Funny how things come in threes sometimes.

I spent an afternoon with the cuttlefish and less than a week later, was gifted a book. Science fiction, about alien worlds and megalomaniacs and regular old humanity trying to survive. It featured sentient spiders and computers made of ants, and followed a man, a language nerd upon whose shoulders rests humanity’s last chance, as destiny jerks him to and fro.

After the book ends, a few generations pass, and the next book begins. The spiders and the humans and the ant-colony-computer-based AI all troop off toward a mysterious radio signal and a distant world.

This world is full of sentient octopuses.

Ten days after staring my cuttlefish friend in the eye, I lay on my sofa, reading a scene where an octopus, a human, and a giant spider meet, stare each other in the eyes, and try to learn how to communicate.

It was surreal.

And today, less than a week after closing the back cover on what is essentially a space opera, I stopped, crouched, and stared in wonder at a colony of ants, bustling around living their little ant lives. I wondered if, perhaps, the author of Children of Time didn’t have an interesting idea. If electron based computing power operates on a series of ones and zeros, ons and offs, who’s to say that an ant colony, properly guided with pheromone signals, couldn’t become something more computational than a massive bridge or giant ball? I couldn’t see a pattern in the colony’s movement, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.

Out of curiosity, I puffed a hefty breath at them, enough to life some off their little bug feet and roll them a few centimeters one way and the other. Immediately, their pace increased. The clover leaf patterns and long lines moving in, out, and around the little ant hill sped up wildly, but it didn’t look like anything else changed. The patterns I didn’t see before still didn’t emerge, nor did I notice them changing.

But change they did. Before long, the clover leaf leaves grew and a few individuals found my shoe. Whether or not they recognized it as enemy, I figured it was time to go. I tried brushing them off and that’s when another instinct kicked it.

She bit me!

Not on the toe, but on my glove. I was wearing some simple knit gloves and this tiny little creature latched her tiny little jaws on to the tiny little threads of my glove. Held thusly in place, she bent her booty around to spray what must have been the tiniest, weakest spray of bum acid at me.

This is how they fight other insects and take down prey. Mindlessly, she fought on behalf of her colony, against this monstrous enemy, and she held on tight. Like, surprisingly tight. So tight I couldn’t just brush her off. I had to pinch her body between thumb and forefinger of my other hand, break her fast little grip, and be quick to shake her back onto the ground before she got hold of the other glove.

How wild, these little things! Several people passed me as I crouched entranced, on bikes and on foot. I’m sure they thought I was an absolute nutter. My favorite walking shoes don’t look as comfortable as they are, and the combination of winter gloves and sunglasses can’t have fit in, even in Seattle. Add to that me intently staring at nothing, head bent down close to the ground, a joyful, incredulous, possibly maniacal under the circumstances grin on my face, and you get a bit of an odd sight. At least, the thought occurred to me once or twice while I watched.

I do this sometimes. Watch the world go by at it’s impossibly slow, frantic pace. I once watched dragonflies hatching, moving occasionally from one bursting shell to the next, observing each one at it’s separate, communal point in development. They have to climb out of the water, get high enough on a branch they can get some sunshine but not so high they get spotted by predators, then they split their backs open and push their torsos out first. Though I’m not sure it’s the same for dragonflies, I know that butterflies have to struggle in order for their wings to function. Each wing is threaded with dozens of capillaries that must fill with fluid in order to full expand. I watched wings start crinkled like badly packed vacation clothes and slowly, millimeter by millimeter, straighten and expand into the flat, iridescent wings we’re used to. Then, they start moving their wings. Slowly at first, drying and strengthening them. And then they lift off.

There’s something meditative about watching nature. Children, insects, small creatures of the woods, just going about their lives, carrying out programming that goes back to the dawn of time and led, over generations, to the creature they are right then, right there.

The books are Children of Time and Children of Ruin, respectively. I found them a simple pleasure, if a little predictable. Your “nerd just gives peace a chance and the wildly overpowered other guy turns out to be just like you and wants peace, too” trope is heavily used here, and is spreading. Season two of Picard did the same thing. But the descriptions are vivid, an important literary tool for those of us who see the worlds we read about rendered in our head, and I enjoyed the speculation. What would society look like if we were all jumping spiders? What if we were octopuses? What if we were us, but those others existed? How would we talk to each other? What if my little cuttlefish buddy and I had, over time, been able to communicate with each other and discover, to both of our surprise, that the answer to many of my questions was “yes”?