Roly Poly

Tom followed Jack through the winding underground passages.

“Where are we going?” Tom asked.

“Surprise,” Jack said, his nine segments rattling as he shivered.

Tom’s seven pair of feet pattered softly on the dirt. “Is it scary?”


Tom rolled into a ball reflexively.

“Really?” Jack said.

Tom unrolled. “I don’t know why that doesn’t happen to you.”

“You always overreact,” Jack said, his third pair of feet tripping on a dirt mound. The others shifted to compensate, sending a ripple through all of the following segments.

“Here’s something scary,” Tom said.

“Hmpph,” Jack said.

“Dude!” Tom said, “Could you just slow down!”

Jack slowed.

Tom was still having trouble keeping up, so he stopped, forcing Jack to stop.

“Can we just go?” Jack said.

“I have a scary story,” Tom said.

Jack rolled into a ball and unrolled. “Get on with it, s-s-low poke!”

“Myrna’s head exploded!” Tom said.

“You c-c-all that scary? You’re wasting my t-t-ime.” Jack started walking again.

“You’re Mr. Irritably today. What’s with the stuttering?”

“Just in a h-h-urry,” Jack said. He shivered again and his segments rattled. “I’m worried we’ll miss it.”

“Since when are you anxious about anything?”

“Why d-d-id you think that story would sc-sc-are me?”

“It’s an exploding head!”

“Heads don’t explode,” Jack said.

“Tell that to Myrna.”

“Does my head look like it’s going to explode?”

“What? No!”

Jack sped up his pace and scurried along, concerned that something might be following them. He waved his antennae and tried to smell any predators.

“What has you so agitated?” Tom said.

“Nothing,” Jack said, his compound eyes rolling around. His sight, Tom’s too, was not good, so he doubted he’d see anything coming. His heart sped up to match his legs.

There was light at the end of the passage and Jack stopped.

Tom gasped. “Are you going out in the Sunlight?”

“I w-w-ant the daylight,” Jack said.

Tom rolled into ball at the mention of something that terrifying. It gave him some time to think. Jack wanted the light. Jack was irritable. Jack was agitated. Jack was shivering. And that weird stuttering. Oh no!

“Jack!” he yelled as he uncurled. Jack was already leaving the tunnel. “Jack your sick! Come back! You have brain worms! Jack!”

Jack didn’t listen to Tom. He trundled out onto the bright rock as fast as he could. His half-blind eyes looked up at the sun, and he waved his antennae, and he disappeared in flurry of feathers as a starling swooped in.

Tom saw only empty rock, and he rolled into a ball.

Prompt for SoCS from Linda G. Hill – “starts with over”.

I chose “overreact”. As God as my witness, I really don’t know where the rest came from.

Upon reflection, I do know a thing or two about Roly Polys, so I guess that is where it came from. They have seven pairs of legs, and seven segments in their body, or thorax. They have a head, thorax, and abdomen. If you count the seven segments of their thorax, plus head and abdomen, they have nine segments. They are not bugs, but crustaceans. The best fun fact, they drink from both ends! They have special tubes in their back end. Cool, right?

They do get brain worms. It is a parasite called Acanthocephala. The parasite does make the Roly Poly go out into the sun and birds eat them. What’s the purpose? The parasite’s major host is a bird. It reproduces in the bird and eggs are dropped in the bird’s feces. The Roly Polys eat the feces and the eggs.

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