AH EPISODES

SEVEN

I crawled towards the Nursery Chamber, impatient to see Zita. The way I felt, I neither cared if I crawled into Kaza or if she crawled all over me. I needed to see my Zita, to know why she’d left me restless and heavy-headed the night before.

I marched into the chamber and as I’d hoped, Zita was there, her head bent over, doing her duty. So was Kiki. But I didn’t care.

The sight of Zita—all shiny and glowing—quelled most of my anger but not my pain. “Zita, you kept me waiting all through the night.” I said even with her back to me.

She swung around. “Zoro, why are you here so early? Don’t you know that Doga is usually around this early?”

“I don’t care where Doga is and at what time of the day she is there.” I hissed. The pain in my heart and head were visible through my eyes. “You promised you would come to meet me last night. You did not come.”

Zita winced against the accusation in my tone. I could see her discomfort by the twitching of her antennae. “I did not promise any such thing.”

“I sensed your agreement from your quiet silence. I saw it in your eyes.”

Zita made a low whistle of exasperation. “Fine. I wanted to come. But I could not come.”

“You could not or you would not.”

I saw the hurt flash into her eyes at my words and all at once I regretted them. “Zita…”

She crawled away from me as I ambled forward. “I tried to come.” Her antennae shook in a mix of fury and pain. “I was actually on my way when Kaza came upon us.”

Us?” I was puzzled. “You and who?”

“And me.” Kiki spoke for the first time.

I turned impatient eyes at her. I wanted no interference from anyone. “Kiki, keep out of this, please.”

“No, Zoro. I can’t keep out of this.” Kiki disagreed. “I find myself unfortunately a part of this your madness—both of your madness.” She looked at us, one after another, like we were truly mentally deranged.

I suppose we were—by the standards of our Ants’ world. By the rules that guided our existence from birth to death. Yes, you could say we were mad. But then again, isn’t love a kind of madness?

“We are not mad, Kiki.” All of a sudden I wanted to make her understand. “I love Zita—with my head, with my life, with all that is in me.” I was talking to Kiki but my dark eyes were on Zita, showing her all that I felt for her in their depth.

“Azzz! That there is your madness.” Kiki pushed herself in front of my eyes. Maybe trying to keep my eyes away from Zita, the source of my madness, I don’t know. “Stop this now, Zoro, there’s no future, no life in this mad desire of yours.”

She was trying to make me see reason—her reason. But I had my own reason. “There is no real future for me in the sane Ant world we live, Kiki.” I told her, forcefully nudging her out of my way. “In just a few days, I’m expected to fly out with a Princess, mate with her and thereafter drop to the ground in an unavoidable death.” I looked into the eyes of the one I loved. “So you see, death is imminent whether we fly off on our own, or I fly off with a Princess.”

The invitation has been made. Zita heard it in my words and saw it in my eyes. And so did Kiki.

“What?” Her eyes popped with shock. “You are asking Zita to fly off with you? Do you even realise she can’t fly?”

“Then we will crawl.” My eyes were still on Zita. “We will crawl out and make our own destiny—whether life or death.”

“You have truly gone mad, Zoro.” Kiki cried. “Zita, pay no attention to him. You are not safe outside the protective walls of our Hill.”

“I will protect you, Zita. Even with my life.”

The strength of my words, the promise within them was evident in my unflinching, resolute gaze.

“Show me the field first. Tonight.” Zita said, her eyes also holding mine.

“Zita!”

We both ignored the shocked cry from Kiki. Our eyes feasted on each other. Filled with light, life, hope… love.

“Tonight.” I echoed.

Turning swiftly, I crawled off in the direction I’d come. My gait was brisk and vivacious. I felt like there was a new strength in me, a new force empowering my footsteps.

“Drone, what do you seek outside your chamber?”

I jerked my head up. It was Doga. I had not seen her, my joy had briefly blinded me; and had also given me new strength. “I seek life.” I said boldly.

“Life?” Doga eyed me silently for a moment. Then she moved her massive head and nudged me forward with it. “Go ahead, Zoro. I see the fever of your anticipated nuptial flight has bedevilled your mind.”

I was surprised by her calm reaction. “I…”

“Get back to your chamber, Drone, before you get more than you bargained for.” Doga ordered.

I quickly turned to continue on my way. But Doga’s next words halted me.

“Life is here, Zoro. Death is outside these walls.”

I swung around, shocked. But Doga was already making her way down.

So she knew.

I ambled forward. Good. Then, this was meant to be.

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