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Bugged 2: Mothra
by
Besterette

Besterette@aol.com

 

Twelve o'clock and all was well. More or less. The sentinel rested his book on his knees, glanced at the clock on his nightstand, and sighed. Insomnia sucked. He hadn't had a sleepless night since before his senses came online, now, he discovered to his dismay that his body now reacted to over-the-counter sleep aids the same way it did to painkillers. As an enemy to his vigil.

Modern medicine having once again been thwarted by his mutant genes, he'd gone to his guide for advice. But all Blair had to offer was chamomile tea. Which tasted like grass clippings. Grass clippings with honey wasn't really that much of an improvement. Jim cut down on caffeine, and started going to the gym to tire himself out.

No dice.

He'd just have to ride it out. Which was why he was here, awake at 12:10. He'd made a comfortable nest of pillows, and settled back with a P. G. Wodehouse book, Big Money. The screwball comedy concerning dispossessed British nobility, self-made millionaires, and a scam surrounding ownership of a copper mine was just interesting enough to keep a wide-awake mind entertained, without being the kind of page turning thriller that would keep him awake reading.

He found the stilted dialogue kind of comforting. Grandmother Ellison had talked like that. Of course, Grandmother Ellison herself had been one of those Bright Young Things, she'd been the right age for it.

He reached for the box of Cheezits resting against his hip, slid his hand into the box and extracted a handful of the cheddar-flavored square crackers, tossing them into his mouth and crunching absently as he picked up the book again.

1:45. He'd reached the end of a chapter, and his eyes were starting to get that gritty-eyestrain feeling that made reading difficult. He put a bookmark in place, and set the now empty Cheezits box on the floor between his bed and the nightstand.

He turned off the light, fluffed his pillow, and scooted down, stretching out. Crisp clean sheets caressed his bare legs and chest, cool and comfortable. He shifted a little, getting into just the right position. Arms at his sides, fingers curled slightly but not clenched. Head centered on the pillow. There. He let the cool comfort envelop him, heavy eyelids drifting shut. He was so tired... so ready for sleep.

He took a deep breath, and held it for a moment before letting it out slowly. Eyes closed, consciously trying to relax, his other senses opened. The rich, tangy scent of spaghetti sauce still lingered pleasantly in the air, drifting up from the kitchen. Five hours of slow simmering perfumed the loft for days after the meal. The smell brought with it the memory of taste, in Jim's content and drowsy mind. It had been a good batch of sauce, his eternal experimentation with spices and store-bought base sauce coming out just right. With leftovers, and sauce to freeze. Tomorrow was Sandburg's turn to cook and you never knew what the kid would come up with. Lentils and tofu.

Blair was sound asleep in his room downstairs. Jim could hear the steady even breathing and heartbeat that told him the younger man was deeply asleep. Listening, there were the other sounds of the loft building at night. A radio on in another loft, low and chattering to itself softly on one of the news-talk stations. The steady hum of the fridge, and the deeper sound of the central air, blowing cool drafts through the various vents.

And there was another noise. A steady, undefinable FWUP-FWUP-FWUP. Frowning slightly, coming back out of his doze, Jim listened.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

What was that noise?

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Part of him wailing childishly—I was almost asleep!—he sat up, turning, leaning on one elbow, tracking sound. To a large dust-colored moth beating it's wings madly against a windowpane, trying to get out to the moon.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Moth.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

He flopped down again and stared blearily at the ceiling. Wide. Awake.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Needed to mop the floors again. The level in the Murphy's Oil Soap bottle was getting a little low, better add it to the shopping list. They also needed paper towels. And he needed to get an Anniversary card for Carolyn... they'd jokingly started celebrating the anniversary of their divorce and the date they'd untied the knot was coming up again soon.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Groaning, he sat up again, turned on the light, and reached for his book. He rearranged pillows to support his back, and opened to the bookmark, starting to read.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Flicker. Shadow.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Looking up in annoyance as the large grayish brown moth began orbiting his bed. And the lamp on his nightstand. Wondering, not for the first time, exactly what he'd done in a past life to deserve this karma, he tried to ignore it.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Flicker. Shadow.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

He tried to ignore it.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Flicker. Shadow.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

He was trying to ignore it.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Flicker. Shadow.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

He tried.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Flicker. Shadow.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Dropping the book, he lunged sideways, swiping at the moth with a curled hand, felt the featherish tickle of moth wings brush against his palm at the same instant he realized that he was overbalanced, and fell out of bed, landing on the wooden floor with a loud thump and painfully smacking his shoulder and kneecaps.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

The moth sailed by serenely.

Downstairs, Sandburg snored.

Jim sat on the floor and fumed. He was tired. He wanted to sleep. He'd almost gotten to sleep, but the sound of the moth had woken him up. A sound he couldn't have possibly heard if not for his heightened senses. Which he wouldn't have if he hadn't been stranded in Peru. Normal people didn't have to put up with this. It wasn't fair.

The moth. was going. to die.

Not just because it woke him, Jim rationalized as he got to his feet, scanning the room for the winged menace. He had a lot of wool suits. The hand-knit fisherman's sweater he'd bought in Scotland on leave. He wasn't sure if there was wool in Sandburg's artsy-fartsy wall hangings, but he wasn't about to let them get damaged after they'd survived the explosion at the grad student's former home.

Ah. There it was. Landed, clinging to a brick. He began to approach, stealthily, palm flattened to swat. It zoomed past, out into the cavernous space over the living room.

That was okay. He could wait. After all, he had all night. Now.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

It was in the kitchen now, stuck to one of the kitchen cabinets. He wondered, idly, how bugs could cling to vertical surfaces like that, and thought about free-climbing, and the wall in the obstacle course. Then he picked up his book again, got back into bed, and found his place.

He read, half-tracking the moth, half paying attention to the plot of the book. Waiting. Letting the light from his bedside table act as a lure.

It didn't take long.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

Flicker. Shadow.

FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP

It was gliding in wide lazy circles, swooping an arc through his bedroom, strafing the lamp, and swinging around through the empty airspace over the living room.

One orbit.

Two orbits.

Three orbits.

Four orbits.

Jim set down his book and stood up slowly on the bed. As the moth circled around for the fifth time, he grabbed at it. Just barely missed. Jumped for it, and tripped over one of his pillows. He staggered for an instant, nearly regaining his balance, and then toppled over, his hip hitting the railing hard as he went down, wrenching his shoulder as he caught the second bar of the railing with his right hand.

He dangled from his loft bedroom railing by one hand, swinging gently in the darkness, as he swore at the moth and steeled himself to either drop to the living room floor or pull himself up.

Unconcerned, FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUP, the moth made another circuit of the room. Passing tauntingly close to the back of Jim's head as he got his other hand hooked onto the railing and hoisted himself up. Once safely kneeling on his mattress again, he ran a hand over his face, through his hair, and gave his head a shake.

This meant war.


Blair woke up the next morning, humming softly to himself, cheerful and well-rested after a great night's sleep... then caught himself with a wary glance upward at Jim's loft bedroom. Jim was not cheerful and well-rested because he'd not been getting a good night's sleep. A bout of insomnia had started the sentinel out cranky and deepened into murderous rage. Wandering out to the kitchen, Blair started a pot of coffee, then hesitated. Usually Jim was already up, sprawled unkempt and blue-chinned on the sofa, snarling at the morning newscasters.

"Jim?" he whispered softly, and got no reply.

Glancing at the unusual artifact on the dining table, the only sign of nocturnal meanderings, he crept upstairs, moving as silently as possible, until he could see into the older man's bedroom. Jim sprawled on his king-sized bed on his back, a pillow tucked under his arm like a teddy bear, an expression of beatific peace on his slumbering features.

Blair tiptoed down again, and took the first shower, doing his best to get in and out quickly, to leave some hot water. Once out and dressed, he glanced again at Jim's odd midnight project, shrugged, and poured himself a cup of coffee, taking a 'wakeup' sip before getting the quart of plain yogurt out of the fridge, finding an envelope of algae shake mix, and setting up the blender. Jim had to get up for work soon, and if the smell of coffee or the sound of the blender didn't wake him, the alarm would.

Blair glanced again at the large dead moth pinned to a cork coaster with thumbtacks.

And then Blair could ask Jim when he'd decided to take up 'butterfly collecting.'

~ End ~


E-Mail Besterette at Besterette@aol.com
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Page last updated 8/15/03.