A careful look at the dustrider’s rifle reveals that it was once the body of a dragonfly. Its tail has been hollowed into a long barrel, and its mandibles are now the trigger of a complex firing mechanism. Discs have been carved from its transparent wings and arranged in parallel to serve a scope’s function. As it slides off his shoulder, the thick knots of its former exoskeleton are firm in his hands.

He crawls along the edge of a fern’s frond, skin painted in a camouflage of mud and chlorophyll. Its stem bobs in the wind, but his grip is firm as he pulls himself forward. There’s a bull cricket down below, thick with protein, signaling to the rest of the forest with lean, tender legs. He’s already imagining those bugchops sizzling on the skillet as he stuffs two galvanized poppyseeds into the bolt action.

He locks his ankles together and hangs from the frond’s end, pulling it almost still with his weight alone. The cricket cannot hear his approach, for it is too distracted by its own music-making. He takes aim, and the patterns in the dragonfly wings align around a spot just behind the eyes of his prey. He’s almost ready to pull the trigger, just as soon as he stops swaying.

Of course, he cannot hear over the cricket’s song either. It is for this reason that he fails to notice the hornets descending upon him from above.