Green They Were, and Golden-Eyed
by e. catherine tobler


He had no name and supposed that neither did she, for such was the way of their kind, but from the moment he first tumbled down the length of dead twig, to know the brush of his wing against the coral edge of hers, he may as well have been called Fool, for she was Love, and he was enthralled.

If only the doctor would shake the twig again.

With gleaming, buttery eyes, Fool looked from where he perched — for his place was the tip of the twig, the broomed edge which had been broken by lightning and which still bore a tang of metal to it — to seek her color amid those of their companions. Together they formed an intricate blossom along this dead wood, a blossom with assigned seating for each of its petals; a blossom which was not meant to become smitten with another part of itself.

They all looked alike, came the complaint of one visitor to the doctor's lab. Fool had only shuddered at the notion. They certainly did not look alike, nor did they smell alike when one got right down to it. He prided himself on the hint of lightning he carried with him. His neighbor told him it did nothing for him, really — that stench of brimstone! — but Fool cared not.

Love looked like no other in their grouping, of this Fool was certain. Her wings were the most delicate he had seen, edged with a thin line of coral that had surely been drawn by the smallest paintbrush known to the world.

And her filamentous arista... Well. He supposed one did not think overly long on such things, being that he could not presently reach her for further explorations.

Instinct, he decided, was a terrible thing. While he longed to crawl down to her and confess his heart, instinct told him to stay where he was, for surely when he moved the birds would have at him. Never mind that he and his companions occupied a forest without birds. Theirs was an artificial world, built by the doctor's own hands. No birds, no threats, yet still he could not willingly move his legs from their perch.

In frustration, he oozed a stench to keep birds at bay.

Days would pass like this. Days where Fool supposed he should be occupied with hunting for food. Yet, he had no need, for the air around him dripped with sweetness from the aphids and ants who passed overhead, shadow forms skittering across branches and vines. This sugar-sweet rain fueled thoughts of Love, of the way the coral dripped over the edge of her wing, to the underside where he could not see.

He vowed he would.

As if some divine maker watched over him, later days brought to their forest the doctor and a colleague. Fool had little interest in them beyond their hands, for hands could claim twigs and shake them. Hands could cause a storm of fluttering planthoppers. Fool pined for those hands.

Those hands moved on.

Fool sank onto the twig tip.

His neighbor didn't miss the opportunity to tell him exactly how foolish Fool was being. Straining only lead to weakened legs, legs that could not perch as they needed. He had chosen his name well then, he supposed.

He peered down the length of twig and—

Her eyes were like the sunrise. The most stunning hue of gold greeted him and made him feel the need to stretch his wings into that light, but—

She was looking at him.

Fool did not move. He grit his antennae together and tried to force his legs off their perch, but still they clung. Instinct held him tight. When he looked back down, her eyes were no longer upon him, or if they were, he could not see; her entire face was covered by the stretching wing of her topmost neighbor. He sagged against the twig.

Idiot, his neighbor said.

To that, Fool could only agree.

Three days later, the forest fell apart.

Fool was minding his own business if with some difficulty, determined not to look down at Love. She would be there, he knew, but was she looking at him? Of all the stupid things to wonder.

He perched, being the best blossom tip he knew how to be, his compact green body poised, antennae stretching up as far as they could, and then—

The forest fell apart. It had never happened before, so Fool could not explain it in better terms than this. Surely, their twig had been shaken before, usually to demonstrate the way their flower might fall apart and reassemble, but this was unlike that.

The dead twig fell from its stand, into the undergrowth that filled the display. Every one of his companions tumbled free and Fool, in free fall, shrieked. His wings fluttered, and his legs flailed in a desperate attempt to maintain his hold on the twig. But the twig was gone and Fool panicked.

Idiot, said his neighbor as they plunged.

Fool fluttered down, down, into the narrowing mouth of another plant, sweet with nectar and warmly colored in magenta. He tried to grab hold but in his panic could not, and landed with a glub-glub in the wetness that pooled in the plant's belly.


Fool struggled to upright himself in the plant pond, dripping in nectar and who knew how many already-dissolved bodies. His mouth gaped open in a silent scream and he reached for the side of the pitcher. Then—

The edge of Love's wing stroked past his own.

Love had fallen!


He stared at her as her slick legs moved over him, seeking purchase. The pitcher ceased to matter for Fool and there was only her, only the gold ommatidia of her wide compound eyes and the heady loam scent of her. Her wings were delicately ribbed to look like leaves — spring leaves, these, dripping with coral on their edge.

Fool, she said.

And she knew his name!

Love, he said.

Her slick tarsus poked him in the eye. Fool flinched, but withstood it as she tried to climb up. She could find no footholds along the slick wall of the pitcher plant and, exhausted, she slipped down. Fool spread his wings wide to keep her above the level of liquid in the pitcher's belly.

Instinct called him upward. His place was not at the bottom, but the top. He craned to get a look up the long neck of the pitcher, and thought it hopeless, but then...


Fool looked at the pond, counting how many had fallen into this trap. Of course, he didn't understand numbers or math or that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line — what was a straight line in a world of softly rounded coral wings? But an idea still rose in his small mind, once he pushed thoughts of Love to the side and tried not to focus on the way her body draped his own. A glance told him that yes, yes, the coral line on her wing did slide completely underneath.

Idiot, his neighbor said.

Idiot perhaps, but Fool guided his companions, insisting they form a chain as instinct commanded them to. It did not matter that their dead twig was lost. He was the tip of this blossom and its other parts would assemble! Slowly, they heeded instinct's call, dripping water and nectar as they went, slipping and sliding and generally looking like a small coral and green avalanche as they worked.

Fool had no idea how long it took, for the walls of the pitcher were slick and unlike any twig they had known. Many perished in the struggle, bobbing in the pool below, dead for the sake of Love. When finished, they did not resemble a flower so much as a chain, reaching ever upward. Love made to move from his wings, but sticky nectar held her firm.

Love, he said, and began the long climb upward to the tip of the pitcher.

Fool, she said.

He slipped and he stumbled and once they fell back into the pool with a glub-glub, but Love held tight and Fool carried her onward. Ever up.

On the lip of the pitcher, they toppled. Drained, they plunged headlong to the forest floor, where everything was new and strange yet again. Fool could only lay there, staring in a daze at the distant sky above them.

Then, Love's tarsus slid over his eye, up along his antennae, and her fluttering coral wings covered him, and for a long time, this was all he knew. She tasted like sweet nectar, she tasted like death narrowly escaped; she was neither warm nor cold, she was everywhere all at once. She was the moon and she was the sun and she was—

Scampering away.


Fool, she said.

Idiot, said his neighbor, who shuffled along after Love. Fool supposed that all things considered, he was fortunate he had not been eaten. He picked himself up and scuttled after the pair, seeing in the distance what they likely saw. A dead twig!

The twig was covered with their companions already, each trying to slide into the place they belonged. Vari-coloreds together and corals together and all those in between, so that at long last the blossom would shiver into being yet again. And he the tip! The green and gleaming tip.

Fool picked his way over his companions, pausing beside Love; Love who looked at him with those golden eyes, dipped an antennae, then curled into her proper place. Instinct, he thought, and couldn't help but walk his way over everyone to the tip of the twig, smelling ever of sulfur. He settled there and exhaled. He looked down the length of the twig and oh, she was looking at him.

Love, he thought.

Fool, she thought.

The twig never returned to its upright position. Fool never saw the doctor's hands again. He could not explain this, though he wished to, especially when he saw his children borne of Love. Their vari-colored children, swarming in a mass that threatened to overtake the entire twig.

Their own companions, as did happen, had long since mated and died, and when Love also succumbed to this fate, Fool knew his days were likewise short.

Amid the children, there was one wholly green, and Fool smiled to look upon her. She had her mother's golden eyes and her father's instinct, for she climbed up and up and up, and when Fool perished, it was she who clung to the tip, she who breathed in the scent of sulfur, stretched her antennae, and dared look down from whence she came.

She met an emerald gaze and knew he looked like no other among their companions. Though she had no name, she may well as have been called Smitten, for he was Lust and she was enthralled.


Green They Were, And Golden-eyed © 2012 E. Catherine Tobler