Sunday, 19 July 2020

A Long Read.(and an ant).

Here/June 2020 

 My name is Bennie

I’m an ant, so clearly i didn’t name myself and i live alone here on the island so it seems i have a story to tell. I know it’s an island as i came here by boat a long-time ago and i have walked all the way round it. It is surrounded by water and the water brought me here and water will take me away. One way or another. 


I know I have a story to tell because stories are what have kept me alive and therefore stories must be important and mine is no more important than anyone else’s and therefore no less so. If Shakespeare wrote his then I should write mine. For the same reason. 


Just in case.


I would like to tell you that my mother told me that but to be honest I don’t remember her any more than that she must have been there. She did her job and then I did mine, which at the time was to dig. So I dug. I dug tunnels, I dug channels and I stood at the mound sometimes and watched. When I watched, I thought, and I watched the water. There has always been water. If the water comes, the tunnels flood. And the water will always come.


I don’t know what you know about ants and I suspect anyway that much of it is not true because unless you are an ant you wouldn’t really know, would you? I should tell you firstly that it’s not hard to find food so you are never hungry as an ant. There is no fear of starvation. However, being squashed is a major danger so I have tried to learn to be careful. When I walk I use cover if I can, if not I run. Have you seen an ant run? I can be fast.


Water is the danger, I can’t swim. And I can’t breathe underneath or in it, and I tried once to train myself. It didn’t work and I had a sore throat for many days. 


So if you can avoid the water, and the squash then there is little to trouble you as an ant and as I said food is never a problem. Heat and cold are inconveniences but most inconveniences are conveniences in another guise. My mother would have told me that too, I’m sure; where else do all these ideas come from?




Because I am old.


I am not the oldest ant. That is my friend Eleph, but I have not seen Eleph for some time, and Eleph is not on this Island with me and for now I have no way to leave; it is cold now and the boat does not run in the cold so I have to wait. I am good at waiting.


I waited at the mound for days watching for the water and then I started thinking. We were building tunnels; we were building channels but if the water came they would only help the water destroy us so we needed to build something else. I didn’t have a word for it but I had an idea so I went to find the one we called the Engineer. And that was when the water came.


I was lucky, I was not in the tunnels, and I was not in the open. I was high up under a ledge so I could see everything. The ledge protected me, but not the tunnels nor the channels. Nor the Enginner. Nor anyone else. So I was alone.


So I walked.


Sometimes I ran.


And I ate, that was never a problem.


But I stopped digging.


I mean, what was the point? A ledge is much safer. 


And I found them; there are many. There is one under every door. Every window.


And I discovered the cracks and the crannies, though I didn’t know the words then, it was Eleph who gave me those.


So I lived in the cracks and crannies, under the ledges, and I ate. And I walked, there was so much to see and discover. And then one day, I saw the Sea. 


I didn’t know that it was the sea of course, but I knew it was water so I walked away, no, I ran away. I’m not shy to admit it. I ran, as fast as my little legs could carry me. And after all the walking my legs had become strong, like iron my mother would have said. I stood on the ledge after that first water, watching for her a long time, several lights and darks waiting to see if she would surface. She never did. If I had known her more I would probably have died of a broken heart, but really she was a stranger so I didn’t. But when I was safely away from the sea, again high on a ledge I watched the blue movement of those waves and said goodbye.


I have learnt a lot from watching. I have learnt of the power of the lights and the darks, I have learnt of the movement of the sea and that those movements can kill you if you do not heed them, but I have also learnt that those movements can heal you.


And I have learnt that travels broaden the mind.


So I travelled.


And I came to a wall, and I travelled on, remember food was never a problem so I was never hungry and I never ate anything that was bad for me, you can smell it when it’s bad.


And I came to a rope, and I climbed the rope and I walked all over the boat, and that is where I met Eleph. 


Eleph was bigger than me, but I could climb on her and then we would see eye to eye. She was sad when we met, alone in the boat and uncertain of her future. We quickly became friends and we shared everything we had. She told me her stories, and she had so so many and I shared what she called my flosophy. Bennie, you are a flosopher she said, and it was Eleph who named me Bennie.


I would be with Eleph now if I could, it is good to have a friend but when we came to this island something happened that changed everything and for now I am waiting. I am waiting for a boat, but the boats only run when it’s not the Cold. When the warms come, the boat will come and if Eleph is not on the boat I will be on the boat and go where she went. And I will find her.


Eleph and I arrived here on the island in the warms and we both stayed on the island until the Cold came the first time. We started to leave and I was on Eleph’s back when she told me quick to hide as the water was coming. This had happened many times as people like you often threw water at Eleph and cleaned her. She liked it when they did and then she would laugh and lie down in the dust, gently so as not to squash me, and then when I was safe she would roll in the dust and you people would throw water at her again.


So when the first Cold came and she saw the water coming she hid me like always in her nose. I was not sacred there, her nose was like the tunnels and I knew this time that the tunnel was safe.


But that last time, just before the first Cold came, something happened that was new. The tunnel, Eleph’s nose, rumbled and thundered and she blew me out across the grass and hay where she slept and I fell into a darkness that was warm and dry, but deep beneath the hay and grasss. I must have slept too, and though I am a good climber, by the time I arrived at the top of the last piece of hay, Eleph had gone and I could see the boat leaving the island. I could hear her calling.


She was telling me to wait, that she would come back.


Or that the boat would, and then I could come and follow her.


Stay under the ledges, she said.


There will never be a problem with food.


And don’t worry, we have time.


Good friends have all the time in the world.


And the world is full of it.







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