"I’ve attached the picture below. Can you tell me what this is and if it’s a pest?"
Thomas shook his head sadly at the computer screen. It wasn’t uncommon for him to receive identification requests through email, but it was uncommon for the specimen to be anything more than a carpet beetle or house centipede. Did no one go outside these days? He sighed as he typed out a quick response— "House centipede."— and shifted in his chair to get up. A cricket chirp. He had set it as the alert sound when a new email came in. Curious, Thomas turned back to the screen and reopened his account. It was from a name he didn’t recognize, someone with the handle of Metamorphosis. The title of the email drew his attention, too.
Bring a Big Net.
The content only raised more questions. Thomas scrolled through it, his eyes tight and focused, like he was looking into a microscope. He didn’t know what to make of it. His first assumption was that it was a prank being played on him by others in the department; everyone respected him for his intelligence, but when it came to being open-minded about what could be out there, they were tragically… well, close-minded. Thomas did things by the book, though; he needed physical evidence before he could accept something— the difference between him and his colleagues, however, was that they played it safe, kept to what they were already fairly certain about. And they called themselves scientists. Bah.
As a true man of science, it was his obligation to follow up on this tip, outlandish though it was. He scrawled down the address and surveyed his gear, deciding what he would need. A net was a given. He grabbed the largest one he had and put it in a bag, along with a capture jar. People had the tendency to demonize bugs, though very few of them were intent on harming humans; the most likely case here was that Metamorphosis was describing Actias luna or Attacus atlas, both of which could fit easily inside his net. Still, he couldn’t be too safe. It wasn’t the bugs that concerned him. As an afterthought, he added his small stun gun into the bag.
It wasn’t until Thomas reached the given address that he felt something was seriously off. The front door was ajar and there was no light pouring out of the house; the lawn was overgrown with gross neglect, grass tall enough to have to wade through, and when he rang the doorbell, no one approached or even called out to him. A horrible stench trailed out the door. Thomas unzipped his bag and found the stun gun, clipped it to his belt for good measure, and let the house’s darkness swallow him up.
The repugnant odor got worse as he went further inside. He had a suspicion of what it was. He didn’t expect anyone to answer him.
"Hello? My apologies for the intrusion, but I have reason to believe you have an infestation of some kind." He waited a beat to let his words sink into the silence before trying one last time. "Hello?"
Instead of a reply, he was greeted with a soft flapping noise overhead, like a group of bats swooping to catch mosquitoes. Only bigger. His hair was blown around. He knew it was one individual. When the mystery creature dropped down in front of him and stared at him with those huge, reflective eyes, Thomas knew his life was about to change. It wasn’t a giant moth; that didn’t give it enough credit. The creature had six legs, antennae, and even palps moving and clicking about, but there was something almost human about it. An intelligence. It was bipedal and had a better grasp on the situation than he himself did, it seemed. Thomas extended his hand toward the organism, curious how it might react. A shrill screech nearly blew out his eardrums, and the sounds that followed— more pattering through the air and furniture being bumped around— weren’t much better. Several. There were several of these creatures. He counted six. They landed in a circle around him and started closing in; Thomas recognized the behavior for what it was. He acted fast, drawing the stun gun and shooting at the closest moth; it made another horrible cry as it fell, thrashed, and finally stilled. The others exchanged looks— something so remarkably human— and began to back off. But he wasn’t done. The things he could learn…
Thomas nearly tripped over the source of the smell. Someone he assumed used to live here lay sprawled out on the floor, naked. His head and abdomen were sliced open with a butcher’s efficiency, and palm-sized white larvae squirmed through his entrails. Without batting an eye, Thomas took the opening the creatures were giving him, and pulled the jar from his bag; he used his hands to herd one of the larva inside. It was the kind of blood that could be washed off. When the cap was screwed on and it was back in his bag, he took aim. The house was screeches and thrashing for the next few minutes as the moths fell from the sky like dead birds. Five or six— he could fit quite a few in his car, perhaps all of them. Two in the trunk, several in the backseat, provided no one he drove past noticed.
They wouldn’t. People in this city were happy to pull the wool over their eyes and remain in blissful ignorance. Until today, Thomas may have been among them. There was work to be done.