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Today's Story by Eric Myers

Together they were the Three Musketeers of Mayhem, the Three Horsemen of the Ant Apocalypse, and they would always do the deed collectively.

Mice on Fire

The ants always burned too quickly for their adolescent pleasure. The three of them would spend weeks building the miniature metropolis in Sam’s back yard, and it was all over in a matter of minutes. It wasn’t fair. Or fulfilling. It would have to change.

They’d begun with ant colony kits, but the glass aquariums and earthen infrastructures were a poor substitute for the civic centers they envisioned for their subjects. This was to be a grand simulation, an exercise in utopian world building and the apocalypse of divine caprice;  they didn’t want it to look like a glorified science fair experiment. So they ditched the aquariums and advanced their urban planning, delineating the borders of the antropolis with bricks stolen from the construction site down the street. The bricks were too large to serve as practical barriers for the citizens, who could shoot through the gaps between them like watermelon seeds spat between the boys’ teeth at summer barbecues. But they served as functional frameworks for the mise en scene. Considering the scale of the citizenry, one brick constituted a house, three bricks a mansion, five a supermarket. By the end of the summer, twelve-brick skyscrapers towered over nine-brick strip malls. Crumbled brick parks sat next to chiseled brick churches. To anyone else, it may have looked like child’s play. To the three of them, it was paradise and Pompeii rolled up into one brilliant tableau.

Discarded IV tubing from the hospital where Sam’s mom worked snaked through the bricolage architecture, providing perfectly scaled passageways for the ant population that hustled and bustled through the city’s streets and structures. The boys would spend hours every evening watching them live their little lives, scurrying from place to place as if they were going to work, doing their shopping, returning home to their families every evening. Knowing that the ants had
no idea of the reality of their situation–that they lived in the end times of their particular entomology–knowing this provided moments of ecstasy and anticipation the three of them would spend most of their lives trying to rediscover.

Despite the universal nature of the apocalypse, the catastrophe was always personal; the engineers knew that all ants die alone. They would wait for an appropriately sunny day right before the school year commenced and gather at the side of their burgeoning megalopolis. Sam would produce the magnifying glass with a flourish, Jonah would start to sing his dirge, and the future leader of the free world would create a traffic jam on one of the busy thoroughfares by pinching the ends of the tube together–leaving the commuters to scramble back and forth across each other’s bodies, desperately seeking a way home, sensing that something awful was about to happen.

Together they were the Three Musketeers of Mayhem, the Three Horsemen of the Ant Apocalypse, and they would always do the deed collectively. A hand from each steadied the magnifying glass, their arms radial spokes in the great wheel of destruction begetting creation begetting destruction. Each helped focus their act of reverse alchemy–gold to shit, life to death– as they hunted each ant down with their low-tech doomsday ray. It was always over within a matter of minutes. Far too fast.

Afterwards, they would remove the tiny bodies and bury them in the graveyard of the carved brick church, imagining the names on the markers: Icarus, Hiro, Nagi.

By the first day of school, their teeming urban environment would be a ghost town. Only one ant left, whom they would allow to escape, the last survivor of his kind set free to find a female refugee to jump-start his culture with, save it from extinction. And while he might run wild for now: they would certainly round him and his family up next year.

The following summer the experiment evolved. The previous year’s efforts had been satisfying, but the Three Musketeers were older now, wiser, more ambitious. They didn’t want to stalk the citizenry with magnified sunlight one by one, like some ridiculous serial killer. They wanted Atlantis. They wanted New Orleans. They wanted to be wrathful gods ushering in instant armageddon, cataclysm the likes of which ant-kind had never known before.

And so they repaired any elements of the city that had become weather-worn over the past nine months. They added subdivisions and shopping malls, prepared for a doubling or more of their population. And they shipped in ants from all over the county. Fire ants from Deer Creek Park, army ants from the new construction site next to the old construction site down the street, obese ants fatted on the scraps of careless picnickers, skinny ants from the abandoned downtown where soil was as scarce as employment. They wanted to create the perfect population mix, a utopian diversity that naively believed it would be able to weather any storm through bonds of species solidarity. And at the end of the summer, on the day before fifth grade beckoned, they retrieved the oversized lens they had stolen from the science museum and stashed under Sam’s porch. Three-headed hydra, six-armed Kali, the three of them hefted it high above their city and watched the entire population burn in one triumphant blaze.

The summer after that, they realized they had gone as far as they could with their current paradigm. They needed a new kind of catastrophe and a new kind of subject, something that wouldn’t relinquish its hold on life so quickly, wouldn’t disappoint them with ten-second death throes as it died with the silence of a mime. So they rounded up as many mice as they could from the last remaining field in the neighborhood, they rounded them up and put them in a holding pen while they broke ground on their most ambitious urban planning yet.


Eric Myers writes and teaches, splitting his time between San Francisco and Columbus, OH, before a full time return to the Bay later this year. In one previous life, he founded MadLab, an award-winning experimental theatre company, where he wrote and produced three full-length and a dozen one-act plays. In another, he co-founded and produced Burning Man Information Radio for over a decade. A self-described “playwright  in remission,” he recently completed a 170 page play that he is now adapting for the screen.


This piece was read as part of a production of “Action Fiction!”, sponsored by Fiction365 and Omnibucket.   

Read more stories from Action Fiction! productions.


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