Moth Girl by Anna Madden
I call her moth girl, and in turn, she calls me harvestman.
A kind of spider that forages on swift feet rather than ever spin a web. I look up the species online and learn they’re more commonly called shepherds: tall-legged, able to see danger far in the distance.
The desktop computer is shared with my mother, so I’m careful to delete the internet history on the browser when I’m done. Something she’s never learned or thought to do. The last week shows a log of her recent worries. News articles and clickbait titles of YouTube videos about the so-called invasion. This is the fast-food data gobbled up by those who are quick to fear.
There’s no new information. The few facts are repeated in a restless loop of outlandish horror and fascination. Vinegar and sunlight kill those born of the Eclipse. When I look at the dust-like scales that flake away from the moth girl’s skin, I see how fragile she is.
Her kind came to us from behind the moon, weary-footed and haunted, and they tried to blend into the shadows, far from whatever nightmare they’d fled.
My mother scoffs when I argue. She calls them an infestation and buys white vinegar in bulk. It’s thought best to get rid of them in the larvae stage, for they will only cause greater destruction when fully mature.
But what destruction is greater than our own upon this world?
Perhaps I should be fearful like my mother. Moths can be prey-born, but predators too. And yet, the Eclipse are something new, their fates and truest natures undocumented mysteries.
In daylight, the moth girl hides and rests. I find her in the basement, the attic, or the linen closet where polyester and cotton filter the sun’s brightest rays. Her quiet breaths catch in her throat like a flutter of wings. She’s thin, with bruises blooming beneath gray eyes. This is how I see the new moon — waning — its silver eaten away.
Maybe I am a traitor to my own kind, looking ahead so I might survive what’s coming. Or maybe I just don’t like the label of a monster. If the moth girl is one, surely so am I.
So, I feed her. I bring a collection of silk cut from my mother’s nighties, loose black dog fur, and bottles of sweetened water.
The moth girl doesn’t speak often. She doesn’t need to. I look into her eyes and see another world: deep pools of darkness, reflective and dreamy. She’s growing stronger, night by night. There are sizable holes eaten out of the dusky carpet stapled over the wooden stairs, and the long thin strands caught in my mother’s nylon hairbrush have been picked clean.
I read about moths and their oval-shaped cocoons, ghostly white or brown, sticky, veiled in dead leaves. How their eggs are stuck purposefully to cloth or the inner bark of fruit trees, ensuring the newly hatched might feast well once they’ve emerged.
And each day, I hunt. The quiet forests are dying out, but clothing waste is an abundant, viable food source.
Somewhere in this world is a place where we might coexist.
A place she might live without the fear of being hated for what she is.
Originally published in the October 2023 issue of Utopia Science Fiction Magazine.
Anna Madden is a writer and Acquisitions Editor for Dark
Matter Magazine and Dark Matter INK. Her fiction has
appeared in Hexagon, Orion’s Belt, PseudoPod, and
elsewhere. In free time, she makes birch forests out of
stained glass. Follow her on Twitter/X @anna_madden_ or
visit her website at annamadden.com