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Speaking of Ants,

by C. Liam Brown

Last night while I was asleep, millions of small black dots swarmed beneath my doorway, like a slow, sudden, sideways rainstorm. Ants of all kinds had joined forces. They coloured all four wooden legs of my bed black and hid me beneath their masses. It was not until much later that I discovered that they were carefully removing all the parts of me that were unnecessary, whittling me down until I was an only semi-functional miniature replica of a human. Still asleep (miraculously), I was carried through the newly-bitten hole in my door, out along the invisible routes insects find to pass through walls and into the chill night. I stirred only when my head was dragged unceremoniously along the grainy ceiling of a tunnel. I was underground, and being now much closer to the ants in size, I was able to discern a crude kind of language being spoken in a series of clicks and chirps: they were taking me to their queen, but for what purpose I was still unaware.

I made my escape. We were passing another tunnel which branched up and backwards; I flung my mangled arms out, grabbed hold of the tiny end of a root, and pulled. It was then that I discovered how weak my legs had become in their reduced state - I was forced to mostly pull myself along as my lower limbs scrabbled uselessly beneath me. Somehow, I reached the surface. The sounds of thousands of enraged ants filled the tunnel beneath me and it was clear that they were the proportional equivalent of only a few feet away.

Just then, a huge flapping beast sprang up beside me, having been disturbed by my movements in the grass. I lunged desperately and wrapped my arms around one of its horrible legs, feeling the unpleasant pricking of tiny hairs against my skin. We took off just as the hole erupted with frantic black scurrying creatures.

My time with the moth passed in a daze. Its movements were so erratic and quick that I soon passed out, or nearly. I'm not sure how I managed to continue clinging to it. Hours passed, or days; I remember coming more awake at one point and seeing ocean beneath me. I vomited, clung tighter, and fell back into semi-consciousness.

When I finally began to wake up again, my heart seized as I prepared myself for more hours of jerky flight, but I quickly discovered that whatever I was lying on was perfectly still. My eyes watered and I cried out once in joy, amazed at the animal sound that escaped my mouth. I lay still for a few moments to compose myself. Opening my eyes, I found I was on a large flat stone on the side of a mountain, above even the thin clouds which hovered over stretches of what looked like a dark red desert. I tried to stand but couldn't.

"Why do you seek that which you desire?" came a voice from above and behind me. I spun myself around. An ancient man towered above me, his features difficult to make out from my current position. He wore a dirty white robe that hung almost to his feet, which were bare.

"Why does anyone?" I answered him, unsure whether my voice would carry.

"Because they have not yet discovered desire's falsehoods." He crouched low to stare at me. "Hmm..." he said. "You, however, are in no place to doubt desire. Are you?" He seemed to be almost grinning. I didn't answer. "Not until we are whole can we begin such lessons. Come." He reached down and gently scooped me up.

I spent at least a month with the man in his small mountain cottage, although I can't be sure of the time. I never learned his name or where I was. He took good care of me, providing me with small bits of food which lasted me days, and preparing a cot out of an old matchbox and some cotton. We spoke at length about size and wholeness, although not all of what he said made sense to me.

One day he said, "You must rebuild yourself. Just as all of the world is contained within each of its parts, so all of you is contained within what is left. Find the source of growth and you will know what to do." He whistled once and then walked away without another word. An eagle landed next to me and stood waiting; I climbed onto its back and held on to its feathers.

My flight homeward was much more comfortable, although, being fully conscious, I was unable to ignore the icy winds which raked across my body. After a time, the bird dropped me at a nuclear waste dump, then flew off without a word. I looked around and understood - finding the nearest pool of murky water, I crawled into it among the dead fish and slightly glowing seaweed. Immediately I could feel cancerous cells blossoming inside my tiny frame. Remembering the old man's advice, I bent my will towards the growth and forced it to proceed according to the patterns within me. Mere moments later, I had returned to my original size.

I walked the rest of the way home, my path lit by the patch of glowing light which hung above the city. My bed was soft and sweet.