The Urban Sherpa - a blog by Christopher DeWan

(changling child...)

Read Work and Other Essays, a collection of nonfiction by Christopher DeWan.

Sugar and Stones rating=5

Ant

(This story appears in the October 2012 issue of Bewildering Stories.)

I am an ant, but I forget sometimes, and I think that I’m a spider. A spinner. A schemer. An eater of ants.

Each day I walk with the others. I yoke myself with a stone or with a gob of sugar, and march lock-step along the line. I follow those in front of me, till somewhere, someone takes my gob of sugar or my stone, and sends me on my way. And for that, I am happy, or I think I am.

But at night, I dream I am a spider. I spin elaborate plans, perfectly symmetrical and beautifully engineered. I perch at the center of my web, ready to seize the moment when the mindless drones, the worker ants, myself, march like a slow red tide into my web. I am patient and a planner. I shall thrive.

Another day of sugar and stones, then exhaustion, sleep, and more dreams. Now I’m a pitiless bird, watching from a mile high the march of the thin red ants, the methodical spinning of the spider; I am circling passionless and free, and carried higher and higher by the gusts of wind and the tilt of my wing.

Another day, burrowing tunnel to tunnel, onward and upward, outward and downward, outward and upward. Up is down and down is up. Slow march under hard sunshine, endless expanse, and so much weight carried, so much weight. My brethren fall, and I crawl over them, as others some day will crawl over me. “Where are we going?” And “Why?” We have no use for questions.

Tonight I dream I’m a blue-eyed boy, squealing and laughing in the field; a boy with messy hair and sometimes bloody in the knees; a boy who, for ignorant sport, hurls rocks at the birds, sets fire to the spider web to watch the wisp and hear the crackle; who wipes clean the anthill with a curious swipe of the foot, and erases, on a whim, whole fields of serfs, whole armies of soldiers; demolishes roads and kingdoms, ends empire, and ends empire’s dreams, dreams I never understood or shared or even glimpsed, though I toiled to build them; dreams now gone in the swipe of a shoe; and from this dream, I do not wake; and that is how I’d want it.