Sunday, November 16, 2008


Every region of Hamjamser has a city inhabited mostly by insects. In the Mountainous Plains, it's Sconth; in the Kennyrubin archipelago, it's Crustacle Island; in the Railway Regions, it's Carvendrone.

Normally, the town would be practically deserted at this time of year. The inhabitants would be deep in hibernation beneath the ground and in the warm heart of the hive-palace above the city. Most insects can't survive the cold. In another month, that's the way the city will be: a ghost town, guarded against looters all Winter long by its few warm-blooded inhabitants. This warm November has extended the harvest season a little longer. The insects are still awake; the plants are still blooming.

The gardens - the city is full of gardens - are full of the townspeople's small, feral relatives. Migrating butterflies pause for food on their way to somewhere warmer. Beetles speckle the ground and leaves in myriad trundling shapes. Skippers dart from flower to flower, nimble little brown things, neither moth nor butterfly but something else altogether. The air is filled with bees.

The civilized insects are just as busy as the wild ones. Giant butterflies harvest the nectar from late-blooming cartwheel hibiscus and column-bine. The flowers are small this late in November, the largest only six feet wide. The butterflies collect the nectar in bottles and jars to be stored until next Spring. In other parts of the city, they tend sugarcane, beets, fruit, and candymoss - other sources of sweet food that take more work, but yield more than the flowers' few cupfuls of sugar each. To vertebrates, butterfly farms seem to produce nothing but dessert.

Higher in the city are the carnivores' farms. Cows and pigs share pastures with landlocusts and sausage-grubs. Tame cicadas emerge from the ground earlier in the year, leaving mounds of dirt like three-foot molehills. Generations of them spend years underground eating roots. The shed skins of the larvae, hollow and mud-crusted, hunched over their massive digging claws, are stuck on the roofs of houses for luck. The adults graze in the pastures, as docile as sheep. They're too heavy to reach the trees like their smaller relatives. The buzzing, echoing songs of cicadas, large and small, tenor and bass, harmonize with each other all through the Summer. I wish I'd been here to hear them.

I haven't actually seen much of the city yet, but I went to an art supply store to buy colored pencils and ended up in a conversation with the mantis shopkeeper, who seems to enjoy describing his city to strangers. His descriptions were long and eloquent. He spoke perfect and unaccented English; a vertebrate, marrying into the family of insects generations ago, had left him and several cousins with lungs and voices. His wife interrupted occasionally in an efficient, clicking language spoken with claws and mandibles. (Civilized mantises have given up the habits of their tiny ancestors, of course; the wives no longer eat their husbands.)

I've never been to Carvendrone before. The Train is going to be here for a few days, at least, for which I'm extremely grateful. I love insect cities.

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Blogger MLight said...

I'd like to visit there... I think.

4:57 PM  

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