Fiction by Cathleen L. Mann
Ants… a durable creature, ugly to the human eye, but here and there walk Gods and Goddesses to the under-privileged commoners of this colony, eyes shining in the Glory of those who are above them… Rules of society deem them small, their places set from birthright, stature or mere luck of the draw.
Amongst the jungle, where they have evolved to acceptance, creed, absolute determination in dwelling, procreation and sustenance; speaking in tongues to those who would listen or signing symbols of antennae-driven whispers;
They talk and sing in comparative unison, their satisfaction of having full nests of future numbers, be it juicy woven grass stuffed into tunnels or offspring who survive only to take the place of the working dead.
While coyotes howl at an unseen moon as the river walks its current path, the silent, hidden tribe continues on…
Who has ever bombed an ant colony?
Who has ever cared to sponsor a community blood drive for the poor worker ant-youth from three mounds over who is suffering from an incurable unknown disease?
No committees, no talk shows, no ice cream man, no elementary school parent-teacher meetings… just a group of look-alikes striving for the same purpose: to harvest, to procreate, and to sleep soundly.
On this day, the security team is sent to check out an intrusion, for it seems the sun has eclipsed and the weed-gates that surround the compound are now laying over homes, food-stores and excrement pits. Suffocating under a blanket of cloth, the team investigates, curiosity and courage their only weapons.
They climb over hills and valleys of perfumed, powdered skin, a texture foreign to insect sensation; the stink of washing detergent oppressive to their delicate, bland tastebuds. Aware of the growing disdain for this mission, the Captain moves out his men in sweeping sorties among the blades of sweet grass. Comforted by the familiar smell of home, Ant Security observes moving objects, pale-faced giants, heads placed side to side of each other, cheek to cheek, shoulders resting in each others necks. Gazing upward hand in hand, two human lovers lay upside down of each other to view twin clouds who both have an upright view of one…
The Captain's senses pick up something other than Tide, sweat and cigarettes; it is more a vibration, a feeling, one that fills his seed-sized head with an odd kind of comfort. The feeling is somehow familiar, faint yet recognizable…
While the Captain knew only that he lived to serve his Queen, there was another whom he loved, a small wood-ant from the colony that thrived across the field, and their love had grown from a chance meeting to one of the strongest proportions. He knew instinctively where she was in the brown ocean of her sector, could feel her calling him when she was able to sneak away, to meet him in the one place where no one would see them - out in the open, on a patch of dirt next to the human-made road. There they would talk of far-fetched dreams as they lay, upside down to each other, the side of his head touching the side of hers, antennae's wrapped around each other. It was these times with her that made him feel free of the duties and responsibilities that were his reason for being and to finally know the other reason for his existence: to love another creature and feel the love returned, and to know he would lay down his life for her, as she for him. While honor and duty would always be his destiny, her love was what kept him grounded, focused and happy.
Realizing his thoughts must be the same for these two primal humans, the Captain shimmied down his grass-blade lookout and instructed his men to retreat. The colony was not in danger of being crushed, he reasoned, so he returned to his Queen to report all was well and the intrusion would only be temporary. So, the Ants returned to their labor, skirting around the foot that had flattened the dandelion bush to provide long-lasting seeds, climbing over the hand that lay near the rare, miniscule pool of sap, and looking down at two human faces underneath the water-giving milk-bush that had been snapped by the weight of their bodies. What was thought of initially as an attack became a time-saving miracle, and the Ants were joyful. Winter would now bring plentiful stores of delicious delicacies and stories of the Captain's courage and wisdom would be told for many seasons to come.
So life continued, new paths found against obstacles that previously would have paralyzed this community and the Captain and his Wood-Ant are on their two-thousandth larvae. While cars race by on the highway and another Queen has taken reign, dutiful workers get back to work, oblivious to human form of nature, but always looking upwards, hopeful that the pale-faced giants will return to the Field one day and communicate silently their need to harvest, procreate and sleep soundly.