Jonnie Fortune's fingernails were in his fingers and his teeth filled up his mouth. His legs were unbroken by hammers and his testicles had not been put to the knife. The blood that thrummed in and out of his heart was unpolluted by stimulants or sedatives. A gun was not to the base of his skull.
Tropical breeze ran its fingers through his hair and sun warmed his face. The clouds moved through the heavens with laziness to match Jonathon's own contented lethargy. The sea of foliage moved in rippling waves. The muscular branches of the jungle fig creaked and swayed like a hammock beneath him. The smells and sounds of the jungle were there, but muffled beneath the murmuring blanket of the trees.
There was a Doppler buzz and a tickle along the edge of his hand. A tiny wasp landed and flexed its wings. Jonnie Fortune smiled at it.***************
Nora Easley wore a silk scarf tied over her hair and it made her look like a cancer patient. Big dark sunglasses hid her eyes. She casually flipped through the pages of "City One One," a thick quarterly magazine that covered topics of supposed value to the inhabitants of the city. Jonnie Fortune sat next to her, tugging absently at the cuffs of his cheap white suit jacket and occasionally trying to shake the tingling from his right hand. He stared through the humpbacked jets moving to various terminals and locked his gaze on the fog-shrouded shape of Unity Tower.
Jonnie shook his hand again, trying to drive away the pins and needles. Nora steadied him with her hand. She lowered her glasses to the tip of her nose so that Jonnie could look into her eyes.
"If you don't stop doing that I'm going to take your ticket and leave you here for security." Her smile was dagger-sharp. "You look suspicious."
"I can't believe-"
"I can't believe I agreed to go to Venezuela for our honeymoon." Nora said loudly enough for everyone nearby to hear. "I wanted Ibiza and you wanted the Amazon fucking Rainforest."
Jonnie recalled the actual argument. Nora had wanted to escape to a Weathermen cell hiding in Budapest. Old Europe. Jonnie had insisted on the jungle. It had seemed right at the time. Now the argument hardly mattered.
Jonathon stared at himself in the mirror of the motel bathroom. His neatly parted black hair had disappeared in a wild tangle and his eyes were puffy and red-rimmed with a lack of sleep. His stubble was beginning to grow out into an ugly mat.
He picked up the disposable razor and filled the sink with hot water. Without cream or shaving gel the razor prickled unpleasantly and opened a cut just below his lip. He stopped and watched the blood bead on the tiny wound. It gathered and slowly rolled down to his chin.
The single droplet of blood exploded in the water like a puff of smoke. A thousand limbs of red swirled, faded to the color of rust and were gone. Jonathon sat down on the edge of the bathtub.
Nora and the other conspirators had explained his role. Their predictions - wrought of hacked and hijacked TrendPro data and run through single-minded bloodhounds of algorithms - had identified him more than two months earlier. Jonathon was their movement's cornerstone before he even knew there was a movement. He was their unaware killer of kings.
The fugue came to him suddenly. Never before had the predicative hallucinations occurred unprompted. It unfurled around him like the cherry blossoms in City One and he was pulled into its world. He was dimly aware that he had fallen into the bathtub and was kicking the cheap plastic hard enough to hurt. Even that link to the real world receded behind him.
He recognized the symbols and cues of his last predictions. Flickering green starbursts were a layoff at an ironworks in Stockholm. The number 43, waxy and sloughing, was a predicted terrorist act in Indonesia. Then he came to the black cylinder. It towered above him so high in his vision that it seemed to curve towards the omnipresent white star that granted him a sense of direction. It was Jonathon the killer. It had grown larger in his absence.
He ran his fingers across it and wondered why it had called him back. He heard the deep monotone wail of its influence stretching into the ether beyond the data and smelled its acrid stink like a burnt match.
Jonathon looked past it into the shifting fog of the unknown. A fist crushed his heart and he gasped for breath. The curtain of fog yanked violently away.
The future. Naked and explained. A riot of cities from barren land. The horns of impossibly vast buildings rising into the night sky, buried to the hilt in the clouds. A twinkling band of silver fire painting the heavens. One hundred billion men and their greatest machines. Swarming and teeming.
Air would not fill Jonathon's lungs. He shook his head and struggled against the vision. He leaned on the black cylinder and it toppled like a felled tree. More of the cylinders appeared as the first penetrated the vision. They formed a great domino line of toppling cylinders reaching to the cities. The earth shook as each crashed down. Jonathon stumbled on his back. The mercurial ribbon burned bright against the dark sky.
Jonathon blinked at the tarnished chrome of the showerhead above his face and laughed.
"I wanted to get your thoughts on these stencils Cecil made." Nora fanned out the large flats of tin on the motel bedspread.
Nora grinned. She looked ten years younger with her blond hair in pigtails and her puffy Hwan Athletics parka and faded cargo pants. She was bubbling with friendly energy.
"What are they for?" Jonathon asked.
Something about the stencils prompted an uneasy sense of Déjà vu and it was rare for his memory to fail him. He downed a gulp of the shitty coffee the motel provided. He had mixed in a travel bottle of Jim Beam.
"The advance teams, silly." She looked in Jonathon's cup and wrinkled her nose. "We pay a bunch of kids in metro areas to spray paint this stuff for the cause."
Jonathon absently picked up one of the stencils. It was surprisingly heavy and bore the markings of a few test sprays. Red, white and blue paint.
"FORTUNE NEVER CHANGES," read the stencil in bold text.
Beneath the text was an abstract and almost fascist face looking arrogantly upward. With a start Jonathon realized that it was his own face in caricature.
"What the fuck is this?!" He dropped the stencil on the floor and grabbed another.
"JONNIE FORTUNE FIGHTS FOR YOU! RESIST! SUBVERT!"
Nora held his wrist before he could toss them all away.
"Calm down, Jonnie." She gave him a pat on the back and they both looked down at the remaining stencils.
"This is idiotic." He shook off her hand and stared her down.
"This is 21st century Realpolitik, Jonnie. You don't exist without advertising."
"You're using my name, Nora! They'll know who I am!"
Nora's smile displayed her perfect white teeth. She reached out condescendingly to Jonathon.
"They already know who you are, Jonnie." She shook her head. "They knew before you found me. We've known as well. We've had the advance teams out for a month, now we just have a name and a face."
"How?" Jonathon refused to concede the possibility. "I work - worked - in the upper levels of forecasting for TrendPro. I deleted all references to my name from the system and I know my boss didn't see it. He doesn't even read the forecasts."
"Powell knows." Nora was abruptly serious. "He has the deep indicators and the long term forecasts. The data converges for him, Jonnie."
"Stop calling me that."
"Oh," she pressed close to him, "are you a man now, Jonnie? A big assassin?"
She hugged him and stroked the back of his head. She smelled like paint and cigarettes.
"This is bullshit, Nora."
She shoved him away.
"I don't have time for this." She began unfastening her cargo pants.
Nora let her pants drop to her ankles and chased them down with her underwear. Both caught on her chunky alpine boots.
"No." Jonathon reiterated.
She knelt on one of the dun-colored hotel chairs and bent herself over the back. Downy hairs on her back caught the light of the setting sun.
"Hurry up, Jonnie." She gave him a stern glare over her shoulder. "I've got to get back to Cecil on this in an hour."
Jonathon growled and crumpled the plastic coffee cup. He grabbed her by her hips and tipped her over the back of the chair and onto the floor. She laughed as he pressed down atop her and took her from behind. She left him lying on his back, staring up at the mold-stained ceiling, his right arm tangled in the cord of a broken lamp. He did not say goodbye.
The cart containing Jonathon Fortune and Dennis Richmond jolted over the uneven greens of the ninth hole at Raspberry Falls. TrendPro owned the City One area golf course and reserved it for the use of top level executives and their VIP guests. Jonathon was the TrendPro president's VIP guest.
"I have to admit, I'm surprised to see a down home boy like you representing the Chinese." Richmond talked as he guided the cart over the cultivated difficulty of the ninth. "No offense meant to you or your employer, of course."
"Of course." Jonathon was nearly in a stupor, which seemed to be working well for his cover.
The cart skidded to a stop. Richmond's ball had overshot the green and Jonathon's had landed right in the sand trap.
"Player's Prison." Richmond took his golfing seriously. "Let me finish off first, if you don't mind."
He had the hole in four.
"Tough par." Richmond consoled Jonathon as he lined up for his shot out of the sand. "I only made under because I practically live on this course."
"I'm not much of a golfer." Jonathon replied honestly.
"No, I can tell." Richmond's tone was not insulting. "You don't know how to swing like a pro, but you do have some raw talent. You scoped this one out well and you powered it for the wind. Your swing was off."
"Thanks." Jonathon said, still trying to get a feel for his shot out of the sand.
"Hey, you can thank me by playing through to 18." Richmond cracked a Heineken from the cooler on the back of the golf cart.
"Not today, Mr. Richmond." Jonathon focused on the shot. "I'd love to some other time."
Jonathon took the shot and with a smack and a puff of sand the ball arced up into the air and came down on the green within spitting distance of the hole. Richmond whistled appreciatively.
"Nice recovery." Richmond clapped him on the back. "And hey, call me Denny. I think we're friends now."
"Sure," Jonathon forced a smile, "call me Jon."
"Huh, middle name?" Denny furrowed his brow.
"Oh, yeah." Jonathon realized his mistake. "Christian just never felt like my name, but it looks good on a business card. Plays in the flyover states."
Denny nodded. Jonathon made the hole in five and they bundled back into the cart for the drive back to the clubhouse.
"Want to grab a couple beers before you head to the airport?" Denny navigated the course just fast enough to make Jonathon's stomach flip-flop.
"Nah, I've still got some loose ends to tie up in the City One office before I catch my plane." Jonathon's grip tightened on the side rail as they became airborne for an instant. "Thanks for the offer."
"When will you be back Stateside?" Denny powered the cart uphill into the clubhouse's parking lot.
"Great!" Denny beamed. "I'd like to invite you to dinner at my house week after next. We can have some crab and talk about the deal."
"That sounds like a plan." Jonathon had hoped that Richmond would hate him and refuse to see him again.
"Don't get too excited about it!" Denny laughed. "Hey, I know how jetlag can be, especially if they've got you running around on sub-orbitals."
"The Chinese?" Jonathon forced himself to smile. "I'm lucky I'm not taking the bus."
Denny forced his own laughter.
A spectral fist crushed Jonathon Fortune's heart. He gasped and shot upright in the bed of the motel room, drenched in sweat and listening to the distant sound of sirens. Spasms rippled through the muscles of his arms and legs. Nora stirred next to him. She opened her eyes slowly, like a cat, and watched him shudder.
"Go back to sleep, Jonnie."
His breathing slowed.
"Go on, back to sleep." Nora smiled and ran her fingers down his side. "You need your rest, Jonnie."
His breathing stopped and he eased back down against the pillow with a smile.
The fist crushed his heart again. He gasped and shot upright in the chair. His quaking muscles pushed against the ceramic restraints. He bit his tongue.
"Wake up, Jonnie."
Harsh white light cut through his mental fog. Nora was partially backlit by the standing lamps, her figure hidden behind a black plastic apron. She smiled sweetly.
"I-I was in the jungle, Nora." Jonathon croaked.
"Shhhhh," she put a finger to his cracked lips, "shhh."
"I was above the jungle," he laughed.
"Jonnie, do you remember what I need?" Nora wiped his forehead with a damp cloth.
"The...," he swallowed but could not work up any saliva, "the story. You want the story."
"Right, I want the story. I want you to tell me how you killed Dennis Richmond and his family." Nora mopped the blood from his face. "Tell me everyone you worked with."
Jonathon smiled serenely, his gums empty of teeth. The smile flickered and faded and Jonathon remembered. He remembered more than the jungle. He remembered everything.
"No." He spit blood at her.
Nora's lips curled into a snarl and she slapped Jonathon, hard, across the face. He didn't feel a thing.
"Blood pressure is bottoming out!" A man shouted from a thousand miles away.
There was a rush of air. The jungle welcomed him back.
Three worn tables pushed end-to-end were barely sufficient to seat the entire banquet. The rich smells of the bistro were mostly lost in the thick blue pall of cigarette smoke that had collected above the conspirators. Most ate and drank heavily, but everyone smoked. It was an admission that life was not a long term endeavor.
"You can't blame socialism for the abuses of Stalin," the poet argued. "Socialism works for most of Europe."
"What's unemployment like in Germany right now?" Ritter, the architect, laughed over his plate of linguini. "A free market is the only way for society to progress. With a free market - and I'm not talking about the bullshit American idea of a free market, I mean pure ancap - with a free market, everyone will eventually be lifted up. Parity will be achieved."
"Right, the wealthy will share." The poet sneered. "Ritter, your masquerading libertarianism is as juvenile as it is misguided."
"Juvenile?!" Ritter threw his fork down into his pasta. "Anarchocapitalism has never been more relevant!"
"You've got your ancap dreamland right here and right now and what has it fucking developed into?" The poet smirked. "An oligarchy."
"Wrong, you smug liberal shit." Ritter slammed his fist down on the table. "The corporations have corrupted the federal government because the federal government is so goddamn powerful. If you and your Nouveau Left hadn't given them all these ideas about managing the fucking economy it would not have opened the door to so much-"
"You just can't accept that we are fighting against your ideology!" The poet interrupted. "Total Democracy is nothing but a corporate takeover of the Republic."
Several of the others gathered around the table in the bistro seemed ready to jump into the argument, but Nora raised a hand and silenced everyone.
"I would like to hear what our new member thinks of this discussion." She looked at Jonathon and cocked an eyebrow.
"Oh," Jonathon was suddenly embarrassed and unprepared. "I, uh, I don't pay attention to politics."
The poet shook his head and laughed, several others stifled chuckles. Ritter leaned forward.
"How can you not care? You work for TrendPro. You work for Milton fucking Powell." Ritter looked prepared to break his fork off in Jonathon's head.
"Powell and Richmond have only influenced the outcome of every major election around the world." The poet added. "They're running the show."
Ritter and the poet and several of their hangers-on launched into a description of the geo-political landscape that quickly devolved into another argument. Jonathon ignored their chatter and instead recalled a conversation he had with Powell.
"We've got recruiters using centennial metrics to pick out ten generations of the presidency." Powell had told him one day, almost arbitrarily. "They identified President Ross when he was still in high school. I've seen a prediction for the 74th president, Jon. Not a name, but a lineage. We're talking over a hundred years. Of course the accuracy goes down the further out you get."
Jonathon had just nodded at that.
"We don't decide who gets elected, of course." Powell was always genial and patient. "We just predict the winner and then bet on him."
There, at the bistro, Jonathon pieced together that conversation and similar conversations he had with Powell and others at TrendPro. Once his idea had been fully formulated he allowed himself to interject.
"There's a kind of tree called the Banyan Tree that grows in jungles." Jonathon paused as the conversation faded and all eyes focused on him. "It's a very tall type of tree, but its height isn't what makes it stand out. It's hard for a tree to get started in the jungle. All of the other trees block out the light for hundreds of years and only smaller plants can manage to grow. Banyans are fig trees and they produce fruit that sustains the animals that live in the canopy of the jungle. The animals eat the fruit and leave the seeds behind in the other trees."
"Are you going somewhere with this?" Nora asked quietly and Jonathon nodded a reply.
"The Banyan seeds land on the branches or in the crooks of these other trees and the ones that are very near to the canopy will get enough light to start growing. As they grow they will send out roots that will drape all the way down to the floor of the jungle. The bigger the Banyan gets the more of these roots it will send out, until the tree it landed on is completely enclosed by the Banyan's root system. It strangles the other tree, slowly. So slowly that you wouldn't notice it's happening. The original tree finally dies and the Banyan is left standing in its place."
"The government is a tree?" The poet laughed with disbelief.
"I like it," Ritter countered. "That tree is a parasite that starts at the top and takes over the other tree. It's socialism conquering the world nation by nation."
"No." The word was almost lost among the growing argument.
"What did you say, Jonnie?" Nora asked loudly enough to talk over the others.
"No, that's not what I mean." Jonathon explained. "The jungle relies on the Banyan. Without it the animals would starve or be culled by famine. The Banyan uses the jungle to spread. It relies on the movement and habits of the animals to carry it and at the same time it gives the jungle what it needs. If it were a genuine aberration you could say that it replaces the order of nature with its own."
There was a pause.
"Annnnd that's what then?" The poet finally asked.
"That's Richmond. That's Powell. That's Omni TrendPro. They started at the top and they replaced the order of the jungle with their own. Their nature rules and they give the jungle what it wants."
There was another lull at the table.
"Idiocy." The poet judged. "TrendPro doesn't rule, they are a conduit for the ignorant cattle to self-destruct. The government could be purged of their-"
"The government will always be-"
Nora leaned in close to Jonathon's face as the argument surged back to the forefront.
"I liked it." She winked and smiled.
She kissed him.
"The future dies tonight!" The words were not his, but he shouted them. "Death to the omni-fascist state!"
The pistol hammered twice in Jonathon Fortune's hand. Its voice was a painful boom in the confines of Dennis Richmond's foyer. At such close range it was impossible for the bullets to miss the president of Omni TrendPro. Black spots ticked into place on the man's pink polo shirt like an outdated film effect. Richmond's white smile went slack and he staggered back a step.
Jonathon hesitated and then shot Richmond again. Richmond looked back up at Jonathon and tried to talk. Blood ran out of the corners of his mouth. Jonathon raised his gun to Richmond's head, shut his eyes and fired again. Hot gore sprayed his face. Richmond thumped loudly on the tile floor and began making a rhythmic retching sound. He vomited out food and bile and then, seemingly, his viscera. He heaved and twisted onto his back. Richmond's left eye was red and swollen and he was weeping blood.
He gagged and stopped moving just as his wife burst into the foyer. She halted, horrified, and then fell atop her husband. She wailed and screamed, but Jonathon was nearly deaf from the gunshots. Powerful hands dragged him back out through the front door. Victor, the muscled thug from Nora's conspiracy group, shouted something at Jonathon and shoved him down roughly next to the dead body of one of Richmond's security guards.
Jonathon watched as Nora followed Victor into the house. She cradled a sub-machinegun and walked past Richmond's wife as if the woman was not there. Victor yanked the sobbing woman to her feet by the back of her dress and smashed her face-first against a wall. Nora dashed up a flight of stairs near the foyer. The brute pressed the barrel of his gun against Richmond's wife's temple. Jonathon looked into her eyes. He heard the gunshot through the ringing in his ears. More followed.
Jonathon shook his tingling hand and nearly knocked the screwdriver from the top of Nora's seat tray. She shot him a dirty look before burying her nose back in the pages of an interior design magazine.
"What?" Nora pulled out her earbuds and Jonathon could hear faint music.
"I just said I was sorry for that."
"I might have some pills or something I can give you in my carryall." Nora started to shift to get out of her seat.
Jonathon stopped her.
"Don't worry about it. The tingling is almost gone."
She shrugged and popped her earbuds back in.
One of the air hostesses took up a position near the cockpit door. She held an archaic microphone connected to the plane's intercom.
"The captain would like to inform you," she began in thickly accented English, "that to your left you will be seeing the great Chavez Reactor. This is the world's second largest fusion power generation facility."
Jonathon peered out the window as the aircraft banked slightly to give the passengers a better view. Three monolithic containment pylons rose hundreds of feet into the air. Coolant pumps, water reservoirs and deuterium extraction facilities surrounded the slate-gray structures. A modest metropolis thrived between the Chavez Reactor and the Rio Orinoco.
What struck Jonathon was what he could not see: the jungle. New roads and buildings sprung from bare earth or tracts of switch grass. There were herds of cattle so broad that they looked like lakes of milk and flat-topped chicken ranches that seemed nearly as large as the fusion reactor.
"It's gone." He whispered. "It can't be gone."
Jonathon hit his service request button and an air hostess joined him as the other woman continued to drone on about the amazing capabilities of the Chavez Reactor.
"What can I do for you, sir?" The woman smiled.
"The jungle." Jonathon choked out. "Where is the jungle?"
"Oh, there are some preserves out there. There is a huge zoo near the border with Brazil where the animals live like they did 10 or 20 years ago."
"Yes, sir. I can get you the name of it if you would like."
Jonathon shook his head. For the remainder of the flight he stared down at his hands. The plane approached the runway at Puerto Ayacucho. Nora pulled her earbuds out again and yawned.
"Home free." She snuggled in against Jonathon.
"Where did you go at Richmond's house?" He asked.
"What do you mean?"
"You went upstairs. What were you looking for?"
Nora stiffened and then busied herself with packing up her executive assistant.
"What were you looking for?" Jonathon repeated, a bit more loudly.
"Richmond had two sons and a daughter."
Jonathon stared down at his hands.
"I have to use the bathroom before we pick up the rental." Nora dropped her carryall onto the floor of the airport. "Keep an eye on that for a minute."
The moment she was out of sight they came. They appeared from around corners, out of doors and even out of crowds. Some of them looked like tourists. Some of them looked the part, with bulky armored vests and serious firepower. Jonathon just put his hands up when he realized they were coming towards him.
They fell on him with their batons. One or two slammed the stock of a gun into his back. A few kicked him after he was secured with zip-ties. Nora emerged from the bathroom and followed them to the white American-made SUVs waiting outside the airport. She chatted happily with a craggy-faced man in a business suit. She hugged him. She put on her wedding ring. She made eye-contact with Jonathon and she smiled.
"-ulse unsteady. He's tachycardic and his blood pressure-."
"Can you hear me, Jonnie?" Nora squeezed his cheeks between her fingers and thumb. "I know you're still alive."
"His blood pressure is dropping again." The voice came from beyond Jonathon's narrow field of vision. "We're not going to be able to resuscitate him many m-"
"Shut up." Nora silenced the voice.
"Jonnie, listen to me. It's okay. What you did was right. Richmond didn't deserve to run the company. I saw the predictions, the forecasts. He was just some loser from accounting in the Palo Alto office. The metrics said he would make a good CEO, but he never worked for that job. He never busted his ass for that job. He had to go."
Nora shook Jonathon's head from side to side.
"Why?" He croaked.
"This is how it was supposed to work out." She relaxed her grip on his face when she could see the life in his eyes. "It's not your fault, Jonnie. Maybe it was Powell's way of getting the top job. Maybe the board just decided that Richmond had to go and they didn't want to pay for his retirement."
Nora let go of Jonathon.
"Board?" His head was lolling and he was barely able to remain conscious. "The board…the board had us kill his entire family?"
Her expression went cold.
"Oh, it was a whole lot more than Richmond and his family, Jonnie. Everyone in our little group had a job. From the top to the bottom, it was a purge. TrendPro's own Night of the Long Knives and none of the killers even knew what was happening. They're all disposable. Who ordered it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all, Jonnie, because it was in the script. Your name came up in the predictions and so did the name of every target and every killer."
Nora traced her fingertips down his flayed chest and stomach.
"Now you're going to die, Jonnie. When you fade away this time you're not coming back."
Jonathon laughed. It was a wheezing death-rattle.
"You're wrong." Blood drooled from his mouth. "You're wrong about the…"
His heart fluttered and he faded out of consciousness for a moment. His eyes rolled back into his head and then snapped suddenly into focus.
"You're wrong about the board and the…and the predictions, Nora." He grinned toothlessly.
"What the fuck does that mean?"
"The forecast. The prediction."
Jonathon started laughing again. It was a final, hissing, involuntary gasp of mirth. Nora yanked his hair and straddled his mangled lap.
"You tell me now, you little son of a bitch. What the fuck does that mean?"
"It's an aberration." Jonathon gagged on his blood. "You pollinate its fruit."
"What the fuck does that mean?!" Nora screamed, nearly hysterical.
"Slaves to your-," he gasped, "slaves to your own stupid machines."
"What the fuck?!" Nora shook him.
Jonathon Fortune fled to his jungle. He dreamed.
Maintenance Satellite Centipede completed its final orbit correction and cut power to its maneuver thrusters. Its articulated arms folded into its streamlined hull. Its long range radar retracted into its sensor cluster. It had an optical lock on its objective and docking approach was green.
Satellite Hub One "Tender" extended its magnetic docking waldos and took Centipede into its arms.
The collated terrestrial data poured into Tender. Unity Tower's transmitters were one great volcanic funnel ejecting molten information into space. The stream was ceaseless and dense.
Tender bathed in the rich riot of damp earth, blooming flowers, decay and thousands of animals and plants. That miasma of life and death on earth was something it drank.
Tender issued the forecasts for the coming years and mankind obeyed. The satellite had no comprehension or goal beyond enhanced saturation of data. It had no agenda, no malice, no guiding principal. It took no pleasure in its actions. It never paused to contemplate the effects of its predictions. Tender was indefatigable and impassive. It relied on the creatures that populated its databases to spread its spore across their world.
An indicator blinked red on an LCD screen at Canberra Station 3. Jonathon Fortune was at his end.
On a small zoological preserve in the Amazon a tiny female wasp burrowed out of a Banyan fig. The males had exhausted themselves to the point of death chewing through the wall of the fruit. They watched the female disappear from their world forever. They felt fulfilled.
The wasp shivered and tested its wings. It buzzed into the humid air. This new world was impossibly vast and disorienting, but the female wasp had millions of years of evolution on her side. She found another Banyan fig and she deposited her eggs. She felt fulfilled. She died.
In the next 24 hours the bulk price of recycled aluminum in Eurasia was predicted to decrease by one-eighth percent.
Artwork by Josh Hass
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