WEEVIL AND THE GIANT ANT

This morning, thought Weevil, I will go out to the woods early and see what Felicity's friend the raccoon has to say for himself. So off he went from the house carrying a bundle of all kinds of food snacks and soon crossed the bridge on his way into the bush.

Not far along the trail he saw some ants with red heads and bodies crossing his path in a line, so, naturally, he stopped to watch. Then he squatted down and studied them more carefully. At once several of them stood on their rearmost legs and waved their front legs fiercely at him. He peered more closely.

"Go away," came faint cries to his ears, then more strongly, "Get away from here, you're interfering with our operations. If you do not withdraw at once we shall attack."

"Don't be ridiculous," said Weevil. "Why I could crush a hundred of you with one foot if I chose, which I don't intend to do, though," he added, and rising up he followed them away past the trail into the bush, along a fallen, rotting tree trunk for at least fifty feet, then in a curve past another tree, over the edge of a large rock, around by a cluster of ground ivy, past a tamarack and three white pines, on he went, counting one hundred then two hundred paces, until he came to a great rock along the side of which the long line of marching soldiers went, and then disappeared underground.

Next he retraced his steps, and saw that those going along the way he had come were empty handed, but those going the same way as he now was were carrying over their heads small white objects like footballs with dark spots on one end. The red ants were even forcing their new black ant slaves to carry their own black ant young to the Red Ant City



while others carried smaller black ants rolled up in balls. He followed the lines of ants back, across the trail where he had met them and away into the bush the other side. Counting all his steps he traced their path for a full five hundred paces before he found them disappearing into another hole in the ground. This time it was partly concealed by some low growing juniper beside a small rock on which he promptly sat to watch them.

At once several red ants ran up on the rock and stood beside him. They rose on their hind legs and threatened him again.

"Be on your way, mind your own affairs or we will attack. You were warned before."

"How do you know that," said Weevil. "That was a long way off and with different ants."

"We are all the same and know just what was said," one of them replied.

"That's nonsense," said Weevil, "You're not all the same, you're all different, although you may be similar, otherwise you'd all be one ant."

"We are one ant," the ant replied.

Now somehow Weevil began to be concerned, because either the ants were getting larger or he was becoming smaller, in either case the result was the same -- the ants seemed to grow larger and fiercer at every moment.

"Well," said Weevil, who was always full of questions, "if you're all one ant what are you doing running these seven hundred or more feet carrying these ant eggs and black ants rolled in balls over your heads?"

He realized now that he must be getting very small, because the ants still standing up were forming a circle around him, and a frightening looking sight they were.







"As you are our prisoner," said the same red ant, "we can tell you. We sent scouts who found a city of black ants. We determined conquest was in order. We are carrying back spoils to our city. Prisoners will become slaves."

"Why do you want slaves?" asked Weevil.

"It is not soldiers' work to operate a city. We will continue scouting and mapping territory to capture more slaves until we rule all territory that exists."

"But," said Weevil, "what will you do if you meet other red ants like yourselves, will you fight them also?"

"That is impossible," replied one ant. "We are the Ant and none other exists like us but us."

"That is just not true," said Weevil, "there are miles and miles, thousands of miles of territory and thousands or millions of red ants. It's just that you haven't met them, that's all."

"What you say cannot be true," said the ant, "for we are all one ant, if other ants exist they are us and we are them and our city is theirs and theirs is ours."

"Well," said Weevil, "how many ants am I talking to now?"

"One," said the ant.

"No, I don't mean that," said Weevil, "how many ants are standing around me now...why, there are ten of you."

"No," said the ant, "not ten, we are each extensions of each other, we are all one ant. You are our prisoner, come with us."

Poor Weevil did not really have any choice, small as he was, and they hustled him along in the midst of them towards the entrance by the juniper. It seemed a giant one now, reaching up into the heavens, so Weevil realized that he had shrunk, and not that the ants had grown.

"At least that's a mercy," he thought. "I'm sure somehow if I shrank I can grow again, but what could I do if they were really as big as I was?"

Before he scarcely could realize it, he was hustled along in the midst of them into the dank, cavernous passageway and found himself in a long tunnel with branch passages leading off on every side. What he found most disconcerting was that some ants walked on the floor of the tunnel, while others just as unconcerned walked along the sides and still others upside down along the roof.




"Why don't you all walk on the floor?" asked Weevil.

"That would be foolish and inefficient," came the reply. "We would then use only one-quarter of the available space."

"Then," asked Weevil, "what about ants who want to come the other way?"

"We are all one will, we all know where and when to go at the same time," came the reply.

"I don't believe that," said Weevil, brave and contrary as ever. "What about all the ants I saw not on the pathway but running back and forth in a random way outside the path? They kept changing their minds and their direction. I don't think they knew where they were going."

"Foolish stranger," said the ant again, " you still cannot understand our general will which directs all. They were scouting the borders of our territory."

"You still haven't explained how ants seven hundred paces apart knew I had been spoken to. How do you do that?"

"Our antennae make us one chain of command, all are part of the Will of Ant at one time."

Weevil was just going to ask what happened to one ant if he were to pick it up and take it away from the rest when he found himself being rushed into a densely packed area of tunnels literally crammed with ants, all moving in different directions, and at first glance just changing positions without really doing anything. They all looked terribly alike, like one ant, he had to admit, and finally he concentrated on watching one only. Then he saw that it really was doing something. It was ordering a smaller black ant in front of it into a gallery where it met other black ants and here its task was to help cut up the remains of a caterpillar which had been dropped into the meat cutting section, where the portions were to be provided to grubs hatching out from the ant eggs. Another black ant was part of a gang digging out new cells for the eggs that a third gang was carrying away from the queen who had just laid them. Other teams of slave ants were carrying in water and moistening the galleries to keep the proper humidity while others were acting as nursemaids for the larger and fiercer red ant grubs as they hatched out. Still others were controlling temperature and ventilation and had their sense of what to do imparted to them by the antennae of the red ants controlling them. The longer he stayed there the more Weevil began to sense a hum or a kind of silent note in his ears or head which he began to feel must be the powerful directional program of the One True Ant. Weevil shook his head to escape the thought.

"How can I possibly become part of an ant hill," he asked himself,"how ridiculous, I am a boy."

But try as he would against it, this silent hum seemed to come back and fill his brain so that he was about ready to feel part of it and do what he should do.

"How could I, I haven't any antennae," he said, but the ants still surrounding him just looked at him, and again this persistent sound began to fill his head.

"You have a mind," it said, "and are becoming part of the Great Ant Mind."

He gradually begun to be more aware of how the ants far away at the other end of the trail were nearing completion of their task and bringing out the last spoils of the encounter.

"What will we do?" he asked, "There isn't enough room for them all, we must expand."

And as the ants ushered him along to the end of a gallery he saw more black ants there in a working party.

"We must dig, must dig," kept going over and over in his mind, "while the others are doing their share," and he began to see somehow faintly at first and then quite clearly what all the others were doing. There seemed a new power in him now, a new purpose, and he found himself scooping up all the earth he could carry and joining a long line of black ants. On they went, through gallery after gallery, until finally they reached a different entrance from the one he had come in by, and there they scrambled up a steep slope of loose tailings. Like the others he dutifully dropped his load over the top edge. He saw large red ants with giant mandibles patrolling down below the little mountain the slave ants were creating, but somehow he did not then think of escape. He was concerned to get down again and bring up more handfuls of earth from the gallery. Back and forth he went hour after hour, and did not feel tired or hungry, and always the humming sound was in his head and he knew himself to be part of the One, the Giant, the Universal Ant.

He did not question this source of power, this sense of destiny, and as he travelled back and forth he passed near the queen's gallery and saw part of the huge body and how she was constantly being fed by her attendants, while others were endlessly taking away her eggs at the other end of her gallery. But Weevil knew that she was not the source of this strange power that infused him. She was just as much a part of it as he was.

Before long the gallery Weevil worked in was completed and as it reached the closing stages a new message began to come more and more strongly into his brain. He was constantly being touched with their antennae by other ants and perhaps this caused the sense of belonging, of being part of the giant enterprise. He always naturally stood aside to let the warrior ants pass, and fierce and strong they looked indeed. Their huge eyes in their impressive heads stared right through him as he travelled on his task. But the new message was rising within him and it was saying, "Food, food, there is food captured which must be brought in". Over and over this song or sound kept insisting itself in his head, yet he was not hearing words or a voice, only the universal hum that overpowered his brain.

Thus it was that he found himself threading his way through the vast network of intricate galleries without any sense of loss of direction, and as he went he became more and more conscious of other black ants and some smaller red ants, too, moving in the direction he was moving. Soon there was a long procession of them all moving in the same direction and for a common purpose. Not having as many legs as the ants, and not being any larger, he found it hard work to scramble up and down on the uneven ground of the passageways. Being so small now, he saw for the first time how many odds and ends of things went to make up the earth on which he walked. There were twigs and stones and some of these were highly coloured. There were minute plant growths and large grains of sand about the size of footballs. These were best to walk on where they were tightly packed.

As he approached the light at the end of a tunnel he realized that the city itself must have been in darkness, yet he could not explain how that had not presented any problem. He knew where to go, what to do, where all things were within the city, and yet it was without light as he knew it. He still wondered at this as he and the other ants moved up the steepening slope into the darkening daylight. He realized directly that it must be close to evening now, as they marched on. After a while they came to a strange sight.

There was an enormous white object, shining and reflecting in the fading light, it was something like a giant balloon because its shape was not square but tall as a high rise building at one end, and falling away somewhat to a lesser height at the other. There was a great opening at one end and into this giant space went Weevil, in line with the other ants. In they marched along the slippery, glistening surface, then up and over a great gap into a darker brown area which made hollow noises as they soldiered across it. A long way ahead Weevil could make out some strange cube-like shapes. Partly they were white and partly a darker colour within. It was this darker colour that the agile footed ants were climbing up to, and there each was tearing and tugging away at a portion of the darker part and carrying it off.

Soon Weevil's turn came and he had clambered up to the dark surface and was tugging and wrestling to pull away a piece when suddenly a long sliver came away in his hands and he fell with it to the surface below. It seemed a long fall, at least fifteen feet or more. He was quite winded and almost lost consciousness, but clung to the sliver about four feet long in his hands. The surface under him had proved quite soft and gave way as he landed on it, on his side, so he was not injured. But the smell of the sliver was very good, and he began to realize he was hungry. He picked himself up and moved off a little to one side and took a bite at the sliver, which was food. Better than that, it was good fresh-cooked meat, and he began to eat ravenously. No one stopped him, because most of the ants were carrying the food in their forelegs and mouths anyway. He crept further away into the darkness of the cavern and found he was getting out of touch with the humming sound in his brain and began to think more like himself. Then he noticed a hole an enterprising beetle had cut through the wall of the cavern and was just able to move himself through it. Outside that was the white, shiny material which reflected in a luminous way the light beyond it. There were no ants around him now and as he walked and ate he noticed the space was getting more cramped, and the remaining meat in his hand smaller and smaller as he ate. Soon he reached the end of the shiny luminous substance and stepped out into daylight. He had to bend almost double to get clear of the white cavern, which seemed more like a very small hole now, and as he looked back at it he saw he was looking down at it, and it was growing smaller and smaller. He finished eating the last morsel of meat in his hands and then suddenly realized that he was looking at his lunch bag with a white plastic bag over it. The ants were busy stealing his lunch!

This time he made no attempt to bend down and remonstrate with them, he was very glad to be about his normal size. Besides, who would want sandwiches after ants and a beetle anyway.

He looked at the scene in amazement. The lunch bag was really very close to the juniper and the rock by the ant city entrance, although it had been a long trek for him just a short while ago. Still bewildered he turned away and looked around for the trail so that he could go back home. After keeping the juniper and the small rock carefully in sight so that he would not get lost, he at last found the trail and started off home again, in fact he discovered he had not gone more than a very short distance past the bridge over the river.

By the time he arrived home he had still not recovered. He could scarcely believe what he had just experienced.

"Just in time, Waverley," said mother Nancy to him as he walked in the door, "supper's ready and we were beginning to wonder what kept you so long."

"I bet," said Felicity, "he's going to tell us one of his crazy stories about being locked up in a beehive or something."

"Well," said Weevil, "as a matter of fact..." but then he

thought better of it, and sat down thankfully to supper without another word.



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