Warming climate awakens an ancient terror.
In the dank cave the rays of the rising sun vanquished darkness and banished frost. Hesitant wisps of steam rose from an inert black and yellow form on the stone floor. A feared predator in the long gone age of giants was rousing in a puny world.
It had been under the ice for millennia in a sleep near death. Its blood unmoving, yet unfrozen in its veins. Its vital organs protected by an organic anti-freeze produced as the world descended into an ice age. Deeper than hibernation it slept. Waiting for spring. Waiting to hunt. Waiting to multiply.
Something deep within its brain sensed the rising temperature. The antenna hanging curled and limp over its multi-faceted eyes rose and unfurled. Cruel claws scratching in shrill screeches on the rough stone floor echoed deep into the unknown darkness. Its triangular head swiveled from side to side as if craning a stiff neck, and its massive jagged beak snapped in hunger. At first, it scrabbled stiffly toward the glowing ball of the sun, but soon, as warmth increased the flow of blood, it strode like the queen she was.
At the lip of the cave she paused as if surveying the world, then her wings droned a chilling chant as she leapt into the air. She was ravenous, zealous, and bold.
The keen ears of the rat sensed the danger first; a familiar buzzing of insect wings, yet in power, magnitudes higher than anything it had heard before. It lifted its head to search the sky and sniffed the air.
Normally, she wouldn’t have chosen something as big as herself, but her hunger overwhelmed her natural caution. Caution, she needed, for she carried all the genetic material of her future hive. Fear, she lacked, for her species forever fought to a resolution. Her prey was now running toward the safety of its burrow and soon it would escape.
She dived, landing on the back of her prey’s neck, and bit through fur and skin. Her powerful jaws severed a thick vein and blood reddened the remnants of winter’s snow, melting through till it soaked the moist ground. She flew off the dying beast as it rolled in final pain. She hovered, waiting for it to lie still in death. Finally, the mouse died on its back, its belly conveniently exposed for her to feast. A few moments later, she landed on her prey. Quivering her black and yellow striped body in primal joy, she nourished her body for the task of building her nest and producing her first eggs. In a week, she never left the cave again.
Within a mile of the cave, things appeared normal; flowers bloomed and birds sang, but no animals skittered over the ground while the sun traveled across the sky. From the mouth of the cave, a persistent drone voiced a deadly warning. Inside the hive, hanging from the ceiling, her daughters were ceaselessly forcing regurgitated flesh into the mauls of their sisters, the hungry white grubs, each squirming inside the dozens of hexagonal tubes within the hive.
Soon, hunting swarms left each morning. Large prey were overwhelmed. Colonies of seals moved north. Scouts ventured further in an arc southward. One found something similar to its own home. One occupied by upright beasts. Returning to its hive, it danced a map.
The young family had moved into their new home within sight of the retreating glacier. Their house was small and simple, but it was enough now for the man and his wife and their baby boy. The house laid claim to this new and promising land, and he would tend to their livestock and fish in the cove, and make this their home. Maybe, in the years ahead, it would be warm enough to till the soil. But, things were changing in more ways than he imagined.