There was a huge notch cut out of the ceiling, through which I could see the stars shining high in the sky.
“Outside? Does this lead aboveground?”
“No, it doesn’t. …those aren’t stars,” Satoru whispered disbelievingly. “They look like stars, but they’re not twinkling at all. What the hell is it?”
Satoru thrust his spear at the emerald green flecks of light. I thought he couldn’t possibly reach them, but surprisingly, the spear easily touched the ceiling, and the lights quivered.
He drew back the spear slowly. I thought some of the spot of light would come with it, but instead strings of thick liquid dripped from the tip.
Satoru touched it with his finger. “It’s all sticky. Wanna feel it?”
I shook my head.
What was glowing on the ceiling were glowworms that had been domesticated by the queerats.
Evidence of glowworms dating back to ancient times have been found in caves in Australia and New Zealand. Although they’re called worms, they’re more closely related to flies and mosquitoes. The larvae nest on the ceiling, using sticky balls of mucus to trap other insects for food. The light they produce is used to attract prey, but also creates the impression of a galaxy of green stars as it bounces off the balls of mucus.
Glowworms originally did not exist in the Japanese archipelago, but were imported as fishing bait shortly before the collapse of the ancient civilization. A number of them survived and were modified by the queerats to be used as chandeliers in their reception halls.
Satoru stuck the spear in the ceiling again to collect more of the mucus and figure out which part were the insects. Then after a short discussion, I climbed onto his shoulders to collect more. Since I was lighter, I had no choice but to be on top, touching the nasty green glowing bugs.
He took the bugs and stuck them onto the spear (using their own sticky excretions). Maybe it was thanks to the queerats selectively breeding the bugs that they never stopped glowing even when they were handled so roughly.