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THE UNGODLY ANT

ungodly ant
 

The North Colony of ants lives in a part of The Great Victorian Desert of South Australia. The continuing success of the Colony has been underpinned by 100 million years of evolution and instinct.

 A trial nuclear detonation causes their food supply to be contaminated by radioactive fallout. The gradual digestion of their tainted food has a remarkable effect on their small brains, such that they now develop intelligence and awareness.

 

A Colony Council is formed to assist the citizens in an orderly transition from instinct to individual intelligence and decision making. One of the most pressing problems that the Council has to combat is the ants’ acquired fear of death.

 

Follow their adventures as the leader of the North Colony Council is mysteriously approached by The Supreme One who reveals the purpose of their existence and the promise of an Afterlife for all citizens. The daily practice of Reverence is introduced into their lifestyle by a Council proclamation.

 

But not all citizens are happy with the daily ritual of Reverence, and an aging war hero decides to make a stand.  

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ISBN:   978-1-921919-94-7
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 147
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Author: Gary J. Burrett
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2013
Language: English

 Author Bio

 

Gary Burrett is an accountant who lives with his wife and family in Newcastle, NSW.  

His hobbies include music and song writing. Several of his songs have won awards. This is his first book.

Prologue

He felt relief as the late afternoon desert sun began to lose its potency. With camera and tripod in hand, he made his way back to the jeep. It had been a long day but he was happy with the desert landscape images he had so carefully captured. The terrain was a bit rocky and in his eagerness to reach his vehicle before dusk he stumbled and nearly fell.

“Best to sit down for ten minutes and let my energy levels recover,” he muttered to himself.

And that’s when he saw it, just a few metres to his left. Tired eyes squinted and tilted upwards, scanning the object carefully.

“Well, that’s bloody amazing,” he thought to himself. His inquisitive mind was intrigued as to how the aeons of time had carved out a sculpture that resembled a large ant.

Five thousand years before, the same carving resembled a lizard and five thousand years before that it resembled a great desert skink. But now, in the early 21st century, a harsh and unforgiving environment had whittled the rock into the shape of an ant.

No mistake about it – the weather chiselled rock now eerily resembled an ant.

 

~~~

 

 Chapter One

The North Colony

 

The nest was well concealed. A myriad of tunnels and chambers reaching three metres below the arid surface of an Australian desert – cleverly constructed beneath the protective presence of a large rock. A year earlier an industrious Queen ant prepared herself. Her enthusiasm for her inaugural nuptial flight had been tempered by her concern for favourable weather conditions. Somehow she wisely sensed that the presence of cold weather would only exacerbate the already cold blood that fed her small muscles – tiny  balls of tensed up fibre that would maintain the beating of  her wings in flight.

She also eagerly awaited the cessation of rain – tunnelling was so much easier through dampened desert soil. Suddenly a signal from her mysterious reservoir of prescience alerted her to a slight wind, and somehow she instinctively knew that all the necessary requirements for a successful mating flight had arrived. Her temporary wings carried her to a height of around one hundred feet where she immediately met a generous male who kindly donated his precious cargo of semen before falling to the ground exhausted.

The minute oval pouch located in her abdomen was suddenly heavy with a booty of several hundred thousand spermatozoa and she felt pretty chuffed about becoming a mother. Slowly descending, she quickly surveyed the landscape and noticed several of her kind being eaten by a large desert lizard.  Suddenly she felt an overpowering urgency to dig. And that’s when she spotted the rock. After a small period of aerial reconnoitring she landed, selected a spot at the edge of the rock, and began to burrow. Several minutes later she emerged from her small tunnel, her mandibles loaded with a small clump of dirt which she ceremoniously dumped at a small distance from the hole’s entrance.

The scene is continuously repeated until her tunnel reached a depth of exactly fourteen inches. As the last clump of desert soil is triumphantly tossed aside she looked skyward, allowing herself the luxury of a wistful gaze. At the threshold of her tunnel she somehow seemed to sense that this will be the last time she will see the desert sun. With her energy stocks dwindling she promptly sealed the tunnel’s entrance and disappeared below the surface.

This ritual of flight and nest selection was aided by one hundred million years of ant evolution. One hundred million years of experience hard wired in her brain. She didn’t have to think about it – it just automatically happened. The passage of aeons of time had decreed that she prepared herself for the last word on multiple birthing – the laying of thousands of eggs to ensure an adequate supply of workers and the next generation of new queens and males.

Having made herself as comfortable as possible she began to lay her eggs, unaware that she had reached the zenith of her wondrousness. Initially the wise Queen tended to her small family in solitude. Indeed, such was her commitment that she had no time to eat, being sustained by her internal absorption of her now defunct wing muscles. She took great delight in watching her brood progress from egg to larvae and then pupae, sparingly dispensing her saliva to feed the young. Her first batch of siblings are workers who then allow their mother the luxury of laying even more eggs while they dutifully attend to and nurse the subsequent hatchings. The Queen could now concentrate on just laying eggs.

Over the next year nature took its course, the result being a thriving Colony of around five thousand tiny citizens. This then was The North Colony

This first generation of workers and also all that followed did not have the luxury of attending Colony building classes – they instinctively knew what to do. Imbued by their evolutionary compass they began the task of building a subterranean array of chambers and tunnels. The collections of chambers are cone shaped extending a metre downwards, purpose built, their walls strengthened by the ants’ saliva. Several chambers stored food supplies, mainly grains and seeds, while others are a temporary home to the workers of the future, rows of carefully arranged larvae.

To achieve their ordained tasks The North Colony’s family of ants would be relentlessly guided by instinct. All activities would be underpinned by an inherent inclination towards a particular behaviour. And while their scurrying and hurrying may at times have seemed trivial its overriding purpose would always be for the good of their Colony. And just as the cute baby sea turtles scamper across the sand to the fringes of the ocean, so the new born ants gradually move from the labyrinth of tiny tunnels to be greeted by a warm sun and a dry arid landscape.

Once above ground they join the queue for entry into an unforgiving arid ecological system. They automatically sign on for a life that is centred around chores and hard work with no long-service leave, no pension entitlements and where death carries little significance or ceremony. The longevity of The North Colony required its citizens to greet each sunrise with an inbuilt knowledge of what to do that day, oblivious to the fact that their behaviour would always be for the greater good and benefit of their Colony.

Above ground, the nest itself covered an area of around one square metre. The large rock was surrounded by a simple layer of small pebbles, soil and plant matter. For the five thousand residents of The North Colony, their world was a circular area that swept around a radius of twenty five metres, a tiny area of a much larger inhospitable desert – an expanse of sparse shrub land, Spinifex and cane grass. It wasn’t necessary they knew that their tiny patch of paradise was in the centre of a land called Australia, for this small patch of earth was their home, their world and their universe.

At a considerable distance to the east was The East Horde, another older ant Colony with a similar population. Recently there had been some minor skirmishes usually caused by foraging transgressions, but for now peace ruled the ant universe.

The area was also home to other animals. Sand sliding skinks gave evidence of their presence by leaving rippled, wavy tracks on the surface of the sand dunes. At a quick glance they could easily be mistaken for a snake and would promptly burrow under the soft sand when disturbed. On several occasions when several ants were a tad late in returning from a foraging expedition they could sense, by smell and vibrations, the presence of the ubiquitous Spinifex-hopping mouse, although the visitor may well have been the friendly and inquisitive mulgara, a small mouse-like marsupial. The foragers’ radar sharp antennae could also detect the movements of the elusive grass wren as it darted furtively in and out of the clumps of cane grass. And this small group of foragers could boast that they witnessed the emergence of the unique water-holding frog as it peeped from its burrow that had been his home for the last two years, and silently rejoiced in the arrival of an abundant shower of rain.

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