Where new writing finds its voice
The List

Bug's Life

Felicity Cloake

‘One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin’
– Franz Kafka


  1. ‘Jerry only awakened when a huge three-inch cockroach nibbled at the sensitive and hairless skin between his toes. He awoke kicking the offended foot, and gazed at the cockroach that did not scuttle, but that walked dignifiedly away. He watched it join other cockroaches that paraded the floor. Never had he seen so many gathered together at one time, and never had he seen such large ones. They were all of a size, and they were everywhere. Long lines of them poured out of cracks in the walls and descended to join their fellows on the floor. The thing was indecent …’ 
    – Jack London, Jerry of the Islands

  2. ‘Whittingtons Merchandize
    carried was to a land:
    Troubled with Rats and Mice
    as they did understand:
    The King of that Contry there,
    as he at dinner sat:
    Daily remain’d in feare,
    of many a Mouse and Rat.
    Meat that on trenchers lay,
    no way they could keepe safe:
    But by Rats borne away,
    fearing no wand nor staffe ...’
    – Richard Johnson, A Song of Sir Richard Whittington

  3. ‘Just then she heard something splashing about in the pool a little way off, and she swam nearer to make out what it was: at first she thought it must be a walrus or hippopotamus, but then she remembered how small she was now, and she soon made out that it was only a mouse that had slipped in like herself. “Would it be of any use, now,” thought Alice, “to speak to this mouse? Everything is so out-of-the-way down here, that I should think very likely it can talk: at any rate, there’s no harm in trying.” So she began: “O Mouse, do you know the way out of this pool? I am very tired of swimming about here, O Mouse!” (Alice thought this must be the right way of speaking to a mouse: she had never done such a thing before, but she remembered having seen in her brother’s Latin Grammar, “A mouse-of a mouse-to a mouse-a mouse-O mouse!” The Mouse looked at her rather inquisitively, and seemed to her to wink with one of its little eyes, but it said nothing.’ 
    – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

  4. ‘18 June. He has turned his mind now to spiders, and has got several very big fellows in a box. He keeps feeding them his flies, and the number of the latter is becoming sensibly diminished, although he has used half his food in attracting more flies from outside to his room.’ 
    – Bram Stoker, Dracula

  5. ‘In determining whether the supposed varieties of the same kind of domestic animal should be ranked as such, or as specifically distinct, that is, whether any of them are descended from distinct wild species, every naturalist would lay much stress on the fact of their external parasites being specifically distinct. All the more stress would be laid on this fact, as it would be an exceptional one; for I am informed by Mr Denny that the most different kinds of dogs, fowls, and pigeons, in England, are infested by the same species of Pediculi or lice. Now Mr A Murray has carefully examined the Pediculi collected in different countries from the different races of man; and he finds that they differ, not only in colour, but in the structure of their claws and limbs.’ 
    – Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

  6. ‘While I was under these circumstances, two rats crept up the curtains, and ran smelling backwards and forwards on the bed ... These creatures were of the size of a large mastiff, but infinitely more nimble and fierce; so that if I had taken off my belt before I went to sleep, I must have infallibly been torn to pieces and devoured.’ 
    – Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

  7. ‘A pigeon, oppressed by excessive thirst, saw a goblet of water painted on a signboard. Not supposing it to be only a picture, she flew towards it with a loud whir and unwittingly dashed against the signboard, jarring herself terribly. Having broken her wings by the blow, she fell to the ground, and was caught by one of the bystanders. Zeal should not outrun discretion.’ 
    – Aesop, The Thirsty Pigeon

  8. ‘Tom took no notice of her, but took, instead, two or three hard peas out of his pocket, and shot them with his thumbnail against the ­window, vaguely at first, but presently with the distinct aim of hitting a superannuated blue-bottle which was exposing its imbecility in the spring sunshine, clearly against the views of Nature, who had provided Tom and the peas for the speedy destruction of this weak individual.’
    – George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

  9. ‘He sat up. Something scuffled. It was a little, brown squirrel running in lovely, undulating bounds over the floor, its red tail completing the undulation of its body – and then, as it sat up, furling and unfurling. He watched it, pleased. It ran on again, friskily, enjoying itself. It flew wildly at another squirrel, and they were ­chasing each other, and making little scolding, chattering noises. The soldier wanted to speak to them. But only a hoarse sound came out of his throat. The squirrels burst away – they flew up the trees. And then he saw the one peeping round at him, halfway up a tree trunk. A start of fear went through him, though, in so far as he was conscious, he was amused. It still stayed, its little, keen face staring at him halfway up the tree trunk, its little ears pricked up, its clawey little hands clinging to the bark, its white breast reared.’ 
    – DH Lawrence, The Prussian Officer

  10. 'The lantern was lighted, and the ant-hill was sufficiently illuminated. This cone, which ­measured twelve feet in height inside, was eleven feet wide, except in its upper part, which rounded in the form of a sugar loaf. Everywhere the walls were about one foot in thickness, and there was a distance between the stories of cells which adorned them... We may be astonished at the construction of such monuments, due to these industrious swarms of insects, but it is true that they are frequently found in the interior of Africa. To what species of ant was due, then, the prodigious style of architecture of these cones? "To the warlike termite," Cousin Benedict had replied, without hesitating, as soon as he had recognised the nature of the materials employed in their construction.'
    – Jules Verne, Dick Sand: A Captain at Fifteen