They always went in alphabetical order, but since Pal Zeb was at the tail end of the previous flank, he was in front of Pal Andre. They made their way up the steep incline, talking little, preferring to let the trail guide them. The camaraderie was pleasant. Andre felt the familiarity of having Pal Andre behind him almost as compelling as the intoxicating draw of the trail.
Today’s trail had been forged by Pal Jerry. Pal Zeb liked Pal Jerry’s trails. They led to exciting and unusual places. Once they’d come out at the top of a beautiful white cliff, and had had to inch along the edge of it, hearts pounding, until a clever side path brought them home again. And there was the time he led them to a honey gold pool at sunset. There’d been a huge crowd that day, the scene forged an indelible image on Pal Zeb’s mind.
As they climbed, picking their way through the green, spiky landscape, a message began circulating through the line.
“Pal Jerry’s gone missing,” Pal Yusef repeated. Pal Zeb felt a surge of adrenaline travel with the news, and reluctantly passed it on to Pal Andre. “No sign of him after the top.” came the next message. “Trail ends abruptly,” and finally, mysteriously, “Warm and bright.”
They picked up the pace.
The beacon was visible well before the summit, As soon as they entered the clearing, there it was, giant, glowing and circled in an enormous inorganic iridescent disc. Once again, Pal Jerry hadn’t disappointed.
The flanks were milling around the bottom, uneasy as they sought Pal Jerry, or at least his body, but there was an urge to come closer to the beacon, touch it, bask in its warmth. Pal Trent sighted him first. He emitted a silent scream, indicating a spot impossibly high on the beacon. It was Jerry’s body, incinerated by the heat of the giant orb. How could he have made it up so high? They wondered, almost as one. Pal Zeb felt the pull of the crowd as it broke formation and abandoned the trail in pure chaos.
Sandy jumped back. She’d been about to hang an ornament next to the light on one of the lower branches.
“Pete, get the Raid, would you?” she called out. “The ants are back. I am not kidding, this is the last Christmas we spend in California.”
Inspired by an Image by Frederic Köberl. Link: unsplash.com/photos/bxJtqBgPJbs
In response to Vicente L. Ruiz’s weekly writing prompt: https://plus.google.com/+VicenteLRuiz/posts/fykwjrhAhZh
Notes on today’s post:
- Ants do have little tiny hearts.
- Ants breathe through openings in their abdomen called ‘spiracles’. They don’t have lungs to pump the air in though, just their body movements. This process only works because they are tiny. If they were big, like us, they would not get enough oxygen.
- When you crush an ant, it releases all of its pheramones, which freaks out its friends because they receive a multitude of signals, like a little insect rave.
- Ants can’t talk. This is a story.