by Marijka Bright
A green bottle, kicked over in the rush, lay idly in the sunshine. Its contents had spilled onto the sand, grains coagulated beneath the neck of the bottle, and the moisture spread out radially from within. The sun’s rays slowly began its process of evaporation and an odour of lemon and saccharine permeated the air.
A splash of lemonade was all it took to call forward a parade of ants. A long, orderly line. Back and forth, back and forth, touching antennae as they went.
To them, the ants that is, the green bottle would have appeared to be bigger than anything that they could quite conceivably imagine. As they carried the remnants of sugar and syrup and anything else they could scavenge from the site of the spillage, would they contemplate where the bottle had come from, who had made it, what it was all for?
From their perspective, as they marched dutifully to and fro for their queen, the bottle could have only have come from the Gods. Who else could have provided such a wonder of creation?
The sun beat down hard and hot and constant. It was difficult for the ants, but their parade was unceasing. Their black exoskeletons absorbed the heat and burned their very backs. But they never stopped. The glass of the bottle also became hot. It magnified and focussed the rays of the sun onto the sand. The ants who had dared to venture so close were burned alive.
God must have had reasons for killing those ants. Were they too greedy? Did they ask for too much?
It occurred to one ant that maybe this bottle just was. Maybe its existence was purely mathematical – a number of highly probable and yet at the same time improbable events had occurred and the bottle just came into being as a result. That ant was ostracised.
“How could he not believe in a higher power?” the others had shouted.
There must be something more than this. If all the ants behave as they should and spend their lives in servitude to the queen, then of course, they will be rewarded in the next realm of existence – how could it be any other way? Why else would we be doing this?
The ostracised ant had broken ranks. He had been sent away and he trundled up the great hill – where none of his kind had dared tread before. As he climbed higher and higher, he could no longer see each ant as an individual. They had blurred into one continuous, black line of subservience. He was glad to be free of the pull of the crowd, the incessant demand for perfection, the interminability of conformity.
He continued up the hill, he was certain that he was higher than any other ant had been before. He looked back down to the sand and the bottle. It all appeared so small now. A world which he had been bound to was only a minute percentage of the entire landscape. He was so high, he couldn’t even see the long, black line anymore, which had stretched from the green bottle to his old home.
A flash of white and a strong wind brought his attention away from the vista. Beside him was suddenly an enormous feathered creature.
“I don’t often see any of your lot out here alone,” the white-winged beast crowed.
“What are you? Was it you who made the green bottle?” the lonely ant asked.
“I’m a seagull. See that blue stuff out there – that’s the sea and that’s where we like to hang-out. We don’t see many green bottles out there though – mainly clear plastic ones.”
“There’s more of you?” the ant asked.
“Millions,” the sea-gull answered. “But if I don’t get out of here now, there’ll be at least one less.”
“What do you mean?”
The sea-gull pointed out to sea and said, “That wave is coming to swallow us all.”
The ant strained his eyes and looked as far as they would allow him, but all of the blue just looked the same. As far as he could tell, nothing was out of the ordinary.
The sea-gull took flight and left the ant sitting on the side of the hill. He pondered his options. He could warn the others – but they would have no reason to believe him now. Not after he had questioned the very foundations of their beliefs. He could try to run up the hill, escape from the wave – but he was already exhausted and he knew he wouldn’t make it to the top – not in time anyway. Or he could wait; sit with open eyes and an open heart, aware of what was going to happen and powerless to change it, but at least with the knowledge.
He took the third option. The option of least resistance. He had had a good life, for he wasn’t like the others – he hadn’t ever been biding time for the next life, because he knew that this was his life and now was the time to appreciate everything. How lucky was he to be born into such a beautiful world?
As time progressed he could see the wall of blueness approach. It was bigger than anything he could ever have imagined himself. He felt awe at the power of something that he could never have controlled.
The wave smashed into the hill beneath him and rushed up towards him and then ‘SCHWUMP’.
It took him a moment to realise what had happened. He had already been holding his breath and had shut his eyes in the final seconds.
He was surrounded by green. The ostracised ant’s eyes adjusted. He was now sitting in the belly of the green bottle along with one of the ants who had banished him from the nest. The bottle was bobbing along on top of the water, which was still running at a rapid pace.
“Well now – God does work in mysterious ways,” said the other ant.
“But what about the others – they were all so very loyal?” the ostracised ant questioned.
“God has his reasons,” the other ant answered and sat down smiling.
“God has his reasons,” the ostracised ant repeated.
He shrugged his shoulders and sat and waited to see what would happen next.