by CJ Reddick
To kill the queen...
| ** Image ID #1983678 Unavailable **
“We lived in a land of plenty. Ours was the world, and we abused it. We grew and grew, taking everything in our path. Before long we had populated the world completely, and the earth reached its capacity.
Wars were fought for space. It was well understood that there was not enough room for everyone. Our scientists pushed too far. One country developed the nuclear bomb, and used it to end a war. We sat in turbulent peace for years, while the other countries developed more. Then, a volatile country fired. Alliances created a chain reaction and nukes were sent everywhere. Many survived, but even more were killed.
New creatures came, giants so large even their smallest toe was enough to crush us. They made the ground turn into rock. We were driven underground by their sheer numbers, forced to slip between the cracks. The lucky few escaped to the small areas of forest the giants kept, although they would often trod upon it.”
I finished with a sigh and stared at my class of children.
“Does that answer ‘why we live underground,’ Malcander?”
The young boy nodded. The bell rang and the class dashed out the door to the main tunnel. I sighed again and shook my head. History teacher was an annoying job, but all advisors to the queen had to do some community service.
A trumpet bugle echoed throughout our underground compound. I recognized it as a call for the queen’s advisors to meet. I took a quick look back at my messy desk. No time to clean it; this could be important. I snatched up my advisor’s badge and pinned it to my front. Calmly blowing out the three lit candles, I left the school.
Candlelight and glowworms were our only sources of light. Each house and community building was a cave in our large tunnel. The tunnel was actually more of a chamber, curving up to the tip of the ceiling, where a sliver of sunlight slipped through. There was our exit hole, the place where we left to scavenge for food. Our food was in good supply, the pantry was stocked full of delicious morsels.
The one compound that was not a cave was The Hill. The Hill was a mound that echoed the shape of our compound. It was the queen’s castle, where her advisors met and lived. The entire outside of it was covered in glowworms, making it the equivalent to the sun in our colony. I made my way to this place, passing many people, nodding hellos and goodbyes and even exchanging a few glares. At the gates, the guards nodded at my badge and let me in.
The dirt floor of The Hill was the same as the outside. The same as the rest of the colony. I made my way to the antechamber of the throne room, the advisors’ meeting place. I entered and was greeted by the other seven advisors.
“Jolsin! How are you?” Alabanda exclaimed.
“Fine, and yourself?” I replied.
“Alabanda! Calm yourself!” Mistrosis exclaimed. Alabanda frowned and became quiet.
“Greeting, Mistrosis,” I bowed to the head advisor.
“Jolsin, welcome. We have an important matter to discuss.”
“We do?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes, a very important matter,” Mistrosis said gravely.
“The queen,” Mistrosis whispered.
“Is Her Majesty ill?” I asked.
“In a manner of speaking,” Mistrosis replied.
“What do you mean?”
Yetea spoke up. “I have communed with Maia.”
“Maia, goddess of darkness and black magic?” I asked incredulously.
“And the future,” Yetea replied. “She told me that a grave future awaits us. The queen is failing. Neighboring tribes are gathering their forces, ready for war. Only a sacrifice will save us.”
“A sacrifice?” I asked.
“The queen,” Mistrosis replied.
“Wait?” Alabanda demanded. “We must sacrifice the queen! How shameful of you to even consider this!”
“Hold on!” I stopped. “Where is Xeros?”
Mistrosis and Yetea looked at Alabanda expectantly. “Why are you looking at me oddly?”
“You have spoken against Maia,” Yetea responded. “Surely you will die.”
“What? I’m not going to…” Alabanda suddenly screamed. “Erch!”
A flicker of flame erupted in his midsection. WIth a hideous scream, he burst into flames. Melting skin dripped on the ground in awful pools. I watched as the bright eyes were seared shut and the face was molded into a blob of skin. Alabanda dropped to the ground. Without warning, the flames stopped. I took a moment to stare at the horrific tragedy that was Alabanda. The black burn marks began to liquify, melting, spreading about the room and covering what was left of Alabanda in black. A woman stood from the goo. “Twice I have been denied! Follow my instruction, or else!”
“Yes, great Maia!” Yetea exclaimed. The woman fell back into the goo, and flames erupted once more. The goo was burned away. Not even Alabanda’s charred corpse was left when the flames dispersed.
Mistrosis turned to me. “Xeros denied Maia as well. We must continue or grave punishments will befall us.”
I nodded, terrified. “We will kill the queen when she retires for her afternoon nap,” Mistrosis replied.
“I will be there,” I stammered.
Mistrosis smiled. “Good.”
Exactly one hour later we were poised outside the queen’s bedroom. We had drugged the guards and they slept behind us.
“Ready?” Yetea asked. We all nodded. “Three, two, one!” We burst through the door.
I stopped. The queen stood next to her bed. “Hello, my advisors.”
“Hello, Your Majesty,” Mistrosis replied in a mock bow.
“I see. What my guards heard was true. You have come to kill me.”
“It is for the good of the colony, my queen.”
“No, it is for the good of Maia. But, though you serve the dark goddess, I have offered my own prayer to Trust, the god of light. And, he has responded.”
The room began to shake. “I shall die,” the queen spoke confidently. “But I will not be alone. And, it will not be by your doing.”
With that, the shaking became too much for The Hill to bear. The floor collapsed beneath us, and the ceiling above us. Dirt caved in all around us, burying all but me. I somehow managed to jump out of the way of most of the dirt. To my horror, I discovered the shaking was not just in The Hill but throughout the whole colony. Cracks in the ceiling appeared. Dirt poured in from everywhere. People screamed and ran. The more assertive and tactical of the populous directed the woman and children out, screaming at the men to go to the pantry and carry out all the food they could. Cries of “Evacuate!” echoed throughout our compound.
I could do nothing but run. I scurried up the piles of dirt, and above ground. Most of the ceiling was gone now. But, as I emerged on the hard, gray ground, I stopped in my tracks. Many others had run out of the colony and now were running in aimless circles. They had no leadership. Our colony was doomed.
A large pole came down and caught one of my legs. I screamed and struggled with my other legs to free the caught one. I looked up and, to my horror, a giant stood. Its eyes examined me curiously. The pole holding down my leg had dirt on it. This giant had destroyed our colony.
“Jimmy!” Momma called. Jimmy looked up.
“It’s time to go to Grandma’s!”
“Yay! Grandma’s!” the five-year-old dropped the stick and took one last look at the swarm of ants pouring out of the now destroyed ant hill. “Bye-bye, ants!” he exclaimed. He ran to the car to go to Grandma’s, without a thought of the thousands of lives he had just destroyed.