When I first arrived at the mainland, I hardly got the chance to spend a moment alone. Every night the locals would seek me out to share moonshine and fresh caught fish with me. They even appeared at my hotel room door – although the door was more of a curtain. Luckily for my research, they were happy to share a cavalcade of bizarre stories. Of fish that carried demons in their blood, ready to swim into your own veins after a touch. Of spirits that lived in the rocks, their movement across the islands only known because of the footprints and fingerprints left on rocks and flowers. (I have yet to see any of these).
One unusually grizzled gentleman, with a beard curled around his arthritic fingers, spoke of ‘animals within animals’ and ‘souls within souls’. He claimed that such beings were proof of a fiendish history to the islands. I attempted to explain that an animal within an animal is not such an unusual concept, after all, what else is pregnancy? He seemed to find my explanation laughable, and insisted that if I dared to venture onto the islands I would see, and be forever damaged by seeing.
Perhaps it is my contrary nature, but I felt a small frisson of pleasurable defiance this morning, when I discovered this innocent beetle, manifesting the very animal-within-animal situation that had caused the gentleman such distress. From my first glance, my curiosity was piqued by the small lumps in the shell on its back.
I watched the beetle for some time, and saw the lumps grow in size, protruding further. It was dusk when finally the eyes appeared, one set to each protrusion. And then it was in the darkness, lit only by my torch, that the offspring (because of course that is what they are) began to pop, one by one from the beetle’s back. I assume this is a method of protecting the young. Once the ‘birthing’ has occurred, the mother beetle is left vulnerable, with a number of holes in her shell. It wasn’t long before a bird had swooped down to suck the beetle’s innards through one of the holes.
Naturally I have not been damaged by this observation, merely fascinated.
As a side note, there is still no sign that the islands might drop into the sea. Although I still pump up my flotation device each night before I go to sleep.