I have been told that if you crush a large number of ants under your foot they smell like Bacardi. I have never noticed this. In the summer the ants come in through the tiny holes in our kitchen tiles to steal little crystals from the sugar bowl and sleep on top of the tea bags. Sometimes I squash them under my mug or aim for them when I put down the cutting board. I don’t notice any smell. Their life has ended in vain, and I have bug goo on the cutting board.
How does an ant feel when it sneaks into a person’s home through the cracks in the walls?
Is the ant aware of its crime?
Does it feel a rush of adrenaline, like that time when I was little and I snuck into the neighbour’s back garden to grab my tennis ball?
Does the ant enter the home to satisfy a need for voyeuristic pleasure?
The answer is of course, no. The ant has a tiny brain and is not capable of complex thought or self-awareness. But I imagine that if ants could be aware of the seriousness of their crimes, they would feel bad and wouldn’t do it again.
If an ant were to nestle itself in between the petals of a flower, would the smell of that flower be overpowering, like if you were to walk into a room in which 100 bottles of perfume have been sprayed into the air, or would its tiny ant nose protect it from olfactory assault? If you know the answer, please write it on the underside of a table somewhere. Check back in a year to see if I have replied. If not, I have stopped checking tables because I have googled the answer.
I imagine things are very dangerous for ants. Particularly when people are crushing you to see what your corpse smells like. A drop of rain could crush you like a tsunami wave. If an ant has to walk on hot pavement in the summer, it would take them much longer to reach the grass than if they had human legs. One thing that ants do have going for them is that they can lift things that are very heavy in relation to the size of their bodies. If you see a big chunk of cake running away from you, there is likely to be an ant underneath it. I wish I could carry a 150 kg piece of cake on my back. I wouldn’t be able to eat it all but people would think I’m pretty cool.
I would not want to be an ant for a day, because the world seems out to get them, but if I were, I would like to try and sneak my way into a little big pink soap bubble, and float up into the air like the good witch from The Wizard of Oz, and if the bubble pops and I fall to the ground I won’t get hurt because my body would be so small that my impact with the ground wouldn’t affect me as much as if I were a big thing. I would also like to walk into people’s houses and watch them talk on the phone about their friends, and I would sleep on their teabags and steal their sugar. I could also do this as a human if I wanted to.
Words by Hannah Cockroft, art by Gabby Loo.
Hannah is Pelican’s 2017 creative writer in residence.
This article first appeared in print volume 88 edition 3 SOAP.