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Tears of the Cicada

Tears of the Cicadas

By Kenneth BouttePublished about a month ago 10 min read
Tears of the Cicada
Photo by Tony Stoddard on Unsplash

The priest’s footsteps echo down the hall a shy louder than the cicadas outside. I relish in their annoying screeching. It takes me back to when I was a kid scraping my knee, falling off my bike, or getting slapped by Bridgette Stanley for trying to look up her skirt. Yea those were much simpler pains than what’s coming next. “Excuse me Thomas, I’m Fr. Atwood and I’m here for your final confession if you wish my son.” A frail old balding white priest says to me with his hands clasped together. He’s wearing a wholesome smile and the usual all black priest get-up with a tight clerical collar. “Nawh, Fr. Atwood what’s the point of it all? The lord knows what I done, and he knows I’m sorry. Telling you ain’t gonna do nothing but waste both our time. And I ain't got much of that left.” The holy man just smiles, nods and waves goodbye. “I’ll be praying for you, my son.” He says as he turns to walk away. His shuffling feet go silent and leave me to the song of the cicadas and yelling inmates yelling their goodbyes.

I nervously pace back and forth carving grooves into the concrete floor. Jittering teeth attack my fingernails and chew them down til they bleed. Thoughts of experiences I will never have consume my thoughts and bring tears to my eyes. Tears of troubled men come a dime a dozen here, and lost opportunities for something different in life are commonplace. We all could have been contenders, but we chose a different path.

My rough ragged fingers trace the bars and concrete blocks used to encage me. It’s funny how soft the walls and bars feel when it’s your last time feeling them. For 14 long years they’ve wrapped me in their arms and kept me here. Caged. Confined. Constrained. Cornered. Now I’m wishing to feel them for one more day as I’m but moments away from my release. The corrections officer has taken down the clock so I can’t count down the hours to my “freedom”. Shadows dance across the floor as the lights on the cell block flicker on and off a couple times. It won’t be long now. They're running quality control on the big chair, I guess making sure it’s got enough power to snuff me out. Don’t wanna get halfway through the process and blow a fuse i suppose. I chuckle to myself at the thought, trying to put on a brave face for no one at all. I admit I’m scared but I also have to admit I deserve this.

My last meal has grown cold and the time has come. The cell block is quiet as the grave, pun intended. The very breaths of the other inmates with similar fates echo down the halls. The officers reach my cell and call to open it. It’s Randy and Murphy, they give me a half hearted smile and I return the kindness. The gate slides open and I stand and turn around to receive my metal bracelets for the last time. With my arms behind my back, I wait patiently. However there’s nothing. No cold clasps around my wrists, no shackles on my feet. “Come on guys I know you’re gonna miss me but don’t-” I say turning around to find my surroundings have completely changed. Randy and Murphy are gone and I’m in an all white room. The room is no bigger than my cell and the door is wide open. Light shines from the floor, the walls and the ceiling, it’s too bright to see comfortably and I quickly head to the open door. Immediately upon leaving the room the door rises from the floor and seals the room shut. I’m in a long white hall illuminated by small orbs along either side of the floor and ceiling. From top to bottom the hall is made up of some plexiglass like material, it's firm, smooth, sleek and cold to the touch. There are no windows, no sky light, and seemingly no end to this hallway. “What the fuck is this place?” Suddenly I long for my cell and crappy bed. “Welcome Thomas Simpson.” Says a strange voice that comes from all directions. My head spins on a swivel and I jump to place my back against the wall to ensure no one comes up from behind me. My fists are clenched and ready to swing at a moment's notice. “We mean you no harm, I assure you.” The voice says again. “Hey yo! Where the fuck am I?” I yell. There’s no answer. “Hey I know you can hear me asshole! What the fuck is this?” I bark trying to sound as threatening as possible when I'm actually scared shitless. In a split second the hall goes completely dark. I’m surrounded in the blackest of blacks so dark crayola couldn’t even come close. “Hello?” I ask. Again there is no reply. The hall is illuminated once again but only in the forward direction. Everything behind me remains shrouded in darkness. The small orbs near the floor begin to light in sequence to help guide me forward.

The path behind me quickly succumbs to the dark as I press forward. My heart is racing with every step and I can feel the tension building up inside me. “Please Thomas Simpson calm down, you’re almost there. Again we do not wish to hurt you.” The voice says. “Oh yea? Then what the fuck do you want? What is all of this, Huh? What do you want with me?” I yell, and foolishly wait for a reply. “Fine! You won’t talk! Well I ain’t taking another step til I get some answers” I plop down and take a seat on the plexiglass floor and fold my arms. Seconds feel like hours yet still the voice offers nothing. The lighted path laid out before me is systematically shut down sequentially and becomes engulfed in darkness. Now in the murky hallway I can feel the presence of someone else. My heart beats so hard I can hear my rib cage rattle in my chest. “Who’s there?” I ask quivering with every syllable. “I am called Zuma.” The voice says. I spring to my feet and stand southpaw ready to attack. The lights turn on once again and I stand in a state of terror.

An 8 foot tall massive sky blue creature stands before me. There are purple zebra stripes across its 350lb body with the exception of its head. Its skin looks moist and soft like a salamander’s. It stands on two legs on the knuckles of two finger-like toes with knees that bend opposite of any human. It has two small arms clinging close to its body while four much larger arms fold behind its back. Its face looks like a grasshoppers but with bright golden eyes and two purple lines streaming down the center of each eye. Despite its menacing appearance I truly believe that this thing isn’t here to hurt me.

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Thomas Simpson. Will you please accompany me to the laboratory.” It says and slowly begins making its way down the hall. My jaw drags across the floor. I’m in a complete stupor but I’m compelled to follow. “Excuse me sir- uh I mean if you’re a sir I don’t know how to tell what you are from whatever you are.” I say trying to be as polite as possible to something that can crush me like a bug. “I am Zuma, how can I assist you?” It says. “Zumba right! Got it. What is this place?” I ask while resisting the urge to touch him. “This is my ship.” Zuma says.

“Yea I get that but what am I doing here?” The giant creature stops in his tracks and turns to me staring those huge golden eyes in mine and says. “Because your Nindotrite went silent.” Then it continues to walk. Nintendo-trite? Is that supposed to mean something, like am I supposed to know what that means? I don’t dare interrupt again out of fear of sounding stupid and out of sheer fear. It isn’t long before we stop at a wall and Zuma places one of his smaller palms against the panel and a door is sucked into the floor.

The room we enter is as white as every other space I’ve seen on this ship. It has several counters with holographic displays and several shelves of containers of various liquids of different colors and shapes regardless of shape of the container. There are several cages of creatures beyond my wildest imagination. “Wow…” I say under my breath. Zuma quickly reaches beneath one of the counters and quickly shows me what he has retrieved. “This is your Nindotrite…” in the palms of the three fingered alien hands lies a little red eyed cicada. “This is a nin-thingie?” I ask.

“Indeed it is, and yours has gone silent.” Zuma responds.

“And that means what exactly? I mean these are loudest little noise makers on the planet so how did mine go mute.” I ask, poking at the little thing.

“Long ago when we first came upon your planet, we noticed your young intelligent species was full of potential. But the human species was violent, selfish, greedy, destructive, and corrupt. We placed Nindotrites on your planet to alert us when humans have put those things behind them and would be ready to receive the knowledge we can bestow upon them.”

“Oh so their sound is calling you guys to come back?”

“No Thomas Simpson, their cries are telling us to stay away. Our cures would only be sold to those who could afford it while the rest suffered. Our technology would surely be made into a weapon. It’s a chance we cannot take.”

His words are definitely true though I hate to admit it. I offer no rebuttal but continue to listen. “After studying your species we have learned that a human takes 18 Earth cycles to go from larvae to adult. So Nindotrites sleep for 18 years hoping to awake and find adults who are better than the ones before them. Yet time after we have heard their cries of disappointment and we have kept our distance. Each round of Nindotrites warns us that humans have grown more destructive and more hateful. Tell me Thomas Simpson, is it natural for your species to harbor so much hatred?” Zuma taps one of his tiny fingers on the countertop and images of war, genocide, racism, fights, and hatred flood every space in the room. Thousands upon thousands of documented hatred flash in a matter of seconds. I had never really thought about any of that until now but looking at my orange jumpsuit just proves his point.

“I dunno man, I just work here…” A phrase I’ve said often when I don’t have any answers.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Zuma says placing his big insect face inches from my own.

“I mean we’re not all bad.” I say reluctantly.

“Right. You are an exception your Nindotrite doesn’t weep.” I don’t know how I can tell but Zuma is smiling at me. I look at the tiny cicada and its big red eyes stare back at my orange jumpsuit. This bug should be screaming for days just looking at the man I’ve become. Clearly this bug is defective. I mean I’m on death row!

Zuma turns to me once more and says “After all this time we finally found a human who is honest, selfless, caring, giving and nonviolent, surely there will be others. Maybe in another 18 cycles!” The big blue praying mantis rambles on and on and all I can think about is how I just dodged the death penalty. I’m nothing that they’re looking for but if it keeps me alive then sure I’ll be whatever they say I am.

“Yep, that's me! The good guy, honest and true and everything else you said. So uh what happens now?”

Zuma crushes the small cicada in his hands and flicks the remains at my feet. “So it’s true…” he says. His other four muscular arms come down from his back and pulsate at his side. His golden orb eyes turn blood red in an instant and this is the first time I’ve ever felt like I was in danger. “So the human race hasn’t changed at all. Still full of deceit and selfish whims!” He says, while scolding me with arms that can snap me like a twig. Surely you are aware of your behavior and you knew I was in error yet you say to the contrary.”

“Well I mean what did you expect me to do, they were going to kill me!” I scream.

“As they rightfully should! This further proves why your species is an abomination to the cosmos. Thank you Thomas Simpson for being a part of this quality control experiment. We couldn’t believe that your species had become so egregious that we had to come and test if the Nindotrites were malfunctioning. But your willingness to lie to save yourself whilst being fully deserving of your punishment tells us everything we need to know.”

“Wait!” I scream.

“Come on now Tommy, we don’t want to do this no more than you do. But it’s time.” Ralph says placing the handcuffs on my wrists. I’m back in my cell and a crushed cicada lay at my feet.

The cicada’s cry bellows in through the cell block as I’m strapped into the chair. “Do you have any last words?” The warden asks. I can think of nothing more fitting than “I hope one day the cicadas will wake and have no reason to cry.” The light flickers on and off throughout the cell block and one less cicada cries tonight.

-End

psychological

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    KBWritten by Kenneth Boutte

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