Over The Fence A collection of musings, some stories, investigations, and an occasional rant.
A Short Story: The Ant Princess
He is a warrior, one of the warrior class. He is large, strong, and skilled in the art of defending the colony. I would tell you his name, but here on this ant like planet, they don't have names. The planet doesn't have a name either, so I can't tell you where they are. Time here isn't enumerated, other than generalities such as cleaning time, gathering time, procession season, and stuff like that. So I can't tell you when this is either. Lets just say it is a long time ago in a place far away, and there is a planet, where ant like creatures rule. It is a planet they have neglected to give a name.
I keep saying 'ant like' because you probably also have ants where you live too. He is not like one of your ants. He is much bigger, maybe about your size, and much more an individual than your ants are. But that is okay because where he lives the air is much thicker and richer than yours is, so these ant like people can breath deep and grow very large. I also refer to 'him' as 'he', but that isn't quite what you might think either. The Warrior class, like the labor class, is an androgynous class. That means they are not boys or girls. So it really doesn't matter if I say he or she, because he isn't either one. But I have to say something, so I will call him 'he'.
Being neither a boy or a girl they don't fall in love and get married and make babies like you probably do. Only the Queen and her Princess daughters are girls. Only the Queen makes babies.
Just because they don't fall in love, though, doesn't at all mean that they don't love. They love. They love a lot. They love more than just about any species you can find anywhere. They mainly love their Queen. She is the mother of them all, the keeper of their colony, the center of their lives. Life is, for these ant like creatures, more than anything else, dedicated to the adoration, the worship, the love, and the care of the Queen.
He loves his Queen. The highlight of his day is offering time when the best gatherings are brought to the Queen. The labor class bring in the goods and lay them before the Queen. On many long tables their gifts are placed, elaborately decorated to please the Queen. The gifts are mainly food and are spread out as a huge feast. Those items not selected by the Queen are left for the worker classes to feast upon.
The Queens daughters select the best offerings and bring them to their mother. A daughter is called a Princess. There are usually a dozen or so in each colony. The Princess class learns and grows and one day, during the procession season, a Princess will select her labor ants, and her warrior ants, and go to setup a colony of her own. Yes, he loves his Queen. But he loves someone else more.
As a warrior it is his job to keep the colony safe. His favorite duty is protecting the Queen. It isn't really his job. He applied for the royal court but he wasn't selected. He also applied to work in the Princess court, protecting the young Queens as they mature. But he wasn't selected for that either. But it doesn't matter. He hangs around near the feast area every day in order to be close to the Queen and her daughters at offering time. That's where it happens. One day while assisting the labor ants in the placement of their gifts, he sees her. She is a young Princess just beginning her service to her Queen. She is so beautiful. He is stunned. Most would not have noticed any difference. She looks just like the other young queens. In fact, if there was a significant difference in her appearance, the warriors would be commanded to chop her up into pieces and carry her parts outside and dump them. There are certain subtleties, though, that he noticed. Her beauty was in her subtleties. The blue sheen of her excellent exoskeleton has a glisten to it that is beyond perfection. The sweet perfume of her Princess pheromones are sweeter than any flowers nectar he had ever experienced. Her six beautiful legs, although dainty, were strong and perfectly shaped. Her movements were delicate and graceful as she almost floats from place to place. She has the cutest little wiggle of her antenna. When she selects a gift for the queen she gives a nod and an antenna wiggle towards the presenter and he just melts in adoration of her.
Some days he offers to carry the larger gifts to the table for the labor ants. This is a bit risky, because if he is seen as operating outside his class, he will get chopped up and his pieces tossed outside. So he only offers to help with the big heavy gifts, so he can have an excuse. Warriors are much bigger so they can carry the bigger gifts without spilling them. Sometimes he will rearrange one a bit to make it more presentable. Day after day he places the gifts on the table in the hopes that she will select one of his, and he can see her up close, maybe even get an antenna touch, from the Princess that he loves so much.
Some might say that he is in love with her, but that would be inaccurate. When you are 'in love' you want to possess the object of your love. You want to take it and make it your own. Being androgynous and of the wrong class that would be impossible for him. He just loves her with the truest and most honest and perfect love their is. It is True love, not that selfish 'being in love' stuff. Oh how he hopes that one day she will select his gift. She never does, but he keeps trying, just in case.
As with all things, time moves forward, and the procession season begins. He is now too old to apply, so there is no way he could be selected for the Princess guard. It is from that guard that she selects warriors to take with her to the new colony where she will become the Queen. He watches, though, from a distance. He beams with pride as he watches his beloved Princess march the processional path, with her court of workers and warriors, out of the colony, into the world outside, to find a place and create her new colony.
He misses her so much, but he is happy for her. She has gone to a better place, where she will fulfill her destiny as Queen.
The colony is just not the same without her. Yes, there were many cute young Queens in the princess court, but there never will be one as beautiful and graceful as the one he loves. At least not as far as he is concerned. She is one of a kind.
As time move forward he begins to notice that he is slowing down. Others notice too, and as they do in the colony, his fellow warriors carry him to the retirement chamber. That is where he falls asleep, the sleep from which you never awake. The retirement chamber is next to the egg chamber. It is said, though it cannot be proved, that the essence of the dying ant is absorbed into the developing eggs. It's a sort of reincarnation, or an afterlife, for those who have lived before. There is a lot of debate on how it all might work. The scientists say that the ant lives on through their genetics. Each ant is born knowing everything they need to know and having all the skills they will ever need to perform the duties in their class. All they need to be the perfect ant like creature is encoded into their genetics. Others believe, to the contrary, that genetics is insufficient to provide the totality of that knowledge. Something else must be going on, and it is the essence of the elders, they say, that allows the newly hatched ants to remember, at least subconsciously, who they are and who they are supposed to be. Without proof, though, the debate will continue. It may be impossible to ever know for sure.
Many generation of ant like people live their lives in the colony, and many new colonies are formed from the procession of the Princess Queens to their new colonies. The ant like planet with no name teems with life. From time to time a Princess would stay in the colony and replace an aging and ailing Queen, keeping the colony alive and healthy. Although there are many beautiful young Queens, never again will there be a special Princess so loved as the one that he loves so much. She is gone and he has died many generations ago. But from time to time it will be noticed, a solitary warrior, looking to the princess chamber, longing to see the one, the one that he loves.
He is walking through the office one evening after work, all by himself. This planet is not so far away and not so long ago, and it has a name. It is called Earth. They have hired some new people this day, but he has not met them yet. As he walks he looks across the new desk areas setup with personal items from the new people, and then it happens. It is like an electrical shock. He's stopped, frozen in his tracks, stunned by a small image caught in the corner of his vision. It is just a black and white photograph, a picture of some kids of one of the new people. Just some little kids. She couldn't be more than a 2nd grader. But there she is. Who? He doesn't know. He has no facts. All he has is a feeling, and feelings need to be interpreted to be understood. It lasts for less than a second but this feeling is intense. It is filled with adoration. It is filled with love. There is even a hint of worship. More than anything it is filled with a profound sense of recognition. A single thought emerges from the feeling and it seems to say "I know her! She's here!. The Princess is here! She is alive, on this planet, right now!" Then, as suddenly as the feeling appeared, it vanishes.
Shaking his head, he moves on about his business, not understanding what just happened. What a strange thought. Where did it come from? What does it mean? It means nothing, he thinks. It's just a silly random thought of a tired old man who should have gone home hours ago.