My earliest memory is darkness.
Even now, in the hours before my death, I'm comforted by the memory of being cradled in the warm, shadowy spaces of my mother's arms.
I'd drift into dreamless sleep, belly full, lulled by the rhythmic song of her heartbeat. She was soft and soothing and smelled like home.
"A growing girl needs nourishment," she'd whisper to me, encouraging me to burrow deeper into her embrace, guiding my yearning jaws towards the honeyed sweetness of her stomach flesh,
gently steering me away from vital organs.
How could I resist devouring that pillowy piece of meat? Mama never cried, never flinched.
She'd hold as still as a moonbeam while I gorged myself on muscle and blood, only moving to stroke my face.
We shared a name, although we didn't look alike. My birth mother had left me in Mama's care, so long ago, that our world was each other and our love was its sun.
One day she presented me with her eyes. I felt tremendous guilt as I slurped them from their sockets, savoring their moist, jelly-like crunch for as long as I could.
Trying to show some pleasure, if only to bring Mama a bit of cheer.
Then she offered me her heart. I cried and protested as I finally understood the pain this would cause her, this final gift.
But she insisted, and I bit into that succulent organ with the deepest remorse.
She died with a smile.
I wept as I flew heavenward from her contorted exoskeleton. I weep now, as I give birth to my own daughter, knowing I too will be forced to leave her behind, as all Tarantula Hawk Wasps must.
My species does not live long enough to raise our young, and depend on the parasitic relationship with the tarantulas.
I've chosen my larva's new arachnid mother so carefully.
I'm as gentle as can be in this moment, as I sting her with a bit of painkilling venom, stroking her with my antennae, assuaging her certain fear.
"Thank you for your sweetest sacrifice," I murmur, burying my glossy egg in her abdomen. "Cherish my child for as long as you are able."
The spider says nothing. She'll be nearly paralyzed now, and cannot respond with words.
Perhaps she wishes to scream in terror. Maybe it's hatred, or rage, or spite she's showing instead. But because of my own mother's deep affection for me, all I see now is the pride... the delight...
the *incorruptible joy* of motherhood, shining, reflected, in the dark depths of all eight of her eyes.