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When Herb Met Meg

Allison Schue

      A small crackle came from the bush behind Murray Hall, and then another, preceded by even more. An invasion has begun. Everyone who lives here on this small college campus knows it happens in the fall. The small things hatch all at the same time and swarm until they fill every space so badly that you can breathe them in. They may be so very cute, but when there are too many they're just plain insects, just ladybugs.
     It was morning when it all began. Grey transitioning into brilliant blue, this day was going to be a great day. Herb was born that day. With a snap his little ladybug leg awkwardly poked out the top of his egg. The wind tickled his foot. Then his tiny head popped out and his egg rolled to the side. With a little more effort, Herb was born. He walked around a little, getting used to his legs and he spread his wings. 
     Herb took a good look around. "This place was much bigger than that cramp dark shell I was living in," he thought. His eyes were open wide. Herb was on the soft ground and surrounded by towering blades of grass. Climbing to the top of a blade of grass he squinted his eyes. Herb looked up at the great structure in front of him that he would come to know as Murray Hall. "WOW! That's millions times bigger than me!" cried Herb. It was tall and made of brick. There were arch-like pillars made of cement on the first level. Windows for each room went up a towering nine floors, and lots of them were open for him to explore. This excited Herb. 
     "I want to see what is in those rooms," thought Herb. Herb spread his little wings and began flapping them. He tried to flap them faster and faster, "I can do this. Fly!" he shouted, but there was no take off for him that day. Herb knew he was grounded until he grew some more. And that he did, with each nibble of leaves and grass, Herb kept growing and getting stronger. Within a short while Herb finally made his first take-off. Perched upon a tall blade of grass, not too far from where he was born, Herb began flapping quicker and harder. His feet pulled away from the ground. "I'm flying!" he shouted in excitement.
     As days passed Herb explored all that he could find. He flew into trees, garbage cans, flowers, and just about anything that was near. One day, he landed on pane of glass on the first floor window of Murray Hall. He discovered his reflection that day. Reddish-orange he was with eight spots of black on his back. He was flat on the bottom and rounded on the top. Six little legs were hairy and his face was all black. "That's me," he said in amazement. Herb lifted his front leg to wave to himself and then he opened his wings and flew off.
     One breezeless day, he found an open window on the fifth floor and flew inside. A nice room, it had two lights on the wall for him to buzz around. To his left he saw bunk beds; the top one had sheets with butterflies on them and the bottom a warm afghan. To his right was a couch with one of the lights above it. A lamp, on top of a table, sat next to the window with plants underneath it.
     Two girls lived there. And when he flew into the room for the very first time that day he landed upon a piece of paper one of the girls was looking intently at. She jumped taking in a gasp of air; the little bug's landing startled the girl. Herb didn't know what to think. He had never been so close to one of the humans before, but she seemed kind and started talking to him. She had brown hair, an oval face, pale skin, and a little cleft in her nose. Her eyes were a pretty green, like the grass he was familiar with. "Hi there little ladybug," she sweetly said as she swept her bangs away from her fair face, "I'm Melanie. Do you have a name?" Herb tried to reply that he didn't but she couldn't hear him. Looking at the rosemary plant beneath the lamp she said, "I'll call you Herb, Herb the ladybug." That is how Herb got his name.
     The room was nice, warm, and safe, for Herb could come and go as he wished. The girls, Cheley and Melanie, were sweet to him and fed him. In the room also lived a spider. Herb gave it the name Mr. Longlegs. He made his own dwelling behind the window curtains in a corner of the room. Mr. Longlegs was brown and very hairy. His legs stood up tall above his body and his head was exceptionally large. He would observe Herbs movements. In and out and all around, the thought of that fat ladybug made the spider's mouth water.  More than anything Mr. Longlegs wanted to capture, torture, and eat Herb. 
     One night, when the girls and Herb went to bed, Mr. Longlegs began his plan. Working diligently and quickly, the spider spun a web in the open window Herb always flies through. He was so very tired by the next morning, but he was satisfied. His plan was a brilliant one, Mr. Longlegs thought.
     When it fully became morning and the sun shone on the lamp that Herb was laying on, Herb woke up. He stretched out his little legs and gave a big sigh to greet the new day. Herb was really hungry, his tummy was making all sorts of gurgling noises, but the girls were not awake for him to take some of their food. And so, Herb decided to fly outside and munch on a plant until they woke up.
     He took off from the lamp and headed straight for the window, he couldn't wait to feel the warm sun on his face. Getting closer and closer to the window he spotted the spider web. Herb couldn't stop in time; he flew right into the web. It was so sticky that he couldn't flap his wings. His legs were caught too. Herb could barely move. He shouted, "Help me, I'm stuck in the spider's web," but his voice was too small for the girls to hear. Suddenly Herb heard a scream saying, "Save Me." Startled, Herb didn't know there was someone else stuck in the web.
     Another ladybug was stuck near him. She was stuck on her side. Herb could see her back; it was much more red than his with as many spots as his back, and her were legs flailing about. Vibrations move along the strands of sticky thread. "Stop moving!" Herb shouted. Silence quickly filled the air. "I'm Herb," he said shyly. "My name is Meg," her sweet voice said, "Help me Herb, I think that the spider is coming." 
     Though they had stopped all movement they still felt a series of more vibrations. They became stronger and stronger. Meg spotted the oncoming spider. "I can see him. Please help me quickly!" she pleaded, but there was nothing that little Herb could do for her for he was bound. Herb heard Meg scream in terror. Her wings, trapped in the opaque string, flapped as hard as they could. Mr. Longlegs was approaching swiftly. He spotted Meg and then started slowly approaching her. Mr. Longlegs raised his front leg and touched Meg's cheek. "Stop! No!" she screamed, "Herb do something. Help me!" She begged him not to kill her but the Mr. Longlegs was so very hungry. He slowly wrapped her up in a cocoon of silk. More and more, with each twist her body disappeared into his web only leaving her head outside for him to rip off. The spider stopped. Meg was waiting for the paralyzing bite. When he was about to snap, he flew out the window. A loud scream followed, but it didn't come from Meg or Herb.
     "Yuck! I hate spiders!" Melanie said as she danced around the room. She gave a few more high-pitched screams and then something caught her eye. Peering into the large web she saw two spots. She hesitantly moved her face in to see Herb and Meg. "Oh look Chely, here is our ladybug, Herb, and look there is another," she said. Peeling away the web, Melanie freed the two traumatized ladybugs and gently placed them on top of the warm white lampshade. She gave them a little pieces of plant to munch on. The two girls peered down at Herb and the new ladybug and smiled. They watched as the two exhausted ladybugs moved in close to each other. They greeted each other. "Meg, are you ok?" asked Herb. "Yes I am fine," replied Meg, "but very tired. Thank you for trying to help me. I think that you are the bravest ladybug I know." Both were very tired so they hid their delicate, fuzzy legs inside their spotted shells and closed their eyes. The        two slept there all day, safe and cuddling together.

 Acknowledgments

Thank you first to Garret Smith for having patience to listen to multiple drafts. We may have argued but you always let me win. I would like to extend my appreciation to Sarah Brunker, Melisse Lajoie, Lin Prisbrey, and Christina Vogel for their exceptional suggestions and revisions. Thank you to Terry Heller for help with ideas and making this so much fun.  
 

 
 
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