The Halloween Project 2023 - Story 3: The Insectory
“And how exactly did you get here?” Dr. Mowry asked, his voice a slow cross between
modulated bass and a poorly hinged door. “Do you have a car?”
“No,” Colin laughed, “Wouldn’t that be sweet! I’m a grad student with about a million
years of loans ahead of me. A Doctoral candidate in entomology. Colin Jones. I thought I told
you that already, didn’t I?”
“Yes, yes, of course, you did,” Mowry countered, “but it’s just so…unusual…for someone… anyone…to come all the way out here to,” he hesitated once again as if collecting his response, then replied, “to West Virginia…to my lab. And how did you get here?”
“O.K. Well, if you’re really that interested…” with a confirming nod on Mowry’s part, Colin
continued, “I’m at the University of Wisconsin, Madison so the first two parts were easy, bus to
Chicago, bus to Frankfort, that’s Kentucky, and then my money ran out…well, it didn’t really run
out, it’s just that I was saving it. Or some of it. For who knows what? Getting back, I guess.”
“And so?” Mowry asked, not enjoying the conversation but amused a bit. This youngster was so…what was the word Mowry searched for? Naive? Not quite. Innocent? Possibly. Perhaps the word would come to him.
“And so I hitchhiked,” Colin answered.
“You hitchhiked.” Mowry’s response was not even a question, more of an accusation.
“With your backpack and computer. A few changes of clothes. And what else?” It was a real
“Your Doctoral thesis,” Colin answered as if declaring allegiance.
“My Doctoral thesis?” the incredulity on Mowry’s part could not be disguised. “But how is
that possible? It’s not anywhere. I’m not anywhere. I’m not online, no social media, no
“Dr. Mowry, really? In these times, everyone is everywhere. People are tracked all the
time. Their phones, mail, electric bill, purchases, video cameras, the list goes on and on. You
have a computer, right?”
“Yes,” Mowry offered.
“Then anyone can find you if they’re looking.”
‘And you were looking,” Mowry said flatly.
“Oh, I was looking. I was definitely looking. Watch, let’s play a little game. Can you
take me to your computer? No problem if you prefer not.”
“Come to the next room,” Mowry offered.
Logging on took a minute and Mowry apologized for both the slowness of his computer
and the room. It served as part office, part lab, part home. A cot moldered in one corner,
shelves everywhere were crammed with books and folders. Windows appeared darkened by
shades and cardboard paper. Several doors invited passage.
“No problem,” Colin responded, “Now let’s play a game. See if you can come up with
two words or things that don’t have a match together.”
“What? I’m sorry. I don’t follow.”
“If we search two very disparate items, somewhere in the great universe of the internet,
we’ll get a match.” Colin said.
“That’s illogical and rather impossible I would imagine.”
“Not at all,” Colin returned, “Give it a try.”
“Alright, aardvarks and vodka.”
“Light bulbs and pasta.”
“Clocks and Van Gogh.”
“And I’m in there?” Mowry questioned.
“Yes, you are. And isn’t it wonderful.”
Mowry turned away from the computer and Colin, busying himself with several sheaves of
paper on the far desk. Colin continued to fill the room with words and excitement.
“But, Doctor, I stumbled upon you really. I love insects. I’ve always loved them. So I
spent hours in the library. No. Not hours; days, weeks. I read everything and then I found you.
That first book, “Aberrant Insects”, it was as if someone had opened a third eye in my mind.
Who would have thought,” he paused, “who would have thought that insects could have…birth
“Not birth defects, Mr. Jones. Anomalies. There are more than 1 million species of
insects in the world and it is estimated that the vast majority have never been identified. There
are 8,000 species of centipedes, over 4,000 species of cockroaches, 900 crickets. It would be
ridiculous, non-scientific in fact, to not accept that there would be some,”
Mowry stopped abruptly. He looked at Colin. Mowry studied his face, his clothes,
posture, demeanor, backpack. His brain raced to calculations he had considered often.
Sometimes acted upon. Those calculations resulted in being ostracized, hunted and haunted,
demeaned, cast out by the scientific community, disregarded. Destroyed.
“Strangeness,” Mowry finally finished, “Come with me.”
Mowry slowly rose and approached a door exiting the office, flexing it open with a sturdy
pull and gestured for Jones to enter. “Sit, please,” he invited. The ancient leather chair, cracked
with age, smelled of faint cigar smoke, and huffed as Jones settled in. The walls were covered
with diplomas, degrees and citations separated by small and medium glass containers filled with
exotic beetles, cockroaches, grasshoppers, moths, and spiders. Jones admired them all,
“Oh my God! Is this the Megasoma actaeon ?!” Jones exclaimed, pointing to a
particularly large case.
“Yes, the Goliath beetle,” Mowry confirmed.
“But they are only five or six inches at their largest! This is…?”
“15 and ¾ inches. I…how can I say it…I designed it,” Mowry stated.
“Designed?” Jones questioned.
Mowry interrupted, “And you read my book?”
“Your book. Your Master’s thesis. Your Doctoral dissertation. Every extract, every
journal article, every newspaper article.
“All of those?” Mowry said, “ But why? A young man like yourself? Don’t you have
better things to do? A family? Girlfriend? Friend? Friends? Someone, something waiting for
you? Why insects? Why me?”
“There is no one out there waiting for me. And because the insects, they are beautiful.
And you are unique,” Jones stated.
The air in the room slowed. A darkness emerged like the gentle closing of a shutter.
They sat, across from each other, a kind of chess match with no pieces, no movement, no
“Come with me,” Mowry said and he, once again, stood and pulled at a heavy door.
They emerged into a darkened lab. At the flick of a light the large room exploded into
light. And monstrosities. Large aquarium-sized enclosures housed insects and not insects.
Creatures made from experiments born in recombinant DNA, surgery and chemical baths.
Large, living entities with no souls and no match in the natural world. Beetles with human eyes,
spiders dancing with thumbs, in the largest cage a huge arachnid, two of its legs the arms of a
man or woman. A thing in the farthest corner seemed to be producing words.
Mowry turned, “Mr. Jones, I’m glad you’ve arrived. I need you.”