This article is part of the The Reificant series.



I AM again.

Thought into being. Manifested like morning's frost.

The golden fire of my inner being spreads to new flesh. It motivates new limbs.

Before you now as this luminous husk, forever as you will be, doomed as you will be.

To warn. To recall.

I remember...

I AM prisoner of the many surrounding me. Weaklings. Traitors. Their numbers carry me from the depths of the traitor queen's spire.

The sky above is smoke and storm pulsing with the crackle of violet lightning. Distant mountains split with fire. I take wing, drunk on the pheromones of my enemy. I rise above the press of workers and warriors. I cleave my freedom from their fragile bodies.

Higher. Above the stench of TREASON. Beneath the rolling smoke. Battle is above. I can feel it in my lymph. Burning foes plummet through the umbral ceiling by twos and threes, in whole and in pieces. They light this world like dropped candles in a darkened chamber, landing among the teeming masses that fill the boulevard.

My wings trail smoke as I beat through the haze of mountain's fire. I must know. I must confirm what I fear. My QUEEN...

War is the assertion of two realities that cannot coexist. War without victory is madness. The last of my QUEEN's swarm is in disarray. The marshals are dead. Confused by the abundance of enemy pheromones, the scattered survivors are retreating to the great spire. I can see it looming in the distant haze. A shadow redoubt.

The enemy is not in coherent pursuit. They battle one another or find combat with small, black-winged creatures I do not recognize. These beasts are an annoyance to me. I swat them away and split open their screeching bodies. To the lesser warriors they are a danger. I watch as the pale body of an enemy is caught up in a whirlwind of snapping jaws and flapping wings. The panicked song of its quills ends abruptly. Its spiracles whistle with the pain of its death.

The closer I fly to the great spire and do not scent my QUEEN, the greater my fear. Without the beacon of her pheromones, my lesser brothers collide with one another or with the upper levels of the spire. They fall in tangled groups and leave smears of softness upon the once-pristine stone. The spire quivers from the movement of the earth.

My QUEEN is silent. Her odor is like dust upon the floor. Her spire is violated. Her chamber crawls with the lounging grotesques of the traitor's guards. Their abdomens are distended. Their segments bulge. Some wriggle upon the floor. Some amble slowly among the comb, seizing the soft bodies of the young and devouring them.

TREASON must be answered with VIOLENCE. There is no great pleasure to this task. The foe is languid and unconcerned. I dash their heads upon the decorative stones. I spill their softness into the comb. They roll about like disobedient workers drunk on the honey of the secretors. Their quills mock me with laughter at their own deaths. I disarticulate their limbs. I crush the hemispheres of their eyes.

My QUEEN is dead. Her beauty is scattered and befouled. Her split extravagance is host to the vilest of these traitors. They lie in her hollowed shell, bathed in lymph, gnawing the last, hanging scraps of her meat. Such is the violence I inflict upon them that I cannot even recall it clearly. I am only violence. There is no mind to it.

Her last brood is dead. Her winnowers helplessly slaughtered. Her jelly eaten. No new queen can be nurtured to take her place. Though it yet stands, my spire is at its end.

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