Chris tried to soothe Suzi, but there was not much he could do, and Suzi could not hold back her tears. Some cicadas stopped, and she did her best to share her experience, to retell the stories shared by Sam, and to convince the others to be patient. She left out the part about living only a few weeks as an adult. Why make them more anxious?
Days passed, and more cicadas popped through the soil. Some left, but many more stayed back now that more cicada larvae were joining the chorus. Ben left to help his parents feed his family’s newest hatchlings. Suzi kept everyone’s spirits high by exploring the tunnels in the log. Follow the Leader was the favorite game. Simon Says got too complicated since there was no place for those who were “out” to wait. Also, being “out” sounded like being outside, and that made the cicadas uncomfortable. Suzy made a new friend, Cecil, who loved playing games as much as she did. Then came the sound.
One warm afternoon, Suzi and her friends heard a new sound, a loud whirring from high in the forest. Suzi shouted, “The time is now! Let’s go. Remember, climb out and up. Our next adventure awaits!”
The cicadas crawled out from the log and up the nearest tree. Some went high, some went low. Soon, each stopped. Suzi grabbed and clawed until she could not force herself to take one more step. Something was happening to her. Thoroughly confused, she realized that her feet were gripping the surface of the tree. The sensation of bursting reached a breaking point. Literally. She felt the strangest sensation. Her back felt tight, and then came a cool relief.
Suzi realized she now could move, but in a different way. She wiggled. She squiggled. Her body pulled away from her exoskeleton. She felt wet and soft, not hard and crunchy. Slipping one leg out after another, she crawled over her old outsides and stepped up higher on the tree. She had left her body behind. At least, it looked like that. Suzi was tired, drained.
Suzi stayed still. Near her, she noticed creamy-colored insects with big red eyes and soft green wings. Looking around she saw other insects of similar shape, but they were black with clear wings. They all had those frightening red eyes!
“Hey!,” the closest creamy insect whispered, “Suzi, is that you? It’s Cecil, your buddy. What happened to you? Why are your eyes so red? Are you crying again?”
“Cecil!” murmured Suzi, “You’ve changed! Your eyes are so big and red, too! And you have wings! I think this is what Sam said would happen. We’re adults, just like Benjamin changed when he came out of his cocoon.“
She remembered Sam’s warning to blend into the crowd, so she stayed as still as possible. As night breezes stirred, Suzi fell asleep. When she woke, she saw the light of day peeking from behind hazy, pink clouds. She looked around to see empty, paper-thin, tan shells like the one she had left behind. She glanced at Cecil and saw that he was now dark black with clear wings.
“Is that still you, Cecil?’, she asked in hushed tones. “You keep changing.”
“You’ve changed again, too! You don’t look at all soft. In fact, you look rather fierce,” replied Cecil. They both were hungry now and took a moment to poke their mouth part into the tree and sip. Refreshed, Cecil flexed his wings. “These look as if they may work! Ready to take a leap?” Off Cecil flew! Well, not flew exactly. Off Cecil tumbled! He could not seem to keep his balance in the air. He darted this way, and bounced off a tree that way, and landed with an “oomph” on the ground.
Suzi watched as Cecil slowly crawled back up the tree to start over. Smugly, Suzi knew that her patience would pay off. She would concentrate and aim for a tree across the way. One, two, three. Jump!
Author Suzanne Holland is the Visitor Center Manager of Hidden Oaks Nature Center, which is home to lots and lots of cicadas!