LOOK AT THE ANTS • by Dennis Zaslona

This is it.

I turn my back to them, twist my wrists against the rope and give Churchill’s vee. I am to be their last spiteful act before they flee from the guns of my advancing countrymen.

A hand’s width from my face is the wall. Army ants scurry in and out of lead-blasted craters. The little sods are gathering. They know what a shadow on the brickwork means. They know what’s coming.

“You bastards! Cowards!”

My shout has silenced the monkeys and the parrots but not the insects. Their static hiss is relentless. Like the minds of those behind me they do not comprehend human despair, a man’s call for his mother.

The ratcheting of bolts jiggers through me.

A shout. Not my language. Not me.

The wall explodes. Bits sting my face and chest.

They’ve missed.

But my cheek is now against dried earth. I see a fading terrain of brick chips and scurrying ants.

I’m drifting. Up and into the wall poxed with the blood and the pain of previous passings. But I cannot pass. I am the last.

And then it stops.

And time moves on.

Eventually, concrete buildings force back the jungle, and the monkeys and the insects. A neat lawn, roped, now surrounds my wall. Names engraved in gold sit in marble. Mine is there, among many.

People look, photograph with tiny cameras to show what they have seen. They’ve seen nothing really. I hope they never will. Sometimes, giggling girls or confident young men step over the rope and pose in a parody of terror before me and I whisper, ‘look at the ants.’ And without knowing why, they turn and look and touch me and I touch them with just a hint of the horror that stains my bricks. They pull back and laugh as they leave but I know, that when they are alone and in the current of descending sleep, what I have given will chill their soul and cause them to think. That is all I ask, that they do not forget.

Others come. Time-folded bodies encased in wheelchairs or scaffolded by the loving arms of a younger generation. They return to remember and to cry.

The last enemies who themselves now face the slow bullets of old age and death also come. It is too late for them to say sorry. If I could, I would reach out and fill their remaining nights with pain and terror. There is no forgiving in me. Perhaps that is why I remain, to learn? Maybe.

When the last enemy has gone, when there are no comrades left to stand before me and give the final salute, then perhaps I too will leave. My wall will be taken by time and will crumble into the earth. Memories will slip from the living and the world will go on as it always has.

Dennis Zaslona is a writer of middle grade fantasy and adult science fiction. He is an indie author and has read his work live on local UK radio.

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