Suzi Cicada was the first one awake. Maybe she misread her clock. Maybe it was the excitement. She wasn’t sure. She didn’t know.
On this day in particular, she didn’t know that getting up early might be a fatal mistake.
Suzi wobbled and stared into the morning dark. She felt different. This was strange. For almost 17 years, Suzi had not cared for anything other than sipping sap from a nearby tree root. Today, she felt energized.
Like her many brothers and sisters, Suzi had dug deep into the soil one early summer’s day and never looked back. She was one foot underground. Her life, day in and day out, repeated the same cycle – suck sap, sleep, repeat. On a few exciting days, she would shed her exoskeleton, her exuviae, as she grew bigger, but even that became routine after the first two times because all insects do that. She rarely sensed much of any other life underground. Her whole existence was boring, dull. Nothing changed. Ever.
Until it did.
At first, Suzi just felt sort of itchy, somewhat prickly. She had been content to stay in one spot, but now she wanted to shuffle her six feet and pull her chunky body forward. She crawled up a root, thinking all she really wanted was a new root to sip. She started to feel a warmth coming from one particular direction, an odd, new sensation, and she slowly straggled towards it.
Moving through dense soil, though refreshingly new, was exhausting. Her sharp feet could clasp onto bits of soil but were no help pushing through rock. Rocks meant detours, and detours meant – Thunk! She hit her head on a thick root, forcing her to zig and zag for better passage. She sometimes found loose soil, or even -– hooray — a tunnel kindly left by an earthworm. And then another immovable object. The journey was taking days. Suzi was losing the glow of this adventure, but something drove her forward. She didn’t know what. She dreamed each night of one echoing refrain. “Soon!”
Suzi remained energized by the pull of that warmth above her. No one and nothing pushed her on but herself and that new, intoxicating, itchy feeling. She woke one morning realizing that something else was new. She was not hungry. Since she had begun her climb, she had not wanted to eat.
No food, and the echo of dreams telling her “soon.” “Soon for what?,” thought Suzi. She felt no need to ask aloud, for there was no one to hear her. The warmth above lured her upward, but she passed no one. Suzi sighed. She would learn what “soon” meant soon enough. Chuckling at her wit, she neglected to watch her footing. The ground gave way. Suzi tumbled with crumbs of soil bouncing alongside headlong into a pit. She felt a wet smack across her face.
Author Suzanne Holland is the Visitor Center Manager at Hidden Oaks Nature Center, which is home to lots and lots of cicadas!