(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.
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