibration way. Hell, my friends describe music with words like "cacophonous", "unpredictable", and "ugly". But uh. As a cicada, I spent most of my life dormant below a human establishment where music was played. 15 years, can you imagine that? 15 years of sound grating on my brain until it made a little more sense. And you know what? Music is beautiful. I wish I could share it with everyone. I wish I could open your head and pour myself in there so you could understand the soup of audible motion. It flows like water and washes over my perception. It feels like life. It feels like change. I really wish I could share it. Just, with anyone. Anyone at all. 

I don't know why I went on that tangent. I'm afraid that if I delete it I'll lose something important.

There's only one other bug I met that showed interest in music. A chill fellow, Named himself Marco. He tried so hard to get what I was showing him. I think he was about to, even. Maybe 3 or so months and he would've understood. God, I think you already know where this is going. He's not with us anymore. 

I don't think that you'd be willing, but would you like to listen to music with me? It doesn't have to be an all the time thing. Just maybe, 30 minutes a day, you could put some on in the background and let yourself soak. I just need to share this feeling. You don't need to understand it yet. I could even recommend some of my favorites.

This is very stream of consciousness, sorry. I think I'm conflicted between thinking of you as a stranger and thinking of you like a chance to start over, and I realize that might be uncomfortable for you. I think a while ago I probably would've been content to leave this message sitting in my inbox forever because I didn't need anybody else back then. Bugs change, though.

Rose Hotel
RE: I Will Reply
Sorry for the late reply, our internet dropped out for a bit and it took a while to get working again.
Actually that's a lie. There was a problem with it, but it fixed itself again after a bit, I don't know how. The real reason is because..
..I don't know. It's hard to explain. Someone came by I didn't expect to see. It wasn't related to this but it made talking to you feel weird. Not like, because of you or anything but
bluh. whatever it doesn't matter right now.
It's good to hear that you went to that event with your friend. I think there's a festival that goes on every year somewhere near where I live, but I've never been before. I should probably check it out, but I don't really know if I'd enjoy it. I'm not that social myself, I usually just talk occasionally and stay silent most of the time, and I'm fine with that, but I've never been in a group of more than a dozen bugs at once. I don't know if I'd really fit in that well around more people than that.
I tried looking up that Sequence Break thing you mentioned, and it seems really crazy? It might just be my internet but I got a lot of different stories, like one about a rocket flying without any fuel, or the moon staying still in the sky, or an old-fashioned astronaut rising from an ocean. I don't know, I couldn't find any sites that looked official. I feel like it'd make more sense in a book. Do you know if anyone's written any books about it?
RE: I Will Reply
Mímir, Concerned Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


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

I hope Ore's alright! I wouldn't worry too bad, and maybe use this time to talk to your hive.

Tieni was gone on a long expedition the first time I went to look for her. Our machine was out for a little extra long, and it got me and my neighbors worried, but it turned out she was just a little behind schedule because of all the hassle that comes with delivering caffeine. I mean, there's people who berate her just because she brings the coffee delivered a little wrong, or the tea in slightly the wrong flavor. Not to mention the old bugs who are still bitter that their favorite kind of bean or tea leaf can't be grown anymore, and always remind her that it's somehow her fault for that.

Or the bugs who think she deserves shit because she's trans, which would be plenty enough to make me want to quit. I don't get it. I don't get how people can be so upset over something that has nothing to do with them, and that has nothing to do with anyone, especially not now.

Anyway, I guess those are things you should keep in mind if you're headed out! I had the idea to ask her if I could go on an expedition or two, too, because it seems like a real interesting time. I'm headed out tonight to shadow for the second time at the mixing plant she gets shipments from. I'm really excited to be able to hand her a package of stuff and be like, hey, come ship this out! It's made with love! Something like that. I have no clue how it'll actually turn out.

I appreciate that the paragraph about names had some meaning. I mostly don't know what I'm talking about with stuff, so it's all pretty much made-up. I do think your hive would benefit from names, though. I think we put so much meaning in our names that when we discard them, we become a new person, and I bet taking on a name for the first time has a similar effect.

I mean, hey, 'tractor ant' is already a name that makes you think of so much. And calling that senseless conflict a 'war', like it's some noble organized thing, gives it validity, too. It sounds awful, Mímir. Whichever way you go with Ore, it should be away from that. I've never thought about how things can get living in the wilderness. New York City, as empty as it can feel, is infinitely more claustrophilic than the woods.

Makes enough sense Ore doesn't know Tieni, but I do love when coincidences like that happen. I'm guessing you're nowhere near New York, though. They've got caffeine carriers all over the world now, so it feels like a one in a million shot. I guess weirder things have happened!

- I Will Reply


Rose Hotel, Changed Bug Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Rose Hotel, Changed Bug

Oh, my god! I haven't met a bug who was around with humans in so long, at least been able to talk to them at all. My mum was born a good time after, even though she lived through the Burst. I can't even imagine what it was like hearing music made by those huge instruments and human musicians. I guess as a cicada you never really had a choice, huh?

I looked up Rose Hotel. I was going to say I don't think there are any in the area I live (New York City), but then I found the band you were talking about! I can't listen very well on my home setup. With how sound works, I'd need a speaker six hundred times bigger to make sound with a full frequency range. The ones that came with my mini-computer are barely enough to hear spoken word, and it's not able to store very many media files anyway.

I play an instrument (well, not proficiently, but...) and do like the sound of music, generally. I don't know of any good way to expose myself to it besides staying at home, because staying at home is most of what I do anyway. There are jazz clubs in New York City, and jazzy instruments my size, and even a bug I know on the internet named Jazzmon, but I can't say I've actually been there to hear any of it. It's hard to get out of here, but I guess music can make you feel like you're being transported.

I'm sorry about your friend Marco. Losing someone who gives you a rock to stand on sounds absolutely terrible. I didn't mean it at first, but for a couple people this email has been sort of a rock in the cascading river to hold onto. I can't promise anything- I never can- but I really would like to be here to reply, and be present, and help give you reason to stick around. It's still nice to have people. I thought I could live without my dad and stepdad, for all the help they gave me when I was growing out of my shell, but

I guess over time you realize how much you need good people.

If you send me some music, Rose, I would love to hear it. Like I said, it won't be of great quality, but that's okay, right? I would love to get it stuck in my head and let it swirl around.

- I Will Reply


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


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

Don't worry about it, yeah? I wasn't able to reply for ten months, remember. It's not like there's always an easy answer or explanation. Honestly, sometimes it would be easier if there were some kind of mean explanation, like I hated the people on this email list, but it isn't that. It's inexplicable. I really appreciate you sending a reply regardless, Dalorh.

I'm not great at social situations. Online, there's so much time to prepare yourself, but I don't usually have the ability to go further in person. On the flipside, staying quiet does work alright in big crowds. I think that's where a lot of people go, because it gets too loud to do much more. When I went to the Sequence Break, everyone was so social, I felt like I had to be a part of it, but that drained the shit out of me. If I'd just retracted a little, I might've been okay.

Maybe you should just... try a festival sometime? Do it with prep time, be mentally ready, and make sure you get sleep at a normal time. But those experiences are still nice to have. They can bring you out of a slump sometimes, but they can put you in a new one if you're unprepared.

I don't know. I'm talking out my abdomen with a lot of this. Truth be told, that's just the mantra I tell myself when I go out and 'experience the world'. It's hard to know if it's really a benefit, or just something pretending to be nice. Maybe that's something you have to figure out yourself- sorry.

The Sequence Break is really hard to look up. In a stroke of surreal internet authoritarianism, I don't think you can even type out the bartender's name and expect it to get where it's going. Sure, you can type it out in context, like- on the foggy night, I went out to the Sequence Break- but it totally nixes your email if you try anything more.

The way I heard it, especially from the bugs at the bar, the bartender showed up one day, surprised all the humans, and hung out and wallowed in fame for a while. After a couple years, someone pulled a weapon and the bartender ended up dying. The whole bar equipment that humans had been trying to decipher for decades shot up into space right then and there, and they sent astronauts after it. They found something out of our solar system- a planet or a moon or something, I think- that made them all want to leave, and we still don't know what.

That's the bare essentials of it, I guess. I think it's been embellished plenty, so you've probably heard parts of truth, and I probably don't have the whole truth either. If there are written books, you could probably find the bartender's name written out, too, but I don't know of any. If you've got any libraries nearby, you should ask about it! I can't find any when searching the Internet, but given that they probably name the bartender in the title... yeah.

If you don't mind me asking, who came by that you weren't expecting? Was it a good kind of visit?

- I Will Reply


The emails she had sent in the morning were, of course, a sign of terrible things to come. Tuesdays were universally exhausting post-reply, worrying, like getting hit by a bus over and over. The morning would work fine, she would send out messages to strange bugs around the world, and then she would be snapped forcefully back into reality, like how she was happy for her father but didn't at all know how to interact with his new husband, or how she was wasting away in a chair most of her life, or how she would go to the mixing plant for the second time and get yelled at for being late.

Then she'd apologize, and the bug- who, by mention, was probably not real- would say, 'don't be sorry, be better.' That stung more.

But the bug's name was Centinel, like a little looming figure over Cent, and the rest of the mixing plant didn't acknowledge her existence, and didn't at all have the same sentiments. But they were universally better at her than this. The quaint little memories of making coffee for her mom melted away to reveal her own inability to do the task well. It wasn't a single cup, it was vats of the stuff, mixed perfectly with preserving agents strained through elegantly-ground coffee. When she watched, it was a beautiful cacophony of coordination, and then she thought, why am I doing this?

Then Centinel would sit atop one of the banging vats and say, you aren't doing this. You are not good at things that you try to do, because you don't really like doing them. BANG BANG BANG. You aren't good at anything because you have no passion. The bug like a shadow would flitter around the room and remind her that in this room, she was the very worst. BANG BANG.

Of course, the director of the plant, who Tieni helped Cent meet, was plenty nice. Nice and disconnected, but still nice, and didn't seem to have any interest in criticizing the roach for forgetting all the basic knowledge about caffeine production. BANG BANG, BANG BANG! Instead, Cent was her own critic in the absence, and Centinel was the looming shadow, pretending to be the director of the plant. BANG. "You're wasting the time of everyone here," she would say. BANG BANG BANG BANG. The banging of the walls and the vats would shoot the time ahead. She wouldn't have the opportunity to learn what to do.

The cycle ended. In the proceeding moment of silence, she'd think about sailing on a little plane with Tieni delivering caffeine, not producing it.

Then she remembered that she was gay, and quiet, and so bugs would screech at her for anything short of perfection, and Centinel reminded her she was weak-willed and too lazy to deliver anything to anybody, that she would immediately miss the time spent at home, that she would fail the task Tieni was so good at. BANG BANG BANG. Centinel was loud, like the banging of the vats, whirring around in a sudden cycle, beginning again. It had been only four hours, hours which had shot ahead at lightning and snail's pace. BANG BANG BANG. She had no opportunity to learn and was running out of time, and all she wanted was to be home again. BANG BANG.

BANG BANG. (You're confirming what Centinel is saying.)

Six hours had passed. BANG BANG. Cent had gotten a chance to try to apply what she'd learned, and it was horrifyingly bad, worse than she was expecting in the worst scenarios of her mind. BANG BANG- CHRRRK- BANG BANG. She'd started a cycle and then ended it twice, she'd wasted electricity. BANG BANG BANG. The good tea leaves she picked out were sour, and the batch was weak enough to be called water. BANG BANG. Nobody spoke, and nobody judged. Of course you'll improve. BANG BANG BANG BANG. Centinel knocked on a vat and pointed out that it was damaged because of her. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG--

The fly home was debilitating.

Tieni was her ride home, on the plane, ten storeys above the street. Cent must have been putting up a terrible energy, because they barely spoke on the journey back. She resisted crying because Tieni would never, because nobody else in the mixing plant had had any trouble, and she was trying to pretend she didn't think she was out of place, out of time.

Limping off the plane on a small strip of metal atop the fire escape, she started to head inside again. From behind her, Tieni called,

"See you tomorrow!"

It stuck with Cent, and reset her. She had a little enthusiasm in saying goodbye, and then returned to the chair, and returned to the computer after eight hours of hellish banging, and it had turned itself off.

That's odd, she thought. I was in the middle of things.

Cent thought about it a little longer, then sunk into the chair as if she had begun the day again without all that had happened before. It was tricking her brain, and she noticed it was tricking her brain. Her computer was off, and that Rose Hotel album wasn't going to be mid-way-listened, it would be back at the beginning again.

It would start over, like Cent would have to in the morning.



She will fool herself into thinking it's okay, and try again tomorrow. She would see Tieni tomorrow, and say, "hey!" She would live for another day, miserable as she was.


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RE: I Will Reply
To: I Will Reply

Appropriately asynchronous! I like that. We can even look at product reviews from the human-internet era, ha-ha. Try commenting on them and you’ll never get a reply, though!

I’m Aoiphyrgana. An ant. Out in the de-sert. We used to have a lot of ants out here, I hear the culture used to be pretty different too. More everything-for-the-good-of-the-colony. Now there aren’t that many of us and we’re probably a lot more individualistic.

No big changes for me, I’m sorry to say! I live at the Research Station. We call it that but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any research of any kind go on here. I like to make fun of it, but I can’t complain too much, I suppose. My research-mate is Steldhinoff, another ant. He’s older than me, he knows a lot about Science, he just doesn’t want to do anything. Whenever I bring up some kind of crazy project or research we could do he says we don’t have the equipment. Or else we do have the equipment, but it would take twenty ants to do anything with it. He’s probably right, I have to admit it. They’re happy to support us being out here but no one is investing any money into buying us new equipment.

So I spend a lot of time going through the Research Station’s library. It’s a great library, luckily. And I take long walks. Long walks. There’s mostly just rocks to look at out here, but I don’t mind that too much. The stars are incredible, at least. That’s the part of the world I’m living in that would most rock somebody else’s.

Hanging out with the caffeine delivery bug sounds good! I see mine something like once every three months. She comes out in a truck, can you believe it. Well, it must be a long drive.

I like your name for me! I would like to be more part of things. Although I like being at the edge of things too. At the edge of civilization, at the edge of the Great Black Sea that is all this barren land out here … Well, goodbye for now, I suppose!

- Part of Things
RE: I Will Reply
Yeah, I guess I should go to something like that, your description of Sequence Break sounded pretty cool. I asked my parents, and they said it was about a day's travel, and that i could make the trip with a friend of theirs who usually goes. They weren't interested in coming themselves, but they were really fond of talking about it and were happy that I wanted to go. Apparently they'd met each other there! And they also said that there were bugs a lot older than them there, and that I should ask them questions I have about humans and the past (I've been pestering them a lot more since I started talking to you, heh). It's still a long way away though, but I can wait.

As for the person who visited, it was, well...
You know how i said there were people I hadn't gotten in touch with in a long time?
One of them was just passing by through coincidence. They'd known my name, so when my parents talked to them they came over and...
It was still just as awkward face to face as it was online. Neither of us said anything. Why is that? Why couldn't I speak to them?
After they left i just cried in my room. I'm not even sure why. It just felt so hard to talk, and I couldn't do it.
I don't know why I'm telling you this, I think I'm just venting. I'm not upset about it now, I mean i'm still sad but you know what I mean.
RE: I Will Reply
Hello again! Took a while getting back to this. Sorry about that.

No, I don’t think its weird that you felt tired by the experience. In my own experience, facing your fears can be draining, and that, in turn, can be discouraging. Especially if the fatigue or fear is more pronounced in your memory than other parts. It can be a huge obstacle. Still, good on you for getting out there!

I still struggle with this a lot. A heck of a lot, actually. Haven’t really strayed from my comfort zone since exploring that factory. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m back at square one. Each time I face my fears, on average, I lessen them.

Your description really makes the city seem all the more incredible. Such a place sounds so alien compared to my fairly-flat part of the world. I guess it wouldn’t make too much of a practical difference, since even a relatively small human structure can be large and complex enough to take years to fully explore, but its more about the sublime vistas; the sheer visual vastness!

I’m a brown marmorated shield bug, by the way. Name’s Zat. I live in a small city in the central US. I forget exactly where, since few bugs around here keep track of the old human-drawn state lines, but I think it’s little North of center.

Life is kinda dull here. The locals are friendly enough, but I have a difficult time really relating to them. I have some good friends online, but lately I’ve been having a harder and harder time finding stuff to talk about with them.

Still, I’m hopeful. Life may be a bit stagnant now, but I have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Hope you’re doing well,
RE: I Will Reply
Aoiphyrgana, Part Of Things Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Aoiphyrgana, Part Of Things

Product reviews! I haven't browsed so many of those, but after your email I went on some of the old sites, and, yep, it's pretty marvelous. Archiving hasn't kept up every domain, but for most of them, it's fun to check out places with, like, one review, just to hear about it from some isolated person's perspective. I can guess why there isn't anything popular like that nowadays, but can you imagine how helpful it'd be if it was easier to get close to people?

It seems like out where you're at, getting close to people is a tall task. I'm sorry to hear it's gotten lonely. I know a lot of places that used to be bustling are now just... devoid. And it can be terrible trying to find connection when you feel trapped.

What kinds of things did your Station research? Was it somewhere set up by ants? I'm guessing not, since you're talking about huge equipment, but I've always wondered if we're ever going to start coming up with ways to get off this rock. Humans figured it out, but everything I see on the Internet is about staying down to earth. Though I guess there's plenty to explore, if that library's anything to go by!

I actually have another friend on here who I think would love to be able to explore a library. There are so many things they're curious about, especially regarding life before the Burst. I have just a few stories to tell, but being able to read about it from a credible source would probably mean the world to them.

The stars sound lovely. There's still plenty of light pollution in New York, so the stars are little faint dots against the canvas, and spotting even one constellation makes you dizzy. I've seen pictures of the whole night sky, but imagining it all lit up is beyond comprehension. I bet my mum couldn't have pointed out one star out of the billions.

Can you imagine being just one star in that sea of too-many-to-count? You'd look so close, but in reality, the distances are hopelessly large. You can't ever really reach other planets, not really, no matter how hard you imagine you could, or hope you could.

...Anyway, I guess you don't have to go anywhere from the edge to be part of things. I'm probably so far off that we couldn't see each other if we were mountain-sized, let alone bug-sized, and yet here we are, talking! I only wish I could come and help run some of the equipment, haha. I'm no ant, but roaches can lift a good chunk of their body weight anyhow.

- I Will Reply


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


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

I'm really sorry to hear about that. Like I said, I'm really terrible in face-to-face situations. Sometimes the people I care about most terrify me the most, too, and that makes it all the worse. It sounds to me like you wanted to talk to them, but things got overwhelming, and I totally get it.

It does help to vent! I mean, there's obviously a level of disconnect, because I'm just somebody random on the Internet, and it's a little less crazy than confiding to someone you know 'for real'. I know that, for my dad, I never know how to talk about half the things I want to. Sometimes I'll just blurt out whatever's in my mind, just to pour out anything. Since I started this email thing, there's been a little more of that. Maybe it's getting easier, or maybe I just have more things to vent about. Who knows?

Either way, it's going to be okay, at least in terms of being able to talk to people. People tend to be a lot more forgiving than they seem. It'll work out better in the future, I think.

Day's travel isn't terrible for a whole kind of festival gig! Though if I were you, I'd probably try to go with my parents, or at least somebody I know really well. Going out completely into the unknown can sometimes be way, way too much. But who knows? Being alone isn't the worst feeling in the world. It does mean that you're not going by anyone else's expectations of what to do-- you just have your own. If you can quiet that voice and just enjoy what's going on around you, that might be the best option, too.

And, hey, if it's where your parents met, it seems like a pretty friendly place! I'm sure there would be dozens and dozens of stories from before the Burst. I actually just recently got an email from a cicada who was alive when humans were around, and lived under a music hall. With a big sample size, there's bound to be somebody like that, right?

- I Will Reply


Zat, Disconnect Connection Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Zat, Disconnect Connection

Yeah, the fears do get lessened after confronting them. Maybe... too much to notice, always. And since I went out that night, I've taken on a lot, way too much. I think it should have been nymph steps from there, but now it's flight, and I'm tumbling pretty hard.

New York City isn't too much of a sublime vista! I mean, it's convoluted, but I'm not exactly living near Times Square or anything. It's apartment complex in downtown Brooklyn. It used to be way flatter around here, decades ago, but by the time humans were all around the globe, they started building taller buildings all throughout the city, just to fit everyone. I guess it's less beautiful to me and more just... how things are.

Maybe that's just the fear of going out to explore it? I certainly don't have the confidence to go perusing a building I don't have business in, you know? I explore Bends, and my dad's complex, Craters, but the streets in-between are kind of a blur.

If you look at it the right way, the city is its own kind of jungle. But there's intent behind every single thing, at least from some human at some point in time. Maybe there's a meta sort of beauty to it, because you can see all the cacophonous voices all working in tandem to make whatever we now call New York. Who designed that cell tower? Who designed that windowsill? Who designed that brick pattern? You could get lost in it for a long time.

Sometimes if I'm bored out of my brain, I take a telescope out and look at Manhattan. That's visual noise.

Oh! Something I do love watching is the dung beetles moving cars out of the road. They've got to take them pretty far out of the way to make things viable, but it's kind of hypnotizing seeing them work. They've got to work all kinds of custom equipment, making sure things are ultra-safe, assessing each vehicle to see if the wheels are still free-spinning and whatnot.

Bends is on one of the main roads they use for the cars on Long Island, and there are still tens of thousands to drag out of the city. Once the roads are clear, there'll be another half-dozen years filling potholes, and then finally we'll have our own vehicles going through. Our caffeine carrier won't even need to use a plane anymore, if she doesn't want. (Though, it's probably a perk for her, haha.)

You know, I can't remember if I mentioned it or not, but I'm a cockroach named Cent! I feel like my life's usually dull as hell, but hearing stories from other people has made it a lot more bearable. I hope me being another friend online helps you some. If we ever run out of things to talk about, I promise there's plenty of cool stuff I've heard from other emails to relay.

Optimism is always easier when you don't have to deliver it in person, haha. I can at least feel optimistic about talking to people online, even if that's completely fake, even if I'm faking it. It's actually been fucking awful lately, and

Cent sat back weakly. Her breath was shuddering, and she'd caffeinated too much this time. Tired on top of shaky on top of tired. Optimism was easier when she was disconnected from it. The truth was, she couldn't tell if the emails had been stressing her out more than helping, because they'd certainly made her overextend, they'd made her feel more confident than she really was. It didn't hurt to vent, as she'd told Dalorh, but it did hurt to pretend that things were okay, when by in large they weren't. She wasn't feeling okay at all.

In a few hours, she'd need to head out to meet Tieni for another prerequisite of working at the caffeine plant. To be certified to any degree, Cent would also have to prove adequate handling of the caffeine packages, which meant a night of deliveries. And she'd keep telling people (and herself) that it would be good, a valuable experience, something worth doing for its own sake. But now she wished she could open an email with somebody and talk about how miserable she was, at all times, trapped in a vortex of stress that a little veneer of caffeine and 'optimism' could get her through.

...but that would be stupid, too.

She already spent so much of each email talking about herself. That wasn't what this was about. That wasn't what any bug on the list would want to hear about. She would just have to grit her mandibles and bear it quietly.

Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Zat, Disconnect Connection

Yeah, the fears do get lessened after confronting them. Maybe... too much to notice, always. And since I went out that night, I've taken on a lot, way too much. I think it should have been nymph steps from there, but now it's flight, and I'm tumbling pretty hard.

New York City isn't too much of a sublime vista! I mean, it's convoluted, but I'm not exactly living near Times Square or anything. It's apartment complex in downtown Brooklyn. It used to be way flatter around here, decades ago, but by the time humans were all around the globe, they started building taller buildings all throughout the city, just to fit everyone. I guess it's less beautiful to me and more just... how things are.

Maybe that's just the fear of going out to explore it? I certainly don't have the confidence to go perusing a building I don't have business in, you know? I explore Bends, and my dad's complex, Craters, but the streets in-between are kind of a blur.

If you look at it the right way, the city is its own kind of jungle. But there's intent behind every single thing, at least from some human at some point in time. Maybe there's a meta sort of beauty to it, because you can see all the cacophonous voices all working in tandem to make whatever we now call New York. Who designed that cell tower? Who designed that windowsill? Who designed that brick pattern? You could get lost in it for a long time.

Sometimes if I'm bored out of my brain, I take a telescope out and look at Manhattan. That's visual noise.

Oh! Something I do love watching is the dung beetles moving cars out of the road. They've got to take them pretty far out of the way to make things viable, but it's kind of hypnotizing seeing them work. They've got to work all kinds of custom equipment, making sure things are ultra-safe, assessing each vehicle to see if the wheels are still free-spinning and whatnot.

Bends is on one of the main roads they use for the cars on Long Island, and there are still tens of thousands to drag out of the city. Once the roads are clear, there'll be another half-dozen years filling potholes, and then finally we'll have our own vehicles going through. Our caffeine carrier won't even need to use a plane anymore, if she doesn't want. (Though, it's probably a perk for her, haha.)

You know, I can't remember if I mentioned it or not, but I'm a cockroach named Cent! I feel like my life's usually dull as hell, but hearing stories from other people has made it a lot more bearable. I hope me being another friend online helps you some. If we ever run out of things to talk about, I promise there's plenty of cool stuff I've heard from other emails to relay.

- I Will Reply


Plenty of the night had been spent watching Tieni work. It made Cent really feel the weight of her own guarded, heavy shell.

She had set the plane on one of the concrete balconies of Skips, an aptly-named building Cent had never given much attention, even during her gazing across the city's expanse. The last two floors were 'isolate', which was what Tieni referred to floors that 'wanted to take delivery manually'. This meant she couldn't walk in and refill the machines, but that she had to wait for somebody at the entrance to take the pallets of coffee and tea while giving both her and Cent side-eye. This one was, thankfully, 'inclusive', which meant that the two of them could do their job without needing approval.

"I think I'd like the idea of the job more if it were more of this," Cent mused. The halls were carved into the concrete and insulation, instead of the floorboards like Bends' bug apartments. Claustrophobic was putting it nicely. They couldn't have gotten termites, so it was a rough, rough affair. Her role was, thus far, carrying a mountain of caffeine and following Tieni's lead.

"More of Skips?" The mantis laughed softly. She was nearly too tall for the narrow hallway, approaching the dispenser at the end. "I skip over it whenever I can. There are other deliverers that don't get harassed, but..." Her big, segmented arms formed a shrug. "Can't always get what you want!"

Cent's expression fell. "...It sounds shitty."

"It's okay," Tieni said, flatly.

"No, it sounds shitty," the roach reiterated. "It can be okay, I guess you can find it okay, but it still seems shitty. Maybe if you didn't have to work so late?"

She just laughed softly. "It's really okay. Better to do too much and not get everything done than not have enough, right?"

"Sure." Cent was too familiar with not having enough. But she wasn't close to sure whether having too much was worse.

"Only a couple more hours tonight, then you'll have seen my whole schedule!" Tieni said. They'd reached the end of the hall, and she started tearing open the caffeine dispenser, panel by panel, a rigorous disassembly. From there, Cent poured in the espresso, Tieni poured in the drip, and they both carefully rationed various bags of condensed tea and powder. Each dispenser had a series of slots for its own specific needs and desires, and this time there were even some notes left by the building's inhabitants asking for little, minute changes to the formula.

The notes were akin to the snobby and rather crass bugs confronting them directly about their requests, but at least then the two of them could joke about them together, which was a small comfort. "They want the espresso to be... greener?" Cent laughed.

"Oh, you don't know?" chuckled Tieni, tapping the tank of hyper-concentrate coffee. "Wow, Cent, how can't you know how to make coffee green?"

A momentary lapse in which Cent questioned if the mantis was sarcastic, and then back to a forced chuckle. She never felt great at keeping up. "I'm guessing the batch I made will make people green."

"Really? It seemed fine to me." The mantis shrugged her chitin gently, gave her a little look of approval. "It's not going to get anyone sick."

"...yeah, I guess."

"You know," said Tieni, clapping the panel of the dispenser shut, "why do we use that expression? It's a weird one. Sick bugs don't get green. I've never felt green. The word as an adjective barely describes anything except color, so is it a human thing?"

Cent nodded. "Like, human nausea. Puke, and all that."

The mantis started leading them both back out through the claustrophobic hall. "And now I am even more confused as to what these crazy people want their espresso to be. I guess you'll just have to make it extra pukey, Cent."

With a little more laughter, brevity propping up stress, the both of them continued shooting the shit all the way outside, all the way up to the next floor, keeping the barest minimum of sanity in a soul-sucking task Cent once thought might be fun.

The night went on,

and on,

and on,

and on.

"Do you think half these bugs get out of their apartments almost ever?" she asked, eventually. It was nearing the end of the night, and they were behind schedule, so 'the end of the night' was looking further and further away. Skips was thirty floors high, with six or seven dispensers a floor, and as many bugs as there were once humans. Isolated, cooped-up bugs.

Tieni nodded, and yawned. "I'm sure. Maybe it's not all the time, but everyone sane goes out and does stuff."

Cent took a long breath and clambered back onto the plane, buckling in. It'd been a particularly awful interaction with one of the 'isolate' sections, and she wasn't feeling great about moving on to yet another floor. "I used to pretty much never go out."

"But you're going out now. You're doing a ton of stuff, Cent." The mantis gave her a big beam, mandibles pressed up. "You seem way more enthusiastic than when we met."

"Yeah, I guess."

"And it's okay not to go out a lot, too, I think. I'm not exactly extroverted myself."

The plane struck back up, and started to move. It wasn't a terribly loud thing, but the wind would make it hard to talk, so Cent spoke quickly. "I think I'm taking on too much."

"What?" called Tieni. Apparently they were moving already, and apparently it was already too much, too loud. The concrete balcony was getting further and further below.

"I think I'm taking on too much!" Cent shouted.

"I can't-- sorry, just--"

The plane swerved. Skips was to the left, then the right, then the left. The necessity of elevating to the next floor. She yelled, "I think I'm going to fall apart and I don't know what to do!"

It was caught in the wind, same as everything else.

Maybe the only reason she was able to talk about it was the fact it wouldn't get heard.

They landed on the next floor, Tieni asked again, and Cent shrugged it off. They had another few dozen deliveries to make, and a whole trip back to the plant to refill in-between. The point of talking to anyone about it was pointless.

The world would move effortlessly on without her if she stopped.

If Cent gave up, it would be back,



back to the chair again

and she wasn't ready for that, either.

When Tuesday night ended, she would start the disk back over at the beginning again, wake up, and try not to hurl herself off the fire escape.
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RE: I Will Reply

Wanted to say: I'm sorry that I just threw out the whole 'face your fears' message without even tempering it with a 'pace yourself'.

Actually, I'm sorry for giving unsolicited advice at all. Even if it were solicited, I'm really not qualified. I want to believe I have things figured out, but I really don't know what I'm doing.

And, for a different kind of sorry, I'm sorry to hear that you're tumbling. I hope you can get some solid footing again soon.

RE: I Will Reply
To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote

Visiting the hive for the first time in almost a year was an interesting experience. There was a depressing atmosphere to it that I'm surprised I never noticed before. Everyone had lost at least one person they cared deeply about, the pain of it yet lingered and forever would. I think the traditions and stories and solidarity helped them deal with it and process it, but it never quite went away. I took part in one final flower worship ceremony, and for a moment I felt The Devil compelling me to stay. The thought disturbed me profoundly, the name I gave the flower now took on such a different meaning. Such a terrible, horrible meaning I couldn't help but fly away as soon as I felt it and understood it.

I've left that place behind me for good. I don't know if my defying The Devil was some impressive feat of willpower or not. If I made the biggest mistake of my life or not. All I know is if I had stayed with the hive, I would have eventually died surrounded by a loving family, having done nothing with my life. And maybe it's just me, but knowing that something will be my death is the most terrifying thing I can imagine. I think I'll tell the hive's story in full one day, and get a book made about it or something. But right now I just want to get away from it all.

I've been on the road for the past two weeks or so. Arrived at the first refueling station today, and let me tell you, travelling for that long is soooooo boooooooring! The sights are interesting and all the first few times, but it just gets so repetitive. Mountain, valley, mountain, valley, rinse and repeat. And the roads seem to be taking the exact longest possible routes around the mountains. I've seen tunnels, I know they exist, so where are they?

I actually had to look up the word "trans" online cause that's entirely new to me. It sounds super interesting. Like, I always thought of gender as some generic fact about someone which used to have a purpose back when bees at the hive had actual roles and jobs to do based on it. Never thought to implement it into some sort of personal "identity" thing. Even that concept alone feels almost alien, having an emotional connection to facts about oneself. I dunno, guess it's rude to judge, but I'm personally having a hard time wrapping my head around it at least.
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!!!!!!!!!

RE: I Will Reply
Yeah, that was the kind of thing I used to use my old journal for, writing down stuff that kept on going around in my head. I mean it still went around a lot and didnt go anywhere, but at least it was on paper, heh. I don't usually talk to people online about personal stuff because basically everyone i know are just relatives or semi-acquaintances i have contact with for random specific reasons, i dont really go on general message boards or anything like that much. I felt comfortable telling you though, i guess because i knew you'd understand, or something. It just seemed like the sort of thing that would belong in these emails. Although, I still don't feel like I know you that well. Do we count as acquaintances, or friends, or whatever? I don't know it probably doesnt matter that much.

I think I'll go to the festival alone, or at least without my parents, I'd probably just end up wandering away from them once i was there anyway, heh. And wow, that other bug sounds like they wouldve had a really interesting life! Tell them I said hi.

...So I can't really think of any way to segue into this, so im just going to change the topic randomly. I found something strange the other day while I was on a walk. Recently there was a storm near where I live, and when I went over to it, some of the trees had fallen over, and their wood was black. I think lightning struck a few of them. But inside the stump of one of the trees was this box. It was made of plastic, so i think it must've been made by humans, but the tree didn't have any openings or holes that I could see, so I don't know how it could've gotten in there. It was quite small, so i dragged it out of the stump and carried it home. My parents didn't know what to make of it, although they didn't mind it either. It had a lot of nice patterns on its sides, mostly in green and red. Right now we're just keeping it a little ways outside. I haven't been able to open the box yet, but i'm pretty sure its hollow from the sound it makes when i knock it.

I actually have a kind of collection of stuff like this. Like that ring I told you about in my, second message i think? I like thinking about this stuff. Like, I've walked past the tree that had this box inside it dozens of times, and I never even knew it was there. And now I've found it. I don't know, it's hard to describe, but that kind of thing happening just makes me feel this excitement, discovering something nobody has seen for who knows how long. It's like finding buried treasure. except more mysterious.

That was just something I wanted to share, I dont know if you're interested or not. You should talk about something personal to you to balance it out, heh.
RE: I Will Reply
Zat, Disconnect Connection Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


Cent, Realized Their Purpose Wrote:To: Zat, Disconnect Connection

Please don't worry over it. I'm going to live through it, I guess I just need time. And time's been moving a lot slower since this train of thought started.

Giving advice is a normal thing to want to do, and sometimes it can be really helpful, if you give it the right constraints, if it's timed right. The truth is that nobody has anything totally figured out, and advice can't apply to anyone the same way it applies to the person giving it.

But that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate it! I'm in a bad place right now, I guess, and that's all it is. I haven't really been able to admit it to people so far, because I keep thinking it'll just get better if some time passes. I guess it's still worth talking about. Sorry if that's... I don't now. It can suck to have somebody press their problems on you without wanting them, which is what I'm doing, I think.

How about we talk about something else, just in general? If you like cityscapes, I could describe some parts of New York to you. The job I'm doing now, going to buildings to deliver caffeine is a once-a-week thing, so I could tell you about a different place each email. I head out Tuesday nights, but I could write down what the places are like.

Like, last week I went to an apartment complex called Skips. Most of the structure is concrete, so bug housing is carved right into the cement and rock. It's claustrophobic, and... poorly lit, and just trash, a place you really don't want to end up. But I headed home thinking it must've taken a lot of effort to carve the place out, and it's a place with so many people living their lives, making memories, that whatever it looked like to me is just my take.

In reality, I can imagine all kinds of bugs growing up pretty well in Skips. They still get the same caffeine shipments, and there's heating, and... it's alright. It's making use of those huge, awful structures humans built just to store their cars, and giving bugs a place to live, hundreds of them.

What do you think? It's obviously not the best area to live, and I wish it were better, but that's way out of my control. I remember pegging it as a total dump, but that's an awful outlook too. And we met a couple people who took caffeine packages who were super nice.

- I Will Reply


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


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

I'm really sorry to hear about your hive. Even if it's someplace you're leaving, it's... never good to hear things going wrong. It takes away the potential of them getting better. You can't always change things that big, and it sounds like convincing such a huge place to leave their home would be impossible. I guess the best you can do is show them that it's possible, which is what you've done, and it seems like the time was right.

Hey, maybe somebody will follow in your steps. If nothing else, that book is bound to help somebody, somewhere, in the same situations. There are plenty of anthills and beehives out in the world, after all.

Traveling is a huge burden, I know! Our worlds are so much smaller than they're supposed to be, because we just don't have the size to cope. In New York, dung beetles are tearing out the cars and refurbishing the roads, just so we can drive our own vehicles. That's just one city, and it's taking years and years!

You'll get where you're going, though. Some places get sweeter because of the trip there.

I don't think "trans" is something that anybody knows intrinsically. It took me time to learn and figure out, too. And I never felt those kinds of ways, but it's totally possible to describe and understand. That's just coming from my own perspective, because I spend a lot of time thinking about identity, and 'self', and... all that. It seems like you're still figuring all that out, so don't worry about how intricate it can all get. I guess the key thing is that people want to feel like themselves, or the best version of themselves.

A name is just one part of you. A lot of things, we get as we grow up, but a lot of other stuff, it's just there, it's who you are, and you just live with it. You don't get to choose what kind of bug you're  born as. I started getting it when I realized I was gay.

...and even then, I'm totally petrified at the prospect of making that part of my identity to other people. At least online it's de-synchronized, but it'd be like if I lived in a hive with nameless bees, and adopted a name, and told them all. It's important to me, but the fear is still there, the alienation.

I don't know how we're supposed to move past those kinds of things except time. But knowing yourself, and realizing more about yourself, and being more true to that identity, is... good. Intrinsically. I think it has to be.

- I Will Reply


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


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

I feel like we're friends! Well, I don't know these things too well, always. Sometimes I'll interact with somebody for a couple weeks and feel like I've known them for years, but you've replied to my emails more than anyone- which I don't want to make it sound like it's necessary, but it's been nice!- and been just nice to talk to. And, honestly, we've talked about plenty of stuff that's hard to get off your carapace anywhere else in the world.

Friends serve different purposes, right? We can be the kind of friends who talk online about important shit through one of the slowest methods of communication, and that can just be alright.

The box sounds like a mystery! I'm pretty sure I can guess why a human might make something like that, but I won't spoil you on what exactly it is, haha. You can probably give it a little time before opening it-- the month's still pretty young. Whoever it was meant for is so far gone that you'll be doing them a favor seeing whatever's in it, I think.

I get what you mean, finding things that were hidden and lost. Bends has all sorts of spaces between the walls, and in a couple of them, you can find construction workers and even architects marking credit, or people carving their names into the wood and saying the year. Messages from the 1990s exist here, just sitting, calling out without any preference on who sees them. It's like, their purpose is to be found, but not shown off. I imagine there will be messages written that are never seen by anyone before the places they were written in are destroyed.

Hey, does that count as something personal? I don't want to talk endlessly about my mum, haha. This was my own exploring through the building. It's not an infinite place, but it feels like it, even though the whole thing is still so familiar, so much like home. I just wish there were more people who weren't my neighbors.

...I wish being familiar with a place didn't make me feel stuck.

- I Will Reply


"I kind of have this thing where I email people," Cent said.

The perch from atop Ends was astounding. The cockroach could spot every section of her home town in as much detail as she could see. It had to remain a little blurry. Her eyes weren't big enough for it all, but sometimes it was okay to feel small. The building had too many floors to count, and two caffeine carriers needed to deliver on the same day. As luck would have it, Tieni, and by extension Cent, were assigned to the higher floors. After ten hours of upward deliveries, they reached the top, sat down weakly, and reveled in the night.

It was too late for anything else to be going on. Being awake, and awake awake, was taboo this time of night. Cent noted she couldn't bring herself to want to sleep. The time for that had passed, like she'd missed her ride home, so she just sat in it and spoke before thinking.

"Yeah?" the mantis asked.

Cent nodded. "It's like... a group of penpals, or a mailing list, or whatever. I started it as just kind of a pet project, but now it's... really important."

Tieni shrugged slowly, her own unfocused eyes staring at the rolling, spiny tops of buildings. "Sounds like a lot of social responsibility."

"Maybe," the cockroach admitted. It was plenty of responsibility. "But it's not like... caffeine delivery. I can hear from people all around the world about what's going on and... and reply when they send something, and not leave them hanging."

"Gotta watch out for people who are just there to drain you." The mantis spoke with a little bitterness. Cent had realized more and more the level of shit the bug must've gone through, but she had no clue what it was, exactly.

She responded, "I'm trying."

Tieni nodded. "Good, yeah."

"I really like the project," Cent muttered. "I tried... telling some people about it, uh. I don't think anyone else really gets... how important it is to me. It's the only thing I've made consistently, ever. The past couple months, I've just been replying on the same day, the same kind of time. I know it's not a piece of art or a job or... whatever. But it's..."

Looming a little, the mantis rested an arm around Cent, shrugging her softly. "It sounds amazing. Doing anything consistent is hard. At least we can zone out making deliveries, but keeping up with people on a regular basis? You said it's emails?" She laughed. "I haven't written an email that I didn't hate writing in, like, years."

"I guess." Cent laughed a little, staring down and down and down, watching a motionless city shift. Her carapace felt lighter.

"Tell me about it some more, c'mon. You met anyone cool?"

"Yeah." The roach glanced back up at Tieni. "There's this bee who left their hive, and they're learning all kinds of things about... the whole world, and having a name, and having an identity." Her mandibles buzzed happily as she spoke, and watched the mantis nod in interest. "I actually told them to hang out with the caffeine carrier, because it was one of the only people they had in their life, and now they're on the road with that carrier!"

Tieni cackled. "Wonder where you got that idea!"

"There's also this bug out in the woods who found a Christmas present from before the Burst, but doesn't know what it is... and a shield bug in the center of the States somewhere, exploring factories... and a cicada who's a musician... and some cooped-up ants living in a golf course..." Cent stared off for a moment, and Tieni laughed some more, maybe at the enthusiasm of it, and the roach didn't mind. "...and all kinds of other bugs, too, and they reply sometimes, and I try to keep telling them it's okay if they don't reply all the time, because... I know it's fucking hard."

The mantis sat back a bit, staring out at the night. The sun seemed like it'd never reappear. "If you say it's important, it's important. It sounds like a lot of pretty cool bugs, Cent. Didn't even know you were doing something like that. I guess... when you said you spend a lot of time at the computer, I didn't know what you'd even be doing that whole time."

Cent froze up a little bit, and took in some air through her carapace. "...It's still, like, bad, most of the time." She shuddered. Was it really that cold? "Mostly, it's like being strapped into a chair, just sitting until time passes, and then it does, and then it's back to the next thing. A couple months ago it was so much worse, but it's still..." The roach could only manage a shrug.

"You sound depressed," Tieni murmured.

"I don't know. There's people that have it worse."

"No, I mean," the mantis suddenly forced out, "I've been like that before. It's depression. Or, well, I don't know how it's gonna be for you, but it was so awful for me! I had to deal with confronting the worst version of myself, yelling at me for every moment wasted, and every day was wasted, and I was wasting away." Her massive eyes gave Cent no room to look away. "You have to call it what it is."

The roach shook again, grasping at the concrete of the rooftop for support. "I think... that I'm just... unhappy. And the email thing makes me happy to do. And it's lasting, or at least it's lasting for now, and that's... enough."

"Is it actually enough? You sure that you shouldn't go to therapy, or..."

Cent nodded, weak. "I'm just going to let the good thing keep being a good thing and not... really question it. Like, if I touch it too hard, it's gonna collapse in on itself, like a house of cards. I know what happens when it fucks up, so I'm just trying to savor it being okay."

The mantis didn't seem satisfied, but pulled away a little. "It doesn't seem like it's okay."

"It's okay," Cent said.

"At least



I said I would






for now, at least

for a




until I fuck up," she muttered, "I called the thing 'I Will Reply', because I was hoping I'd keep replying, but I didn't for so many months, and then I went back to it, and I stopped again, and since I met you I've been doing it, but... what am I even supposed to do when instead of doing it, I just sit down and the time passes, and I'm strapped in, and nothing happens?"

The roach felt a black hole forming inside of her. Tieni had retracted completely. She said, "I don't know. I don't do a lot of stuff like that anymore. I try to do stuff where there's consequences when I don't do it, so... tada, it happens."

"But," Cent cried meekly, "there are consequences when I don't do it. I'm... letting all those bugs down, a-and I'm letting myself down."

"Hey, you've told me now, so I can... pressure you into keeping it up, if you'd like."

She just broke a little bit in tone. "It's... o-okay. I don't want you to mention it. It's house-of-cards. It's working right now, so it's okay, so I don't... want to t-touch it."

Tieni nodded slowly. The concern in her voice didn't fade, but it seemed like her presence had. "Alright. I'm sorry. I... get it, and I won't make a big deal out of it. It sounds like a good thing, anyway, even if it takes some time to happen."

Cent no longer had the energy to pour herself out onto the rooftop of Ends. Instead, she let the moment fade with a painful ringing, and crawled herself from 4 AM to the morning in solace.

There were a lot of thoughts on the way back, while the sun was still rising.

When Cent made it home, she peered in an old folder on her desktop-


-and opened it.

Some hadn't been updated in months.

Some hadn't been updated in years.

The little nagging voice which was Centinel spoke for her and for all the people, real or imagined, that had once sought the continuation of those projects, who wanted to see them through, who wanted closure that she couldn't possibly offer. Maybe if she made things happen in a day it'd be fine, but each day was crawling by faster and faster, magnifying the distance since last contact. Eventually she would be forgotten, and her best efforts would be abandoned.

Even the things she held to with steadfastness would be lost. Even the things she had done immense care to preserve would be lost. The spiteful nature of it all wreaked her mind until she flipped back to the most recently-updated file, the only in the last few months that had any progress-


-a pointless fucking venture,

a waste of her time,

an exercise in futility

not what she wanted to be doing with her life

not her purpose

but the only damn thing she was able to do.

She shut the computer off. She had so thoroughly battered herself over the petty ramblings of her own psyche that, come next Tuesday, it seemed unlikely she would muster the energy to reply again. Centinel had wracked her mind with existential, miserable anxiety. It wasn't that Cent felt like she had nothing to reply to, or about, but that the part of her capable would just simply turn off, as magically as it had turned on.

Good, she decided.

One more on the list I've left behind.

The roach had never felt worse slipping into sleep than she did that night. The world was about to fall apart because she had seen it too closely,

and held too tight.
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RE: I Will Reply
To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose

Oh boy, there's a whole intricate world of identity politics out there. Not sure I'm quite prepared for it right now. I think finding where I belong on the dozens of different spectrums they've got, is going to take so much time to get right that I might just wanna do it little by little over the course of a lifetime. I tried to get a discussion going with Ore about it while we were travelling, but she doesn't seem very interested in the subject at all. Or maybe I'm just being too pushy. In any case, I guess I still have a long way to go before I can say anything for sure about myself other than what my name is.

Thankfully the refueling stations from here on out aren't so ridiculously far away from each other. I can't connect to the internet while I'm on the road, so our stops to refuel are kinda my only chances to stay in touch right now. Trying to imagine the logistics of how this whole route works makes my head spin. Apparently transporting fuel to the refueling stations takes significantly more fuel than they're actually able to deliver at a time, and that's on top of things like caffeine and other equipment. The fact that it takes this much effort to get caffeine that far out makes me seriously wonder why they don't just make people move closer to the caffeine factories (or whatever they're called). Guess some bugs are just too attatched to their homes.

I'm still not quite sure where I'm going, but I'm pretty excited about it, even if the trip itself is super boring. Some of the mountains are starting to look less like big piles of rocks and more like sleeping giants. I wonder if it's even possible for living things to get that big. What stories they might have to share sets my mind wandering. I came upon a cliff overlooking a river that kinda zig-zagged a bit, and it got me thinking about why that happens. I know rivers exist cause the water over millions of years just carves a path through the earth, but wouldn't you expect it to travel in a straight line then? Or at least something less... meandering I guess. I wonder what story that river has to share, and it too sets my mind wandering. When there's nothing but mountains and valleys to catch my attention, I have to reach a bit farther to find something interesting to focus on. Sometimes even the clouds start telling me stories. And the stars in the night sky.

If you have any interesting stories to share, I'll be happy to hear them. I've been focusing so much on my own journey in these last few emails that I feel like I've been ignoring your story. Did you make any new friends at that halloween party? Done anything interesting with Tieni lately? Got any plans for christmas?
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!!!!!!!!!

RE: I Will Reply
It has been nice, and I do look forward to seeing these messages. If just chatting like this is all we do, I'm fine with that, although I do kind of want to meet you properly if it weren't for the really inconvenient difficulty of doing so (Although I do live on the same continent as you, up north a ways, so who knows). I am glad that I know you, Cent. You always find some way to be, poetic i guess, in our messages. To work what you're saying into some kind of general moral about other people or the world or experiencing life. I don't find it condescending or anything, it's just something that makes it interesting to talk to you.

Still haven't gotten the box open yet (Thanks for not spoiling me). None of the sides seem to have opening or gap anywhere, but! I was playing around with it, and I noticed it had a weird effect on some of the other things I've found, specifically the metal objects. One particular face of the box stuck to any metal it touched, like they were connected. At first i was a bit worried that the box was broken somehow and that they would stay like that, but I managed to pull it off.
So, I'm pretty sure that the box is actually a magnet! Or at least contains a magnet, or something. I learned about magnets when I tried looking up science stuff before, but I've never actually seen one until now, and it's really cool! I spent most of yesterday just playing around with the box without trying open it, levitating bits of metal to it, rolling the ring past it, it was very fun. Now that I think about it, opening it will probably also involve the magnet. Still not sure how, though.

I have a bunch of weird thoughts about things being hidden and not being seen, but I feel like they wouldn't really make sense to get into, mostly because I have no possible idea how to describe them. But I'm sure you have more you can talk about than your mum, you can just, talk about yourself. Just list some random facts if you can't think of anything.

And if you feel to familiar with your home you could always move somewhere else, heh.
More seriously though, I don't really get what you mean (aren't most people not neighbors with you?) But I would say that changing things up might help you.
RE: I Will Reply
Mímir, Concerned Wrote:To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose


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

Well, we're all still figuring ourselves out piecemeal. I think the key is to look for things that you gravitate towards. Finding yourself doesn't just have to be identity, it can be what you enjoy doing, what traits you like in people, that kind of thing. The best you can do is look and look, and... see what happens. Maybe it's a person you'd like to be more like, or a feeling you like having. Who knows?

When I was younger, I heard from someone that everyone, including us bugs, get an inkling of where we'd like to be when we hatch. It's an evolutionary trait, especially for big animals, to want to travel. It spreads genetic diversity if we don't like home sometimes. But I was born really loving home, and I think a lot of bugs are, too. Maybe to an unhealthy degree! I happen to be near caffeine all the time, but if I were born upstate like my mum, I wonder if the distance and inconvenience would just feel normal? For caffeine carriers, I wouldn't even think of the difficulty they go through. It'd be worth it, because I'm here, I'm home.

God, doing that much for anyone can feel impossible if you don't know how much it'd mean to them. I mean, half the time I can't get out of the house for the most middling, or important, thing, haha.

Not much to say on the living mountains thing- it's even harder to picture than humans- but if you think about it, trees and fungi are living mountains, aren't they? Even if an oak has its limits in height, they're all connected underground through the roots. The whole world lives a little. And if you expand your definition... New York City is a very living place. Even now, there's lights in the windowsills.

But it's a loud life, and the place you're travelling sounds a lot quieter. I can't imagine how good the stars look with so little light around. I actually can't imagine-- never seen it that way. They make me feel smaller than small even when they're muted with a coat of polluted fabric. Are you okay, down there? (ha.)

In terms of me?

I don't know. I'm kind of at the edge of my rope right now, and just struggling a little to figure my whole life out. I guess I'm writing this reply, though, right?

It's written, and you're getting it, so... on we march.

I've been finishing up my evals for the job I'm working at the caffeine plant. I don't know if it's a job, so much. I mean, that's what Tieni tells me, and what I tell my dad, but it feels cheap, like I'm an imposter. And now I'm... so broken and burnt out that I took most of the day, and... I think I need to take more time after this.

Actually, yeah, I guess I did make a friend at the halloween party. He's actually into some of the same creative projects as me and... introduced me to some cool things on the Internet to check out, that kind of thing. I'm getting to the point where I meet somebody and just rapid-fire ask them if they have the same interests, and why. It's been a while since I've met somebody out in meatspace and continued talking to them online.

The inverse has virtually never happened, but... hey, maybe this email gig will change that. I don't know how crazy it'd be, but organizing a meetup someday could be nice.

The nebulous sort of nice, reserved for future-Cent. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!

- I Will Reply


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


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

Sorry, I was pretty unclear on the neighbors thing-- I just mean my literal neighbors! There's a centipede and millipede who live a couple doors down who inhabit a lot of the floor (since... there aren't enough bugs in the world to fill it all anymore). They're... alright, but they aren't really people I'm friendly with, I guess. If I go out exploring Bends, they'll probably be around.

I appreciate the sentiment, Dalorh, a lot. I guess that's part of the idea, right? I'm "I Will Reply",  not just Cent. There are folks on this project who I don't think have had anyone they can talk to, at least not about most things. There's a bee who just left their hive because of my... recommendation, I guess? It's a weird feeling! I'm still just a roach living under some floorboards, and I don't hardly feel like I should be responsible for those sorts of things. Hopefully it's just... a little nudge, and not a big push.

People like you on this project have done some stuff for me, for sure. And it's been especially nice to keep contact with you in particular. I'm really excited about that box, for one! I had a pretty good idea of what it was for, but besides the casing it's in, the contents could be just about anything. It might be too big to use alone, but 'use' is pretty subjective. It could be big enough to ride around, or a number of segmented little things you can take with you.

...In terms of just 'me' stuff? I don't know. I used to make card games, but I haven't done much of it lately. The friends I had when I was younger have generally just drifted away and aren't interested in those things anymore. I've never tried being penpals or whatever this is, so if I'm being honest, despite how long it's been going on, I'm still putting my chitin to the ground on whether or not it's... good.

It is cool that you're on the same continent, at least. Travel seems incomprehensible at a big scale like that, but maybe someday people from this mailing list could meet up? I don't know. I think a lot of them, and you, would like each other.

- I Will Reply



The chair restricts like it has straps, but Cent could stand anytime. Her shell is infinite, and the well drifts her closer in and closer in. The bed is easy-access. The chair is easy-filter. When the screen comes on, and it comes on bright, it screeches until she's deep in it and punched out of breath by the endless and unwavering expanse.


Cent rested facing the ceiling until the night, which seemed so long, drifted away as easy as the day did. The exasperated half-joking tone from a few weeks ago, when she exclaimed she 'fell asleep as soon as she got home', melted away. The exhaustion used to be fun to work through, because at least she was working, because at least she was composing emails and getting something done, and clawing out of the nothingness towards something, but now Cent wished that she didn't just have the night to sleep, but the day, and the week, and the rest of her life.


Maybe she would just do that and let the rest of the world bang at the walls for a little while. If the cicada under the music hall could learn to love those terrible tones, maybe she could let the self-loathing become wondrous instead of terrible. Maybe it would stay terrible. Cent had no energy to fight it, only energy to worry.


until the end.
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RE: I Will Reply
To: Cent, Realized Their Purpose

I arrived at this little compound community a couple of days before your reply, nearly a full month after my departure from the hive. Ore left to deliver another batch of caffeine pretty much immediately, which was a bit jarring. Does she just not get a day off ever? I'm a bit concerned about it, if I'm honest. She told me she likes the job, so maybe I'm just worrying over nothing. Still, I couldn't possibly imagine spending most of my life just travelling through the same trail over and over again, all alone.

I'm pretty sure I'm only seeing part of the story. I still don't know why Ore didn't return to the gas station that day and Berry had to go pick her up. And Ore's route, while it seems like a big hassle, I think it could be designed better at least. I know real life is different from stories, but it still feels disappointing to leave so many questions unresolved like that. Like I could have gotten a better picture of things if I'd just done things differently.

It was really difficult to talk to Ore along the journey, and I'm realizing how short my conversations with her in the past were compared to other bugs. Spending so much time with her over the past few weeks has made me notice how bad she is at talking. Like, she'll have something interesting to say about something once, but after that there's just nothing but "yeah that's nice" and "uh-huh" whenever I try to bring it up again. It's interesting how you can learn something about someone just by spending a lot of time with them.

I love the idea of trees and fungi being living mountains. Gives an interesting new take on the finger plants and the dark god. And the Ancient One, for that matter. Uh, that's what I called the tree my old hive owns, it's really big and cool-looking. A year ago I probably would have told you that anyone who sleeps near the Ancient One has a chance of being shown a vision of the future in their dreams. I like to imagine that it was at least partly responsible for the dark god's defeat.

A while back, I became a moderator on an online message board, and it has been such a demoralizing experience. I kinda get that feeling of being an imposter at the workplace. Like, I'm constantly making mistakes everyone else is having to make up for, yet my position remains untarnished. It feels unearned. But it's important to recognize that those are just feelings. Usually the mistakes aren't nearly as bad as you think they are, and you rarely make the same mistake twice as long as you make sure to learn from them. I hope you get a handle on things on your end! I can only assure you that what you have now certainly is a job even if you're still in training. Because it's specifically a job that you're training for and (I assume) you're being paid for it.

The possibility of a meetup in meatspace (that's such a strange word) sounds exciting, but I'm not sure how possible that would be. Looking at a map, there's a whole ocean in between us. The distance I covered with Ore over the course of a month seems so insignificant compared to that. Sounds like an adventure, though, I'll see what I can do!

Right, um, this "compound community" as I called it at the start of this letter, it's essentially a big generator that produces fuel for transport vehicles, and a bunch of bugs built a little town around it. There's tons of work being done so everyone is busy all the time. I've been basically left to explore the place freely, provided I don't touch any important equipment. There are all sorts of bugs here. Beetles, ants, roaches, moths, crickets, and bees of all kinds.

While the raw ingredients still have to be shipped over, this is also the where all the caffeine is mixed! And then distributed among the multitude of different isolated communities just like where I came from. Most of them are going in a general northward direction, but there's at least a few eastward caffeine deliveries. Hope I'm explaining this right... This is like almost at the bottom of what was once called Norway, and my old hive is north by about half of the country's length.
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!!!!!!!!!