When Aliens Come

When’s the last time you looked an insect in the face? Mine, other than just now, was probably Bert, my preying mantis. He was only dimly aware of me, I think.

I’m sitting out on my deck; it’s overcast, warm. I watched it start to rain – bringing no relief from the heat – and stop. A dragonfly - they have been everywhere today – landed on one of the black wrungs attached to the metal railing next to me. He was on the far side, and I could only see his wings and a slight bit of his body. I saw two yellow legs; the rest of him was green like Kermit the Frog. Kermit-the-Frog green. I looked at him for several minutes. Zoned out. Focused again. He had tiny veins everywhere throughout his cellophane wings, dividing them (the four of them) into tiny panels. I wondered if they were made of living tissue, something that would heal itself.

I remembered when, as a kid, I found a dead dragonfly, its corpse in perfect condition, on the floor of my parents’ garage. It was blue and turquoise with light brown stripes on its thorax (my mom made me diagram it for educational purposes). I put it in an empty pencil box, pinned it to the bottom, and wrote “BECARFUL” on the inside of the lid. A warning, I believe, to myself. Dragonflies are very delicate.

I leaned forward, having decided to get a better look. As more of it appeared from behind the black wrung, I saw its head. It was not resting peacefully like I expected. It was wrenched sideways, pivoted on its non-visible neck. Its green bulbous eyes were directed towards me – cast on my face – and its matching green mouth lay tiny beneath it. When aliens come to Earth, we will be scared. Cognizant cephalopods that can (at least somewhat) meet our gaze: terrifying. I leaned slowly back, uncomfortable with this experience. The dragonfly, reacting to my movement, leapt off its perch with a click. I startled; my stomach dropped a little.

I kept the box in my roll-top desk. Later, maybe years, I took it out and opened it. There were little still white things next to my descendent of ancient creatures. I think they were dead maggots.