Little scuttled down the tunnel to the nest. The darkness hurt her eyes after all the colours and light of Sky-World.
She felt an overwhelming urge to vomit.
Little heaved her heavier self up the brood, squeezing between Sisters until she found an empty nectar pot. Then Little leaned her head over the top and vomited all the nectar she had collected from Cherry. She felt much lighter.
Thank you, small Sister, scent-sang the Sisters who sat on surrounding cocoons. Thank you for bringing back energy to buzz, to move, to fly… Then Little scraped the balls of pollen from her back legs into another empty nectar pot. Thank you, lovely, her Sisters continued to sing, for bringing back energy to grow.
Little stretched her tired body over a cocoon. Then the scent of She-Who-Takes-the-Scentless pricked Little’s antennae. My little one! She-Who-Takes-The-Scentless sang, You were Called! You have been to Sky-World and back! And I smell Cherry. Ah, you chose a good source. Such sweet Life Liquid from Cherry. Well done, lovely Little. Well done! Little felt the warm body of She-Who-Takes-The Scentless squeeze up alongside her.
The colours, the light, the scent-songs… Little began. She was almost too tired to scent-sing.
Spectacular, isn’t it? Sang She-Who-Takes-the-Scentless. Now sip. Sip the Life Liquid.
Little’s antennae wriggled up and down as she searched through the scent-songs and Mother’s scent-beacon to find a full nectar pot. Little concentrated her antennae and then Apple Apple Apple was the scent she detected from within the pot. Little knew, without being told, that the Rule was never to drink the nectar you provide. It must be left to Mother and Sisters. Her antennae focused on a pot nearby, two sister-bodies up and three over. Little squeezed her way between the bodies, and since the scent of Cherry from Sky-World still clung to her fur, each sister she passed was thankful. Oh, Lovely! They sang, Thank you, thank you for your Sky-World gift!
Little found the pot, dipped her head over the side, stretched out her tongue, and drank. SoUr-SiCkNeSs-SoUr-SiCkNeSs… Little flinched and rolled up her tongue. Apple was one of the first Life Liquids she had drank after she hatched. She knew what it tasted like. It was not this.
Little scent-sang to She-Who-Takes-the Scentless to try the Life Liquid. It tastes fine to me, sang She-Who-Takes-the-Scentless. In fact, it tastes more exquisite than other Apples I have imbibed.
Little tried it again. SoUr-SiCkNeSs-SoUr-SiCkNeSs… Something was wrong with the Life Liquid. Dreadfully wrong. Her Sisters could not drink this. She chewed the side of the wax pot. The click-click of her mandibles alerted She-Who-Takes-the-Scentless. What are you doing? She scent-sang. In the darkness no one could see the hole Little had chewed in the pot. The tainted Life Liquid oozed out and trickled down. It flowed over the feet of the nearby Sisters and they buzzed and scent-sang, What’s this? What’s happening?
Little searched with her antennae for other pots with Apple. She found three more. Each one tasted of SoUr-SiCkNeSs-SoUr-SiCkNeSs, and in each pot she chewed a hole to let the Life Liquid leak out so no Sister could drink it. Soon an number of Sisters’ feet and fur were sticky and wet from the oozing Life Liquid that Little had released. Anger-surprise-anger-surprise, they scent-sang. The song had a tang that made Little uneasy.
Our Life Liquid pots are leaking!
But our pots do not leak!
Someone has chewed holes!
BETRAYAL! The pungent scent-song flashed through the nest like lightning.
Rose-rain-rimmed-with-flame. Mother’s scent-beacon slashed through the scent-clouds.
Who? Demanded Mother. Who, who, who?
Little was silent. She-Who-Takes-the Scentless was silent.
Mother’s scent-beacon changed to Rose-rain-rimmed-with-FIRE-FIRE-FIRE!
Little knew that chewing holes in the pots was not betraying her sisters; betraying her sisters would be to not speak up. Her sisters must know of the poisoned Apple. Little squeezed her way through sisters’ bodies up towards Mother.
When Little was two sister bodies away from Mother she stopped. She could smell her own scent-cloud of distress-fear-distress-fear… It was me, Little sang. I chewed the holes in the pots.
Little’s scent-cloud hovered in the silence.
Little felt two large antennae poke and prod her head and fur. She dared not breathe. Little, sang Mother. Why?
(Distress-fear-distress-fear…) It tasted wrong. So wrong. We must not drink it.
The scent-songs of several sisters puffed up from nearby: (surprise-anger-OUTRAGE!) It tastes just fine! Betrayal, betrayal, betrayal!
Betrayal, betrayal, betrayal! Echoed the entire colony. All except Little and She-Who-Takes-the-Scentless.
Terror-fear-I-want-to-flee… Little stood still as soil.
Stay with She-Who-Takes-the-Scentless, sang Mother. I will not Call you to Sky-World to gather Life Liquid and Life Powder again.
The surrounding sisters pushed their way back so a space formed around Mother and Little.
Little was enveloped in a scent-pulse from Mother: STAY-STAY-STAY-STAY.
Then a BRAIN BURST and Little’s desire for Sky-World vanished. Her memories of Sky-World vanished too.