|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
It was a sunny afternoon, and Mark Pearce waited impatiently on the station platform, kicking stones into the rail gully to ease the boredom.
"Where is the train? It was supposed to be here ten minutes ago," grumbled the impatient boy to himself. Every day he had to make this journey, and every time it seemed to get longer and more tedious.
As he turned to walk back to the station to ask the ticket officer why the train was late, something caught his eye. Where the tarmac on the platform met the brick edging, there was a small pile of sandy soil that seemed to shimmer in the afternoon sun.
Mark knelt down to have a closer look. There were small black shapes scurrying around the sand pile, carrying all manner of leaf fragments and strange egg-like spheres. He knew immediately that it was only an ants' nest, but something was odd about it. He could not be sure, but the ants were larger and more thickset than any he had seen in his garden.
He wanted to show someone, but all his friends caught a different train than he. They all lived in the town, but his parents had decided that the country air would do the family some good. To him all it meant was that he had a long, lonely journey to school every day.
He continued to gaze at the strange ants, and poked at them with a stick. They ignored him, and carried on with their menial tasks. Frustrated by a lack of any reaction, he raised his foot and slammed the sole of his shoe down upon the nest. He did this several times until all the ants above the ground were dead. With a glint of sadistic, childlike satisfaction he turned and walked back to the middle of platform as his train home finally arrived. Sitting on the train, he reached into his bag and started to read his comic.
"Ouch! What the hell?" he cried, grabbing his ankle. Pulling up the left leg of his trousers, he saw one of the ants with its jaws embedded in his skin. He pulled it away, but the head stayed locked to his ankle. Using his fingernails, he prised the small bead from it meal. A yellow ooze seeped from the wound, and he winced in pain.
"Ants don't bite like that!" he thought, "I'll get them back tomorrow!"
That evening, Mark settled down with his parents to watch the evening programmes. His ankle was still sore and red. Mark pulled his socks up high, hoping to hide the swelling.
"This is the Six o'clock News," said the announcer sternly. "The Head lines tonight!"
After several worthy issues about World events and politics, a small feature came on about a Second World War chemical weapons' dump that had been discovered, and was leaking toxic chemicals into the ground.
"That looks familiar," Mark thought.
Suddenly the reporter said the name of the town "Wentfield Station!"
"Yow, that's my stop!" said Mark to his parents, who were not really listening.
"That's nice" said Mum.
"Perhaps you'll be on TV?" said Dad.
Mark sat in silence. No one ever took any notice of him, not his parents, not his class mates, not even the ants - until tomorrow, when he was going to poison them.
The next morning, Mark sneaked into the garden before anyone was awake, and stole a tube of insect poison from the paint shed. Tucking it away in his bag, he set off for school. On the train he planned how he was going to attack the ants. Like some teenage Napoleon, he devised his strategy.
"First I'll strike with powder. Then I'll pick off any stragglers who try to escape, then I'll..." His thoughts broke off.. His ankle was still hurting, and was even more swollen than yesterday. It had been agony to put on his shoe.
On the platform, he waited for the other passengers to vacate the platform. Crossing over the footbridge to the platform with the ants, he opened the tube of powder and sprinkled it over the rebuilt ant hill. It took a few seconds for the poison to work, but eventually the ants were slowing, and dying - dropping their bundles along their roots.
"Ha ha, that'll teach you to mess with Mark Pearce the First!" shouted the school boy.
As the last word slipped from his mouth, Mark heard a deep rumbling. It became louder and louder. Suddenly, the tarmac of the platform bulged upwards and split. Forcing its way through the ground was a giant ant. It was nothing like the puppet giant ants movie makers used in horror films. It was larger than a dog, and was reddy brown. Its snapping, slavering jaws were as big as a pair of garden sheers. It instinctively turned and faced Mark. Lifting itself clear of the ground, it started to move towards him.
Mark was petrified. He couldn't move, and the ant came closer and closer. It was about to reach him when a train came rumbling through the station. It was one of the scheduled stoppers, but slowed down because of the red signal at the junction ahead. Seizing his chance, Mark leapt onto the slow moving train and headed home.
He banged on the door. Mum opened it in a flurry, and Mark fell into her arms.
"Oh Mum, there was this giant ant and it chased me, and I couldn't get away. I took some poison from the shed and I tried to kill them, but it came out of the ground, and I ran off and I'm sorry....." he gabbled, and then collapsed onto the floor.
That evening, the doctor left Mark's side and spoke to his parents.
"You say he's been hallucinating." said the Doctor.
"Yes, he's mentioned something about giant ants?" replied Dad.
"That's not good. You heard about that chemical leak in Wentfield. I'm concerned that young Mark has been overcome with fumes - and may be suffering some of the affects. I would very much like to take into hospital tonight for observation. Just to be sure," said the doctor.
"Well, whatever you think is best." replied Mum, as she entered Mark's room. Mark sat up, and looked at his Mum with frightened eyes. His mother told him of the doctor diagnosis.
"But I did see a giant ant. I did!"
"Of course you did." patronised Dad.
Mark sulked. "No one ever believes me."
Later that night, Mark was in the hospital. His parents had said good night, and had left. Mark was now alone in the room.
"Perhaps I did dream it all," thought Mark as he flopped back onto his bed.
As he lay there, there was a strange tingling sensation running throughout his body. He looked down at his hands - but were they hands? The fingers were elongating, pushing his nails outwards. He feet were also stretching and becoming insect-like. He reached up to his temple as two fibrous antennae broke through his skin.
"I'm turning into an ant!" he tried to shout, but his voice only produced a squeak.
Twisting on his bed, he tried to bang on the wall, but he fell on the floor. An extra pair of arms tore through the side of his pyjamas, and his skin turned hard and brown.
"Oh well," thought Mark. "On the bright side, they'll have to believe me now!"
Ant Trouble copyright 2001 by Curtis Brookes.
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