The earth has a bug problem – one large enough to potentially threaten humanity. But in the small city of Whiskey Creek, Oklahoma, the population has only one thing on their minds: staying alive while the Dry Rain evolves into something much more sinister.
William shuffled his feet through the barren field, papery gray bodies popping up with each step to explode in tiny puffs of corpse dust around his knees. It had been a week since the last moths took off, and no one knew when the next wave would come. More importantly, there hadn’t been any rain in over a month, and if the crops hadn’t been decimated by the moths already, they would have been dead due to drought by now anyway. Streams and ponds had dried up, rivers were the lowest he’d ever seen, and there had been talk that even the oceans didn’t come up as high on the beach as they once did.
William had never seen the ocean. Hell, he’d never been more than a few hundred miles away from his farmstead. But right now he wished he were anywhere else. Or at least somewhere the moths hadn’t gotten to yet.
If there was such a place.
The first time they’d come, he’d been asleep. Thousands upon thousands of brown and gray moths had covered every inch of any exposed surface, their paper-thin wings beating fast as they sucked the water out of every living piece of vegetation there was. Two days later, the moths had all died, leaving behind a creamy, wriggling mass of larvae in their place.
He wasn’t sure how the larvae survived, but there must have been enough nutrients somehow, because not long after that, thousands of moths had taken to the sky again, only to rain down in big clumps of dusty gray waste one week later. Where they’d gone, or where they’d come from, or if these were even the same moths was anyone’s guess, but it was less of a concern than the fact that food was running out, and animals and humans alike were starting to die. The whole cycle had happened twice so far, and if the moths came back again, he was pretty sure there wouldn’t be enough food left for them to survive either. Unless they started eating wood or dirt.
A thin figure stood waiting for him near the gate they hadn’t bothered to close since the crops had been devoured. May had always been a little thing, and she was getting weaker. Now that the cow had stopped producing milk, he supposed the only thing left to do was butcher it for the meat. Every day it was harder to get water out of the well just for themselves, and there was none to spare for ol’ Bess. They’d have to leave soon to find water, at least. Maybe one of the bigger cities would have supplies until…whatever this was, ended.
“Find anything?” May called out when he drew near. William shook his head.
“Nothing. Just moth-bodies, as far as I could go. Larva here and there. The creek is just about mud now.” He took her hand and walked with her back to the house, not sure what else to say. She didn’t want to leave, but it wasn’t a question of want now. It was a question of survival.
“It’s gonna be soon,” he said, hanging his old hat up on a hook as he closed the door behind him. “Can’t survive without water.”
“What about damming the creek?” she said, handing him a cup of coffee – the only one there’d be that day – and then cradling another in her hands as she leaned against the kitchen counter. “We could get the neighbors together, make sure everyone has what they need.”
He shook his head. “Water’s falling too fast. By the time we could get everyone together and get back out there with supplies, it’ll be dry.”
She took a long, slow sip, her face a study in contemplation. She’d always been a thinker, his May. He often wondered why she’d settled for him instead of finding herself one o’ them smart city-boys that were always asking her out in college. Bet she was regretting that now, he thought as she met his stare with a tired, hopeless look.
“So that’s it then,” she said, putting her cup on the counter and letting out a long sigh. “What about Bessie?”
He shrugged, suppressing a wince at the soreness in his shoulders. “We’ll take her with us. Might need something to trade for water, depending on how far this thing goes. She’s weak anyways. Probably won’t last much longer. Maybe the Jensens will take her for the meat, if they’re staying.”
May nodded, slowly. “Okay then. Tomorrow?” Tears welled in her eyes, and William went to her, pulling her emaciated form into his arms. He’d loved her since they were sixteen, and he’d take care of her right up until his last breath, no matter what.