The trunk stank from ten feet away. A rotten mass of bagged up groceries leaking through the thin plastic. The first ant body crawled through to the trunk’s tomb, thick with moldering treasure. The loose balls of clementines in their net, softening from the inside so that the bag pulsed with a sweet, steady, pulp-driven smell that drew the colony eagerly onward. Leeks many layered thin stalks were peeling back on themselves, shriveling to their white insides like a mummy clinging to its bones. The bottle of 7up a golden statue propped at the back, inviolate and meaningless without the click and spin of a hand on its top.
The many furred legs infested the shallow marsh. The owner who had loaded the trunk so carefully, stacking tins at the bottom, soft bread on the top, was looking at the river. He’d no head for heights.
Hey, you! Stop staring over the side.
Ben was sick of the bridge and its taunting wire, the glare of the yellow sign. He was sick with the aftermath of three weeks isolated yet surrounded. His veins still sung with the electric that they would pump at whoever tried to leave by the road. He couldn’t find a way out. These people he was stuck with, even his wife and kids, driving him crazy. This man was a joker, leaning out as if on the verge of jumping. What an idiot, as if they all weren’t tense enough. He used the excuse of the fear in his children’s eyes to fuel his anger, already stoked and blazing.
He yanked the strange bloke off the railings. The guy stumbled into him, silent as a drowned man.
What’s wrong with you? What’s your problem? Idiot.
Ben, leave him alone.
The wife nagging in the background.
I’m fine Lizzie, just, just stay there.
He felt sorry for himself suddenly, deeply self pitying. He wouldn’t even speak, the wool of his jumper snagged on the guy’s buttons. Why was he still clutching him?
Which one’s your car, anyway?
He gestured towards a nondescript grey Ford.
Okay, why don’t you go sit in the car? Ben lead him over to its angles, but within a few steps the smell hit them.
The car’s dead, he stuttered.
What’d you mean the car’s dead? Idiot. All the cars are stuck, they’re not dead. Ben twitched as a cold breeze ruffled his hair and lifted the smell.
What’s that smell anyway? The man shrugged.
Ben walked into the murk that car was smugly sat in. He tried to open the doors, the front ones locked, and the back also. Lastly, the trunk. It sprang open as if it had been waiting for him to push it on its well oiled hinges. A black mass seemed to lift into his face, the constant movement almost giving the ants wings. He recognised the sickly green and yellow of potatoes, lumpy. Once he got his sense of smell back, he walked up to this man.
No answer, just the empty glaze of his eyes. He pulled him over to the edge, and put him back in the position he’d first seen him. Legs against the wire, knees knocking the railings.
- WWIn: Ant City (beccaaudra.wordpress.com)
- The Ant of the Self (100wstudent.wordpress.com)
- News in Brief: Ants’ hive mind (sciencenews.org)