Jack Walker was the type of person to deny fear at every turn. This isn’t to say that he was without fear; no, Jack Walker, as all men do, feared many things. There were the obvious fears, the ones that every person is born with ingrained into them, but Jack Walker had one fear which, to him, was perhaps the most embarrassing fear anyone could ever have: a deep and incessant fear of ants. The very mention of those six-legged monsters with their swollen ugly heads made Jack nauseous.
Jack found this part of himself detestable; why should he, a man, be afraid of a tiny bug? Despite that, every time he felt a tingle on his arm, he would not stop pounding that spot until he was sure that any being, be it an ant or a rogue skin cell was dead. When asked about the bruises constantly found on his arms, Jack always opted for “no comment.”
For all that, when Jack walked in on his girlfriend making a noise which could only be compared to the screeching of an animal directed at a line of ants entering his house, Jack laughed at her. Jack was lucky enough to have been returning from a workout which covered up the fact that the moment he saw the trail of ants he broke out into a cold sweat. Jack told his girlfriend that she was overreacting, and pushed her out of the room. He would handle it, seeing as he was the man in the house. That is what men did right?
Jack kept one cabinet stocked full of insect killers; an eighth of that cabinet would be enough to kill a grown man, let alone a dozen ants. Jack desperately grabbed most of the bottles. Any reasonable person would tell you that spraying five different insecticides in the same place within minutes of each other would not be an intelligent thing to do, but Jack was not very reasonable at that moment.
Jack felt very accomplished at his very brave, very manly performance, so much so that he decided to reward himself with an apple. Jack, you see, stayed far away from any food which did not consist of unseasoned chicken or, on some occasions, lightly seasoned egg whites. He thought it helped with building muscle. Perhaps it did; it also helped him to be malnourished. Jack bit into the apple.
For about five seconds that apple was the most wonderful thing in the world. In the sixth second, Jack felt a tingling on his arm, and by the seventh, the apple was on the ground. Jack proceeded in his age-old tradition of smashing that spot with as much force as he could. He half expected to find nothing, but when he removed his hand he saw it, a tiny black spot. Its horrible antennae were bent in the wrong directions and its usually bulging body flattened. Jack proceeded to empty most of the partially digested apple into his kitchen sink.
Jack’s mind turned immediately to the apple. There was no way the ant could’ve come from the apple, right? Jack looked down. The apple had rolled when it hit the ground, so what Jack saw was not the pristine ruby he had picked up but rather a rotting hole in the side of the apple. Jack wouldn’t have minded a hole in his apple so much. What he did mind, however, was the ant he saw crawl out.
It was almost like the ants knew they had an audience because seemingly out of nowhere legions of the bug poured out of the fruit which they had apparently made their home. Jack stepped on the apple. He would regret this. As soon as he broke the apple the ants exploded out. For such small bugs, ants move very quickly. Jack ran.
By the time Jack had stopped shaking enough to actually open the door the ants were gone. Like the world’s most polite party guests, they left the room just how it was before they arrived: down to the apple. When Jack looked to where the broken pieces of apple had formerly sat, there was no sign it was ever there. Jack was finally starting to contemplate the consequences of insecticide overuse. Jack decided he was simply being paranoid, he must’ve imagined the whole incident, and despite the concerning implications that belief held, that’s what he decided. Jack didn’t notice the remains of the apple he had thrown up now dried to the sink.
Even though Jack decided that he had made the whole incident up, a wave of paranoia hit him after that, it had to just be paranoia, right? Breakfast the next day was ruined when he swore that the pepper on his eggs had grown legs and walked off his plate, and that night when he was drifting off to sleep he felt hundreds of little legs inching their way up his ankle. Jack’s fiancee did not appreciate being woken up by Jack’s kicking and swatting.
Within the week Jack’s fiance had gone to stay at a friend’s house. The last straw was Jack’s decision to berate her over a chocolate bar she had left out, which was apparently attracting a whole colony to their room. Upon closer inspection, she could find no trace of any such infestation.
Being left all alone was no help to Jack. It seemed that with the lack of another person around the ants were becoming more and more obvious. He saw them everywhere now. He felt them everywhere, and yet, when he called the exterminator to the house there was no sign of these ants. The second exterminator said the same, and the third, and the fourth.
By week three, Jack had sent his fiancee several texts begging her to return. He was left on read. Jack was starting to wish that he had been a bit more nice.
Jack couldn’t leave his closet now. He tried but they were blocking the door. There was no longer a light coming in through the door. He had blocked the bottom; now they couldn’t get through.
Soon enough he saw it. A small black speck moving between the spot where he kept his pajamas and his t-shirts. Jack cried. The ants could sense this. They loved it.
Jamie Locke had returned home on Sunday afternoon, she had decided that two weeks was enough punishment for her fiance. When she returned home she was surprised just how clean the house was. It was, in fact, very clean, down to the cabinets which were now empty of any food.
Jamie called out for Jack. She didn’t hear a response. She decided that he might have been asleep, and thought that it might be fun to scare him just a bit. Jack loved to scare and make fun of her, so why not return the favor?
When Jamie reached the bedroom door she saw a line of ants entering through the bottom, she couldn’t help but laugh, who’s the one leaving trash out now?
She opened the door. The room was empty. The line of ants trailed all the way across the room and into their closet. Jamie slowly made her way across the room, careful to avoid any ants, and opened the door.
They were everywhere. They were all around him. They were in him.
Right as she finished her second scream, she saw the hole: the hole in Jack’s head. The ants weren’t crawling in; they were crawling out of him. Through a small hole just above his left eyebrow––and they were fast. Jamie had the sense to run out of the house as fast as she possibly could.
Art Credit: Taylor Mason