Antonius was walking down the long wide road that led to his house, as usual, carrying the daily supply of food for his family. As he walked slowly but cautiously, he always couldn’t resist looking around him and viewing the once grand city of Restoria. It had once been the dream home of millions, the hub for trade and the centre of all civilisations. The geographical benefits of the place had made it an ideal location to setup home. It had perennial water sources and cheap & abundant availability of raw material required for construction. But most importantly, its proximity to the sacred hill of Kachupia was its main attraction.
Kachupia was a truly unique and magical hill forest. Its uniqueness was that the food supply in the forest never seemed to end. Restorians would daily collect large chunks of healthy and protein-rich food from the hill, and find more food in the same areas the next day. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables were present, but more surprisingly, restorians occasionally also found dead meat in these forests. Popular myths and folk lore said that when the Gods were pleased they would shower their blessings by serving meat to them. Some Restorians also claimed to have seen food falling from the sky when dark. But a lot of them had lost their lives in the quest for the answer and so now the society did not wish to anger the Gods by being over-inquisitive, but blindly believed in His grace.
The entire civilisation was based around Kachupia, and since the civilisation itself was so different, occupations of members varied significantly from what our traditional civilisations had. The major occupations could be classified into three categories which later formed the basis of a caste system in the town. The caste in order of their increasing importance was as follows:
The Labourers: their main task was collection of food from Kachupia and transporting it to the city. Labourers were also involved in construction of complexes in and around the town. This involved manual transportation of raw material as well. The Labourers’ job was one which required immense physical strength but little mental acumen. Hence this caste received the least importance.
The traders: they received the food from the labourers and distributed all over town and to traders of other towns and cities, who would travel a large distance for the high quality imports they would receive from Restoria. A special fruit, called Mesucro by locals, was particularly highly popular because of its unique crystalline shape and consistent sweet taste. A Barter exchange system existed with prices set for different forms and quantities of food.
The nobles: a very stable monarchy had been established and Restorians were proud of it. The Queen was the supreme authority, followed by the King. There were also ministers who advised the couple in decision making. Decisions were largely centred on infrastructure related projects – where to set up the residential and commercial complex? Whether to establish new routes to Kachupia? How much to invest on discovery of new lands? And so on.
Antonius was a noble and was highly respected in the community. He had now grown very old and had seen it all – the steady rise and the abrupt fall of the once great civilisation. He sometimes could not believe his own eyes when he saw the destruction around him. The beautifully carved buildings had crumbled to dust, the roads were totally deserted and the market which was once so bustling with activity was silent. And every time, everyday he walked down this road from Kachupia to his home, his mind wandered to the same thing. How did it happen?
He knew that all the damage was done by the worst forms of storms and rainfall ever seen, which caused heavy floods and deaths. But the question that was really bothering Antonius was that why did the Gods decide to terminate His most loved town out of the blue. What action of Restorians might have infuriated the Gods to this extent? He thought about this for a great extent and came to the conclusion that the biggest fallacy Restorians had ever committed was divisions on the basis of caste and race, which were created on the pretext of God to serve their selfish needs. Their bold decisions to set up grand homes and large roads had led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent labourers too. Discrimination against the other race was also something Antonius was deeply repenting. They always used a derogatory term to describe the other race – Niggers.
The niggers were black in colour and were physically fitter than the Restorians, but relatively less aggressive, rather very docile and peace-loving. They were the native inhabitants of the land which is now called Restoria. They were the discoverers of Kachupia and dedicatedly worshipped it. But they did not set up grand towns and large homes. Instead they preferred to stay in caves as a symbol of humility to the Gods who had graced them. Restorians launched an aggressive attack on the niggers. This was totally unexpected and the niggers were forced to flee. Antonius remembered his and his compatriot’s arrogant thinking at that time. They had then justified this act by claiming that it was God’s wish. God wanted to see His most wonderful creation being efficiently utilised. The niggers were fools not to make the most of the area, and they had to be removed.
How much Antonius was regretting having those thoughts now. Maybe all God wanted was for us to stay in peace and harmony and look what we have achieved in the name of God. Just as he said those words in his mind, he heard the thundering sound that had become so familiar to him over the last few days. He was surprised by the sudden change of weather and knew for sure that it was divine intervention. He had also made sure to note the time of the earlier storms. They had all occurred in the mornings. He had made it a point to not step out of his home during mornings and hence had shifted his daily trip to Kachupia to evenings.
He quickly grasped the symptoms of a storm and started hurrying his pace to reach home. He still could not see his home ahead, which meant that he had a lot of running to do. Being old, he could not run at a pace he ran when he was young and had fought that momentous battle against the niggers, but he tried using all his energy. His efforts appeared to be in vain as the first drops of water fell behind him. The rain now had got to him, and it was the heaviest he had ever been under. A feeling of agony quickly rushed through his body as the water started accumulating at a rapid pace on the road. He ran frantically but finally the Gods had him. The water was now up to his body and he could not do much but swing his arms and legs profusely to try and keep his head above the water. But the water was not only gaining height, it was also flowing at a very fast speed, down slope towards the cliff from where most of his comrades had fallen off and lost their lives in the huge waterfall and the pool of water under it. Antonius had closed his eyes and submitted himself to The Almighty’s wish. Flowing towards the cliff, he knew that it was his punishment for his cruelties against the other race during his younger years and had accepted his fate. He had lost two of his sons in similar fashion during one of the previous storms and thought that he was now going to them. He opened his eyes now and could hazily see the cliff ahead of him, amidst the splashes of water. He prepared himself for the plunge. As he approached the edge, the flow of water was so powerful, that he flew off the land and in mid-air his body turned around facing the heavens. He looked up at the sky as he was falling into the abyss, and just before he was going to be immersed in the pool forever, he saw the strangest thing. A towering figure stretched from the ground to the heavens, standing firm, under the rain that had destroyed everything. It was the figure of “GOD”, Antonius screamed aloud. And with those words, he went deep into the pool and never came back.
I stood there, under the shower, smiling at Antonius, the last red ant amongst the hundreds that had invaded my rest room and made it their home. I noticed that until a month ago, I never had a pest problem in my bathroom. Previously, I only had a few black ants moving around. But they were probably smart enough to hide themselves. But, after I returned from my month long vacation, I noticed that a long queue of red ants had formed from the dustbin right outside my bathroom, to the corner of a bathroom where there was a decorative ant hill. With immense pleasure, I sprayed strong gushes of water on their sweet little homes and on their long queues to the dustbin, every time I took a bath. I had finally managed to kill them all. Barring Antonius’ family I suppose.
Sitting on toilet pots throughout my life I have observed a lot of ants and how they operate. I would like to mention some of the observations that helped me cook this story up. These are not facts, just general observations which may not necessarily be true.
· Black ants move faster than red ants.
· Black ants hardly bite. They are more lovable as they tickle you whenever they move over you. On the contrary, red ants are aggressive and tend to bite as soon as they get on you.
· I have never seen an ant hill made by black ants.
· Ants can float on water but generally struggle to get out of a pool of moving water if stranded in there for too long. Ants can however manage to get out of stable water bodies (like water in a bucket) by swimming hard.