Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/22)

(10/22) He felt very lonely and isolated from the black ants, but this was normal for him as he had always felt very isolated and lonely while he lived among the red ants, supposedly his own kind.  He never felt that they were in fact his own kind – there was always something that had felt wrong.  The black ants had all sorts of rituals and customs, ways of touching antenae, set ways that they would chew dried aromatic mushroom fragments and then share them.  The smell of the black ant colony must be different, because the black ants themselves were different, and the aromatic herbs and other substances they gathered were different to what the red ants gathered, were different as well as the way in which they used them in the daily life of the colony.  The black ants did have a few things in commmon with the red ants, for example, they both gathered the pollen of flowers; although the flowers they gathered it from were different, and stored it up deep in the colony and deliberately kept it damp so it would ferment.  However, the red ants shared out the fermented pollen to workers at different times than the black ants.  Red ants who spent time collecting rubbish and dragging bodies and body parts out to the midden were allowed to have some fermented pollen by the sentry ants, while in the black ant colony they had slave ants to clear out the rubbish and the corpses, so they shared out the fermented pollen when ants came back from successful foraging expeditions smelling of certain plant resins.  The little ant had great difficulty in ascertaining all this because he had trouble reading the air and telling which smells were strongest when the ants seemed to be doing certain things, but through repeated observation he started to deduce them.  Also, as a foreigner, he was forgiven not understanding what was going on with the black ants or what smells and pheromones were driving them.  Some of these odors the little ant might have recognized while others would have been completely new and alien.  The black ants were a different species and they had different habits as to which aromatic plant fibers they collected and how they used them, but they were still ants and some things were similar.

(10/22 @ 10/21) His first thought when he saw the black carpet roiling and rolling towards him and the look of bewildered terror in the faces of his fellow gatherers was “Liberation!”  Their terror was his victory.  They were no longer smugly at ease in their staid routine of the colony into which they so smoothly and effortlessly fit while he agonized over every step and was in constant deathly fear of mortal retribution should he ever make what amounted to a mistake.  No, in this moment they stood side by side as ever, but this time it was he who was at ease and they who gaped in near-paralytic terror in anticipation of what the next moment might bring, near-frozen in the mortal decision of whether to turn and flee wildly or to stand their ground.  He felt justified, vindicated.  It was not he who was [awry?] – he had merely not yet found his element.  He had merely been out of his element.  The tables were now turned.  But was he, too, to be slain alongside his terror-stricken fellows during this his moment of release, victory, and clarity?  If so it was a small price to pay, in any case.  His manic brain closed in on this moment, past, future, details that were beyond his immediate control in this turgid present, all fading away instantly like stones rolled over a cliff into a fog.  The black ants were larger, advancing in a steady line, with clumps of them stopping to deal with resistance, which they seemed to do promptly – heads and abdomens snipped off by their relentless jaws.  The line would sweep over his position in just moments.  He looked about the ground quickly, he had only a few seconds before the wave would break over him, and picked up a small seed to carry and then turned away from the advancing line of black ants and then thinking better of it turned sideways to the line of their advance.  Thinking, “See, I’m no threat, just carrying food, not hiding anything, not attacking, not running” and and that he would neither be advancing nor retreating and his whole body would be visible to the charging line of black ants.  The line broke over him like a rush of black armor and noise, a few crawling over him with a quick yet firm push downwards on his body.  No one attacked him.  He continued with his hastily-hatched plan, occasionally allowing himself to reflect on how his fellow red ants were no doubt even now being ravaged and slaughtered wholesale.  This continued for some time, he began to grow tired and rather warm and in his manic brain time began to expand outward again and he began to think and worry about what exactly might happen next.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/10)

(11/10@11/9) The little ant loved his goodies.  The world began to revolve around his goodies.  All his efforts were either directed towards using his goodies or in the production of the next batch, which he tended with loving care.  His goodies never really got him anywhere, except later in time, but he loved them dearly all the same.  When he wasn’t with his goodies, he was thinking about when the next time would be.  His goodies made him feel apart and special, instead of apart and broken.  Even if it were possible for the other ants to know what he was doing, he wouldn’t want it.  It was his secret.  His secret vice?  He didn’t know – in a way he had forgotten what virtue and vice were anymore so he didn’t even really ask the question anymore.  Could he stop using his goodies?  He didn’t even know – he couldn’t seem to ask himself the question.  The details of the pebbles and roots and the bumps and curves of the earth and the way the glow mushrooms illuminated them all became this familiar wallpaper on the back wall of his brain, the place where he enjoyed his goodies, the alcove where he kept and prepared all of his substances and fermentations.  He thought sometimes about how far he had come, how he got to this place where such and such mushroom or variety of bark he collected and from where he collected it, and how he had to chew it up and then ferment it in water combined with other things he had collected and stored.  It was all a process.  It was as though the process owned him, he was its instrument, its slave.  He was like a farmer who spent all of his waking hours in the production of some harvest, some final product, and yet he himself was its only consumer.  He was his own and only customer.  He didn’t feel trapped – he felt blessed.  What a blessing that he had been gifted with or had been able to acquire this knowledge, these seeds, these materials, this place in which to work on them so that he could finally gain some hitherto unknown measure of control over his horrid moods and their cruel caprices.  It was a mitzvah.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/9)

(11/9@11/9) Sometimes the little ant’s designs just seemed too big to even attempt to even make an effort.  It all seemed so pointless.  He had his goodies, and a lot of the time that was all that mattered.  It was almost good that everything was so overwhelming and pointless, because that made his goodies make sense.  His goodies had to be there, they had to exist, they were a necessary and rational part of his life.  They were his escape from the pointlessness.  They were what allowed him to be in the moment right now and feel good in the moment right now.  When now felt bad and all the best laid plans couldn’t seem to make the future look good, he had his goodies.  His goodies were his antidote for the future.  He sort of recognized this, that it was hard to have his goodies and at the same time have a future that was good and was under any measure of his control.  He was so tired sometimes – it was, it seemed, impossible to make a choice between the future he wanted, that he dreamed of, and his goodies.  It was easy for the goodies to win.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/22)

(10/22 @ 10/20)  The little ant made some contacts with his fellow captured red ants.  They were not yet a community in any practical sense, but since they were all expected to work in the same areas of the black ant colony the little ant saw the potential for them to become one.  There was after all the kind of shared biology and culture of origin.  One thing that might be needed, too, was the same plant substances that the red ants were used to collecting and using.  Without those they could not secrete all of the pheromones to which they were accustomed for their own communication and colony life.  Perhaps that was why they were so cut off from one another in this state of captivity.  Plus they had no queen, obviously, but there was perhaps little to be done for that.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/15)

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind
A Story about Fitting In

(10/15 @ 10/13)  The little ant shuddered a bit when he saw those grim reminders.  He felt like he was always looking over his shoulder, half expecting that the other ants would notice that he was unable to read the air, to read the olfactory cocktail of pheromones which, as he understood things, was constantly wafting through the tunnels of the colony and along the trails that the foragers and other ants followed outside.  He felt like he couldn’t read theses at all sometimes, or at least they didn’t evoke in him the kinds of gut emotional responses that they seemed to evoke in this fellow ants.  He had seen that look, that bewildered desperate “don’t-you-people-get-it?!” look on the face of an ant who had suddenly lost the picture.  The first thing they usually did was to drop whatever it was they were carrying with a kind of how-did-this-get-here look and then began to slowly look about.  Then they began to look out to their fellow ants.

(10/15 @ 10/12)  The any who loses the picture would almost immediately stop, thus becoming an obstacle for the surrounding ants, and then proceed to drop whatever it was they were carrying, causing a further obstacle.  They would then look around, just blankly at first, and then with an increasingly desperately pleading look at the faces of their fellow ants, as if to say, “what am I supposed to be doing?” and “what am I supposed to be feeling about all of this?”  Sometimes the ant just stopped and stared at the ground or off into the distance, blankly, barely moving but gently swaying, and these rare ones would last the longest, or maybe – maybe – even get the picture again and carry on in some state or another.

Then the guard ants would come through and squirt joy juice into everyone’s faces.  He didn’t know if it was to make everybody forget or just feel differently about what had just happened or to forget it altogether. 

Other times the ant would run off wildly or begin attacking other surrounding ants.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/4)

(11/4@11/3) When the little ant felt ill in some ways he felt very low but in others he felt relieved.  In ant colonies it was rare to survive an illness.  Since ants in the same colony were all close relatives they all tended to have the same resistance to disease and so any illness tended to turn into an epidemic and kill off 90% of the members of the colony.  At times like those the queen would often be sealed off with her select retinue of attendant ants until the epidemic had run its course.  So long as the queen survived, the colony survived.  How did the colony decide that it was time to hunker down and seal off the queen until the die-off was complete?  It was something in the pheromones and those that dying ants give off and the stink of the decaying corpses.  Enough of that, and it signaled the colony to close up, to go into “epidemic mode”.   But now that he was a captive he had comparatively few peers from which to catch diseases or to whom he could give them.  There were pink ants and orange ants and other red ants, and everyone from different colonies all over, so as a group they were quite disparate, descended from a number of different queens.  The black ants were all one homogeneous group of course, so in principle they were susceptible to epidemics, but the captives were much less so.  When he felt sick, it was harder to do everything, he felt tired, his body hurt, his brain moved at a slower pace.  It was like dying, and in a sense it really was.  Now that he was a captive he might survive a number of illnesses.  But it was like dying, the feeling that things would never get better again.  The feeling that things were going down.  The feeling of becoming decrepit…of decrepitude.  When he felt weakened like this it was as though he would never feel strong and quick ever again.  He was ready for the end.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/12)

(11/12@11/11) The little ant, when he got quite gloomy, actually pined for the times he was back at the red ant colony, his nominal home.  All of the bad memories faded away somehow, leaving only light and purposefulness and good times.  All the loneliness, the anger, the imagined snubs, were gone.  Even if strained he could not recall them.  Life among the black ants was constantly difficult.  Every attempt at communication was a strain.  Fellowship was impossible.  It had been somewhat possible, in his rose-colored memories, among the red ants.  He was a red ant himself, so as long as he made the effort, he could be accepted into red ant society.  But he had always felt like a fraud.  At least among the black ants his pathetic little inroads into their trust were somehow genuine.  But when he got very gloomy they meant little or nothing.  He simply didn’t want anything, no place, no work, no job, no place to live was suitable to him at these times.  Everything was out of place and out of joint.  It made no sense to try to fix any one part of it or even all of it because nothing could be set right and one thing fixed would not sit right with the heap of things that were still broken.  Nostalgia.  He couldn’t say that he’d left the red ant colony and never looked back, because he sometimes did.  He’d had miserable times there just like he had miserable times now, and he had okay times like that now. (?)  He could not go back.  Even if he could go back, back to the red colony, would he want to?  Would it be better?  Would everything be perfect?  Would there be ranks of welcoming, smiling red ant faces to welcome him home, to offer him hospitality?  Sometimes in his darkest most distant imaginings he imagined this, yes, and more.  They would have goodies there too, only better and more of them. The moods, the damnable moods.   How could he get by them?  Everybody seemed horrible and mean, places and things grey and drab.  Only the nostalgic recollections seemed to have any color, and they became like an obsession, an obsession to get away, to get back, to reject all things now in favor of this luminous elsewhere.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/19)

(11/19@11/12)  The little ant began to become obsessed with the idea of finding other ants like himself, or how he imagined himself to be.  That is he did not feel himself to be one with the pheromones, one with the will of the colony.  He felt as though he were struggling, only being able to understand when effort was made, and even then he felt it was only a partial understanding while his fellow ants seemed to grasp it fully and with no effort at all.  Was he the only one?  Was he broken or special or both?  There was a need to know that there were others, others like him.  Perhaps they weren’t as upset as he was at his situation.  Perhaps they had developed and discovered all sorts of ways of coping and figuring things out that he hadn’t even dreamed of.  Would they like him?  How much worse the world would be if they didn’t, if they rejected him or ridiculed him on top of everything else.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/13)

(11/13@11/13) The little ant with the criminal mind sometimes got quite gloomy.  Sometimes it was a mix of gloomy and excited.  He got caught up in the idea of how much he had in front of him to do and he just felt like diving into something so it might take him mind off the rest of it.  It was not the joy of doing, but the necessity of avoiding the unjoy, the antijoy of not doing.  And those perils were great.  It would come on him all of a sudden.  He would be sort of frozen in one of his depressive torpid reveries, when all of a sudden an overwhelming sense that he was behind some schedule or that it was imperative that he get something done immediately.  The thought of inaction became suddenly repellant.  It was as though he had to redo, to rework, the whole colony, or nothing would be right with the world, in effect nothing would be right with the world until he did so.  Work was another tranquilizer or something that, like his goodies, his other goodies, made all things better, made what was wrong with the world better during the time that he was doing it and maybe for a little while afterwards.  There was a need there, an unquenchable unfulfillable need that drove him, pushed him, forced him, compelled him to work.  There was seldom joy in the work, at best perhaps the satisfaction that no one could reproach him what he was doing then, just then, because he was doing something that was useful and productive.  The freedom from reproach was a reward of his slavish devotion and dedication to work, at the times when the obsession took hold of him.  He noticed that he had olfactory hallucinations.  To an ant, smells are strongly tied to feelings, for instance if the colony “smelled” angry, then the ants became angry and in turn the colony smelled more angry because more and more ants gave off angry smells.  But he was different.  He was sure he smelled a certain thing, but then he would look around and see that none of his fellow ants were behaving as though they smelled it, too, so perforce he was smelling something that wasn’t really there.  In a sense, this made him “crazy” in an antish sense, because he was not acting or smelling or feeling normally.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/16)

(11/16@11/15) The loneliness, the weirdness, the apartness.  When the little ant thought of how he often felt now, as a captive among the black ants, he couldn’t help but think that it was so much worse before, back in his home colony among the red ants, his own kind, so to speak.  There he was supposed to fit in, but didn’t, while here he was not meant to fit in, so every little glimmer of victory, every little glimpse of even a moment of connection with what was going on here or of having some measure of control over his own life was a precious little victory, a jewel, a delicious moment to be savored and remembered.  The black ants were impersonal, too, or so it had seemed at first and so continued to seem for the most part.  He had often, nearly always, felt that his fellow red ants were deliberately trying to trip him up, to not let him win, and it was always after some long course that he would be slapped down.
His fellow ants always seemed to have it in for him.  The black ants were more detached, more playing fair by a set of rules, more beholden to the rules of fair play.  As he grew more able to understand their customs and their ways, however, the more they came to resemble the red ants, he found.  It was very odd.  The better he got at dealing with the black ants, the more difficult they became to deal with.  He was at first delighted at how they would completely ignore him, no matter what he did.  His mad behavior, his deviancy, which was such a source of strife and worry in the red ant colony, were suddenly of no consequence or concern.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/17)

(11/17@11/16) The little ant felt like he had a hard time remembering places and how they all connected together.  This was especially annoying while he still lived at the red ant colony with his fellow red ants.  They were all reading the pheromones and going where they led to, while he, unsure of the pheromone trail, or distracted by something else, would sometimes stall, or stray, much to the consternation of the other ants.  This frightened him.  Ants are instinctively programmed to retaliate, to attack any other ant who showed signs of not doing what he ought to be doing.  Losing the pheromone trail meant arousing the ire and the violent retaliation of one’s fellow ants.  It was a constant source of fear and anxiety when he lived back at the red ant colony.  Now even if he wasn’t really especially lost or stalled the black ants would stop and look at him and give him a little extra squirt of pheromones because he was a captive red ant, that much was obvious from the way he looked and, more importantly, smelled, so a priori he must be lost.  In some ways it was annoying to always be pointed in this way but in other ways it was very, very nice to always be above suspicion for the very reason that he was by his very nature so very suspicious to begin with.  Hiding in plain sight, or plain smell, effectively.  It was the perfect cover for one so odd as himself.  He could not approach a black ant without them immediately forming all sorts of assumptions and leaping to all sorts of conclusions, for example, that captive ants, such as red ants, are most likely lost and not sure whether they are coming or going, or if a red ant approaches a black ant it is most likely because they are lost and don’t know what to do next.  To try to communicate with a black ant one first had to get past this sheer wall of prejudices and straightaway persuade the black ant that all of his presuppositions about captive ants didn’t apply in this case.  How to do that?  The little ant was having a difficult time getting ‘round the black ants’ initial biases and tendency to exude and/or squirt pheromones in one’s face.  He decided that he needed to start manufacturing black ant pheromones himself.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/18)

(11/18@11/18) The little ant wondered to himself, “Did he know any of the names of the ants around him?”  “Did they even have names?”  “Come to think of it, did he himself have a name?”  If he did, then who or what could have given it to him?  Names?  What’s in a name?  How did one use a name?  A name is really only useful in terms of referring to somebody or something when speaking to a third person.  Ants were not big on speech, for one.  They were into touching antennae and they were also very partial to smells, and a big part of that was pheromones.  When touching antennae, there was the obviousness of gestures directed towards the other ant and then gestures for which oneself was the object and then perhaps those directed towards the great elsewhere.  Was it possible to have stories in which there was only the main character and then simply, “everybody else”?  The dramatic tensions were mainly only between the main character and the rest of society.  The rest of society being this uniform, homogeneous whole, one member interchangeable with any other.  Was this possible?  The little ant knew of himself, himself separate from everybody else.  Did this alone make him crazy in ant terms?  The fact that he didn’t perceive himself as dissolved into some gigantic collective ego-mass – was that a symptom or indeed _the_ symptom of his deviancy, his madness.  If you have to ask whether you are crazy, then you are.  Something like that.  What about the other ants?  Were they all immersed, immerged and in perfect and total uninterrupted communion with the collective hive mind consciousness that was the colony?  How was it possible to tell such a thing?  The fact that he ever thought of himself as “I” or as an independent agent – was that madness?  Was he the first of a kind?  Was he the first product of the next stage of ant evolution?  The free-thinking ant.  Formico sapiens, ant, the wise?  He contented himself with this thought.  Were there no other ants like him?  Were there others who not only went about their daily lives in the colony, shifting ruble, foraging for food, carrying out the corpses of the dead, but also thought about what they were doing while they were doing it, wondering with more or less a degree of worried concern and nagging self-doubt whether they might ought to or might rather be doing something else or perhaps even something else altogether and was it all worth it and what if it really wasn’t and how could one decide definitively the answer to questions such as these?  Was he the only ant given to such reveries?  And if he wasn’t, was it in any way possible for him to make contact with other ants like himself and if so would it be possible for them in any way to discuss their thoughts and feelings, to air them out, and would these feelings still retain the drama and significance that they seemed to hold for him now?

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/19)

(11/19@11/19) The little ant often felt lost and disoriented, even at places he was sure he had been to before.  The pheromones.  Perhaps other ants were not lost like him because they could tell which direction they were coming from, in which direction they were getting stronger and in which direction they were getting weaker.  That’s how an ant told directions, which way the food was, which way to the path to the midden, which way back to the colony and so on and so forth.  The little ant often had to guess at these things, often by observing his fellow ants and what they were doing, which way they were going and how irritated they seemed to be getting at him at any given moment.  He lived in constant fear and anxiety because he could not smell the pheromones, at least, not very well.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (11/20)

(11/20@11/20) The little ant was sometimes very aware of his body.  It didn’t fell good, it didn’t feel right, a lot of the time.  When he felt this way, klike his body wasn’t quite put together right, like he had aches and pains…(?)  course felt like he always felt like that, like, that was the normal way he felt like his exoskeleton was too tight, or sometimes like part of it was too loose.  He reasoned that he must be crazy because how could all ants possibly feel this way and still be able to build ant civilization?  Or even just he himself.  It felt like he always felt out of sorts, like his shell didn’t fit right but there must have been other times it must just be a trick of memory somehow.  But it drove him so crazy.  It was such an immediate discomfort so impossible to put out of one’s mind.   I feel better.  I no longer feel the need to simply lie on the floor in my sweats with my eys closed.  His feet.  The joints between his main body parts: his head, his thorax, all of his legs joining his thorax and his abdomen and all of the breath holes along each side of his abdomen.  The breath coming in, expanding, the plates of his abdomen spreading scrapingly apart and then sliding scrapingly back together.  He wished he could stop it, but he could not – the process had to go on.  His feet touching the earth underneath.  His antennae…how he longed some days to simply bite them both right off.  Instead he would find himself grooming them over and over and over again.  Bang one against the other, rub them together, anything that he could do to or with them hoping that finally there would be something that somehow knocked them back into place so that he would not have to feel them anymore.  He felt his body too much.  It was like it was on fire.  He had actually seen fire, and seen other ants thrown into it, how they writhed, after first running about wildly.  The evil playsome gods plucked up some of them on a branch – he was so small that perhaps that’s why they ignored him and only took his fellows, on branches, on bits of rotten wood that ants had dug tunnels all throughout.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/26)

(10/26@10/24) The little ant wondered what could be done to create some kind of community within the community of red ant captives in the black ant colony where they were living out the rest of their lives.  He thought that they should have more influence over the black ant community for one thing.  But to do that the red ants had to have a community of their own.  What created community among ants?  What caused influence?  Among ants, it was the trails of pheromones.  He could see with out them, which meant in a lot of ways he was less upset by their exile among the black ants that were some of his fellows by the lack of familiar odors, actions, and other signals.  It maybe also allowed him to think about what  was really going on rather than merely reacting to it.  Producing any kind of reaction was an element of influence and a step towards control.  Creating a reaction such that the source of the action could not be traced back to oneself was often desireable.  Could he find a way to manufacture the pheromones that his fellow red ants were used to?

(10/26 cont) The ants with amputated abdomens still had mandibles.  They could still bite their fellow ants if they chose to.  So the other ants watched them.  The decapitated ants, however much they might run about, could never bite or really harm anyone, so they were allowed to run about, carry out their death throes as they would, crawling over and bumping into others until at long last they finally slowed down and stopped moving and were eventually hauled off to the midden.  They were like restless ghosts that one saw out of the corner of one’s eye, horrid to look at directly but otherwise not too distracting until at last, like the spirit of a long-departed ancester stepping into the frame of their final portrait they froze and the image was fixed for good and all.  In a way they were like ghosts, startling reminders of the no longer living but unable to any more effect anything or anyone in the material world.  But the little ant felt their touch.  The abdomenless ones either accepted the finallity of their situation….

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/25)

(10/25 @ 10/23) The little ant with the criminal mind felt exhausted from always guessing what other ants were thinking, whether he was doing what the colony wanted him to at any given moment.  How did you ever really know what the colony wanted at…ever?  The other ants all seemed to know all the time, or at lthe very least they never seemed to worry about it.  Sometimes it was the will of the colony that an individual ant should die.  And most of the time it seemed that the ants that died were those that were not doing the will of the colony at that moment, who had lost the picture, who had lost track of the pheromones, and they were then almost immediately done in by some foolish mishap or as often as not, by their fellow ants.  The other fatalities tended to be the ones carried off by predators and one could only feel sorry for them because it seemed to have little to do with the will of the colony.  The colony.  Now he was kidnapped into an alien colony where there was no expectation that he be able to read what the will of the colony was for him.  He was now and henceforth perforce an atheist – he no longer served any god.  There was no communion with a being greater than himself that was intimately concerned with his own personal well-being and the furtherment of his genes and the furtherment of the success of its own genes along with all the rest.  He was spiritually adrift, and for him, in a very big and personal way it was very liberating.  He still felt horribly lonely, but at least there was a reason for it other than that he must be fundamentally and irreparably broken or suchlike.  Now it was natural that he be lonely – it was no longer his fault – he was adrift amongst aliens with whom he could barely communicate and whose customs and language he barely understood.  He was at peace, a kind of peace the like of which he had never known.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/20)

(10/20)  The bitter pill that was social adaptation (acclimiticization) was always delivered with a measure of harshness.  And how could it not be?  Otherwise it would be no social acclimaticization but merely gentle suggestions or mere nosiness, easily dismissed.  No, social promptings were not so easily dismissed or ignored or even taken under advisement.  In the ant world, as in no small numbers of human and other animal societies social promptings invariably came in the form of the headsman’s axe.  If one was caught out or caught offsides in the slightest way, manner, or degree, it was already over – there was no taken back of offences or making of amends.  To transfress was in and of itself a death sentence.  And the little ant lived in daily fear of it.  He found that among the ants there was no eventual building of fellowship that led to licence in the taking of liberties.  One had to be on one’s toes, or the ant equivalent, with every one at all times.  He found it exhausting and he had great difficulty in understanding how it could be that everyone else not feel the same.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/21)

(10/21 @ 10/19)  The little ant faced a foe with whom he could not negotiate and against whom he could not fight.  The foe was implacable, unforgiving and merciless.  How he longed to change the rules even just a little bit, to be able to be out of the closet of his own queerness, hiw own oddness, and not immediately put to death for it.  He would leap at the chance.  He would endure any hardship.  He could not imagine how it could ever happen, though.  To be looked at and not immediately judged.  Even the life of a slave would be preferable to escape that constant judgement.  But it was all a dream.  There was no way to see outside of the bounds of one’s own culture.  Was there an objective point of view from which one could judge all things based souly on their merits?  If there were it was beyond the ken of most ants.  Scienti8sts tried to do such things, and they might come up with such as that a certain food item that seemed just the same to gathering workers as some other food item was in fact much better and should be gatered instead.  But they did not seem to come up with much to say about whether it was good or bad for ants to be put to death for deviance.  They usually said very little and when the did say anything, it was usually along the lines of an apology for the status quo, something of the type that deviancy ws in fact a kind of serious incurable illness and so death, though harsh perhaps, was probably not an inappropriate treatment.  This made everyone feel good…except of course the deviants themselves, but they were already dead anyway, so what did it matter?  It was all rotten to the core, it seemed.  He saw no allies nor any escape.  He thought of suicide.  Would it occur to him the next time he was on water-gathering duty to shove one droplet too many into the collected mass of water down in the water storage room and thereby get himself enveloped and drowned?  One thought occurred to him now, and that was how odd it was that when he was on midden duty or collecting rubbish inside the colony or digging, or any of a dozen other chores that he as an ant might perform at any given time, he should brood at length and think of how he would just as well like to or  like nothing better than to simply do himself in, while at other times these thoughts would not occur to him.  He wasn’t sure if he could remember a time when he felt gloomy while gathering or while on water duty.  It was as if when he felt gloomy all he could remember were other times when he had felt gloomy, too, and yet he had been on water duty many times and it seemed that if he felt really rotten during every one of them then he surely would have done himself in by now.  He must have sharply varying moods and perhaps his memory was linked to them strongly.  The thought of doing himself in during water duty had occurred to him many times, in fact it was a mainstay of his suicidal ruminations and yet there were only a few times when the thought had occurred while actually on water duty.  Could his moods be related to getting up  and out of the colony or not?  Did being outside somehow make him feel better?  He somehow couldn’t tell.  It was as though during the times he felt good he could only recall the other good times, and likewise with the bad times, and so the quirks of his memory made the good times all the more euphoric and the bad times all the gloomier…and dangerous.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/30)

(10/30 @ 10/18)  The little ant found that he looked forward, very much looked forward, to the time he would spend with his substances, with the mixes and preparations he was concocting.  The time he spent observing his fellow ants, black ants and captives alike, was something that he began to see came to see as something that filled up the spaces in between times that he was using and experimenting with his tinctures and preparations.  The time he spent alone with his goodies was the good time and everything else in between was filler, bland, timed out so as not to take too long.  The time spent gathering new materials, or as happened more and more gathering materials that he had found to work well was necessary time, not pleasures to be savoured, but time that was associated with, ws spent indirectly as preparation for the moments of true enjoyment.  An economy of time, an economy of time that revolved around his goodies.  But eventually it ceased to be enjoyment – it became a need.  He could not face the hours spent with other things.  They were painfully empty and any amount of responsibility or onus loaded upon him made him long to return to his secret hideaway, his secret lair, to escape, to have his feelings reliably set by whatever he chose to partake of.  Reality became this uncooperative thing that seemed to always make him feel bad and never good, always demanding more effort than he could muster to flow in a smooth stream and not disturb him and his reveries which became more and more frequent.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/29)

(10/29) How was the little ant going to hatch his plan?  What did he have control over?  Very little.  What was he constrained by?  Very little.  This was a big change from his life in his old home colony of red ants.  He was smallish, so he couldn’t do as much work as the other captives anyway.  He reasoned about which aromatic substances they might gather.  He seemed to be relatively immune to the effects of most pheromones generally.  His inability to instinctively “read the air” which had been such a curse, a millstone, back in his home colony was starting to look like a positive boon here in his new environment as a captive red ant among the black ants – he could easily resist their efforts to control him.  He was free to choose to work as he was “expected” by the new colony or he could choose to do as he liked anywhere and everywhere.  The black ants were relatively lazy in their efforts to control their captive slaves and to extract useful work from them.  Unlike at the red ant colony, and indeed here at the black ant colony among the black ants themselves, the pheromones and one’s fellow ants under the influence of said pheromones exerted a strong, nay, lethal pressure on the individual to conform and to perform, and most individuals seemed to do so without thinking.  The little ant had always lived in desperate fear of slipping up and failing to give the correct impression to one and all that he had the picture, that he was following the pheromones.  In black ant captivity, all their captors did was place certain aromatic piles of certain herbs and other materials around and have a few “sentries/taskmasters” who had gorged on these and other materials so that their bodies exuded pheromones which caused the captives to work at certain activities, for example excavating and clearing rubble and rubbish and following the taskmasters’ trail out to the midden or to the rubble pile.  There were no ants dedicated to enforcement and the other captives did not care either if any ant were not toeing the line, so to speak.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/28)

(10/28) The little ant had other things to consider in his project to unite the captive exiles into some kind of community.  There were other captives among the black ants, for example the pink ants and the orange ants.  Would it be possible to unite all of the captives?  It was not easy to tell, not easy to tease apart which aspects of the behavior of the pink ants, for example, were part of their original culture and which were part of their effort to assimilate with the black ants’ culture or what they had borrowed from black ant culture.  For example, if he saw a pink ant eating fermented flower pollen, was it because he had done that back at his own original colony, or because the black ants did it, or was he trying to carry out a pink ant ritual using what new materials were available, or was it something altogether new and original?  Was it possible to find a set of pheromones, a set of foods that they could all eat, and a way for them all to communicate this new “culture” to one another and to newcomers so that this new culture would be able to go on from there?

(10/28)  The little ant marveled in retrospect about how social awkwardness was more fearful than death.  There were several times where he had very nearly died in an accident and during the accident he was able to think clearly and sidestep danger despite the very real threat of dying while the mere fact of being caught in one of his reveries filled him with untold fear and embarrassment.  For example there was the time when there were excavating around a pebble and he was clearing earth from underneath it and it began to settle.  He leaped away and had he not in that very instant done so he would have been pinned and crushed and the tunnel would have led ants marching around past his dried-out remains.  Another time he was adding water to a water droplet and it got too big and burst.  He had been directly beneath it a moment before but had moved away and had he still been there he would have been enveloped by the water and drowned.  And yet he was not choked with fear either at that time or upon reflection afterwards.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/30)

(10/30 @ 10/27) The little ant gathered collected an odd little mushroom when he was out on midden/rubbish duty with the other captives.  The black ants didn’t really check up on them, so he could wander off and search the surrounding areas for any kind of plant material.  He was building a little stockpile out by the midden and another by the rubble pile.  He would bring what he thought were the most promising samples back into the colony to work on them.  Many herb samples only became useful when soaked or fermented and he tried to get some fermentation going at his stockpile site, but it really worked best back in the colony itself.  He had been fermenting this new type of mushroom he had found and he decided to try it out.  He was his own, only guinea pig.  He had the idea that if some substance worked for him, changed his mood or feelings, had some valuable, tangible effect on him, then it might also for the other captive ants.  He wasn’t any too sure what a “valuable effect” might be, but he hoped that he would know it when he tried it.  [describe the mushroom]  He also wanted to do it.  He wanted to change everyone’s consciousness, but he also wanted to change his own.  He didn’t want to feel the way he felt all the time anymore.  He wanted a break from it.   Was it that desire for a break or the desire to free all of the other ants what drove him?  He honestly didn’t know.  He was experimenting and he didn’t know or even really care where it was leading to.  It didn’t really occur to him that he could kill himself this way.  He was gathering all sorts of strange plants, pollens, spores, mushrooms, barks, husks, leaves, roots, fruits, seeds and so forth, and doing all sorts of things to them like soaking them and fermenting them and combining them.  Many of them were substances that no ant he know of had put to use before.  It never really occurred to him, but some of them could be deadly if not downright poisonous.  It occurred to him that he should perhaps recruit some other ants to help him, to carry on the work if he should die or to die in his stead if there were a bad batch.  He must make contact.  The black ants never took the captives on foraging expeditions, but he went anyway.  He could observe what the black ants gathered and they went to places were there were other things to gather as well.  Perhaps he could bring some of his fellow captives on a black ant foraging expedition to see what they would gather once he had made actual contact.

The Little Ant with the Criminal Mind (10/26)

(10/26)  Sometimes the little ant woke with a start from the same dream.  The ants without heads or without abdomens.  Bitten of by their fellow ants.  They were both equally horrible in their own way.  The headless bodies, no longer an individual – no more eyes, no more antennae to communicate with, the telling touch…gone…there no longer.  No more mandibles or jaws to eat with, to do useful work with.  Just a horrid thing – an ant reduced to a horrid, pathetic thing.  The abdomen amputees were horrid by their excess of expression and empathy than by their lack of it.  In the world of the colony, in the life of the colony, they seemed to be much rarer than the beheaded ones, of the ants who had gone mad because they had lost the pheromone picture.  They either retained their look of initial panic, now augmented by the realization of the loss of their abdomen and the death sentence that entailed, or they were eerily calm, seemingly oblivious and unaware of what had happened to them.

The little ant sometimes woke with a start from these dreams.  The mad ants with the severed abdomens, slowly dying buy some of them staring with the eerie calm look as though they might actually be aware of what was happening to them, what had happened to them.  They had lost the picture, lost contact with the air around them with the umbilical cord of pheromones that linked them blissfully to the colony itself and to their fellow ants.  They saw life and reality in its raw, unfiltered state and it had given them pause and the colony had noticed.  Life in the raw, where nothing had a name and everything was all just images, fragments of impressions, and all the warts and blemishes came out from the background to be seen beside everything else in all its horrid, bland mediocrity.  The abdomenless ones seemed transfixed by all of this.  They had the kind of look of placidity, not quite tranquility, that seemed like the slightest word or action would disturb it and they would begin screaming and flailing about like the other abdomenless ones, the ones who had more than they could take or accept.  The placid ones looked like they had accepted the world as the utterly horrid and ugly place that it was, accepted that death was the only logical choice, and they were now patiently, even welcomingly, waiting for it to come.

(10/26 @ 10/25) The little ant found escape from his troubles in the things that he and his fellow ants would bring back from their expeditions and errands out to the midden to take out the rubbish and the corpses from the black ant colony.  They were not strictly on foraging detail – the black ants did their own foraging for food and for structural materials.  The captive red ants also ate this food but it was strange and for them not as nourishing as the food to which they were accustomed at their onetime home in the red ant colony.  But the red ants got none of the non-food materials and substances which the black ants used to change and control the pheromones they emitted or the way that they felt about their colony, about each other, and about themselves.  These substances had little rituals, many of them, some involving as few as one ant, others involving whole groups.  The unfermented mushroom for example involved one or more ants chewing the mushroom fragments and regurgitating them into the center of a circle of ants who would all partake.

The little ant felt lonely being excluded from the rituals.  The captives were never invited for one, and it seemed that the substances that the black ants used and the way in which they used them might not work the same way on the red ants for another.  Finally, the red ant captives were not familiear with the rituals of marching to and fro and touching antennae thus and so, and the black ants were not about to teach them.  So the captives remained an isolated quasi-community.  Not a proper community in one sense in that they could not reproduce, having no queen, and unable to otherwise breed with one another or with the black ants, so they had no next generation onto which they could pass their traditions.  Next, they had no traditions to speak of since they were cut off from their colony and from one another by lack of a shared pheromone atmosphere.  The little ant wondered if he could do something about the second one at least.