Plan your escape route, for when you set the world on fire.
We Are Ants
By Alicia Bruzzone
Why doesn’t everybody notice we live out our lives like ants? So busy running back and forth we forget how to be content, gathering riches for figureheads, only living off a tiny portion of what we collect. Perhaps that’s why the male ants fly off to die, willing to leave as a suicidal escape. They know the truth. They are like me.
The boss is in. He’s sweaty. Always sweaty. What is it, food allergy? He doesn’t just sweat, he stinks. I think he knows. A woody cologne wafts with him of a morning as he puffs through the main doors. Always a second shirt after lunch, though I never see him eat. He must eat, I can tell his cholesterol is high so it’s probably junk, food he can grab fast and eat at a desk as he fights for supremacy in the corporate grind. He doesn’t even know it’s killing him.
He’s not alone today. A little girl stands by his side, face pale and equally as sweaty. His daughter; she’s older than the picture on his desk. She must be like me, as she’s horrified when she looks around, eyes darting to process too much at once. Her eyes are sunken dark circles, and her whole body shakes. She’s pale terrified. She knows this is purgatory, only no amount of praying helps you escape. It’s the same face I see in the mirror every morning.
Medicine. He gives her medicine and takes her to his office.
It won’t work. She needs to escape. She’s too young to have to deal with this. Why is she here?
Some people take drugs to feel again, to open their mind to compartments long forgotten. I take to forget. I welcome the numbness. Usually the world moves too fast, too much to process, more to analyse. Speed has the opposite effect on me. It calms and stops the jitters that knowing causes. Because I know. Even as I sit at my little cubicle and update spreadsheets on my computer, I know. We are ants.
Ants, busy scurrying as I follow them. Weaving past the cluttered desks until we reach the boss’ office, glass door in a false gesture of approachability.
Rules; I’m not allowed in. But I need to be. She should be at school. Already she knows how to fight the system better than I do.
Why am I here? He wants to know, but truthfully, I’m not sure why I followed, other than the little girl. She needs me. I understand. Her father is part of the machine. Part of the problem. Stuffing in medicine because he thinks she’s broken, instead of just seeing clearly. Another generation of ants on standby for when this world drains us of all life force, sapped into nothing by the corporate agenda.
Can I leave, I’m making her uncomfortable. But it isn’t me doing that, it’s being here. They never see that. She needs to leave.
Take my hands off her? This life is hurting her, not me trying to get her out. She’s me. This little girl is me, and she needs to be allowed to escape. She can’t be kept here. She can’t.
He’s hurting her. I can tell because she cries out with a howl, little body dragged between the two of us. Why won’t he let go? She needs protecting. He won’t let go.
Before I even register the need to act he’s thrown backwards, my hands pushed into the flab of his gut. Into the window, fast, so fast. It’s broken and there’s blood. Is he dead? I think he might be dead. The girl screams. I need to get her away from this office, away from where it hurts.
Ants. The ants are everywhere, swarming. I can’t let them have the girl, no matter the cost. I throw furniture, grabbing a knife from the kitchenette before I reach the stairs. They stay back now, their faces like the one I see in the mirror every morning. They can finally feel it. The girl is showing them something. I need the city to see it too.
The roof. I have to half drag her up the stairs, she’s sobbing and hiccupping as she finally lets it overwhelm her. I wasn’t fast enough.
The wind howls down the skyline like a jet liner, ruffling my hair as sirens begin to wail below us. Good. The media will follow, then everyone can see her face. Everyone will unlock the universal truth. Every day, every moment of our lives doesn’t matter if we let them control it. There is no point to a colony of ants. Not unless you’re the queen.
A helicopter flares overhead as the entrance door to the stairwell bursts open behind us. Men in riot gear with guns exit the small cavity, lasers pointed on me. They won’t let me save her. They’re trying to take the girl.
She cries as I grab her hand and manage a rare smile, assuring her as we walk one step closer to the edge.
We don’t need to play by their rules.
Another step, until our toes peek over the precipice.
We don’t need to play by anyone’s rules.
Her arms flail in preparation for our journey as I lead her one moment closer.
We don’t need to follow any rules. Including gravity.