I wrote this short story earlier in the month, I just edited it today. I hope you enjoy it.
This Document Copyright ©2013 By
Laura Morrigan All Rights Reserved
Laura Morrigan All Rights Reserved
I was down in the yard one day, trimming the roses, when I saw it. An ant, trapped in a drop of honey that had fallen from a bees nest. He struggled fearfully, only getting himself further stuck. Perhaps most people would have killed him, but I was a tender young woman, as my pa always said. So it was that I hurriedly brought some water, and carefully, very carefully tipped the tiniest drops of it onto the honey, melting it, so that the ant could clean the honey off himself and be free. It was hard not to drop too much and drown him, but I was patient and slow.
Slowly, oh so slowly, the ant worked his way free. Then the strangest thing happened. He seemed to stand up on the back two of his six little legs and it seemed as if he was bowing to me. Very carefully, I got down on the ground to see him better. It was then that I heard his quiet little voice.
'Brave miss, I am eternally grateful to you for rescuing me from the trap my enemies set for me. You are beautiful as well as brave, and although you are not of our race, I would like to invite you back to my kingdom to meet my people.'
'Of course,' I whispered as gently as I could, although my breath nearly blew him down.
'Take my hand', he piped. I reached out my finger, and the tiniest little ant leg touched it. Then I seemed to be falling through space and when I opened my eyes, I stood in the strangest place.
We stood on the top of a hill, overlooking a city, the ant prince and I. Now that he was in his world, he was a person, just like me. He would explain that to me later, although I cannot remember now. It has been years, and sometimes the details grow quite fuzzy. His skin was dark, blacker than ebony, and his teeth were very white when he smiled at me. He was quite the most handsome man I ever saw. He wore a finely tailored grey wool suit with tails and a tall stovepipe hat. I barely noticed the extra set of sleeves that enclosed his second pair of arms. It all seemed so normal. We stood on the hill looking down.
'Behold my city,' he said, and we looked down at a bustling metropolis, strange dark buildings, lumpy sky scraping buildings whose like I had never seen. They were made of a rough, brown material and rather odd looking, not like the ordered brick buildings of my world, but they were so tall and magnificent, with spires and turrets, quite like fairytale castles.
'May I see more?' I begged.
He took my hand, and led me down into the city. What a novelty it was to be the size of an ant! Why my mother could never find me when she wanted me to do chores or nag me about being a spinster! It was market day, and the streets bustled with his people, women in their finest dresses walking to market, carrying a basket on one of their arms, wrangling restless children with the other three. His people were strong, and I saw many of them, in fancy red jackets, pulling rickshaws, on which other ant people sat, laughing. At market stalls, crumbs of bread were sold just like loaves in our world, and small pieces of preserved fruit. At the butcher's stall, an aproned ant sliced pieces from the body of a dead grub, smiling and joking with his customers. I had to turn away from the sight of the squishy white flesh. I let him lead me away, show me the huge cathedral that stood in the town square, with fragments of golden glass in the windows that he told me were pieces of amber.
'I have never seen such tall buildings!' I exclaimed. He smiled graciously. 'My people are wonderful architects. Do you know we built this city using dirt? No bricks and mortar for us!'
'Dirt?' I exclaimed, 'how droll! And yet, it is the most magnificent city I have ever seen!'
'Oh, there is another,' he said darkly, but turned away, and I did not press him to explain.
'And all this is yours?' I asked, awed.
'It is indeed, I am the prince of this land. The only one who can open a portal to go from here into the mortal realm. There, I am nothing, a tiny ant, here, as you see, I have everything.'
'Then why do you come across?'
'To see how our city looks to human eyes. It keeps us humble, knowing that in your realm, our city is nothing more than a pile of dirt, and our people barely specks. And there is another reason, too, we are looking for a champion.'
'Yes, there was a prophecy long ago about a fair maiden from the realm of the humans that would deliver us all from our enemies. They besiege us on all sides and might soon destroy us all, destroy our glorious civilisation if nothing is done.'
'That cannot be me, I am naught by a humble girl.'
'Maybe so, but may I show you?' he asked. I nodded, wanting to see all I could of this amazing world before I was sent home to my dull life. The ant prince drew me with him, and we left the city to return to the hillside. We walked along the edge of the hill. 'Be careful,' he told me, 'for the ground drops off steeply here, and in this world, you are our size, such a fall could kill you.'
I felt some trepidation then, to realise how full of danger this little world really was. All those thoughts soon flew from my mind, however, when we reached the top of the hill, and I saw the vista that stretched out before me. Down in a valley was the most amazing city I had ever seen. More amazing, even, than the city of the ants. A glittering golden city. The prince handed me a spyglass so that I might see it more clearly. Through the spyglass, I could see the buildings. Each was made up of hexagons of a glass like material that glimmered in the sunlight.
'Honeycomb', the prince said in my ear. 'This is the home of the Bee princess, and her people, our sworn enemies.'
'Oh, but how can you be enemies?' I asked, 'you have so much in common, your small size and your brilliant cities!' I gazed through the spyglass at the city, realising now that its glimmer came from the sticky honey that dripped from the honeycomb buildings. I watched the bee people in their yellow and black coats run up and down the honeycomb, as if they were taking their morning constituional, nothing more.
'Ah, you are so naïve, it is sweet,' the prince said, smiling sadly when I looked at him, 'do you really think it is so simple? Alas, the bees see themselves as the rulers of both cities, and will not stop until we bow down to them or are destroyed. Look.'
I put my eye to the spyglass again, and followed where his finger pointed. From a dark honeycombed building, a crowd of the bee people rose, flying with delicate wings made of bent bamboo frames and soft, gauzy filaments that looked like nothing, but somehow held them in the air. They rose, a giant cloud, and made towards the ant city.
'With their clockwork wings, they are unbeatable,' the ant prince said to me, sighing. 'We are doomed.' I stared on in delight and horror. I had never realised how much these little people were like us, why even their wings were mechanical, that I had always thought they were born with. There was so much about this world that I did not understand. My ant prince told me about the bees. How they all carried curved daggers tipped with poison that could easily kill any ant they sliced with them. How they had learned the wonders of clockwork, to carve the wooden cogs that made these wings work.
'Do they really mean to kill you all?' I asked. He nodded. 'Swear to me that if I help you, if I destroy them I am doing the right thing.'
'You are,' whispered the prince, 'it is a terrible thing, but it needs to be done. And we will be eternally grateful.'
He touched my hand, then, and I was back in the garden, back to my own size again. The ant prince, an ant again, scurried into a hole, where he would be safe, while I advanced on the beehive. Filling my watering can from the tap, I walked over the the hive, ignoring the bees who milled around me, stinging at me. I was too large for their stings to kill me, although it hurt. I filled their hive with water, watched the bees that did not drown struggle out, their wings too wet to fly. I crushed each one under my foot, until they were all dead. I knocked their round little nest from the bush and stamped it to pieces. My mother had said they were pests anyway, and feared the danger they posed to my brother and I should they take it into their minds to attack.
Once I was done, I went to where I had seen the ant, my feet sticky with honey and death. He was waiting there. I bent down and he took my hand again. Again I felt that dizzy falling feeling, then I was back on the hillside, holding his hand. It felt good in mine, the skin soft, not at all how you would imagine a hard little ant's skin to feel. 'Our saviour', he whispered, going down on one knee before me, and I blushed, noticing in again how handsome he was.
He took me down into that glorious dirt city, and all who saw me cheered. I chose not to go and see the smoking ruins of that honeycomb city. He asked me to stay in his palace with him, and I agreed. Days in our world were years there, small people have small days. Time flew by for me as well as him. I lived there in that palace and fed upon dew drops and tiny crumbs, and they were the most delicious things I ever tasted. Every day, the prince and I would look at each other with more and more longing.
Even after all this time, the scent of honey had not quite died from his skin. When we kissed, the sweet taste lingered on his lips. He gathered me gently into his arms. There was no need to say what we felt for each other, yet we said it anyway, over and over again.
We were married in a grand chapel of golden soil, built especially for our wedding. All of his subjects watched and cheered us, as we were carried through the streets in a carved palanquin. We were presented with the most wonderful presents, including two pairs of clockwork wings stolen off the enemy, with which we could soar through the sky and look down on his glorious city. A city that was now mine too.
We were so happy the day I discovered I was with child, and so were his people. An ant prince is a special thing, for only he can open the portal between the worlds. And this prince would be very special, the child of their prince, and their strange but beautiful saviour, oddly attractive, even with her pale skin and only two arms.
But our happiness was not to last. One day there came a terrible earthquake. The buildings shook, the citizens of the city were milling and screaming in fear. We saw the huge feet coming towards our city. I, like the others, was terrified. I was only a few feet high, how could I defend our city now?
I watched in horror as the feet came down on a building, crushing all inside.
'Humans!' cried the prince in horror. I felt fear grip my heart. I may have thought of myself as human once, but now I was one of the ant people, and humans were the enemy.
'I can save you!' I cried, 'take me back to my world, I will be big again, I can stop it!'
My prince nodded, he took my hand, the world began to shake even harder.
I stood there, by the half ruined city, and saw my brother wantonly stomp more of my people under his feet.
'Stop!' I cried, as the royal palace crumbled under his foot. Had my husband been in there? My heart ached at the thought.
I dragged my brother away from the ant nest.
'What are you doing,' he demanded, 'these are pests, I am just dispensing with them, as you did with the bees nest!'
'No,' I cried, 'they are people like us, although tiny, they have their own lives, their own loves, their own cities! Each life you destroy is a tragedy.'
He looked at me as if I was mad, but shrugged.
'There's no need to get hysterical about it, sister, I'll leave your precious ants alone if they meant that much to you,' he wandered off, muttering that I was losing my mind.
I nearly did lose my mind after that, for, though I searched the garden, so careful not to step on any ant, I could find my husband nowhere. Finally, I noticed that a string of ants was following me. I got down to look at them. I would have recognised my husband anywhere, but none of them was him. The ants lined up in front of me, and slowly bowed. It was then that I knew for sure my husband was dead. These were only common ant people. Unlike my prince, they could not communicate with me in this world, and they could not bring me back. I was trapped in this world until another prince came along.
I locked myself in my room and cried for days, until the day when I finally received my hope. I felt the kicking inside my belly, and knew that my child was still in there. My husband's child. I knew that he, too, would be an ant prince.
Some people, my brother and mother included, think I am lying. But if I am lying, then where did this child come from, this child I gave birth to just weeks after I returned? This child with dark, dark skin and the scent of sticky honey about him.
Every day, I go down to the garden, I watch our subjects rebuild the city in readiness for us. It will be years in our time, centuries in theirs. Centuries without a prince, but I know they will keep the faith, and I will continue to visit, to give them hope. They will pass the legend down over the generations, they will be ready for us when we finally come.
I miss my lord every day. I know I shall never marry again, never love again. But I am comforted by the thought that one day our son will grow up, and he will be able to open the portal between worlds, as only an ant prince can. He will take us both back to that world, the place where we belong. Our kingdom of dirt.