The Ant Colony, the Universe, and Everything

It wasn’t a surprise to me to find out that I was finally going insane. I’d had an inkling in the weeks leading up to this project. But somehow, I’d managed to function up to now, despite the stress of late nights and deadlines. I was keeping on top of my university workload, in between a part time job and seeing my girlfriend. But, perhaps it had all been too much; the physical labour of the excavation every day, the awesomeness of exposing the structure of one of nature’s most extraordinary creatures. But the final nail in the coffin had been when I’d passed the research site one evening. All I could do was gaze in awe at the exposed ant colony spread out in all its glory, which suddenly had lit up, pulsating in a strange ethereal glow. Well, I’ll tell you the truth, it had blown my mind. Since then, just the thought of going anywhere near the place has set in motion a churning dread in me, only alleviated by the sleeping tablets the doctor has given me. They have a nice way of wrapping me up in a soft haze, and saving me from having to grapple with the enormity of it all.

But it won’t go away. The images linger in my mind, along with the nagging sensation that the structure is most definitely alive. I can’t just leave it to die; to be covered over by the concrete of a shopping mall once the project is finished. I realise of course, that it’s already made of concrete. I should know, I’ve just spent the last few weeks shovelling the stuff in by the bucket load. Ten tonnes of it, to be exact. Nothing about it should be alive. When I was asked by the professor if I wanted to help with the research, I’d jumped at the chance to earn a bit of extra money over the summer holidays. And I had the feeling it would be an interesting project to be involved with. But I hadn’t counted on being the only person who could save the world. I’m not Superman, for goodness sake.

But it seems the colony was trying to communicate with me all this time, penetrating my mind with a series of symbols that I couldn’t quite understand. How it was doing that I don’t know, but it felt alien and unsettling. And I knew this – our planet was in grave danger. I knew it with a certainty, could feel it in my veins. So that evening, after tossing and turning in my bed trying to get to sleep, I gave in and went back to the site that was calling me.

It was dark as I headed out, but the moon was full so I had no problem finding my way up the track to the dig. I left my bike against the fence, and walked the last bit, taking care not to miss the edge. And there I sat cross legged, feeling small and alone as the moon disappeared behind some clouds. Believe me, there’s nothing like nature to inspire in someone a sense of powerless, exposing the real truth of his existence. And the dread only grew as a dark shadow of something I couldn’t yet see, spread itself over the structure. Then it began again, that amber glow emanating outwards from the centre, images flashing in my head like they always had. I wanted to turn and run then, but something fixed me to the spot, refusing to let me move.

The aircraft gradually revealed itself, gently lowering until it hovered, dome-shaped over the exposed ant colony, pulsating with that same amber light as the structure. It never made a sound, and I should have been terrified, but what struck me most was how the energy rose in waves from the earth through my body. It was then I realised why I was there – I was the conduit which allowed them to communicate. My heartbeat pulsed in time with theirs; I was fire and rain, and earth and sky all at the same time. Electric currents raged through my bloodstream, along with the stars and quarks of the universe, the sun and moon… every part merging into a union of fire and flame… until there was no more, and I was left breathless, gasping for air and alone. The light flickered once more, then died, leaving me shrouded once again in darkness.

When I recovered enough to look up, the space ship had gone, and what had once been the structure of the ant colony, was now just a pile of ash. It had been dissolved. I ran then, taking my bike, and cycling like mad to my girlfriend’s flat. Only when I was in her arms did I stop shaking. We kissed and started making love, and as I lay against her naked and warm form, I didn’t care any more about what the research team would say about the destroyed structure. After all, what did the project matter in the grand scheme of things? The aliens had got what they wanted, whatever it was, and they weren’t about to destroy the earth anymore. We were safe. And I never told anyone about that night, not even my girlfriend. After all, who was I to argue with the ineffability of the universe?