By Christine Gladstone

sfgenreAir so hot! Feet hot, legs hot, body hot. My hairs turn crispy. I have to run fast.

I best forager. Search quickly, find fast. No others match me. I proud. I teach young sisters.

Today, I search long time, travel far. Finally, find fresh, juicy food. Need act fast before others find. I clamp my jaws on food. Pull hard. Dig feet in — pull again. Won't move. Food too big, too heavy. Need help. Need to bring others. Need colony sisters.

I stop — open jaws and let go. I look at sky. Light tells where colony is. I turn around. Make scent then run. I make trail back home as I go.

When get back, make smell that says — follow, follow me sisters. We run. Run fast. Sun blazes in sky. Run in line. Follow trail I laid, back to food.

Soon, I get hot. Legs heavy. Body heavy — have to rest. Have to slow down. Sisters stop in line, behind me. Keep moving on the spot. One foot next foot — next foot. Over and over. Look like jiggling caterpillar.

Sisters send anger scent. It is strong. Want someone else to lead. I send calm scent. Ignore more smells.

I need rest. Get tired quick, too soon. For some time now, need more rest. Try not think about it. I not have energy like had before. Not know why.

Feel better. We move on. I make pace much slower — I teach sisters lesson. I best forager. I lead. We go at my pace. I never let another lead. No-one take my place. Only I best forager. No sister better than me. No sister can take my place.

Time passes. We keep moving. Sister behind, called Sheri, tries to pass me. I block with my body. She swerves. She draws level. She shoves me with her jaws. My balance shifts. I stagger to one side. I fall off trail. Sister Sheri darts past — others follow. Run fast, so fast — whizz past. They disappear around rock up ahead.

The Sister named Peri, is last. She sends message scent when she passes — Hurry, Keri, hurry! Keep Up! Keep up!

She right. Sisters will spread story. All colony back home find out. Find out I not best forager. I too slow. I too weak.

Make big effort. Struggle to feet. Run fast to catch up. I join line behind Peri. Keep up for short time then legs get heavy, so heavy. Legs wobble, stop working — cannot go on. Have to stop. Have to rest. Legs collapse. I roll on to back. Legs dangle, useless. Cannot breathe — air burning. Cannot see — only blurry, blurry.

Need shelter. Need shade for rest. I best forager. Only need rest. After, I will be best forager again. I stand up — legs all shaky, shaky. See clearly now. Rock by trail has shade. I move slowly there — slowly, slowly.

Better in shade. Now, need to wait. Wait and rest. Wait for sisters to come back. Then I take lead. Sisters have to follow me. We will go home with prize. I will stay best forager.

Much time to rest. Long time until sisters come back. Slow down when they carry food. I have good rest. After — I be best forager for them again.

Strength comes back. Smell tells that sisters are returning. I stand. I am strong again. Plant myself in centre of trail. See lead Sister Sheri, come around bend. She in command. Other sisters carry load. Form circle around it — half of sisters are pulling with jaws — other half are pushing, except two each side — guiding others straight. They race towards me.

Imposter Sister, Sheri, sends anger scent. Sends — move — move now.

I stand firm. I best forager — send anger scent back. You move. You are not in charge.

Sheri speeds up. I stand still. She charges into me. She is strong. I fall over. I fill with anger. I fill with rage. I become weak. I cannot get up. The group draws level. I am in way. Peri nudges me off trail. My last energy evaporates. I watch them pass. Soon, they disappear. Heat shimmers around me. Everywhere is empty. I am alone. I am sad — so sad, so lonely.

I try to stand-up. I struggle. I manage — fall over again. I give up. Inside — something breaks. Is this my time? I not think about it before. I push thought away. Now, I remember gone sisters. One day there — next vanish. No-one searched. No-one will search for me. I never searched. Sisterhood is not real. All mind lie. Mind lie we all tell self, to stay happy. Have to — life short.

I lay there. Time passes. For long time I not think.

I startled by a tap on antenna. I turn my head. I see Peri. She send me help scent. She gives me food bubble from mouth. I feed. I happy. She come back. Sister come back for me. I make huge effort. Peri pulls with jaws. I stand. Peri helps keep me upright with body. We set off. After long time, we make it back home. Sun just going down. We go inside. I so glad — for short time, I so glad. Then I think — tomorrow, same — same thing. Tomorrow, I not come back.

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About The Author

Christine Gladstone

Christine writes about herself: I began writing in late 2009. Incensed by a particular episode of "Doctor Who", I wrote my own. I found I enjoyed the creativity of writing so much that I have continued on.
My passions are science, nature, animals and all things sci-fi.
I enjoy Asimov, Clark, and many other classic writers as well as Terry Pratchett. My favourite author currently is Alastair Reynolds, but I've just discovered the amazing Neal Stephenson, so that may change!
I write mostly science fiction with brief forays into fantasy. I like to think I write in a similar vein to Michael Crichton.

I am currently working on the second draft of a science fiction novel set in the near future.
I am a senior citizen, and I write using speech recognition software due to disability.
I live in sunny WA with my husband and our cat Tilda.


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by Wes Parish

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