Roger hated children. He hated the way they smelled, their loudness, their stickiness, their carelessness, the way their prying hands would crush a carefully preserved insect specimen, and the way that their mixture of tears and snot would drip onto lab notes. Children were demanding, clingy, and had to be cared for. Insects were much more straightforward: if one annoyed them they stung or bit, but for the most part were content to take care of themselves. Roger rather preferred insects.
When Quillsh first started the orphanage, Roger pointed all these things out to him. Quillsh just laughed and said that genius children like L would be different, Roger would see eventually. Roger was certain that the only difference he would see was that genius children would be more creative in their methods of annoying him.
At first, L did not seem much different from other children of his age: he ate, he pooped, and he screamed. Occasionally he slept. And then he screamed some more when any of his basic necessities needed to be fulfilled. As if having his basic needs fulfilled wasn’t enough, the child somehow coerced Quillsh into holding him on his lap for long periods of time.
“You’ll spoil that boy, Quillsh,” Roger said.
L stared back at Roger with large black eyes and a constantly moving mouth that chewed on the donut that he held protectively with one hand, while his other possessively grasped Quilllsh’s shirt.
Quillsh just laughed indulgently and stroked the fuzzy black mess on the top of L’s head that passed for hair as he explained the virtues of giving special attention to a developing genius.
Developing was right. Roger just wasn’t sure exactly what L was developing in to. The more he thought about it the more he became convinced that L wasn’t entirely human.
Yes, with his abnormally pale skin, and slightly curved spine, L vaguely resembled a scarab beetle grub, the kind one could find when digging up the lawn or tree roots. There it would be: jaws gnashing, pale flaccid body writhing when disturbed, greedily sucking the juices from plant roots.
By the end of the week Roger had the child classified: L lawliet, Family: Scarabaeidae.
Quillsh was not amused.
As time went on Roger decided that perhaps he had been mistaken in his initial assessment of the boy. Scarab beetles were not nearly as needy or demanding or persistent as L.
No, L was something else entirely. The way he clung and fed and ate seemed vaguely parasitic. His behavior towards Quilllsh (or any adult in a position of power who happened to be in the vicinity) was reminiscent of a bot fly larva. Quillsh had gotten an infestation once during one of their trips to South America, and Roger had been horribly jealous. A bot fly infestation was a source of pride for an entomologist, and Quillsh had gone and gotten himself infested with two, the selfish bastard. Maybe Quillsh was just softer and more predisposed to parasitic infestations of both insect and human origin.
Roger had removed the larvae after coaxing them to the surface of Quillsh’s skin, and he still had a pair of the fat white spiny larvae preserved in a vial of ethanol. Like the larva, L would orient himself towards his prey, instinctively seeking the warm body of the host that would provide him with sustenance. The larvae would wriggle and burrow in, rows of black spiny hairs digging in and tearing flesh as he became established. He would also wake Quillsh at odd hours of the night, just as the burning pain from the bot fly larvae had. The only difference was that Quillsh did not wish to rid himself of the infestation known as L.
Quillsh was even less amused by Roger’s second observation.
As more time passed, and L developed more, Roger stood by his first two observations. If L was an insect, he most certainly was a solitary one. He did not resemble a social insect like the honey bees, happily buzzing, and who would die without contact with their own kind. On the contrary, he seemed to thrive in solitude. He was intelligent, abnormally so, and gradually withdrew from human contact, barricading himself off in his room to solve cases and hoarding sweets.
One evening when Quillsh had been gone for a number of days, Roger observed L scuttle to the kitchen in search of sweets, and then retreat back to his room when he obtained them, avoiding the light as he slunk back through the hallway. With that and his long spindly arms and legs, and the way he slowly licked his appendages with his own tongue, but suspiciously avoided any outside source of germs, he rather reminded Roger of a cockroach. Like the insect he was ugly yet surprisingly quick and graceful.
Several years later, Roger thought back to that moment, and mused that it was a pity L hadn’t been as hardy and difficult to kill as an insect.
And Quillsh was not around to give a damn.