BrilliAnt was in a soup. At least in her dreams a few hours back, she was merrily floating on a leaf in a vast pool of green pea soup – a nutrient-rich haven (5% protein by the aroma, no less, mind you!). But now, back at work, that pleasant dream had turned into a stinking nightmare. The man child had chosen that very corner of the garden to urinate; luckily the stream mostly off-target – talk about small mercies! Standing there in the excessive bright light streaming in through an unwelcome largesse – a gaping hole in the roof of Sector MCMLXXII penetrating right down to level minus 12 bearing the vital storage strongholds – she was shooting out a series of commands, her pre-tarsus dipping in a cesspool of pee soup!
“AssistAnt, I want SealAnt, CoagulAnt and DilatAnt to get their much-satiated abdomens up here right away; this shaft has to be closed up before the skies open up. Also get DisinfectAnt, DeodorAnt and FragrAnt to report here on the double. I want this mess cleaned up and the entire Sector back in shape at the earliest. There is a new batch of MMXX eggs due to be delivered for the hatcheries any hour now. Ever since that nut ClairvoyAnt fed Queen PregnAnt the nonsense that hatching eggs in the North-West direction would bring great fortunes to the Colony, we have been besieged with eggs. If the Queen gets to know that we are raising her precious babes in such putrid climes, she will willing dig her eager mandibles into my unwilling gaster!”
As AssistAnt scurried off to fulfill the tasks, her antennae quivering with the exigency of the situation, BrilliAnt began to ponder on her immediate problem, which was yet unresolved – proteins! As the load of larvae increased, the demand for proteins was incessant, and there was no new source to be found in the immediate vicinity. She had sent a Special Action Ant Force to far off places in search of viands but the report did not enthuse her. Why was it taking so long for that damned fractured left antennae of AccountAnt to heal – she wanted to so get off this task (read “A(i)n’t Just a Rant!” for BrilliAnt’s tale of woes)!
Just then, CommunicAnt came blazing in, “Team Zeta has incoming! Team members HesitAnt, VacillAnt and DebutAnt are pushing some huge round white orbs this way! Team leader AdamAnt sends a sample to admire.” So saying, CommunicAnt handed over a piece of matter.
BrilliAnt sniffed with her antennae and tore off a tiny bit with her mandibles, chewing and analysing the content. Her compound eyes lit up suddenly. “Hmm…yellow pea seed coat. This is outstanding; if true, we are looking at 19% protein! But this is just the testa; quick, get me a bit of the cotyledons,” she ordered CommunicAnt.
“Testa…caty…cotydondons…what’s that,” asked a puzzled CommunicAnt.
“I mean, this is just the outer coat of the peas, I need to taste the inner stuff to ascertain how good it is,” replied BrilliAnt patiently.
CommunicAnt appeared baffled, “Inner stuff? Inside there is only DebutAnt, pushing it here!”
“You mean to say they are bringing over empty shells!? That’s just a whole lot of cellulose and lignin. We have plenty of it down here. We needed what was inside!” BrilliAnt was exasperated.
“Well,” said CommunicAnt slowly, “those insides are inside the man child now. AdamAnt said the man child was eating and throwing these white round things on the ground. They smelled good, so the team started rolling them over.”
BrilliAnt was too dejected to retort. “Well, just instruct them to roll those down the ramp at Ingress VII and move to Store XIV. These are low priority. Tell me something, I had assigned the more experienced Team Sigma as backup. Were they asleep while the shells were being picked up?”
“You see,” replied CommunicAnt carefully, “apparently the team was running low on energy since yesterday. The man child had sprinkled some sugar grains on the ground and Team leader TriumphAnt asked the team to stock up on their carbs. So they were on the fringes, sucking at the sugar.”
“Not at the expense of the Colony’s needs, the idiots,” roared BrilliAnt; then suddenly mellowed down, “oh well, the army can’t run on empty abdomens. But tell them…”
Before BrilliAnt could complete the sentence, a dreadful waft of pheromones pervaded the environs followed by a breathless ManifestAnt hollering with antennae erect, “Orange alert! Take evasive action! Man child approaches!”
BrilliAnt was barking out orders to AssistAnt, “Alert General CommandAnt immediately. Let him assess the situation. Meanwhile deploy our Sectorial Attack Squad MIX. Get the formic acid primed. Take positions. But attack only on the General’s orders. We do not…”
“WHUMP!!!” Something had fallen through the yet gaping hole in the sky, stuck somewhere at the top and hanging over level minus 12! BrilliAnt could sense it, poised millimetres above her trembling antennae. She looked up and a giant fried piece of chicken lollipop looked back at her. “31% protein” was the only thought that could make its way into her mind as she fainted, deliriously and promptly!
[Featuring: Yellow Crazy Ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes), worker ants; Mumbai]
– Narendra Nayak © 2020