The emails don’t stop coming, like water torture. One two, one, one two three, ten all at once that a filter should have caught except for some developer’s typo, one, one two seven, on and again and more until she looks up and realizes it’s been 47 minutes and she hasn’t gotten shit, not from outside not from inside, and she goes running to IT in a panic that her inbox is broken and how on earth is she supposed to know who needs what but now the Wi-Fi’s back up and here they come again, like sugar ants in her clean kitchen with the filthy kitchen in the apartment next door (she can only assume!) and when you see one you have to squash it immediately or else trace it back to the source, look for the trail, wipe away the crumbs and the drips of red wine from that one muddy cork and sterilize the countertops with white vinegar and for a little while always they’ll go away but then in half an hour or in the middle of the night or next week they will be back: one crawling past the chrome handle of the spice cabinet (did she firmly cap the agave nectar the last time she used it?) and two tracking like reanimated coffee grounds along the precipitous edge of the sink until she knows before she even gets out of bed that there they will be when she turns away from the tea kettle and opens her eyes wide enough.
It is prudent to know your enemy so in the third stall on Monday during a long bathroom break she read on her phone that the males are called drones and the workers are female, that they predated the dinosaurs on most continents, that they may form as much as a quarter of the animal biomass in any given ecosystem. She gesticulated at the stubborn soap dispenser and mentally raged at the sheer weight they can independently carry. Then she thought about the chicken thighs in her freezer and if a quarter of them were made up of ants and that night for dinner she ate pasta standing up by the stove.
She has refined the skill of spotting their petiole waists moving against the mottled texture of the granite: one, stand motionless in sock feet clutching a warm travel mug and staring with fuzzy vision, then two, strike like a sniper with the pad of your thumb as they emerge from the camouflage. Can they identify the specific curve of the whorls on her fingerprint or could it be anyone forcing the life out between the cracks in their exoskeletons until they finally stop wriggling and she flicks them down the dark hole of the InSinkErator? Before she left this morning she turned the tap on to grind up her banana peel without thinking but now the Outlook button on her taskbar won’t stop shrieking and she is harrowed that their queen, hidden away and breeding, could feel each seismic drip of water from the old brass pipes and did she know what it means that her workers are drowning.
K. Angel is a fiction writer, playwright, and translator living in London. Her work has also appeared in PANK