Oh, how your consumerism pulled the teeth from we scarecrows. Made us not only harmless, but also not even frightening—our purpose no longer to guard crops, but to decorate suburban lawns. You gave us screen-printed smiling expressions for charming your neighbors.
So none of you knew what to think when the face of every scarecrow the world over went blank.
Life for everyone changed forever the day my teeth broke your skin.
But it was bite, or be bitten.
And your bite had the power to make me one of you. A rotting, shambling corpse. Someone else’s teeth had already transmitted a curse to you. A curse which drove you to pay it forward when you’d cornered me in that storage shed.
The plot of Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace asks what unfinished business might make effectively a superhero unable to find peace and pass on. Wasp, a desperately lonely archivist of ghost behavior, is tasked with finding out what happened to the world long ago from any ghost that might talk to her, in addition to fighting upstarts each year who want to take her life and her place.
But she meets the dangerous, unnamed ghost of a supersoldier on the hunt for someone he has lost in the underworld. And he thinks Wasp can help.
I had mostly rotted away by the time you found me fallen in the apartment next door.
I couldn’t guess why you knocked yourself instead of calling the manager. You never really responded to my greetings or attempts to chat. Like maybe you didn’t like me.
I couldn’t bear that.
Your storm windows stood no chance of protecting you, even though you’d had them specially made from steel. Readying for the storm you knew would come.
I watched you install them. And you felt me watching, I know. You prepared and I lurked. Waiting for atmospheric turbulence. Wind shear. Moisture.
Cold air aloft.
Piles of bones kept appearing on my doorstep. Not animal bones, either, but people bones.
At first, I’d thought the bones a threat. I lived alone and far away, after all. A perfect target for the ire of nearby villagers. Not one to be cowed, I’d nailed skull and rib cage to the walls of my house.
The moment my skin tore and blood oozed up within the cut, I knew you would hunt me.
How anyone could be expected not to bleed, I didn’t know. But our kin always told us, No blood outside. The hunter will come. Not in that joking way adults talked about monsters. But dead serious.
Every year, we skimmed off the top of your harvest. Taxes, we said. Easy enough to collect food for ourselves in the name of food for all without lifting a finger.
But who followed up on that yield distribution?
I should’ve realized you would.
Why else would you have kept such a foggy photo, if not because it contained something important?
Light had damaged the film roll, spreading a gray smudge across the upper two-thirds of the image. Only a pair of legs, from knobby knees downward, remained visible.
A single long cobweb hung from the ceiling where I’d lowered myself down at your side. It swayed in a breeze blowing through the door you’d left open in your haste to flee. My cobweb reached almost to the footstool where you’d sat, but didn’t quite reach.
You’d knocked me flying when you’d jumped up.