Part Three: Trouble at the Hill
Full of life and love and the promise of excitement, he charged out of his tunnel only to find her entertaining a few off-duty workers with a coy dance routine outside on the path. But when she saw Terry, deranged and wide-eyed, still clutching his tea, she went weak and collapsed in laughter for a second time. This wasn’t what he’d wanted, but he didn’t care anymore. “Mrs, er, Miss.. er, we should copulate!” Again, not what he’d wanted to say, but not to worry. Laughter petering out, she told him that sounded like a lovely proposition, but maybe they ought to have some tea first. So they walked off, femur in femur. “Gwinny,” she said. “Terry,” he replied. “How’d you do?”
No sooner had they got in the door of Terry’s nest, talking animatedly now – Terry, loosening up in a way that was a marvel to him – than they heard something odd. It started off low, like an underground humming, but it grew louder and more discernible, until they recognised it for what it was: the inexorable thud, thud, thud of a thousand footsteps.
Quaking, as the noise reached fever pitch and then stopped outside their door, they knew they must have come for them. They’d been careless and Terry was grief-stricken with the thought that it was going to happen again; that his clumsiness was going to result in the death of another woman whom he loved.
They looked at each other as the General kicked down the door: Terry, amazingly, still holding his tea, and Gwinny, unrecognisably vulnerable. But, however frightened he might have been, the sight of Gwinny, cowering like that made Terry swell with indignation and blind anger. What came next was a surprise to them both, but he reared up on his hind tarsi and roared,
“You pathetic, miserable cowards!,” gesticulating wildly, “look what you’ve done to Gwinny!”
Well, even as they came marching towards them, Gwinny felt exhilarated and thought her chest would just burst with pride. “Isn’t he wonderful?” She gleefully said to the soldier escorting her out by the femur, “I think I rather like him!”
On hearing this, Terry suddenly became flushed with the knowledge that he didn’t care if he lived or died, as long as he experienced love, and so he waltzed merrily along, as the grim-faced guards thudded on. Catching Gwinny’s eye, and seeing she was equally jubilant, he couldn’t have been happier.
All of which meant that, when they arrived at the Queen’s Chambers, much to Her Majesty’s displeasure, they were grinning from ear to ear like a couple of naughty school children. Not convinced that the gravity of the situation had quite struck them, the Queen shifted in her nest, white rage flashing across her eyes.
“Do you mock me?” She eventually bellowed.
“You, Ma’am? No, Ma’am!” offered Terry, amiably.
“Then what do you mean by this?”
“Well Ma’am, I just don’t care anymore! This whole colony is ridiculous! And I’ve got this beautiful ant by my side, who makes me very happy. And the fact is, we can Talk, which is a joy. We can chew the cud or float off on whimsical flights of fancy and, in doing so, we connect, you see! It’s just wonderful, isn’t it? We’re not revolutionaries – we rather like the established order – we just want to be able to lose our selves in conversation if we feel like it.”
Boggle-eyed and with a mood perched somewhere between rage and incredulity, the Queen sat, slumped, for quite some time.
Read Part Four by clicking here.
Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.