Flora, Gone Full Centipede
First dog growing up, then long time, no; then cat growing up, then long time, no; then rat mouse mole hog hippo rhino growing up, same way but, still quite improper. Still long time, no. Flora though there would never be something to happily become, until there it came running; Flora saw one come running across Ford’s newspaper store floor, yes; then long time, no; but wait, yes yes; her rising goosebumps said she’d found at last what to be should be was made as the true thing finally to be; centipede centipede; yes, no. Yes.
Flora, oh Flora, you’ve just been through it and as you can see, it turned out to be nothing at all. Just like, well, like—what’s a good example? Let me think. I must think, have to think, see, yes, and there; we’ve found our best way to explain—here it is—here; the big books in the library on those special blonde wood forever new from disuse stands; there, yes. Look it up, lookit-up. There; there. Finger-read across.
You need Flora, to know more than just the word centipede; you need to know not only the what, when, or how, but also maybe the how, when or what. She turned away nodding. Yes, yes. Finally, she knew that the order of learning about centipedes was not dependent on any one rigid sequence. Then, turning back, she browsed on further. On over many more big books opened out on the blonde wood like new library stands, leafed left to right, then right to left, then over, under, around, and through several hundred times until the only word that fit came in her eye; scolopendromorpha, also known as the family of tropical centipedes.
She turned away nodding. Yes, yes. Finally, she knew that the order of learning about centipedes was not dependent on any one rigid sequence. Then, turning back, she browsed on further. On over many more big books opened out on the blonde wood like new library stands, leafed left to right, then right to left, then over, under, around, and through several hundred times until the only word that fit came in her eye; scolopendromorpha, also known as the family of tropical centipedes.
Scolopendromorpha; she’d no way of knowing, in her weakened state, what scolopendromorpha really meant. But it did say quite plainly, popped right out of the page, as a fin cutting the foamy surface of the roiling windblown whitecaps of quick-moving opaque prose spread before her, that the scolopendromorpha family of centipedes is the only family that can contain specimens having exactly twenty-one pairs of legs. Yes, yes, and in three hours, self- satisfied that she had learned so much on this very first day of knowing who she was intended to be, she closed the final great book over with a soft sigh, and returned to her temporary home. Thank God, she thought, that it is now certainly temporary; yes, thank God. The number twenty-one appeared to her in a dream last night; all afire enwrapping the same breed of dark mountain atop which Moses encountered the supposed burning bush; the twenty-one spoke in a loud full voice, throbbing out melodiously, My child, you should also know that no centipede ever has had an even number of pairs of legs, thus; know that if someone comes around preaching salvation, no matter how long, shiny, and flowing their hair, or sweet their voice, or luminous their golden robes; if they even mention in one instant in passing that they’ve known a centipede with twenty, or eighteen, or twenty-two, or sixteen, and so forth, and so on, pairs of legs, know this preacher is just a false dry husk concealing that evil, whose name cannot even be written, because anyone who writes it has unwittingly signed themselves over to instantly be transported to their designated red hot stone coffin deep down in—you fill in the name, Flora; you know the name. Thus, to avoid going there, rise as soon as the imposter claims to have seen such an unnatural centipede, rise instantly, pull the nearest available magnum and send hot quick lead into, through, and out the back of their head, then write that as a poem. And ha! Your fame will be guaranteed for sure, yes, no maybe, yes no maybe, yes; no; maybe, yes—but. Don’t worry, this boring sequence was gorged down and swallowed gone whole by Flora’s mother pulling in bedside and shaking her daughter’s flailing legs, shouting in fear over Flora’s ready to explode stress-inflated grimace of a sleepy-assed face, Flora, wake up! This is a nightmare, uh, no, wait, I said that wrong, I am no nightmare. I meant to say, you are having a nightmare! Wake! Yes, wake yes, wake, yes, wake—and boom, pop, the blankets exploded away with a shower of nightmarishly hot sweaty droplets, and everything popped in an even larger moist red mist and, Flora flashed open her eyes just in time to behold a beaming bright lecturer down front of the huge amphitheater where she sat with hundreds of other students; and, the fact she’d been dozing not listening was, praise God, not noticed. The speaker’s words flowed on strongly into the student body, saying, And, what you’ve just gone through these last several hours is no way as new, or unproven, as all two of those atomic bombs that were built in extreme haste and were scheduled to be dropped on Japan back in forgotten-time and; and on; and on and on and—the boredom, the boredom, out o’ the boredom a sudden teeny-baby popped up in her, grew to five fingered glove size, and pulled out of herself an updated Flora, which rose, pushed out, then super-recklessly-joyfully bounced down one concrete step after another to join the lecturer. It nodded and smiled and out of it gave her a microphone. She began to speak through past and out of it, caressing through a sleek full-blast ‘ll loud, louder, loudest; all spitting and sputtering, more out of control than she’d ever dreamt she’d ever possess capability to be; that being, Know it’s quite amazing that a creature as small as most centipedes be, have tiny forever-searching antennae with no less than seventeen even tinier segments. Then breathing, out past the microphone up the hall rows and ranks, thousands of black pinpoint eye-pairs hung in the air, listening. All empty, all still; but somehow all able to loose free her fast-crumbling dusty old memory, which contained deep inside this very same sight, except—only two or three black pinpoint pairs staring. She took her finger, pressed it out to them, but stopped on the glass of a super-sized pet store aquarium. The pairs of pinpoints stared steadily, and; an adult hand came on her shoulder, saying through her from back behind, See, honey—those are glass cats. They are see-through completely. They’re just two inches long. The only thing of them seen at first are their tiny-dot eyeballs. Aren’t they cute, Flora?
She glanced back. The voice had been from her military-issue Father, who’d been back around there after that war to see where that big bomb-dud did not work at all, just plummeted neatly, fast and inertly into a deeply polluted river forever flowing o’er the heart of old Hiroshima. That is, intoned the red-flushed lecturer, what many critics of the project were totally convinced would happen, and, again slipping out away under, Flora gazed hard at the drifting glass cats. The glass cooled her finger. Yes. Yes, cute they were. And around them before Flora something came saying, This is what you want to be when you grow up, Flora. A glass cat; how great to be invisible, even though far larger than microscopic. How great to be something that nothing can harm, because nothing can see you. They can’t see you, they can’t catch you—wow neat yes neat glass cat, glass cat—glass cat—but—Father spoke again, saying, Yes, they are cute, but we shouldn’t get them. They are pretty, but they get on each other’s nerves somehow. A little more and more each day, until they snap and attack and eat each other. Then, the last and strongest is finally alone. Wonderful it seems, but; it had not foreseen, being quite mindless and in no way even knowing, let alone caring, to have thought ahead to what it would be like if it ended up alone; the shock hit it completely by surprise. I mean, for Christ’s sake, class, near-yelled the lecturer—this circle of important cliquey as hell upper-crust entitled ivy league scientists who developed this whacked-out dream of a superweapon had no idea if it would actually explode—what’s it like to end up alone anyway—Flora? Flora! Eh.
Flora yanked back, to yet another form of wakefulness; the three or four pairs of drifting black pinpoints became thousands on thousands of pairs across down and around ranks and rows of student all the same see, honey—those are glass cats. They are see-through completely—drop the mike run and run, ah. One too many big books it had to be. Ah. The time? It’s late. How days like this fly. Close them all over one by one down the stack opened on the blonde wood like new library stand which had served its purpose.
Solopendromorpha, also known as the family of tropical centipedes.
Yah. Yah—and the eyes have a fixed number of four ocelli on each side in the family Scolopendridae. But, just one ocellus per side in the genus Mimops, but.
Other families are blind. But, sometimes they’re also—
No, no, no, no, Flora winced, sitting.
Mother has left the room.
Mother is mad no doubt. So, I better.
Better rise, go.
In the kitchen, dear.
Jim Meirose’s short work has appeared in numerous venues, and his published novels include No and Maybe – Maybe and No (Pski’s Porch). Le Overgivers au Club de la Résurrection (Mannequin Haus), Understanding Franklin Thompson (JEF pubs), and Sunday Dinner with Father Dwyer (Optional books). Info at www.jimmeirose.com @jwmeirose