Swarms Collection

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

July 15, 2022

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Bad Day at Black Fly Rock by Doug Jacquier

In retreat from the world, Charli and D lazed by the lake, catching their breath for a few days before returning to the frayed edges of their lives, replete with accumulated peace and just a soupcon of wisdom. The detritus of their eclectic lunch of the mundane and the exotic sat on their tree stump table and they lay on the ground in post-prandial semi-snooze mode.

Charli lazily ventured ‘I can feel that sun repairing my bones.’

D replied slowly ‘Yeah, s’warm.’

Whereupon Charli launched herself from prone to full sprint position before diving into the lake, screaming ‘Where?!”

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Swarm by D. Avery

Like my pal Kid, I didn’t come up with 99 words last week, and am barely squeaking this in after a second chance at swarm. I don’t know why this such a difficult prompt. I am not unfamiliar with blackflies. The stippled grill and windscreen of my truck are reminders of the season now past. My bumpy wounds have finally healed, just in time for the current onslaught of mosquitoes. Somehow they always seem to find me just before sleep does.

It’s only one thing

Then another endlessly

Insidious horde frenzied

hungry as worry

unseen answers out of reach

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Meadows for Butterflies by Anne Goodwin

I remember Iguazu, the roaring cataract where three countries collide, water sheeting down the Devil’s throat, in Spanish or in Portuguese it was heavenly. The butterflies that thronged around us as we strolled between viewpoints, a dancing honour guard of brightest blue.

Our English garden was designed as a feast for insects, but we dispatched the invitations forty years too late. The thirsty soil thinks waterfalls pure fantasy, yet still we persevere and count our purple orchids, thrilled to spot a pair of ringlets or a solitary common blue. Will these too desert us or will the swarms return?

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The Duvet, the Thread and the Wardrobe by Hugh W. Roberts

It was hardly a swarm, but they kept coming. A trickle at first, but the more Pauline pulled at the thread on the duvet cover she’d found in the attic, the more they swarmed.

Eventually, Pauline killed them with the hardcover book she grabbed from the bedside table before vacuuming them up with the battery-operated handheld hoover she’d found in the box hidden at the back of the old wardrobe the previous owner had left.

The following morning, there was no sign of Pauline or the swarm of whatever had eaten her. Not even the handheld hoover needed emptying.

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Adding Insect Insult to Injury by Gary A. Wilson

“Insects should not make history. Look at this mess.”

“Damn! The country is trying to rebuild itself after Wall Street. We’ve got 15% unemployment and food riots. Now this – grasshopper swarms throughout Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska.”

“Actually, these hoppers have metamorphosed into locust. Locusts have stronger wings to fly further.”

“Shocking. This is your map? How can this be possible?”

“Scientists say it’s the drought. It’s already reduced crops this year. A fungus in damp soil normally kills most of their eggs. Without rain, they all hatch and swarm looking for food.”

“We’ll not soon forget July 1931.”

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Swarming by Ann Edall-Robson

An ominous sound filters through the trees, a drone of thousands of voices, low and steady. Flying under a canopy of clouds, clearing on the tail of a storm. Surround sound exemplifies the direction of their existence. Nothing visual to substantiate the eerie din, yet. The song becomes clearer, not a song with words, humming, with a smattering of rustling branches accentuating the beat. ? Clouds move out, branches become a sieve for the evening sun, the unknown push into sight. The reflection of the setting orb danced over the iridescent wings of swarming bodies. Mosquitoes search for their prey.

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Seeking Safety by JulesPaige

Alone with the swarm and a very thin vent screen between me and them. The small trailer home for vacations sat on a small lot in the country. Not something a city child was used to. Convenience had me in the back bedroom. So the adults could stay up later. But they’d gone out for the evening. Had they left me emergency numbers? Did we even have a phone? That I don’t recall at all. I woke to their incessant buzzing. I put on my robe and hightailed it to the nearest neighbor in the dark of the night.

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A Swarm of Family by Duane L Herrmann

It was a reunion. The sister had returned to visit from far away, unable to return even once a year. The brothers lived close but saw each other seldom. Their wives had different lives and, in keeping away from their mother, kept away from each other too. At this reunion meal, one in-law challenged a brother. His reply was not sufficient. Another in-law started, joined by her spouse. Soon, all demanded answers, though he had done nothing wrong. They simply did not like his choice. Their swarm of anger left him drained. Then he had to go to work.

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Encounter with the Yellow Butterfly by Sadje

I was four when I had my first encounter with wasps . I was alone on the veranda one summer afternoon. There was a hole in the wall and I saw a yellow butterfly crawl into it. I was intrigued so I stepped in for closer observation and was suddenly attacked by a swarm of wasps.

My mother came running when she heard my screams. Mercifully, my memory is a bit hazy but I remember being given medication to control the allergic reactions to the stings.

For a few days I was the favorite one in the family.

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Mayflies by Nancy Brady

Summer at the lake usually includes the appearance of mayflies. They should hatch over the lake; however, the wind often pushes them onto the land where they’ll cover houses, garages, storefronts, trees, and bushes during their short life of nymphs, morphing to adulthood when they’ll mate. Mayflies, with large wings and even larger ovipositors, don’t sting, bite, or eat. They just mate in a swarm of insects. Then they die, leaving stinking, rotting carcasses behind. The week after brings the midges, called muffleheads, in another swarm of lusty mating, humming in what seems to be great clouds of smoke.

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Disappeared 28 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Joseph fell back, hands empty of the mallet and chisel used to strike the brass plaque from the sewer wall. The older man before him mirrored his seated pose, flickering between dark and nothing, until he settled to something between the two.

He looked familiar: wide green eyes, cleft chin, arching brows, silver-streaked dark hair.

Joseph cried out as memories of Bethany, Andrew, and Eloise gathered in a swarm around his head and flew toward the older man. He felt a snap, and muffling blankness.

“Oh dear!” the Scotsman sighed. He leaned back to catch and save the memories.

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The Swarm by Norah Colvin

People swarmed like ants to a plate of jelly. Jodie stretched on tiptoes but saw nothing. She peered first left, then right, but heads blocked any view. There was nothing to hear — no singing, no instrument, no announcement. The crowd was silent and still. Jodie might have left but was trapped by others who’d filled the space behind. “What is it, Mummy?” her child whispered. Frowning faces pressed fingers to tight lips. “I can’t see anything,” the child declared. “Shhhhh!” the crowd admonished, breaking the spell. The swarm dispersed. “What was it, Mummy?” Jodie shrugged. “Nothing. It was nothing.”

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Wayne Kerr Drops a Log by Scott Bailey

“The last poet for tonight’s ‘Open Mic Night’ please welcome Wayne Kerr,” the club’s owner announced.

“Like swollen torrents gushing through the canyons of my emotions, your love swarms over me, carrying my throbbing soul onward unto the precipice where I fall helplessly into the chasm of your loveliness while the swirling eddies of our selfless beings meld as one and we are whole,” the poet Wayne Kerr read aloud.

“Now, THAT’s one steaming load of shit!” the owner whispered to the bartender.

“Sweet Jumpin’ Jesus, flies are already swarming on that fragrant turd!” the bartender chuckled in return.

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Seeing In Summer by Geoff Le Pard

Some places celebrate summer with fetes and festivals; Little Tittweaking has Arnold Paraffin’s bee swarm extravaganza. Arnold’s bees aren’t any old buzzers, but bestriped performance artists (who also make honey). Each hive choreographs itself into a sculptured structure which is then judged (from a safe distance) by the chair of the horticultural society, Bette Sensibly. Past winners usually disperse quickly, when the finger buffet appears. This year’s winners, a vibrating icicle surprised everyone, by self immolating on the barbecue. When interviewed later, the Queen explained she’d been told it was the only safe way to keep the bee swarm.

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A Blind Payout by Frank James

Zambian Joseph Kaunda watched a locust swarm devour his crops. He surrendered his future for work in Lusaka one-hundred-fifty miles away. He labored at a construction company living in a tent. He earned poverty but believed change would come. He sent earnings home, except food allowance. While slogging away, Innovation Farmers saved the day with his wife redeveloping fields and green houses to grow larger crops removed from swarms.

One day, his foreman handed him a check, “Go home.”

He returned to his wife displaying seedlings. Joseph teared. His son hugged him. “New crops, Papa.” Sacrifice sometimes brings surprises.

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Out of the Sky by Sue Spitulnik

After Mac’s comment and respectful silence, the talk about jumping continued. Tyrell was nodding his head in the affirmative. He took a swallow of his beer and then spoke softly, unusual for him. “I once witnessed some jumpers training for a night landing. It was just before full dark when I heard the plane, and it sounded like it might stall for going too slow. I looked up and could just make out bodies and chutes floating silently towards me. They looked like a frightening swarm of giant bugs descending. I was glad I knew what they actually were.”

Author’s Note: Tyrell is the African-American drummer in the Band of Brothers and an Iraqi veteran.

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Swarm for Bees by kathy70

When 2,000 people show up to protest or support that could be considered a swarm. Like bees swarm and move out of a hive when it is no longer safe maybe people need to do more swarming. In the 60’s and 70’s protests were everywhere. I only attended one and it was pretty harmless for ZPG. Never have I seen a swarm of bees but maybe they need us to swarm now for them. Let’s plan a human swarm to protect bees habitat. Okay who’s with me lets swarm a parking lot and cover it with bee friendly flowers.

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S’Warm, Isn’t It! by Bill Engleson

Up here, we’re accustomed to ‘normal’. Each year’s the same. Oh, there might be a slight difference one year from the next, a few degrees up or down, bit more snow in winter, spring rains, moderate summers with a few days hotter than anyone ever remembered, and Autumn winds that cause a bit of a worrisome whirl. Like I said, normal. Nothing we can’t manage. But lately. Mamma Mia! Seas and rivers rising! Mountains sliding! The sun slivering, blasting shafts of fire, a locust-like winged shimmering of heat barbs slicing our skin, swarming us in an unholy flesh-ripping inferno.

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Swarms’ Warm Arms Receive My Soul by Scott Bailey

My spacewalk sabotaged, this spacesuit is now my home (as long as the oxygen lasts). Holding the severed tether, I stare at my glove, knowing a painful end awaits as I watch the spaceship sail away. Later, I watch a tiny sparkle land on my sleeve, then another and another. Raising my other arm I see many more. Soon the sparkles cover my spacesuit as they swarm and pass through me. They cause no fear. I feel safe, at peace. The swarms’ light overpowers me; blinding me, lifting me, holding me, peacefully letting me lay my head to sleep.

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Twinkling Swarm by Kerry E.B. Black

Fireflies glinted, sparkled, bright gold fairy lights, illuminating summer and beckoning. “Come frolic!”

Jenny’s children answered their call, with pastel nets and jars with holes in the lids. They ran to the flashes, anticipated the glowing bugs’ next move. With giggles and mad dashes through the mint and rosy scented air, they amassed a small swarm.

“Time for cocoa and cookies.” Jenny shepherded her brood to the door where they released their luminous captives. The children applauded the impromptu display.

“They’re better than fireworks!” her little boy enthused.

“Prettier than Rapunzel’s floating lanterns!” her little girl exclaimed.

Jenny agreed.

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Got No Buzzin’ by D. Avery

“Jeez Kid. Yer burnin the midnight oil. If Carrot Ranch had midges an moskeeters they’d be swarmin roun this lamp. Whut’re ya up to?”

“Tryin ta come up with a response ta the prompt Pal. Sometimes I’m buzzin with ideas. Not this time. Got nuthin. Asked Ernie if he had anything fer swarm he said he swims when it’s warm an jumped in the crick an swum. Asked Pepe what he’d do for swarm he said he’d jist stamp his feet ta warn folks it’s comin. You got anythin Pal?”

“Nope. I’m so worn out, think I’ll turn in.”

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Swarm by D. Avery

“Always thoughta Shorty as havin a sunny disposition, Kid, but seems ta be a dark cloud over her.”

“It’s that swarm a blackflies from headquarters. We ain’t gotta worry bout them here at the Ranch.”

“Why’s thet?”

“Bein fictional has its advantages, Pal. An we got Pepe. He’s made a product called LeGume’s La Fume, a organic grass roots bug repellent.”

“Ass toots? Hmmf. Jist keep LeGume an his products from stinkin up the Saloon, Kid. Folks is gonna be swarmin ta the Cowsino Friday ta play the story spine slots.”

“More writin prompts?! That don’t stink Pal!”

“Nope!”

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Wrangle, Wangle, a Swing and a Swish by D. Avery

“Thought I heard the whine of a swarm a bugs, but it’s jist Kid.”

“Hmmph. Pal, I’m thinkin Pepe’s repellent works too good. I cain’t net an idea fer this prompt even with an extension.”

“Thet bites. Yer usually buzzin with ideas.”

“Yeah, sometimes I’m swamped with ideas, but lately— jist swamped. Reckon I’ll go fer a walk.”

“Out on the sward? Thet might hep ya git ideas fer this prompt.”

“Or mebbe I’ll swing by Ernie’s swath of old still stream. Come on Curly!”

“Swimmin with yer swine?”

“Yep. You comin too?”

“Might’s well.”

“Swell.”

 “It’s so warm.”

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Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

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43 Comments

  1. Doug Jacquier

    Youse all (Australian for y’all) were like blowflies around a dunny (outhouse) for this prompt. I particularly s’warmed to these words.

    Hugh – Vacuuming a vacuum? That sucks.
    Ann – ‘Surround sound exemplifies the direction of their existence.’
    Nancy – ‘muffleheads, in another swarm of lusty mating, humming in what seems to be great clouds of smoke.’
    Scott – “Sweet Jumpin’ Jesus, flies are already swarming on that fragrant turd!” Wayne Kerr indeed.
    Geoff – Bette Sensibly is a clear winner.
    Bill – ‘The sun slivering, blasting shafts of fire, a locust-like winged shimmering of heat barbs slicing our skin, swarming us in an unholy flesh-ripping inferno.’

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Doug! You must have been a fly on the wall when I went camping with Charli last summer. What a surprise to see it written up here in the collection. Your 99 words and the memorieswarmed my heart.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Glad I nailed it. You’re welcome.

    • Scott Bailey

      Hey Doug, did you really just put Charli and D in a Maxfield Parrish “Girls on Rocks” painting?

      • Doug Jacquier

        If I did, it was only by ESP. Never heard of the gentleman until now. 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Just googled Max Parrish “Girls On Rocks”. Dang. Another fly on the wall.

      • Scott Bailey

        Interesting, I thought Maxfield Parrish was more well known. I think for a lot of people it’s probably just a case of knowing the art but not the artist.

      • Charli Mills

        We might start our own art series on kayaks Scott!

      • Scott Bailey

        LOL, great idea, Charli, but I think I’ll just reign in my cultural references a bit!

      • Charli Mills

        When it comes to inspiration, loosen the reins and let the horse fly!

      • Scott Bailey

        Ha, she said ‘horse fly’! Good one!

    • Jules

      Doug, I enjoyed your tale of woe… The mozzies love me!! I do not recall Black Fly business. I’m not much of a camper. Though I did some camping when I was younger.

      I’ve read that if you can somehow get some acid (like from real good tomatoes) in your blood that could help keep buggies away. Eventually you’d have to get out of the water… and if I remember lake water – it can be cold right quick!

      ~Thanks for stopping by my post on the prompt.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Jules I was relieved at the tomato clarification, re the acid. Was wondering for a second what else besides camping you did.

      • Jules

        Just working in the yard and my small veg garden… I grew up in cities mostly. Then later suburbs. Mozzies like to bite me. I have to wear long sleave shirts, cover my head (ears) or if I’ll be out long – bug repellant, when I go out to fill bird feeders and water the gardens in the morning. And occasionally I still get bitten.

        Newer green house tomatoes don’t have as much acitic value as ones grown in the fields. As for other activities… I used to belong to a choir, part-time jobs, volunteer stuff, bowl (ten pins) and be generally creative. Besides the care and feeding of my hubby these days. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Jules, thanks for dropping the acid tip! will bring tomatoes on the future camping trip.

      • Jules

        I just read something about eating garlic before going into the woods… might want to check that out. Most grocery store tomatoes don’t have enough acid these days. 😀

        The garlic’ll keep away the vampires 😉 (maybe)…

      • Charli Mills

        I just came back from the farm, full on cherries. Are they acidic? Tomatoes are ripening. New picnic food to test with raw garlic on the side, lol. May those black flies smell me coming and flee!

      • Jules

        Anything sweet will attract biters. I can’t eat bananas when the mozzies are about.

        Ah fresh cherries… Not sure if they are acidic – I looked it up; ‘Generally, fruits are the most acidic foods: 2 to 3: lemon juice, vinegar. 3 to 4: apples, blueberries, cherries, grapes, grapefruit, nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapple, plumbs, raspberries.”

        Hope those black flies stay far away from you!!

    • Charli Mills

      Doug, I appreciate you keeping house at the Ranch! I enjoyed your snapshot of the vigilance one must keep when keeping one eye open for swarms.

  2. pedometergeek

    I will admit that I haven’t read most of these 99-word gems YET, but Doug Jacquier’s story was awesome. It made me smile and laugh. S’warm…perfect. The few I’ve read, again, great takes on the theme. Once the visiting family leave, I’ll be checking the rest of them out, and then to figure out what to write on this week’s prompt (if I have the time). ~nan

    • denmaniacs4

      Totally agree…and the play on a great Spencer Tracy movie title was a hoot…

    • Charli Mills

      The s’warm captures the yarnistic flavor of the Ranch, Nan. Enjoy your time with visiting family (and read them some of your stories).

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    From biting to brilliant, a fine collection!
    Like Nan (see above) I will try to make the rounds but have been without wifi, poaching it here and there when I can.

    • Charli Mills

      Tough when your wi-fi supply goes on leave, D.

    • Jules

      D. I enjoyed all of your offerings. I’ve been able to be connected…just my timing has gone off.
      I still write daily but find it challenging to keep up with return visits. So I try and visit the collection here when I can. Cheers, Jules

  4. Liz H

    Nice, diverse collection of stories!
    Looks like my submission didn’t get included, what with the snafu over the early close of the form.
    All info is in a comment on the original challenge post, if you find time to update here. Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Liz, I’m the snafu! I forgot about the stories left in the comments but I updated them. Thanks for your patience!

      • Liz H

        Thanks for sliding me in there. Hope your 4th was just the right amount of interesting! ????

      • Charli Mills

        Well, that’s when I picked a Daisy, lol!

  5. Jules

    I know I put mine in the comments of the prompt post…cause I couldn’t get in the closed list. Didn’t know there was an extention…
    I’ll live.
    If anyone is interested here’s the link;Seeking Safety

    I enjoyed the swarm of words with all the tales told. Thanks all.

    • Doug Jacquier

      Nice one, Jules. As the old saying goes, if you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room. 🙂

      • Jules

        😀 ????

    • Charli Mills

      I overlooked the ones in the comments, Jules. I was not looking all directions! Your story is included now!

      • Jules

        ~Thanks again…
        Take care ????

        I’m only up late waiting for hubby to get back from a Hazmat call… We probably both should get some shut eye. (((Hugs)))

      • Charli Mills

        Hope you caught up on sleep! Thank your hubby for his service. And yours for staying up with him.

  6. Ann Edall-Robson

    Buzzers to blowflies, and more. Good job everyone.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ann!

  7. pedometergeek

    Great job everyone. I’m impressed (and a bit itchy from all the swarms!) now that I have a bit more time.

    • Charli Mills

      A “bit” more time, Nan? Sounds like a bite!

  8. Colleen Chesebro: WordCraftPoetry

    What a fun collection… I fell off my chair laughing at Doug’s Bad Day at Black Fly Rock! This definitely made my day! LOL! <3

    • Charli Mills

      These stories made my day, too! Now to reenact Doug’s story!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Word Craft Poetry“Dreaming” 99-Word Story - […] Check out the stories from last week’s challenge, “Swarms,” HERE. […]
  2. August 1: Story Challenge in 99-words « Carrot Ranch Literary Community - […] the re-enactment of Doug Jacquier’s “Bad Day at Black Fly Rock” did not unfold as planned, there were moments…

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