The Ants by Meghan Richardson
He warned me not to eat food in bed because of the ants, one night as he saw me shoving a handful of tortilla chips into my gob. He waggled his finger at me.
“Don’t eat in bed,” he warned. “Because of the ants.”
“But what about breakfast in bed?” I asked.
But I foolheartedly ignored his warnings. Have you ever sat tucked up in bed eating eggs on toast by the window in your dressing gown, cushioned by pillows, and warm contentment? Been bathed in late morning sunlight as you sipped down your first cup of coffee or hummed around a glass of orange juice? Have you licked vegemite off your lips after a big yawn and sunk back down between your sheets?
So, one morning while he lay snoozing I fixed him up some jam on a croissant to try and persuade him. I wandered into the garden and picked some wildflowers, and left the back door open for the breeze. There were ants on the flowers, so I shook them off onto the floor and put the flowers in a glass cup. I placed it all lovingly onto a wooden tray and carried it to him with the utmost concentration. I placed the tray on the bed but he didn’t stir.
“Wake up,” I said, but instead he rolled onto his side away from me.
I sat on the other side of the bed and felt irrational irritation at his sleepy rejection. I picked up his croissant and started munching. The flaky pastry fluttered everywhere, like confetti or dandruff. I should’ve eaten it over the plate or held my hand beneath my chin to catch the crumbs. Instead, I let them dance about freely onto his bed sheets until I had finished his breakfast and a tiny battleground of pastry lay scattered beneath me. As I started slurping the cheap, instant coffee he woke up and shifted to face me.
“Good morning,” he uttered huskily, in the voice men use as they wake up. “What’s all this?”
“Breakfast in bed” I admitted. “For you.”
“Did you eat it all?”
I nodded guilty and he laughed for a second before his face twisted and contorted into an exclamation of pain.
“Ouch!” he cried and sat up immediately. Before I had time to ask what was wrong he ripped the bed sheet off his legs and I saw an army of ants crawling over his legs, in between the crumbs and flakes of croissant. These ants were very fast and very hungry. By the time he pulled off the bed sheet, they had already eaten his feet.
I wanted to scream but the ants were continuing along his legs and I leapt off the bed.
“Go and get some insect repellent!” He yelped and whimpered.
I scampered in a hurry and shook myself the whole time, terrified of the feeling these man-eating ants were already crawling all over me. But they weren’t. Just all over him.
“Hurry!” He screamed as I raided the pantry and stood on my tippy toes trying to check the highest shelves. I saw the bug spray sitting smugly, tantalising just out of reach of my outstretched arms.
“I’m trying!” I yelled back as I jumped as high as I could and clutched the bottle so tightly my knuckles went white.
I heard the muffled cry of him calling my name. I hurried back, through the corridor and threw myself into the room spraying repellent and screaming Rambo style.
As the spray cleared all I could see of him was a tuft of hair below a pulsing nest of ants that covered his whole body. I ran to him and tried to claw the ants away, but they scattered underneath my fingers as I found in horror that there was nothing left of him. No blood or bones, not a single skin cell left to cherish. A tuft of his light blond hair lay accusingly against the pillowcase. I stared at the lack of him in horror.
The ants marched solemnly away from the bed where they had been thrown. Not affected slightly by the home brand insect spray. A silent procession of them filed out the back door. I followed them from the bed, my head spinning with guilt and revulsion.
“Eat me too!” I begged the ants.
“We are full.” They replied.
“Please!” I screamed.
“No, thank you.” They said and shut the door behind them.