Oaks and Ants
“What’s the question?”, Jess asked.
“Please pay attention, Jess.”, Miss Gaylon frowned.
“Phylum, schmylum. A new word.” Jess thought to himself. “Have to give it a definition.” His teacher’s voice intruded again.
“Please tell me, to which phylum does this tree belong?”. Miss Gaylon pointed toward an oak.
“Tracheophyta.”, Jess mumbled.
“Correct. That’s it for today. Tommorow, a quiz. Then, the different classes of tracheophyta.” A bell jangled somewhere, class ended, and everyone headed back inside.
Everyone except Jess. An ant crawling up the side of the tree had captured his attention. “Where’s he think he’s going? Ants live in the ground. This one likes a high-rise, I guess.”
“Jess, get a move on.”, Miss Gaylon said.
Jess gathered his books and trudged off. “If only I was that ant.”
“What?” Jess replied, startled from his reverie. He looked up. He was not in his literature class. He turned toward the voice. It had not come from Mr. Keems, but from something else. “What’s going on! “, Jess yelled. He tried to run, but discovered he wasn’t used to moving six legs. Jess felt himself face down before this thing that looked for all in the world like a giant ant to him.
“Your report, soldier.”
“Soldier? Is this for real?”, Jess thought.
“Do you not speak in the imperial presence when you are commanded?”, the voice thundered.
Jess remained dumfounded, and worse yet, mute.
“Away with this insolent creature.”
Jess watched as two creatures a little smaller than the speaker moved toward him. He winced as their cold claws clamped around his neck. Jess resisted with all his might and six appendages to no avail.
“Put him in the worker den.”, one of his captors hissed. “He’ll learn some manners there.”
Another creature appeared. For an instant Jess was free from their grasp. He broke and ran. He didn’t know where to, just away. Soon he found himself climbing, and without any extra effort. His captors gave up the chase when Jess went vertical. “Why didn’t they follow me? Guess I’m just more surefooted than they are.”, Jess thought as he congratulated himself on his escape. He inspected himself closely now. “I look like an ant. What gives?” He peered back down the trail. They were still there at the bottom of the ravine. “A vertical ravine? This is getting weirder all the time.”, he thought. “Got to be dream.”
“No, little-ant-person-with-the-large-head. This is not a dream”
Jess wheeled around on his four hind legs. “Cool. A forklift turn”, thought Jess, as he eyed the creature in front of him. His vision had changed making it harder to focus. “If I didn’t know better I think you were a butterfly. “, Jess said.
“I am.”, replied the Monarch. “I saw your escape and came to you.”
Yeah, I am in a bind, I guess. Don’t know how I got there though.”
The butterfly flattened his enormous orange and black wings. Their shade chilled Jess, but he felt safe.
“Little-ant-person-with-the-large-head.”, the butterfly said, “you have come out of your cocoon and now live a different life than before.”
“Cocoon?”, Jess choked out.
“Yes, little-ant-person-with-the-large-head, I saw you emerge and crawl up this tracheophyte. You escape your new realm. Why?”
Now, Jess knew he had lost it entirely. “All I need now is a rabbit with a watch.” he thought. “Jess in Wonderland. That’s it. All a dream, just a dream.”
“No, little-ant-person-with-the-large-head. But know this. You are now an ant, and belong to the worker colony that lives below.”
“Come on. People can’t become ants.” Jess began to panic.
“Ahh, little-ant-person-with-the-large-head, you disdained your former existence and wrapped yourself in your cocoon. Now you emerge as that which you wanted to be. See how the climbers come for you now.” The butterfly’s voice had changed. The gentleness became sternness. “There’ll be no more literature or biology for you, just as you had desired.”
I take it back!, Jess screamed.
The climbers arrived and grasped Jess. The butterfly lifted off in one motion of his wings.
“Good work.” the climbers called to the butterfly.
Jess struggled to free himself from the climbers who returned him to his captors.
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