The Web – a short story by Vicki Hird

continuing in the same vein as my “Forest of Brexeat” story earlier this week, Vicki Hird

has written this piece…

Swallowtail ©Tim Rice


The web was both delicate and strong. And as large as a lake. Spreading out as a silk cloak over the scrub and ground it was hard to imagine how such a small animal as a moth caterpillar – could create such a large structure. Grandfather talked about the scene underneath – how a billion mouths would be chomping at the plants underneath…

Bees hovered overhead and the old man and boy watched as one was caught in a real spiders web in a tree behind them. Little silk coffins lined this web showing what a killer had made this lair – waiting hidden at the edge to catch one of the thousands of flying insects in the air.

Was a time you heard little in countryside. Now it’s always buzzin” the old man mumbled..

The Boy had already been reminded to keep his mouth shut as he walked. Butterflies, wasps, flies and beetles would soon be fluttering in your mouth otherwise. He thought he’d learnt his lesson when the mosquito bit him in the lip some weeks back – lucky not one with malaria. But the going was fast and he was breathing hard. He was thirsty.

The sun beat down as they walked away from the web lake and small moths fluttered up as they disturbed new ground.

Once this was all wheat growing as high as ye lad“. “It were sprayed with chemicals so the wee beasts would not steal the crop….tis odd to think we kept on and on and the beast just developed ways round and more came we’d not seen before.”

 “What happened to the chemicals grandpa” the boy had not heard of this before. Grandpa was miles away in his memories.

and all along we was killin the bugs that would keep the pests in check… seems mad now…We’d even cover them sneep I talked of in a terrible chemical to stop a fly laying its eggs under the sneep’s skin… nerve killing stuff it was but the sneep suffered terrible…maybe they was too many or the wrong breed..I dunno. “

A rumbling noise checked his chatter and he pushed the boy back against a tree trunk as a herd of wild cattle rumbled by. Insects flew up and filled the air as the pack of dogs flew past in pursuit aiming to catch a weaker animal. The old man quickly pulled the boy off the track in case they returned.

Safe havens were hard to find. Where they were now stumbling seem to be full of biting insects. The couple pulled thick sacks over their faces with eye holes, and pushed on towards the river to catch a fish for supper in the cave. At least the rivers were bountiful. Clean rivers full of invertebrates – everything fish needed.

We’ll have a small fish feast tonight mark my words lad. Maybe some groundnuts and dandys leaves to pull up along the way hey…”

In the distance yet another woodland clearing was draped with the caterpillars cloth and they skirted round it to head toward the sound of water rushing over rocks.

If we’re lucky lad we can find some large beetle grubs to eat with the fish – real tasty fat sausagy when fried with a bit of welsh sea salt… I know just the spot and they get bigger every year seems to me”.

He thought of the huge stag beetle antlers and shivered. He knew those were harmless but with the climate so different and new creatures every year it was hard to say what beasts they were going to have to deal with. The huge butterflies and new birds were beauties. But giant hornet nests were common and tarantulas and nasty ticks with diseases were everywhere now. The oaks can cope but us and our crops and orchards?

Thanks grandpa that would be great. I love those crunchy on outside and squigy inside. Don’t know how you know where to find them though.”

Folk talked of ‘insectageddon’ years ago. He remembered that. And there were mass extinctions from habitats lost, chemical use and climate change. Yet now some beasts were taking over it seemed to him… he didn’t want to scare the boy though so kept quiet as they walked to the river.

“Wisdom of years my boy …wisdom of years.”

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
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