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The Fire Beetles

It started with the children.   Every night you could hear the fire beetles buzzing as they approached the villages. A cluster of them might land on the thatched roof of your house and spend the night there buzzing contently or they'd dance down the streets flittering from window to window watching us tuck in for the day. Most of them would instead head for the center of the town, towards the great fire pits that held the flames of Guatu. They would skitter around it in small groups nipping at the flames. You could see their bright yellow bellies glowing as they stole bits from the flame. The bolder ones would stumble into the fire, crinkling up before popping and launching a burst of fire into the air and sending the children around it running and laughing. If it ever seemed like the fire was ever losing strength because of the beetles nipping away at it, the elders would come in and shoo them away.   The first ones came during the night. A single beetle would dance before a lonely child who had lost his way home or had run away from teasing friends. It's strange blue glow leading the child down empty trails, for the child had never seen anything like it before. It's new friend led it deeper and deeper into the brush, in the paradise around Mount Guatu there was very little to fear and the eerie blue light hypnotized the poor thing. Suddenly the light would blink out, leaving the child alone in the dark jungle. Then the buzzing began. Barely visible even in moonlight, the sleek black bodies of hundreds of beetles would appear from the trees, their bellies empty of light or warmth. They would swarm in buzzing angrily, surrounding the child till it disappeared in a mass quivering wings, pincers and antennae. Most never had the chance scream, their breaths stolen away by the beetles before they could.   Since then, everyone flees when the buzzing begins. No one dances around the flames anymore. They all hide in their houses pray for Guatu to save them.

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