To Kiss the World Through a Veil of Lead


It all starts slowly, from a distance. You see your first consort, acknowledge it. The secretions that drip from its upper body are a clear sign of its intents; the colour specifies the number of companions it needs. You now know it needs many. You wait, patiently: you are fed and rested, there is no rush. You circle your mate and both of you screech a loving whisper that propagates in wide solid-matter-piercing waves.

Eventually your calls are reciprocated. Others join. You are ready. You and your mates. The circles you make in the dirt spiral inward. You eye one another with care and suspicion; each movement warrants a calculated response. A squinting of an eye, a flutter of a limb, cilia changing the texture of one's surface. A false move, a misinterpreted sign carries danger and excitement: an exposed cavity is an invitation or a feint; it might be reciprocated with a soft touch or a gashing wound.

Your secretions mix with dirt; limbs now brush against each other as the spiral tightens. Movement becomes ever harder, ever more dangerous. Tactical action becomes paramount. This joyless game is now inescapable.

You plan your gestures. Manoeuvre to one side, a step backwards. Cilia in rhombic patterns cover you, then change to circular, then shift so light is absorbed instead of reflected. Wait. Analyse the movements on your vicinity. Lower your body, wrap yourself in the wet dirt, soak up the multicoloured humours. Others start to mimic you. The climax; the climax is close.

A silence hovers around the frozen spiral of bodies. A dialogue of swift slurps starts; answers slowly take increasingly more time to be formulated. Silence dawns on you — the only sound is the crumbling of crushed carapaces.

You all capitulate together, exhausted. It is over.