Contest #250 shortlist ⭐️

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Fiction Friendship Sad

Eavesdropping on human mothers had robbed me of the life I once had. The bustling sense of duty I once felt toward the colony has been reduced to a dull ache of longing for something more; motherhood. Not the kind of motherhood that stems from simply the birth of another, but the kind that means my life is no longer just about me or the colony.

I overheard one mother describe her love for her daughter as unconditional, something our Queen doesn’t know the meaning of. Her interest in her thousands of daughters begins and ends with what we provide for her. She says we owe her for the gift of life that she gave us, and yet she takes those very lives for granted every day. If I were a mother, I hope that I would be a better one than the Queen. I never loved anyone, and yet my heart longed for the opportunity ever since I overheard those humans. To have the capacity to love others was a particularly human trait I had grown to envy.

In the end, it was that desire for love and the envy of humans that led me away from the colony five nights ago and onto the porch of a blue house with white trim. I settled into a crack in the wood and slept until the sun rose each day, only venturing out in the dead of night to find food. I had grown used to ignoring the vibrations of footsteps on the wooden porch as humans trickled in and out of the house as days passed, but one day curiosity got the better of me. Vibrations and loud noises woke me from my slumber, though I remained still as I strained to make sense of the sounds I heard. 

“Mom, come on. It’s basically summer already and you’re telling me I can’t have a little ice cream for breakfast?”

“You have school, Joshua. All that sugar will make you crash before fifth period.”

“Please?”

I heard a huff and then, "Well, you’ve already eaten half the bowl anyway. But I don’t want to get a call from your teachers saying you fell asleep in their class later. Try your best to get through this last day. Oh, and don't forget to have people sign your yearbook so I can see when I get home from work!”

The boy, Joshua, sat on the steps of the porch as I crawled out of my hiding place in time to watch his mom go inside and shut the door. He held a white ceramic bowl in one hand and a shiny silver spoon in the other, the rounded end dripping pink. I inched closer to the boy, hoping he’d drop just enough of the sweet cream to sustain me for a day or two. All of a sudden, his large blue eyes traveled to my level, and we were face-to-face.

“Hi,” he whispered. “You want some?”

The spoon clattered against the side of the bowl as he dipped it into the ice cream before scooping a generous helping onto the porch next to me.

“For you and your friends,” he whispered as he sat up. I didn’t have the colony to answer to anymore, and so we sat together on the porch eating strawberry ice cream as the sun rose higher.

At some point, he must have noticed I was alone because he leaned down again.

“No friends, huh? Me neither,” he muttered. He extended a tan finger towards me, and I resisted the urge to run back to my hiding spot. This human interaction has gone well so far, but who knows what would happen if I let him pick me up. He looked disappointed when I remained still but retracted his hand. 

“That’s okay,” he said softly as he gazed off into the distance. After a moment, I began to eat again, and he turned to watch me, though he didn’t lean down like he had previously done. Instead, he spoke to me as if I were a person—a rare experience indeed.

“Why is making friends so hard for me? Like everyone I know has tons of friends. I sit with people at lunch and stuff, but it’s not the same. We don’t hang out after school like everyone else does, you know?”

He looked embarrassed for a moment before leaning in towards me again, lowering his voice to barely above a whisper.

“Mom thinks I go over to my friends’ houses every week. I just hang out by the creek alone for a few hours and then head back home. She doesn’t know it, but Max and Joey stopped being friends with me a few weeks ago. I don’t even know why.”

He sat up and sniffled, angrily wiping a tear that had fallen down his cheek. 

“It’s not fair.”

Joshua heaved a sigh and looked down at me before tentatively holding out his finger again. I understood the sinking feeling of pity in my body at that moment, a feeling I had often felt for myself as I grieved the motherhood I would probably never have. This child was upset, and I realized there wasn’t much I could do except offer him companionship. I climbed onto his finger and stood there as he lifted me until I could see my reflection in his teary blue eyes. 

“Can I tell you something else?”

I couldn’t very well say ‘yes’ so I settled for circling around the pad of his finger before holding on tight as his laugh shook the hand I was perched on. 

“Okay good. I know it’s stupid but...I’m scared to go to school today. My mom thinks I’m gonna come back with all these signatures on my yearbook from all these friends I’m always telling her about, and she’s gonna be sad when she sees that no one signed it. I don’t want her to feel bad for me, and it’s not fair that she’ll be hurt because people don’t wanna be friends with me."

He stared into the distance again for a moment before looking back at me.

"The thing is, I don’t even know who I’d ask to sign. There’s this girl that I think is the most beautiful girl in the world, but I don’t think she even knows who I am. Her name is Sasha.”

Joshua sighed and set me down next to the melting ice cream left on the porch. He continued to gaze at me as I began savoring the ice cream again, listening as he continued to pour his heart out.

“She has so many friends, though, I doubt she’d even talk to me. But I guess she always smiles when I look at her, so that’s something, right? Maybe I could ask her to sign my yearbook. What do you think?”

I did all I could do and ran circles around the ice cream droplets in agreement. He flashed a toothy grin at me and stood up.

“Alright then. I’ll do it,” he said resolutely.

From inside the house, Joshua’s mom called to him.

“Almost time for school, Josh! Who are you talking to?”

He gazed down at me and winked.

“I was on the phone, Mom. Talking to a friend.” 

My heart felt full as he ran inside, excitement written all over his face. I was beginning to feel a bit weak, perhaps from all the new emotions flowing through me, so I went to my hiding spot and settled in while I waited for Josh to return. Hours ticked by after he left, and my body began to feel weaker and weaker. I didn’t understand what was happening and tried a few times to get up and stretch my legs but didn’t get more than a few feet from my spot before crawling back to rest.

The longer I waited, the more I thought about Joshua. His mom had clearly raised a kind and thoughtful boy, one who had spoken to me as if I understood him. It meant the world to me that in that moment he had seen me as an equal; both of us searching for connection outside of ourselves. Though I couldn’t classify what I had done for Joshua as mothering, it felt nice to care for someone other than myself and the colony. As I drifted off to sleep, I decided that if I had been born human, I would have done anything to raise a child like Josh.

Hours later, I woke to the sound of a light tapping on the porch. 

“Little ant?”

I rose from my spot and slowly crawled out to see Joshua with a huge grin on his face. He held an open booklet out to me, covered in signatures, and pointed at the largest one.

“See that? It’s Sasha’s. I asked her to sign like you said, and she was so nice. All her friends signed too, and she even drew a little heart, see?”

He set the booklet down and pointed. It took all my strength to crawl onto the page and inch my way towards the signature to show him that I understood. 

“What’s wrong? Why are you moving so slowly?” he asked in a hushed tone.

He pulled out his phone after a moment of thinking and began typing. A small gasp left his lips a few moments later as he gazed down at my aching body.

“How long have you been away from your colony? It says that ants can only live about six days without any other ants around. Have you been alone that long?”

My heart filled with profound sadness as I realized I had indeed been alone for almost an entire week. I hadn’t even stopped to think about what would happen to me when I left the colony. I had assumed I had all the time in the world to find myself. As the weight of what was happening hit him, Joshua kneeled down in front of me as I practically dragged myself to the heart Sasha had drawn at the end of her signature. 

"Oh, don’t do that. Come on, you can survive on your own. And you’re not alone anymore because you have me. Doesn’t that count for something?”

Tears fell on the page next to me as I settled into the heart, my legs beginning to curl under me as I felt energy leaving my body. I looked up at him as I felt emotions hitting me all at once. This human child had made me feel like I mattered more than I had ever felt being part of the colony. I had gotten a chance to guide him, and it had worked. He returned to me happier than I had ever seen him in the short time we had spent together, and the opportunity to be part of that joy really was as fulfilling as those human moms had said motherhood would be. He was not my child, but he had chosen me, and as I took my final breath, I hoped I would get a chance to do it all over again in the next life.


May 14, 2024 08:29

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17 comments

KC Tillman
15:16 May 30, 2024

A profoundly beautiful story! It's poignancy shot straight to my heart!! Bravo!

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Story Time
23:34 May 27, 2024

A really beautiful look from a unique perspective. Well done.

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08:27 May 25, 2024

Such a lovey heartwarming story. Congratulations.

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John Rutherford
04:12 May 25, 2024

Congratulations

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Philip Ebuluofor
02:15 May 25, 2024

Congrats.

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Kristi Gott
18:42 May 24, 2024

Congratulations! Seeing things from a different perspective gives new insight. I liked the idea of the ant and the ending was sad but beautiful.

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Lily Lloyd
22:30 May 24, 2024

I appreciate it, thank you

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Alexis Araneta
17:32 May 24, 2024

Such a unique take !!! I love the unique POV. But at the heart, a very touching story. Amazing work !

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Lily Lloyd
22:30 May 24, 2024

Thanks so much!

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Mary Bendickson
16:15 May 24, 2024

Congrats on short list🎉🎉. Cute inspiring story.

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Lily Lloyd
16:40 May 24, 2024

Thanks!

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Vid Weeks
22:48 May 22, 2024

An ambitious POV which lead to a good story. Thanks

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Lily Lloyd
07:39 May 23, 2024

I appreciate the kind words, thank you

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Milly Orie
21:22 May 21, 2024

This is such a unique take on the prompt. I loved it so much! Who knew I could ever care so much about a lonely little ant? Great job!!

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Lily Lloyd
01:02 May 22, 2024

Thank you so much!

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B. D. Bradshaw
10:39 May 19, 2024

Interesting perspective!

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Lily Lloyd
19:55 May 20, 2024

Thank you! The idea came to me in a dream and I had to make a story out of it.

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