Colony comes to awareness at the time that is numbered six. They take out the skin they have kept in the cold, dry room, and slip it over their beautiful shape, the millions of legs and mandibles and countless eyes. Pinching the skin tight with hair and claw, Colony takes the shape of a naked ape. Colony puts on the wig of useless hairs (they can’t sense a single thing!), the dentures, and the contacts in the shape of single eyes. They hope their human disguise is pleasing, because they have a date tonight.
Hello. I smelled with the five fingers of my dominant limb that you engaged in the same motion.
Omg! I have five fingers on my dominant limb 2!
You have two dominant limbs? Impressive.
Lol you’re rly funny. Do u wanna meet up? I already ate so u don’t have to worry about being eaten ;^)
How excellent. I have over a year of lifespan left, and my digestion system is functional, so I would rather not be eaten after mating.
Ya, I understand. Dinner @ Applebee’s?
A very discerning choice. I enjoy the association of apples with bees.
Colony is nearly out the door of their nest before they realize they forgot to put on any clothes. They choose an outfit in the soothing browns and whites of bird shit over fall leaves. The colors will surely not arouse a predatory reaction. Colony maneuvers the skin suit into the screaming transport beast and feeds it the green leaves of propitiation.
Applebee’s is an appropriate place for eating. Colony senses the presence of Octavia; she, for that was what it said in her profile, has an exoskeleton with the expected amount of limbs. Octavia waves the dominant one at Colony before baring her chewing parts.
To set a romantic mood, Colony replicates the ‘high five’ gesture with her. Octavia makes a grinding noise that indicates acceptance of Colony. They have difficulty getting into the chair, and instead sit on the table.
“Hi, Hex,” Octavia vocalizes. “I’m happy that you like Applebee’s. Other humans keep telling me the food tastes like shit.”
“I have never masticated here before,” Colony replies, “but I am sure the food is not poisoned.”
“Right! Plus, I’ve never needed to puke it up and re-digest it afterwards.”
The worker arrives to take their food request. Octavia asks for tomato soup with extra straws. Colony points to the first menu item.
“Spinach and artichoke dip, got it,” the worker says. “Do you want an entrée or drink with that?”
“No, I’m sure there’s adequate liquid.”
Slowly, the worker moves its head. “Um, is there something wrong with the chair? It’s OK to sit down.”
“I should sit down, shouldn’t I? That’s what people do at Applebee’s.”
Colony slides off, expertly staying upright on a mere two limbs. But the food worker’s eyes are focused on Colony’s nearest limb. Looking down, Colony sees that a fork is stuck in Colony’s lower clothes, puncturing them and part of the skin suit. Colony is unaware of the correct way to remove the fork, so they decide to pretend it isn’t there as they sit.
To Colony’s surprise, after a few strange vocalizations, the worker promises to come back with their food and retreats.
“They don’t vomit the food onto the table here?” Colony asks.
“That’s the only thing I don’t like about Applebee’s.”
With the worker gone, Colony and Octavia are left to make conversation. Colony’s pheromones are aflutter; Octavia seems like the first person to really understand them since their decision to eat a human from the inside and make a suit from their skin.
“Do you find,” Colony says, shyly stuffing a corner of napkin into their mouth, “that your skin gets too loose in humidity?”
“Oh my god! Yes!” Octavia displays her chewing parts again. “And then you have to carefully desiccate it, and if you ruin the skin, then you have to go and devour—I mean, buy another one at the human clothes store.”
“It’s good not to be alone with skin problems. I wish I could just molt, like insects do.”
Caught up in comparing the moltings of insects and spiders, Octavia and Colony miss the approach of the worker. It drops off the soup and chips, along with four straws for Octavia. She takes the straws and puts all of them in the soup, slurping up the red liquid.
Colony is uncertain of how to eat the chips. They take the fork out of their lower limb and finely mash up the chips with the dip, until it resembles something suitable for mastication. The feasting humans Colony observes eat the chips with their hands, but Colony is nervous that they will use the wrong fingers. Instead, Colony does what feels right and shoves their head into the plate. The chips taste deliciously like trash.
After Colony and Octavia have both licked their food containers clean, the worker reappears with a strip of thin tree bark.
“Thanks for coming,” says the worker.
Two spiders dart over Octavia’s eyes. “You too,” Octavia replies, covering the bark with green leaves and giving it back to the worker. She swivels her head back to Colony, and whispers huskily, “I have a seasonal amount of unfertilized eggs.”
Colony inhales through millions of pores. “I, too, have a seasonal amount of unfertilized eggs.”
“Come back to my nest with me,” Octavia says.
Colony should be wary of the offer—although Octavia had promised not to eat them, and ingested a rich meal of tomato soup besides, that does not mean Colony is entirely safe. But then the skin of Octavia’s throat trembles, like something filled with larvae, and Colony cannot resist.
Octavia’s nest seems to be a normal human dwelling, though there is a strange smell. It is dry and good, familiar and yet tinged by the sense Colony ought to skitter away. Octavia invites Colony to the bedroom.
Will Colony do the human sex right? Colony crashes their mouthparts into Octavia’s, just like in the films. They must be doing it right, because Octavia’s skin feels alive, pulsing under Colony’s ten fingers. Octavia unzips her clothes sack and it drops to the floor, baring her underclothes to Colony’s pheromonal delight.
“Pay no attention to the spiders coming out of my nipples,” says Octavia. Just as she says it, a tarantula’s leg pokes out of her bra.
Millions of penises within Colony engorge. “That’s fine.”
Colony struggles with their clothes. There are too many parts, and Colony is so clumsy with fingers. As they try to take off their pants, they accidentally catch the skin suit with their nails. Frantic, Colony tries to shed their nails, but instead they rip off part of their disguise, exposing most of their lower half.
Octavia, seeing Colony’s groin come alive with thousands of insects, vibrates. “Oh, thank God,” she exclaims. “Me too.”
She erupts into spiders.