Well, my utter and fulsome apologies if this one is a bit crap. I’ve had a few (four) drinks and honesty I didn’t know what to say in this pseudo commentary about life other than ‘it’s a bit shit really isn’t it but you have to make the best of a bad lot I suppose’ and it was difficult to stretch that out to 1500 words.
A true fact about this story is that the title was recycled from earlier story ‘Thijs is the Life’, after I was provided with a much more punworthy title at the last minute.
Anyway, I hope it is a lot easier to read than it was to write. I present unto you, dear reader, Jonathan S Cromie’s suggestion: ‘A mayfly, minutes away from death, reflects on its life.’
A Day in the Life
The mayfly fought as hard as it could to stay in the air, but its tired old wings were simply no longer up to the task. Reluctantly it began its descent, the water of the stream rushing towards it at alarming speed.
Clumsily it landed on a lily pad at the water’s edge and brought its wings to rest. They had served the mayfly well, but now it had flown its last, and they would be used no longer.
It rested on the lily pad and awaited its final outcome. The inevitability of death was one the mayfly had come to accept during its naiad stages, as it had witnessed the long transformation and quick ending of so many of its brothers and sisters, with only a short, busy life interjected in between.
And now its time had come too. The naiad period seemed so long ago now, although compared to the length of the transformational period the mayfly had only been in this form for a fraction of the time it took to reach maturity.
It considered the futility of its existence. All that time spent gestating in the stream, trapped until it had achieved full maturity, only to experience the freedom of the world for such a short period of time.
The whole thing felt cruel, as if it had been released in to the world after a long imprisonment to find that it had no time at all to truly experience it. To lie there and long to be free, to really exist, and then to have it all taken away again so suddenly, and so finally, was the most grievous injustice.
The mayfly watched as the next generation of its species spread their wings for the first time. He could feel the hope radiating from them as they buzzed away in to the distance, the wonder at finally being able to explore outside their world, which until this point had been so confined and small.
In a way the mayfly envied them their naïveté. The same naïveté it had itself experienced upon bursting from the water for the first time such a short time ago. The belief that it would be different this time, that what happened to all of its ancestors that it had seen go before it wouldn’t happen again.
Not this time.
But, equally, it pitied them. It pitied them for the simple reason that, likes its own hopes, they would be dashed very quickly indeed.
It wondered why. As far as the mayfly could tell it had only existed in this final form to mate. There had been no time for anything else. No time to explore the world or to even help move forward the march of nature. In a way that was even crueller than the brevity of its lifespan. Its sole reason for existing was to propagate more of the species. If that wasn’t the focus then at least it might have had the time to do something else.
Even sadder was that more of the species who would simply go on to do the same and then, themselves, die. Millions, if not billions of lives and dreams unfulfilled, simply to keep a species alive that had no reason for existence in the first place.
No reason to be, no reason to continue, no reason to even live in the first place. But by the time any individual mayfly realised this it was too late. By the time they realised the utter futility of their existence the deed had been done. The mating process was complete and the new larvae safely tucked away in the stream before the inevitable decline set in.
How desperately the mayfly wanted to beat its wings again, fly up to the newly matured mayflies that flittered about above the water and tell them not to bother. That the whole enterprise wasn’t worth it. To let the species die out. To finally put the mayfly out of its collective misery.
But it couldn’t. It tested its wings and found that, while they still had some movement in them, that they had stiffened up. It was surprised they hadn’t disintegrated already. To try and fly now would be foolish.
Despondent, it moved slowly across the lily pad on rapidly aging legs. Every movement was difficult and painful. Eventually it reached the other side and gazed out over the water. It witnessed a family of frogs splashing happily in the shallows amongst a bed of reeds on the other bank.
For the entirety of its naiad period it had watched the family of frogs grow, prosper, and enjoy their lives together. It had watched the millions of his brethren reach such an early crescendo and wither away to nothing while this small family had blossomed in front of its very eyes.
It was unfair. Watching those creatures, now and then, had simply been a reminder that it would never truly get to experience the wonders of the world. Perhaps, it thought, that was why it had been so keen to defy the inevitable. All it had wanted was a real chance at life.
It turned away from the frogs and back to its solitude. It began to wonder how long it would be before it died. Surely it couldn’t be long now. What was next? Was there something after this life for it to move on to? Something beyond the realm of life that offered some sort of explanation for the emptiness it felt at this moment. It suspected not.
It paused for a moment to reflect. Perhaps it was taking the wrong outlook on the situation. After all, it imagined that it was a privilege to have existed at all, even for such a brief period, in a world as glorious and beautiful as this. The surroundings of the stream were magnificent, and it could only wonder at the realms beyond that which it had witnessed on its first flight up above the tree line.
For that brief second it had witnessed the golden fields, and the green of the rolling hills beyond, spreading out in all directions as far as it could see. In that one moment it had felt more alive than it imagined any other creature could possibly have done so before.
Its time on this earth, at the least the meaningful time afforded to it after its final transformation, was so fleeting that every moment was important. It had to cherish the thugs it had experience, however briefly, and celebrate its own existence, for no one else would. It would be dead long before any of its children were even old enough to be aware of their own existence.
It turned back to face the family of frogs. Every movement was more difficult than the last, and it felt that its final moments were drawing near. It looked at the family in a new light as it swam around in the shallows.
They were creatures entirely untroubled by the problems of life. They did not care that at some point they would be separated, or that their existence was short-lived. Rather they merely enjoyed the time they had together, and cherished it for what it was, rather than what it could, or perhaps should have been.
The mayfly was finding it hard to breathe now. Every breath was laboured and it felt its thin legs begin to collapse underneath it as they could no longer hold up the weight of its body.
It longed to see the view above the tree tops one final time, but consoled itself simply with the memory as its vision began to first blur and then fade away as the icy fingers of death crept across it.
It simply lay there, allowing death to come to it slowly but surely. It had lived its life as fully as was possible under the circumstances and it was content that it’s short time on the earth had been worthwhile.
Around the mayfly the world went on. Nobody, not even the other mayflies, in the midst of experiencing their own elation at the wonder of life, noticed the lonely creature dying on the lily pad. The march of time paid it no heed.
As death finally claimed the mayfly, it left the world with a single final thought: I’m glad I have had the chance to exist.
The world kept on turning, and a million more mayflies burst forth from the water along the stream, ready to begin their brief journeys, just as had happened a million times before, and would happen a million times more.
What had seemed initially to be the futility of its existence had, in the mayfly’s final moments, given it its greatest revelation: it was not creating life simply for the furthering of what was essentially a doomed species, it was giving millions of creatures a chance at life; a chance to exist.