by Arnold Snyder
Ants were in my socks, biting my ankles. I tried my best to ignore them, as well as the few that were inside my pant legs biting my calves and knees.
I called Pete.
“Pete, I can’t wait. I’m taking a few things and driving to the airport. Catching the first flight to Strait City.”
“What the fuck? What about all your stuff, man?”
“I’m leaving it. I don’t want it. Take whatever you want. My rent’s paid till the end of next month. So enjoy it. I’ll leave the door open and the key under the toaster. My car key too. Take my car.”
“Gimme a fucking break, Morg! Nobody moves like that. Is the mob after you?”
“I’m afraid to ask what the fuck you did. Do I have to worry? Is anybody gonna show up at my door looking for you? How much fucking money do you owe to who?”
“No, Pete, it’s not like that.”
“Did you knock up some girl? Just tell me what’s going on.”
“I’m just moving the easy way. In a few hours I’ll be in Strait City with a rental car, looking for a motel for the night. I’m going to get into the shower and wash the Vegas off.”
“Morg, I’ve got more than a few friends that are looney tunes, but you have moved into number one position.”
“A few hours from now, I’ll be the most normal person in town, my home town.”
“Catch you later, Morg. I gotta go eject an inebriated guest from the VIP room. Send me a postcard.”
“Yeah, bye Pete.”
I was going to miss him.
I decided to take nothing but my ID. I’d call my landlord in the morning and give notice. I could cancel my utilities online.
My Uber driver arrived so quickly, I hadn’t even looked at flight schedules. As I ran down to the ride, I heard a voice, a mocking voice, directed at me:
You ain’t gettin’ away with it, pal.
With one leg stepping into the car, I turned to see who was accosting me out on the street. It was an orange traffic cone, a few feet off the shoulder, tipped over and forgotten from a road resurfacing project that finished six months ago.
“Sorry, man,” I said to the driver, “Let me deal with this asshole first.” I closed the car door and walked over to where the traffic cone was lying on its side.
I stood over it with my hands on my hips, in as menacing a posture as I could affect. “Did you say something to me, buddy?”
Ants that had gotten under my shirt onto my stomach and chest began biting me. I started slapping at my shirt front, trying to squish them without actually removing my shirt. But I couldn’t do it, or at least not fast enough for the prickly painful bites they were inflicting. With an angry grunt I ripped my shirt over my head without even unbuttoning it. I dropped it to the pavement and slapped at the evil little bastards, brushing them from my bare torso, trying to brush my hands up and down my bare back, jumping around as I did it.
I took another step closer to the traffic cone and opened my mouth to say something, but before anything came out, an ant—buried somewhere in my armpit—bit me so hard I was reduced once more to an angry grunt. As I dug my fingers into the pit hair to locate and exterminate the malicious little shit, I stared menacingly at the tipped-over traffic cone and repeated in a less-than-commanding voice, “Did you say something?”
I think you heard what I said, pal. You ain’t gettin’ away with it. You can’t just kill our savior and walk. Do you have any idea what kind of trouble you’re in?
“You’re a fucking traffic cone,” I said. “How can you know anything about who I am and what I’m doing?”
Ha! You are naïve, even for a piece of crabgrass. Do you realize you now have the ants of the world as your enemy? You will be attacked wherever you go. You think you can catch the next fight to Strait City and all will be forgotten? Let me tell you, pal, before your plane touches down in Strait City, the ants in Strait City will be waiting for you.
“How do you know where I’m going?” I said.
And that’s when the ants started attacking my crotch. Geezus, they were in my jockey shorts! They were biting my goddamn dick! My balls! Already shirtless, I was now yanking my jeans down to my knees and I could see the ants swarming inside the upper pant legs. I had to remove them and my underwear as well, and my shoes and socks too. Right out on the street, I’m slapping at my ass and brushing ants from every area of my privates. They were turning my scrotum into a swollen itchy hell.
That’s when I heard the Uber driver yell, “Fuck you, asshat!” before peeling out and leaving me alone with the ants and the traffic cone.
You know, Morgan, I can help you.
I could see swarms of ants starting to appear on the street and sidewalk, pouring from crevices in the broken pavement. They were all coming toward me, and I couldn’t even handle the ones already eating me alive.
Morgan, listen up, I can call them off.
“Call them off!” I screamed, as thick lines of ants started streaming up my calves and I swatted at them furiously.
You must agree to my price.
And immediately the biting stopped, the stinging stopped, and the ants dropped off of me as the advancing swarms retreated.
Every inch of my body from the neck down was itching and burning. “Who are you?” I said, rubbing my hands up and down various areas of my body to scratch the unbearable itches.
May I ask you to stand me upright, please?
I went over to the traffic cone and stood him up on his base. He was about three feet tall, kind of battered, and the orange color on half of him was sun-bleached.
“I said who are you,” I said. “Other than the obvious—a beat-up old traffic cone with your own ant army, and somehow you know who I am and where I’m going.”
You may call me “Lord.”
“Lord? Ha! That’s a joke!”
You agreed to pay my price. That is my price. You are to address me as Lord. Unless you are longing for the ants to return, you will show some respect. Now stand still and stop scratching. You’re trying my patience. You were given an incredible opportunity to get in on the ground floor of Transearth, Inc., and you blew it. You killed a good man in the process. Pete was a rising star. And the crazy thing is, Morgan, you can’t fight it. Transearth is bigger than you.
“I think your Transearth bullshit is just that—bullshit. The world is not going to allow ants the right to vote. As for inanimate objects like yourself, you’ll never be given any rights at all in this world. You’ll always be used for the convenience of people.”
Perhaps you didn’t get the memo, Morgan. The vote has already been taken and the results tallied. The insects won in a landslide.
“They won what in a landslide?”
I shouldn’t have to repeat this, Morgan, but would you please look down at your right foot?
I glanced down, then quickly looked again for more than a glance at a gathering of black ants beside my bare right foot, which, as a result of ant bites, appeared, like my legs, to be afflicted with a terminal case of chicken pox.
Those ants are waiting to see if you will address me properly when you next speak. It’s “Lord,” remember?
The ants were pouring out of a crack in the pavement. I took a deep breath and exhaled my frustration. “The insects won what in a landslide, Lord?”
Much better. They won everything. The insects now rule the world. Granted, most people don’t know it yet, but the human race is about to be enslaved.
“I never got to vote, Lord. I never even heard of the vote.”
Humans were disallowed from voting. Now sit down.
“Then the results are invalid. This is a democracy. Everyone gets a vote!”
Are you talking to me?
“Goddamn it, Lord! Everyone gets to vote in a democracy!”
Believe me, Morgan, if the human vote count would have been relevant, you would have been allowed to vote. But humans are such a small percentage of the Earth population—so insignificant compared to the animal, plant, insect, and inanimate object populations—that there was no practical reason to even tally your votes. Compared to the Earth’s pebble population alone, humans are a tiny fraction of a percent. Now, please, sit down.
“Pebbles got to vote?”
Of course. There are so many pebbles on this planet, it would have been undemocratic to exclude them, and the pebble vote itself was nearly irrelevant based on the votes of the grains of sand. Now sit down.
“I’m naked,” I said.
What is this mental block you have against addressing me properly?
“May I put my pants on, Lord? I’m naked, for chrissake.”
So am I.
“But Geezus, Lord, you’re a fucking traffic cone!”
And that allows you to be dressed in finery while I’m exposed to the elements? You’re so arrogant. Everything’s so easy for you because you were born with human privilege.
Don’t act so ignorant. What did you ever do to earn your opposable thumb? You feel you have the right to own, enslave, and use or abuse at your pleasure, not only every other life form on this planet, but every non-life form as well.
“Look, I just want to shake the ants out of my shirt and pants and put them on. Is that okay, Lord? I can’t stand around outside naked like this. I’ll be arrested.”
I said sit down.
I sat down on the pavement cross-legged in front of him. Naked. I felt like a yoga student sitting before his master.
There’s a new world order, Morgan. You were being offered a position in that order and you killed the messenger. He wasn’t really the savior. He was the test savior, so to speak.
“And he failed the test because of me?”
Actually, you performed quite admirably. We want you. You’ll be punished for murdering Pete, but understand that humans will soon be the slaves of the insect world, which is as it should be. There was a vote and majority rules—this is democracy after all—humans are to serve all the lower life forms and the nonlife forms. You, however, have been singled out for special treatment. You will be a consultant, or an advisor if you will—
“You’re saying I’m going to be some kind of an informant? A snitch?”
At the beginning. But you’ll be much more than that as time goes on. You see you are not really a human. You are crabgrass at your core. There are duties that go with your position that many humans would find distasteful that you will find quite acceptable—enjoyable in fact. What I’m saying is that you are a lucky son-of-a-bitch. In the hierarchy of slaves, you will be in the top tier. Many slaves will answer to you, but you will answer only to me. All your needs will be taken care of, and for work well done, you will be paid in slaves of your own.
“You’re saying I’m going to have my own human slaves?” I said, then added, “Lord?”
Yes, in every sense. To do with as you please. No questions asked. True ownership.
“What if I don’t want slaves, Lord?”
Oh, you’ll want them. Otherwise, you’ll never finish the tasks you’re assigned. Plus, they’ll make your life enjoyable. You’ll have naked young girls who will worship you. And I know that’s what you really want. All you have to do is cooperate. As soon as I have a list of your tasks drawn up, we’ll have a meeting. I’m on the committee.
The committee to draw up your tasks, composed of myself and quite a few other traffic cones and sawhorses with flashing orange warning lights.
“My fate is being decided by emergency traffic diverters?”
Look, Morgan, your life is changing for the better. And better than you ever dreamed it could be. Do you remember the day you fell in love with Dusty?
“Please, Lord, I really want to put my pants on. People in those apartment buildings could be looking this way.”
Walk over to that patch of lawn by the garage, Morgan, where your jeans are lying in a heap with your jockey shorts still somehow attached, and pick up your pants—the ants are gone from them—but before you put them on, look down at the lawn where your pants were lying. Just look.
I felt wary walking over to pick up my pants, expecting some kind of ant surprise. When I got there, I just stared at them, making no move to pick them up, even though I had been wanting desperately since I’d flung them off to get them back on. I leaned down and looked closely. I could see no ants, but I’d have to turn them inside-out to be sure. I took a hold of the crotch in order to capture my underpants as well, and I straightened up to find myself looking down at the lawn beneath them. I saw the most beautifully-patterned, intricately-woven, breathtakingly-colored piece of crabgrass I’d ever seen.
I tossed my pants onto an adjacent patch of lawn and got down on my haunches for a closer look. I reached down to touch her with both hands. The connection was immediate. She knew I was crabgrass too.
“My name is Morgan,” I said, barely above a whisper.
“I … I guess I knew that. Megan, I’m really attracted to you.”
Believe me, it’s mutual. I can see your suffering. I can see the emptiness in your eyes. All I want in this world is to fulfill you. You’re my prince. Tell me you’re not just a dream.
I was noticing the way her long leaves, those rolled fingers, crisscrossed in such a way that they could easily be woven into multiple orifices. Having sex with her would be different every time, but every time would be like planting myself in the earth. She was the woman of my dreams.
We’re going to work together, Morgan. The Lord recruited me onto his team to enslave the humans. I’m so excited about getting started. He said we’d be working closely on the discipline/punishment project. We get to interrogate them, maybe even torture some of the difficult cases. Aren’t you thrilled!
That’s when I noticed the flashing lights of the cop car. I spun around to see two Metro cops, already out of their vehicle, standing with their guns drawn and pointed in my direction.
“Officers, I can explain everything,” I said, reaching for my pants.
“Don’t move, bozo!” one of the cops ordered.
I stopped moving. “Ants got inside my clothes,” I said. “They’re right here.”
“Lie down! Face down! With your arms up over your head! Now!”
Then I heard the voice of my Lord, so calm:
Go along with their game, Morgan. Don’t make a fuss. Stick to your story. You had ants in your pants. They can see the bite marks. They’ll test your blood and put you in the drunk tank overnight. Big deal. I’ll expect to see you here as soon as you get out.
As I was listening to my Lord’s instructions, the cops were barking commands and cuffing my hands behind my back, then standing me up, still naked and barefooted. I couldn’t comprehend what they were saying as they pushed me this way and that.
But I heard my fifth Megan’s voice loud and clear: I’ll wait for you, Morgan. We’re going to have so much fun!
I looked at the beat-up traffic cone. I wanted more guidance.
They won’t harm you, Morgan. Just stick to your story and do whatever they say. I’m looking forward to working with you.
I felt comforted by his words. Everything was going to be alright.
“Yes, my Lord,” I said, as one of the cops pushed my head down to stuff me into the back seat of his cruiser. “I’ll see you very soon, Lord. And I’ll do whatever you ask.”
* * *
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