Luke Holm earned bachelor's degrees in English and philosophy from NIU. He is a middle school teacher and a creative writer.
Autumn Storm Devastates Ant Colony
Everything was ruined. Months of hard work, digging interwoven passageways and tending to newly hatched larva, were destroyed in a matter of moments.
We called our colony the Auntumn out of respect for our fearless queen, Aunt Autumn Amibada. When the torrential downpour began, she separated workers, instructing half of us to fortify the main passages and the others to evacuate the antlings.
Alas, the rain fell too hard, too fast. The majority of us were washed away before any real work was finished. I can still sense the cold emptiness of their lifeless bodies slip away as the rest of us pushed on without them.
Before long, Queen Autumn commanded that we surrender the now flooded catacombs. Hundreds of my brothers and sisters rushed to surface, dodging drops twice their size and trying to protect what was left of our family.
Covered by a thick canopy of colorful, fall leaves, we huddled together, counting our numbers and calming down young ones. Once most were safe, we looked to Autumn for further instruction. In that moment, the colony became frantic. She was nowhere in sight, which meant she was still trapped below.
Save the Queen!
I rushed into the storm without thinking. The downpour continued, splashing drops that exploded like grenades flinging shrapnel in all directions. By some miracle, I made it back to the mound alive and intact.
Water poured from the hole like the foaming jaws of a wild beast. Daunting and dangerous, my task was clear. My allegiance to the queen usurped any notions of self-preservation and I knew that I must find her. With what might have been my final breath, I plunged into the deep, dark hole, risking my life for the sake of the colony.
A Collapsing Ant Colony
I swam for what seemed like ages. Not knowing up from down or where I was going, my only desire was to save the queen. Though the underground labyrinth proved a nearly impossible maze to navigate, I found that tiny pockets of air were trapped throughout various flooded aqueducts. These opportunities for life provided me with a renewed sense of hope and desire to survive.
Overhead, the thunderous storm continued to shake the structure of my had-been home. All around me tunnels collapsed, forcing me in awkward routes as I struggled to find the Queen’s chambers. Just when I thought I was on the right track, the ground collapsed from under me, consuming all that I’d worked for.
The rain has stopped, but all is lost. Even if I could escape this infernal quagmire, it would be of no use. Our home is demolished. Our queen lost forever. With winter approaching, it will be impossible to construct a new nest before the frost hardens the ground, making excavation and the building of tunnels futile.
Even if we could salvage the tired remains of our fallen fortress, we’d have no queen to populate its halls. Woe is me and my company of deceased souls who once labored so hard for the rise and exaltation of our colony.
Doubtful is my escape. I have failed and am doomed to rot in this earthy prison. I cannot move my legs and my sensory antenna is broken.
Despite my suffering, I am warmed by the feeling that I have tried my best. Every action I’ve taken was for the greater good of my family. Even in my last moments, my only thoughts were to save the queen. As I muse over these final, reassuring thoughts, I shall close my eyes and join the earth while winter destroys us all.
Dream or Delusion?
Hark! Awoken from an eternal slumber by the scritch-scratching of jaws removing earth, a familiar sound, my heart leaps into action. Desperately, I cry out for anyone who will listen.
The sound fades along with my hope, and I fall into remiss and darkness.
Help Has Arrived
Again! I’m aroused by the sound of legs and bodies moving as one. This time the sensation is much closer. I can almost feel my family pulling me back into reality. If only they knew my precise location.
Queen Autumn, if you can hear me, please let this be real and not a dream. I can heal and will help rebuild our once-upon-a-time utopia. Let them find me before it’s too late.
A New Ant Queen
The feeling of wind slips over my body, enveloping my senses and caressing my mind. I wonder if it’s death that I feel. If so, the afterlife has proven quite relaxing. I reflect on this as a steady swaying motion lulls me back to sleep.
When I awake, I find myself resting in the heart of the queen’s chambers. A look of perplexed curiosity washes over a crowd that circles around me like ringed ripples spreading out across a vast, black ocean. Before me is the most beautiful countenance I’ve ever seen. Queen Autumn Amibada then reaches out and lifts me for all to see.
Instantly, all my brothers and sisters are silent. The queen addresses them with a stoic tone, “I am the heart of our colony. Without me all would be lost.”
A murmur of, “Thank you for our life, Aunt,” reverberates throughout the entire nest.
“As those who survived know, the recent flood has washed away much of our progress. I too am not without damage. Unfortunately, the trauma from this recent event has left me barren. Therefore, it is time I name a new queen, my successor.”
The colony chants, “We hear you.”
“A queen is one who puts the colony before herself at all times, one who is without fear. Although others followed her suit, this young ant was first to rush back into the nest to save what matters most.
For this reason, I hereby dub our once-nameless-sister as your new queen Autumn. She will be the future of our colony—one who never gives up. From this day forth, let it be known that Autumn leaves none behind.”
© 2017 JourneyHolm