The ants were back in the
bathroom. They’d made multiple trails from the floor up the wall to a crack in
the window frame. Wiggly lines of living, moving creatures. They were after the wet cat food again. It was fascinating even though it also gave Sarah the heebie
jeebies to see hundreds of them here like this all at once.
She knew they communicated by
scent and she could see the ants on their way out and up touching feelers with
the ants coming in and down. Food this
way, they must be saying. She resisted the temptation to anthropomorphize them any further, though. Just made it harder to kill them.
There were at least a couple of
the ant bait thingies left from the package she bought on Amazon a few weeks
ago. They worked pretty well. You cleared away the food and left one of the
baits there instead. The label said they were pet safe. Borax based, she recalled
reading somewhere. The ants switched over from the cat food to the bait very
dependably. They carried the poison back to the hive in tiny, tiny droplets. In
a few hours the trails would start to thin, and in about a day you had wiped them
She always felt bad about that, especially when there were just a
couple of lone ants left hanging around, looking listless and
directionless. But what other choice did she have? She wasn’t going to share
the bathroom with them regardless of how many times their weight they could
carry and how amazing a feat of evolution they were.
She was about to leave to get the
bait when she had second thoughts. For whatever reason, she would never be able
to say why, she decided that she would just clean up the food and wait for the
ants to leave on their own. Then she’d put the cat bowl in a plate with a
little water in it. That should do the trick. If they couldn’t reach it, they
wouldn’t come back.
She noticed then that one of the trails was no
longer a straight line. It had looped back on itself. That was weird. In fact
there were multiple loops going on here.
One of them, the second stream
from the left, looked a little like the letter “e.”
x x x
x x xx
x x x
The ants were moving in four
vertical streams down the wall and these were all bending and twisting as she watched. The second stream
from the right had morphed into an “f” shape. On the far right it looked
like a “t” now. The stream on the far left had looped into a cursive lower case “l.”
Impossibly, the four streams now spelled out the word “left.” And just as soon as it
was recognizably a word it all began straightening out again. In less than a
minute the streams were more or less linear once more.
“What are the odds?” Sarah
whispered, already regretting that she hadn’t grabbed her phone and taken a
snap. To do what with? Post on Facebook or Instagram that her apartment was infested with insects? Gross. But that was
She was one of six people in the
lunch room when the first shots rang out. Her father, a hunter, had taken her to a firing
range when she was fourteen. She remembered the sound. She knew instantly what
was happening. It was, the police would say, an active shooter situation.
The cafeteria had two doors. From
her perspective everyone was heading for the door to the right, which exited
the building. Though that door you’d find yourself in the parking lot with room
She sprinted for the door to her
left. She had just reached it when the other door opened
and the shooter confronted her coworkers attempting to flee. He cut them all
down. She was the only one from the lunch room to survive.
Sarah put the cat food down in the
bathroom that night, but she didn’t set it in a plate of water. She wanted the
ants to come back. She knew it was insane, but she wanted to thank them.