Beetles of the Apocalypse
by Jenna Nesky, 10th October 2022

Three scrawny boys stand around a beetle, staring down at it, and the tallest one whispers something. It all happens in chorus: the sudden cry, the black smudge on his sneaker, how he tries to steady himself. His death instincts turning outwards. The elated screams interrupting each other. The teacher barreling at them, seizing at the boys, shoulder by shoulder. We killed it, the tallest one says. The teacher says, What? He smiles maniacally, and points. It’s under my shoe. The other boys won’t open their mouths, as if the beetle is inside, as if they are trying to hide that they were eating. The tallest one cringes, moves his tongue around his own mouth, and it is empty. He closes his eyes. Opens them as the teacher says, You’re in big trouble. Then looks away. The teacher says, louder this time, Look at me when I’m speaking. But before the boy can respond, a trembling sound emerges from his throat—a stiff, hollowed sound—almost like

praying—or laughing—or choking