by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Mara had to have grain. Now. Immediately. It didnt matter that it was night, the time when Oogpister Beetles, Paussinae Beetles, and Granite Night Lizards reigned. She has just laid over two thousand eggs. She was significantly hungry.
Her daughters begrudged her, their mother who had consumed her own wings to feed the first of them, nothing. In balance, they balked at harvesting in darkness. Had Berta, a soldier, not led the way, those girls would have stayed put until morning.
Berta had picked up the trace of something sweet. She led her nearest and dearest to a picnic blanket mere yards from their colony. All manner of refuge covered that cloth.
Nearby, beer cans clasped in their limb hands, humans slept. Their Land Rovers radio spilled music into the night air.
Otka collected a crumb of wurst. Gerda sniffed at and then lifted a potato chip morsel. Karlina and Armina circled a red cabbage bit, while Harimanna and Erna nudged, rolled, and then heaved tiny springerle fragments.
Romilda, alone, remembered that Mother had specifically requested grain. She walked back and forth across the ground linen looking for that foodstuff. She found specks of zimt sterne, flakes of boiled potatoes, and puddles of yeast-fermented malt. Nowhere was the Grünkern Mother adored.
So, the little worker moved off of the fabric, away from her sisters column. She wanted Mothers praise.
No seed stalks grew among the grasses closest to the harvest site. There was only a house spiders trap. Had an alcohol-impaired human not taken that moment to relieve himself, crushing the arachnids web as he fumbled, the ant would have been eaten head first.
Romilda returned to the woven surface. Many of her kin had been trampled by the same feet that had freed her. She followed a scent trail back to the formicary.
There, Mara had fallen asleep, temporarily oblivious to the death of her young and to the nature of treats, which the survivors had gathered. Tomorrow would be time enough to send the girls on further missions.
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