We’d agreed to meet beside the Nursery chamber, right after Kaza would have been done with her nightly march around the Hill and just before she might decide to begin another march.
“This is very dangerous. We could all be caught and condemned to death. I don’t want to die yet.” Toki complained, twisting his head left and right, his eyes gleaming with frenzied excitement.
He’d insisted he was going to escort us to the exit of the Hill even though I’d told him… no, begged him to stay back and not endanger his life. But he wasn’t the only one playing busy-bumble-bee, Kiki had also come with Zita.
“Condemned to death?” Kiki cried, crawling beside Zita. “We’ll be lucky if Kaza doesn’t squash us to death if she catches us.”
“This is exactly why you two shouldn’t have come with us, you are just too pessimistic.” Zita turned her head to the left to glare at Kiki.
“It’s not our pessimism you should be worried about. It’s the madness that’s bedevilled both of you.” Kiki creaked in scorn. “Besides, I only came in a last bid to talk sense into your heads.”
“You can’t change our minds.” I said, caressing Zita’s trunk with my antenna. “If that is why you are here, then save your energy and go back. And take Toki with you.”
“How are you two going to survive?” Kiki demanded, making a sound of exasperation. “You do realize that he is not trained to find and store food, don’t you?” She asked Zita.
“I might not be trained to find food and store up food, but I can learn and very fast too.” I snapped, annoyed because she had a point. “We will be fine.”
“Yes, we will be, and we will take care of each other.” Zita said. “We are not going to live as we do here—each ant to an assigned duty or purpose. We will do all things together and live as we please.”
“The fact that we are organized is not a sign of rigidity or being boring.” Kiki defended. “It’s what humans admire about us.”
“Well, it is certainly monotonous and uninspiring.” I declared, giving my antennae a flick. “And their flexibility is one thing I admire about humans.”
“That flexibility just might be the death of both of you out there. Humans go after ants with the ferociousness of one after its mortal enemy.” Kiki pointed out, her tone sneering. “The only way to beat them is to move in number; thus the essence of ants having colonies and moving as a army.”
“I heard that humans have this evil portion that can be sprayed on ants and instantly, a whole colony dies.” Toki put in in an awed tone.
“It is called insecticide and another is called fumigation.” Kiki added in a gleeful tone.
She seemed to delight in raising facts that would scare us.
“That same fumigation has been known to wipe out a colony of millions of ants huddled up in their Hill. We are not endangered because we are leaving the Hill; even here, every ant is endangered.” Zita had stopped and was glaring at Kiki.
Though I could feel the slight trembling of her antenna that was linked to mine, I could also hear the determination and conviction in her tone. My entire being expanded with love for her, my brave beautiful ant.
“I am only worried about you, Zita. Fearful for you.” Kiki said quietly. “For both of you.” Her eyes became imploring. “It is not too late. We can all go back now to our chambers.”
Zita disentangled her antenna from mine and ambled closer to Kiki. “It is too late, Kiki. There is no going back. I love Zoro…” Kiki groaned, but she went on. “And he loves me. You two can go back; we are almost at the exit anyway.”
Kiki hung her head and stared at us for a long moment. Then she made a sighing sound. “There’s no doubt you two are mad, mad and stupidly brave.” She touched Zita with her antennae. “We will see you two off to the exit; we’ve come this far anyway.”
We marched the rest of the distance in silence. It wasn’t that long and soon we were both standing at the tip of the Hill’s exit.
I turned to Toki. “Thank you for crawling with us and for always being a noisy, over-chirpy friend.” I touched mine antennae to his.
“I can’t believe you are giving up a chance to fly out with a Princess and to help create a new colony.” He trilled. “But I guess we should have expected it, you were always different from the rest of us. You just had too many questions. I wonder what I’ll say to Dima when she asks of you by the break of dawn?”
“How about—nothing?” I suggested.
“Hmm, I suppose that would be the best answer—no answer.” He stood a moment, then linked his antennae with mine for a bit before drawing back.
I turned to Kiki. “I know you think we are mad and are going to die out there sooner than later. But I truly love Zita and would guard her with my life.” I promised.
“You are mad and you brought your madness upon Zita.” Kiki said with certainty. “I don’t know what love is, we are not supposed to indulge in it. But I’m guessing something is wrong with both of your heads.” She sighed. “Your watch out for my friend, you hear me?”
“I hear you.” I trilled.
Zita ambled forward. “Thank you, Kiki, for all your friendship. And trust me, we will survive longer than you think.”
Their antennae came together and held for the very last time, and then we both turned and crawled through the exit.
“I can’t believe they actually did it.” Toki said as they turned and marched backward down the Hill.
“Well, they did, the mad fools.” Kiki said, she still worried for them.
“You think we should have joined them?”
Kiki stopped and eyed Toki suspiciously. “Their mad disease hasn’t caught on you, has it?
Toki trilled, he’d only been joking. “Absolutely not! I was only joking. This very day, when the day breaks and dusk comes again, I shall fly out with my Princess and I shall perform my duty. It should be fun.”
“And when the day breaks, I shall continue mine as attendant to the broods.” Kiki said as they continued their march down. “It might be monotonous and uninspiring, but it is our life as ants and I seek no other.”
Toki made a sound of agreement and they disappeared into the Hill.
Meanwhile outside, the entire atmosphere was dark and a little bit damp and slippery, but we crawled along, antennae linked, frames touching, hearts thudding with a mix of excitement and fear. All of a sudden the air moved, and a rush of cool breeze blew and whooshed over us. It caused my wings to flare up and I trilled in pure joy.
“The night air is so tingly and refreshing.” Zita commented, releasing my antennae and quickening her steps. “It brushes over me and feels me with energy, with new life.”
She dashed forward, crawling fast and making excited trilling sounds as she moved. “Come along, Zoro. Let’s enjoy the air, the freshness, the freedom, the sheer peace.”
I watched her for a moment, my eyes glowing as they stared at her. My heart swirling like the wind as they loved her. Yes, we have done it, we have chosen our path and now we will begin our destiny—wherever that leads us.
“Here, I found something for you.” I said picking up a substance with my pinchers. “Come taste your first food from me.”
Zita laughed and waited until I joined her on top a leafy branch, she took the honeydew substance, tasted and shared with me. “Delicious.” She proclaimed, then leaned against me. “I love you, Zoro.”
I rested my head on hers, stared into her huge beautiful eyes. “I love you, Zita, with all of me.”
Then antennae linked again, we crawled down the branch and marched from one end of the field to the other, our trilling sounds of joy and laughter filling the dark night air.