Plexa chased the flutterflea through the trees. Sunlight filtered through the leaves, but the canopy did nothing to stop the heat from reaching the forest floor. The colorful flutterflea, teal wings sparkling in the dappled sunlight, led Plexa in a winding path. It was difficult for one eye to track, so Plexa grew a second, aiding in their ability to avoid trees and thorn filled bushes in their pursuit.
It was a slow change at first, the heat building up in Plexa’s body. Organs shifted so the liquid inside could better absorb the excess heat from them. As their viscous fluids heated up, there was a new problem.
Plexa felt her membrane stiffen, the flexibility lost as it had to stretch due to bloating. The heat caused expansion, the liquid even threatening to turn into a gas. The pressure squeezed Plexa’s lungs, forcing them to stop, trying to catch their breath.
Panic set in, tentacles waving, letting out a trill call for help. It was Plexa’s worst enemy in the moment, worse than the heat threatening to make their insides expand unitl they exploded. Because if panic won, they would explode, but if they got a grip quickly enough, there was still time. Time before the heat and the pressure made the phenogland fail, time to prevent the painful and messy death.
A springbeetle hitting Plexa in the eye may have been painful, annoying, and honestly a little gross. But the shock of it was exactly what Plexa needed to think straight again. Flicking away the insect Plexa focused, first hardening their outer membrane, before solidifying their insides.
Once the threat of exploding was handled, Plexa could more calmly adjust their form to match the springbeetle in many ways; legs with so many joints they could coil up tightly and launch themselves far, eyes hunkered under a protruding hood that was a part of the silver, light and heat reflective exoskeleton, and the serrated mandibles used for tearing through the bamama brush leaves. Though Plexa was a lot larger than a springbeetle when their egg sibling Jatydid found them.
Jatydid had taken the form of a seven fingered slog, a hairy rodent with two prehensile tails. They inched across the forest floor to get closer to Plexa.
“Plexa.” Jatydid shook their head as Plexa slowly shrunk to a springbeetle’s usual size. “Let’s get you inside to cool off.” Holding out the longest of their seven fingers, Jatydid quietly repeated the lecture their parents had exasperatedly given Plexa at least a dozen times this summer alone.
Not that it would stick, not well at least. Plexa’s egg had been dropped, cracking open early. They were doomed to forget important things, struggle in school, and be frustrated they couldn’t remember their best friend’s names.
But every summer they always had the same excitement and wonder when chasing the first flutterflea they saw.
Word count: 480