Guardian

Edited by Julia Rios

January 2019

Listen to this short story, narrated by C.S.E. Cooney:


After the darkness comes the light. And with the light come the littlings.

Far down below, scurrying and numerous, over Sitka’s knotty toes they clamber and swarm. As always, they have their tiny stings out, flashing away at its feet. For all their flimsiness, littlings are dangerous parasites. They have been known to sting the unwary till they fall, and then to dismember them and carry them away. Time and again they have cut their way through the living, a plague carving a path of cadavers as it advances.

Until they come to Sitka, and here their journey always ends. For in their weakness they cannot kill Sitka, and in their greed they cannot pass it by. That is why Sitka stands here. And will keep standing here until the end.

It has been only two rests since they were last here, but two rests is generations aplenty for the littlings, who measure their time in moments. They have already forgotten their last visit, for their seed carries no memories and the only ones they will ever have are their own.

They squeak at each other, communicating, but their voices are light, weak, and easily lost. Sitka can hear them hum, but it cannot understand them. They cluster at Sitka’s feet, closer and closer, trying their best to drive their stings through its skin. Sitka cannot see them, but now it can feel them.

Sitka sighs, and lets fall a mossy limb. It lands among the littlings, sending them scurrying and scattering away in all directions. Another bearded finger down and now they scurry no more, and lie as they were, their insides slowly watering the forest floor. Soon they will rot, and be food for Sitka’s children, and the woods will grow even greener and thicker. For a while at least, and hopefully the littlings will not stay away for too long this time, for there are ever so many young ones now, and not always enough food to go around. But for now they have been fed, and all is well.

Sitka rests again.

© 2019 Shiv Ramdas

About the author

Shiv Ramdas is an Indian writer and reader of science fiction, fantasy and everything in between, including a dystopian cyberpunk novel, Domechild (Penguin, 2013) and a novelette, “Balloon Man” (Giganotosaurus, June 2018). He is a graduate of the 2016 Clarion West Writers Workshop.

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