The Firefly Wars

📅 Published on September 10, 2021

“The Firefly Wars”

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Chapter 1

Tommy ruled. He was the commanding pilot you could count on when the shit went down. And believe me, it was always going down lately. We’d had more skirmishes in the last week and suffered more losses than I can remember. The weekends seem to bring more casualties. I can’t lie, I’d seen too many good pilots get pile-driven into the earthen soil caused by the enemy’s latest weaponry.

My name is Rod. First Lieutenant Rod Gibson, or Glow-Rod, my nickname. But, back to the air battles. Boom. One after another, pilots went spinning to the ground. Whack. Another two or three across the sky would go tumbling end over end in a twisted bolt through the clouds. This was almost every night. Tommy wasn’t scared though, he seemed to love it all. It didn’t matter. He was golden whenever he was called to duty. He shined with excitement. Things would be a lot different if our squadron had thirty more of him. Other pilots fell apart when the heat was on after watching other pilots’ somersault from the sky. Tommy lived for this shit. He was always the first up in the air and the last pilot to put feet back on the ground. Tommy never had to buy his own drink at the bar after an air assault. He always got laid, the females loved him. They would always be signaling him for any action he’d want. Tommy was our ace and all the other officers respected him. Hands down. Hell, we all wanted to be—Tommy, no one more than me.

This latest clash was sanctioned. Enemy combatants instigated the engagement with ground-to-air assaults. Capt. Tommy J. Lampein led the first squadron on recon to get the coordinates for an offensive strike. The time was 1900. Our FOB (forward operating base) could be in jeopardy. The ground assaults were occurring in close proximity. The enemy seemed to have heavy equipment in the area and was using heavy artillery. Too far inland for the Navy to give aid. It was up to air boys in Light Attack Squadron 4 to aid the infantry into the area safely. Stingers would be called in when the coordinates were established of the enemy’s command posts.

Tommy flew in close to one of the assault units and that was when the reality of what they were dealing with hit. He signaled and radioed to his squadron, “They aren’t artillery guns…they’re…they’re some kind of…of…life forms!”

The second in command, Captain Elroy responded, “Come back, again, Tommy…what do you mean, life forms?”

“This isn’t military machinery like I’ve ever seen. These are living life forms of some kind. No visible form of armor. We need to call in the Stingers—immediately, to my coordinates!”

“Hang tight, Tommy, I’m off your starboard wing and coming in for a look-see.”

With that, Elroy buzzed by and wove around the obstacles at just above ground level.

Chapter 2

The neighborhood was about to become a buzz with the gang. It was that time when the sun was beginning its drop into the horizon for the night. The cicadas would begin their chatter and then soon the little flashes of light would start to twinkle with yellowish-green spots throughout the evening air. Cooper Osborn was growing bored with the usual games of hide and seek. The kids from the block always gathered around six in the evenings to play, talk, and goof around. It was summer and school was out. Time for growing friendships and now that he’d just celebrated his birthday and became a teen, it was time to think about girls. Jenna had caught his eye from out of nowhere. Cooper didn’t understand it yet, but suddenly she’d made him feel differently. He’d known her from the neighborhood and school since—forever.

“Hey, Jenna, I’m tired of the usual hide and seek. How about you?” Cooper sat down on the concrete top of the picnic table as they waited for more of the gang to show. Jenna scooted onto the bench onto the other end of the table, but not too far. Cooper looked out across the darkening playground, past the lampposts lining the pathway through the middle of the park. He smiled. The glowing yellow streaks of the lightning bugs began their nightly flash, on and off throughout the dark grounds scattered between the trees. “Wow! Seems like more than last year.”

“What?” Jenna questioned.

“The lightning bugs. There are millions of them this year. I think they’re taking over the world. It’s cool looking, you know, the way some flash on slowly and others look like tiny strobe lights. I always wondered what it means. What do you think they are signaling to each other?”

“Well…” Jenna began to blush. She was glad it was probably too dark for Cooper to see her face redden. “…I always heard it was males looking for their mate,” Jenna smiled as she looked down to the ground, her face becoming red but difficult to see because of the twilight hour.

Cooper laughed out loud, coming back with a typical teenage boy’s response, “lighting your tail to get laid! Now, that’s funny!” He stared at Jenna, hoping she would look up so he could see her embarrassment. She turned away as if she was about to leave “Hey Jenna, look! What’s this light coming outta my butt?” He laughed out loud with uncontrolled chuckling.

“Oh, Coop. I’m just reminding you what science class taught us, but if you can make your butt glow—I wanna see that,” Jenna looked up giggling.

Cooper spied Nick and Braden off in the distance and quietly guffawed. He really wanted more time alone with Jenna, especially with the funny bug mating comments they’d just began to share. He glanced over and said, “Here comes big Braden and notorious Nick!”

Jenna turned and looked over her shoulder towards the two boys. Cooper saw what he deciphered as a tiny look of disappointment in her eye at the sight of them. His heart suddenly warmed with the thought of her saddened display as the gang interrupted their alone time.

“Hey Coop! Jenna! What’s up,” Nick asked.

Braden guffawed and punched Nick in the bicep, “Looks like Coop was trying to make time!” Braden laughed again with zest and motioned his pointer finger in and out, repeatedly, of the circle made with the thumb and finger of his other hand. Nick too, burst out in laughter at Braden’s gesture.

“Come on, guys. Cut that shit out. We were just waiting on you losers to get your momma’s chores done. Jenna cracked a smile as she looked over their shoulders and saw several more of the neighborhood friends heading into to the park.

Nick quickly answered Cooper, “Actually, I’m late because I was satisfying your momma, since your dad can’t anymore!” He laughed and jabbed Braden back in retaliation.

“Looks like the gang is almost all here. What are we gonna do tonight,” Jenna asked as she slid her hands underneath her legs to keep them from nervously shaking, attempting to redirect the conversations away from the nasty boy talk.

Paul stepped up to the table from the opposite direction they were all looking. “I gotta’ an idea,” he said with an evil grin, his hand holding a whiffle ball bat.

“Yeah, what’s that, Paul?” Cooper sat up as Paul reached the end of the cement picnic table. “What’s the bat for? Too dark to play ball, and I bet the girls won’t wanna play anyway.”

Paul smiled again. “Firefly wars,” he boasted as his voice cracked. Everyone laughed except for Cooper.

“Firefly wars—what the hell is that?” Cooper asked.

“Just watch…” Paul walked out into the darkness and a moment later laid the plastic ball bat over his shoulder and took a batter’s stance. “…here, batter, batter…swing.”  He swung his bat briskly and a small ball of light flew end over end until it tumbled from the sky, disappearing into the grass. He walked over after looking around at the ground for a couple of seconds and then bent over, picking something up. His back was to everyone, and they watched intermittently between looking at each other with eyes wide open and then back to their new friend Paul who’d just knocked a harmless firefly from the sky and was now standing over his kill. Paul’s hand went from in front of him and then up to his head. He suddenly turned around and there was a streak of yellow glowing light smeared across his forehead from one temple to the other. “Firefly wars! Haven’t you guys ever played before?”

Jenna was the first to yell out, “Ew, that’s friggin’ gross, Paul!”

Cooper laughed. “So, that’s what you did in Arkansas for summer fun?”

Paul began walking back towards the table everyone was sitting or standing around. “Yeah, Cooper. Well, that and this…” Paul’s hand shot out in front of him like a lizard’s tongue grabbing a fly for dinner, then he dropped his bat and tore the back side of the lightning bug’s body off and stuck it on one of his fingers. “…they make cool glow rings too.”

It wasn’t long before all the boys were looking for sticks to swing while Jenna, Kaylie, and Sharon sat on the bench seat with the look of disgust across their faces.

The dark area between the trees suddenly became a war zone filled with flying and toppling lightning bugs falling all around them while some of the boys would smear their glow juice on their arms, legs, and faces, like war paint.

The early evening hours in the dark park had become a war zone. The girls turned their backs in disgust and talked about boys. They each began to feel differently about their thoughts of liking them in ways they had never noticed until recently.

“I was actually beginning to have a crush on Coop…” Jenna blushed. She looked behind them and saw the flying bug carnage he’d ravaged by the amount of yellow glow smeared across his face. “…I’m afraid he’s not ready for the same feelings that I was having. He’s obviously still too immature.”

They could hear the boys yelling and laughing, giving each other kudos on the great hits they’d performed along with the number of kills they were priding themselves with. They each were glowing from head to toe.

Cooper stopped for a second and looked over to the table that the girls were sitting at moments ago. It was empty and the silhouettes of three bodies were walking out of the park and into the street. “Hey, guys! There go the girls!”

“Who cares? Watch this two-fer!” Paul swung his bat swiftly and three tiny balls of greenish-yellow glow bugs flew up in an arc and then fell swiftly to the grass. “How the hell about that?”

There was a sound of a bell ringing.

“I gotta go, guys. Mom’s calling for dinner. You gonna be back out tonight later,” Braden asked.

They all nodded in agreement.

Nick laughed out loud. “Hell yeah! I’m gonna bring my bat too. I’ve never had so much fun.”

Chapter 3

Jenna sat at the table moving her food from one side of her plate to the other. She’d hardly eaten a thing. Her mother took notice and was quietly keeping a watchful eye on her daughter before she could no longer hold her tongue. “Jenna, honey. It’s not like you to eat so little. What’s wrong?”

Jenna looked up from her plate, appearing as if she wanted to talk but was leery to answer.

“It’s okay, sweetie. It’s just me and your father here, Bobbie’s too young to know what we’re talking about.”

“I was just wondering…” She glanced at her baby brother Bobbie and then to her dad before turning back to her mother. “…do you think lightning bugs have souls? Do they have families that share dinner and nests or homes like we do?”

“What in the world made you think of a question like this? Is this what’s got you not wanting to eat your supper,” her mom asked her.

“Well, Paul, the new kid from Arkansas…” Jenna fidgeted in her seat, appearing to become more nervous. She didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. “…well, he came to the park tonight and…and he asked if we’d ever played firefly wars. None of us knew what he was talking about.” She looked slowly over to her dad, who appeared to have an idea where her questions were leading. “Anyway, he had brought a whiffle ball bat and he walked out and swung it and knocked a lightning bug from the sky to the grass…” Jenna saw her dad begin to smile slightly. “…he walked over to it and pulled its body apart and smear its guts across his forehead and it glowed.”

Her mother looked over to her husband. “Oh my, I thought that game died with the kids our age….”

“I don’t know about souls and families with fireflies, but I have to admit, honey, as a kid back in my day…” Her father coughed and cleared his throat. “…we didn’t have phones and Playstations and what-not. We had to come up with entertainment on our own—to keep us outta’ trouble!”

“Well, I think it’s cruel and disgusting. So do Sharon and Kaylie. I was beginning to think I liked Coop, but he just jumped in and began knocking the fireflies from the sky along with the others…” Jenna took her napkin and wiped the corner of one eye. “…I’m just not sure I’ll see Cooper in the same light, now.”

Jenna’s father cleared his throat again “Jenna, just remember this. Boys are either no good at your age, or up to no good.” He looked at Kate, Jenna’s mom, and nodded, then smiled.

“It’ll be okay, Jenna. While I agree we should respect all of God’s creatures, with the exceptions of wasps, spiders, centipedes, and of course scorpions…” Kate displayed a quick shiver. “…while I think fireflies are beautiful, I don’t believe God gave them souls or families like we know them as. It’ll be okay, honey, and I think Brenda Osborn’s boy, Cooper, is a fine youngster heading into young manhood. I wouldn’t worry too much. He is just a boy!”

“Do I have permission to leave the table and go back out? Everybody is meeting at the park again after dinner.”

Kate looked over for an agreeable nod and then said, “Be back inside by 10, sweetie.”

Jenna took her plate to the sink and rinsed it, stacking it in the dishwasher just seconds before Kate and Jim heard the front screen door slap closed against the jam.

Jim looked at his boy Bobbie and then to his wife. “I bet Bobbie will be smashing fireflies in no time, just like this Paul boy from Arkansas!” He chuckled. “Damn, you females are some tough nuts to crack!”

Chapter 4

Captain Tommy was spent. The battle had taken a lull for about an hour, but he knew the night wasn’t over. He’d seen more good pilots get taken out this early evening than he’d seen in a long time. He himself, encountered several close calls. Sure enough, the life forms had now returned and were fighting even harder during this second scourge. One of his best friends and pilots was taken out before his eyes. First Lieutenant Eddie Beedles, the squadron’s newest rookie had been knocked from the sky and sent spiraling into the ground, only to be retrieved by the enemy and smeared across it’s armored shell. It was personal now. Others were being nabbed in midair and being secured in clear holding containers. Practically stacked on top of each other and then placed in open site as if to intimidate any of our brave pilots who circled past.

“This is squadron leader Tango-Oscar-Mike-Mike-Yankee. I have coordinates for Wasp Squadron Sierra-Tango-India-November-Golf-Echo-Romeo, come back.” Tommy called in and signaled coordinates to the stingers bringing the death squadron inbound, even though it was outside their normal hours of engagement. These sons-of-bitches would soon reap their just desserts for the carnage they’d brought on. This thought certainly resounded loudly inside Tommy’s brain as he tail signaled what was left of his squad. It was time to pull back and circle above, watching the Stingers move in and deliver their revenge. War was never pretty—but justice would most certainly bring a feeling of joy. A tear for his comrades who’d given all, paying that ultimate price, and for those POWs who were now captured and held captive to the cruel invaders who’d drawn first blood. Ground troops were being assembled and would soon reign a hell of its own brand on these bastards.

Tommy was circling high above when he felt his craft shudder. His wings began to shake and quiver, he suddenly had no power and very little control as his nose began to dip downward towards the ground. “Glow-Rod! This is Tommy…” He tried to hold his nose level, but he now assumed he’d been hit or suffered wind damage from that last assault he believed he’d narrowly escaped. “…Glow-Rod…my wings feel like they’re being pulled off. No control and my gyro is haywire…altimeter spinning like a thin reed in a tornado.” Tommy’s craft nosed-up slightly, but his wings folded back and fell into the death spiral. “Mayday, mayday….”

Glow-rod witnessed his friend’s last moments before he disappeared into the depths of the dark green blades of grass. He circled again keeping his eyes peeled for the wreckage, so he could call in the evac and medic teams. As he circled for the third time, he spotted the faint glow in the underbrush. He tipped his wing to acknowledge to his friend, so if alive, he’d know his coordinates had been signaled. “Hang in there, Tommy. Evac team is on its way! God speed, good buddy.”

Chapter 5

Jenna sat watching her friends. She almost wished she’d just stayed inside. How could these boys, she thought she knew, be so cruel? Could she really fall for a boy who smeared bug guts across his face and body? She shook her head. “Oh, Coop. Please stop.” She looked at the jar sitting at the end of the table. It glowed on and off from the multitude of firefly bodies climbing over one another, seeking a way of escape—and there she sat, a small tear pushing its way from each of her eyes. She was glad she sat alone; her girlfriends choosing instead to remain inside and be oblivious of what young boys found pleasure in doing. “I don’t really know you, Paul, but I think I hate you now for what you brought from Arkansas to this once compassionate town of Eagles Point, Missouri.” She leaned to her left and one of her tears spilled onto the top of the concrete picnic table, landing beside the overloaded jar of the boy’s captives.

She sat watching the light show and wondering if those inside the jar were suffering, suffocating or screaming out in agony in sounds she was unable to hear. Jenna turned her head with a quizzical look in her eyes. She’d heard something. Jenna’s head tilted one way and then the other, much like a puppy would do when it heard a high pitch noise and then worked deciphering where it had come from. She discerned a high-pitched buzz but was unable to detect the direction it came from. It was getting louder though. It was almost as if the hum surrounded her from all directions. She looked back at the prison jar and saw something unexplainable.

Cooper and the other boys were running around the open area of darkness, bodies glowing from all the bug guts smeared on each of them. Their bats were swinging, and small green and yellow blobs were spinning through the air sprinkling down to the ground like wet drops of rain. The boys laughing and cheering each other on, yelling out the number of “kills” each of them held. All Jenna could do was shake her head as she felt her feelings for Coop fall, which mirrored the firefly bodies twisting to the ground. Love was no longer in the air she’d begun to breathe in earlier in the evening, when she was alone with Cooper. He fell so easily into a heartless cruel boy she’d not seen before. She turned back to the jar just in time to see that all the bugs had climbed to the one side of the jar closest to the edge of the table. Not a single glow from their tails. It looked like they’d concentrated their collective movements into rocking the glass jar back and forth until it now teetered on the edge of the crevasse. It toppled over and crashed in a loud clatter, exploding into pieces when it hit the concrete pad below. She caught the scene from the corner of her eye, and screamed loudly from fright, drawing the attention of the boys just thirty feet away in the dark opening of the trees. For an instant there were no more glowing bodies flying willy-nilly through the air. Not a single blinking light from a firefly anywhere in sight. Just silence—except for a resounding or reverberating buzz becoming louder by the second.

Jenna leaned to her left and peered over the table’s edge. She saw lightning bugs begin to flutter their wings and take flight into the air and then hover out into the darkness, showing nary even a quick blink of a glow. There were several of the winged bugs that lay motionless in the shards of glass. Glow juice leaked from their bodies, a gleam that was magnified throughout the reflections of the glass pieces which covered them. Jenna didn’t understand what was happening, but she felt and feared the unusualness the moment carried.

The loudness quickly became overpowering in its unbearable racket. Jenna lifted her hands to her ears and cupped them, muffling the paralyzing static which preceded the moving darkness which surrounded them in a dark circling cloud.

Chapter 6

Cries of panicked fear and pain began emanating from the area the boys had seconds ago been playing their war game on the fireflies. The anguished shouts of terror were piercing in intensity, shattering through the buzz and whirs of the fog encircling the park. Jenna couldn’t imagine what was happening before her eyes. She tried to focus on Cooper and the others, but the area was an intense blur of an unfamiliar movement. She thought she saw the swing of baseball bats being swung as they cut through the haze momentarily that filled her field of vision.

A hushed calm fell over the area mere seconds after the mayhem began. Jenna visually searched the opening in the park where the boys were last seen. She stood up from the picnic table and nearly fell back to her seated position from a nauseous dizziness. Jenna held a look of baffled shock as she looked back down at the broken jar on the ground and then back to the empty scene in front of her. She eventually focused in on several large dark clumps spread out across the grass; still no movement or fireflies lighting the area.

Advancing cautiously towards the clumps with momentary glimpses upward to the empty moonlit sky, she cautiously knelt at the first mound she came to. There beside it, lay a plastic whiffle ball bat. She turned on the flashlight app on her cellphone and then positioned and pointed it to the last spot she’d seen Coop swinging his bat. She gasped in horror as she touched the mass that now lay in the grass as she brushed away a clump of lightning bugs from what appeared to be an arm. The bugs were alive. Motionless, but grouped side by side covering the entire body as if attempting to keep it hidden. The bugs made no visual attempt to retreat or advance when she’d carefully whisked them to the side. The body’s skin appeared to be swollen and bright red in about every area that was exposed to her sight. Small pricks or sting marks surrounded by white rings appeared to be everywhere as the bugs covering the encapsulated body began to slowly light up in a greenish-yellow luminescence when touched. She didn’t want to, but she moved her hand towards the spot she assumed would be the boy’s face.

Jenna gently brushed the winged glowing beetles from the body’s eyes and cheeks—moving her hand carefully across its entire face. Her eyes could no longer keep the tears from spilling down onto the undisturbed bugs which remained quiet and somehow reverent in the moment. It was Coop’s face. His eyes remained open, unmoved, and hollow. Empty and expressionless. It was obvious the life inside was gone. He was barely recognizable from the bloated bright red bumps that had begun to ooze a clear liquid mixed with blood. She got up and went through the same motions with the other mounds scattered around grounds, four in total. Each appeared the same as the one before.

Jenna returned, still in a baffled daze, to where Coop lay, still three quarters covered by the silent motionless fireflies, but now all lightly glowing. She knelt down again and leaned over, close to his ear, and whispered in a hushed tone, “Oh, Coop…” She brushed more of the lightning bugs from his hand and then clasped his fingers intertwined within hers and squeezed. “Coop, dammit…why? I was falling in love with you. Why?” Tears flowed as she sniffed and cleared her throat. “How will I ever explain what I’ve witnessed? No one would ever believe me….”

* * * * * *

Not ten feet away from where Jenna was seated, the ground troop of ants maneuvered around her and worked their way toward the coordinates that Captain Tommy Lampien had signaled just before he nose-dived into the deep grass. Jenna was so submerged in her one-sided conversation with Cooper, she never saw the platoon of med-evac ants lift Tommy’s body up and carry him from the crash site. After they cleared the area and arrived at the evacuation site, the entire squadrons of fireflies collectively straightened their legs into take-off position and gently lifted off in unison. Jenna sat up straight and watched as thousands of fireflies ascended in silence, their tails beaming in varied colors from green to reddish-yellow. Once they hit an elevation of about ten feet, the glowing cloud veered to the west and slowly flew away into the distance, leaving a quiet battlefield behind as their med-evac ants began their toll of picking up the rest of the dead and wounded. This skirmish was over.

* * * * * *

I was fairly new to battle at this time, nowhere near as experienced as Tommy. I was an old dear friend of his though. He’d convinced me that I had what it took to be a forward air controller in the First Forward Air Squadron, Light Attack Squadron 4. Lima-Alpha-Sierra 4, stationed out of Eagles Point, Missouri.

I spoke at Captain Tommy Lampein’s funeral and retold the story of the Playhill Park Skirmish that stole Tommy’s life and career long before it should have. We all completed our mission with bravery, skill, and determination. Captain Tommy J. Lampein , has a bronze statue, along with an encased medal of valor, placed at the last site he lived, to show honor and pride in his actions to save our citizens from the carnage brought on by the foreign life forms.

“The last thing I’ll say…is if you are ever in the area of Playhill Park, you’d better be there to pay homage to our hero. If you attempt to desecrate the statue tribute erected in his memory, you’ll not only face the full military of our Arthropoda species—you’ll have to contend with my wrath, Lieutenant Colonel Rod Gibson, better known as ‘Glow-Rod.’ When you look out to the fields of blinking lights, you bet the one that will be me—is the one within striking distance of your ass. Remain vigilant, because I have my eyes on you, my target crosshairs sighted, and the balls to go to war with any son-of-a-bitch that challenges. God speed Tommy, I have your back.”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Eli Pope

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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