Some instances must be considered stand-alone moments.
Night settled with a slight chill, and Albuquerque’s adobe buildings still held heat like stone warmed by a doused fire. I sat upright in bed, reading by lamplight an article about a plutonium vault in southern New Mexico that would outlast our society. Scientists, historians, and science fiction writers had assembled to determine a warning for the site, something that would convey meaning through 500 generations of linguistic change, a symbol that could caution robotic slaves or extraterrestrials or intelligent cockroaches.
As I read the wind stilled, and I heard cockroaches swarming my compost pile outside, the rustling of their hard skeletons through my food waste. Between the quiet turning of pages I heard a closer scratching, a sound not unlike the breaking of a bleached and fragile eggshell. The immediate proximity of the sound diverted my gaze. On the opposite side of the room a cockroach had burrowed through the wall, half of his body extruding. His front legs braced and pushed against the whitewash that lined the interior of my adobe home.
“Roach,” I exclaimed and cast a finger to the dark window, “be gone.”
The roach flexed its antennae but did not retreat. He had made such great progress tunneling through the compact sand, clay and straw wall, willed onward by the pheromone trace of others, following new and ancient trails. A spined front leg pressed the wall; he was pleading with me.
By Amaris Ketcham, from Sacred Fire
Reprinted in Utne Reader, July/August 2012