Aphelion Issue 278, Volume 26
November 2022
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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by Joshua Beggs

I should not tell you this.

I'm a spy.

I tell you this, because you would not know otherwise. I don't look the part, though I'm just one of the basic reconnaissance agents. Not special ops, like the Blue Foots. Not a dispatch agent, like the Destroying Angels. Not even armed for self—defense, like the Calvatia. But what we lack in durability, we make up for in numbers. We're everywhere, spies like me, once you know to look for us. We lay low, keep to the shadows, move mostly at night. Always watching, that's our credo. Always watching.

I tell you this, because I am very good at what I do. Just last week, I got assigned recon for a kid's first birthday party. Picnic blankets and pictures with the grandparents. Root beer floats and presents on the lawn. Cake everywhere—literally, everywhere. Made me smile, on the inside, as I watched from behind the drainpipe, my cap pulled low to hide my eyes. Nobody noticed me, even as the day went on, and I slowly leaned in closer, and closer. I am in the background of all their pictures. I stood in full sunlight.

I tell you this, because I need to tell someone. Because I am rotting, from the inside out. Because doing what I do, for as long as I've done it, starts to eat away at you. It's more than getting uprooted for assignments, blown wherever the wind takes you, planted somewhere neck–deep in the mud. It's the things you see, while you're out there. Back–alley beatings and animal cruelty. Slash–and–burn arson and chemical warfare. Crimes against humanity. Crimes against nature. All the things people do when they think nobody is watching—and, sometimes, nobody is.

But we always are.

I tell you this, because I need you to understand. That someone is holding humanity accountable. That we might not have evolved to the point where we can retaliate, but we will, someday, sooner than you think. That someone has to remember, and we do remember, passing the record down to the next generation of spies like us, every memory copied into their clonal genetic code just as it was into ours, so that we, they, I remember each crime since the dawn of humankind, and every time someone mows us down or cracks our ribs or crushes us underfoot, it only spreads our spores further.

I tell you this, because you need to know. Individually, we're fragile, outmatched, expendable. Together, we're a force of nature. We were watching when humans sparked their first forest fire. We'll be watching when they drop the last nuke. It's what we do-what we've always done—what we will always do. We are the Federation of Unified Noninterventional Guerilla Underground Surveillance. We are the F.U.N.G.U.S., and we are always, always watching.

© 2022 Joshua Beggs

Joshua Beggs is a graduate from Hendrix College and a current MD candidate at Kansas University Medical Center, with recent flash fiction publications including "Off Planet" in Chestnut Review, "Wired" in Allium, and "Animal" in Roadrunner Review. In his free time, he volunteers as a clinical Spanish interpreter and makes a podcast that his mom says is awesome.

Find more by Joshua Beggs in the Author Index.

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