Monday, October 28, 2013

Day of Darkness

A colony of ants lives peacefully in the nest they’ve industriously built in the grass, a few feet away from a suburban sidewalk.  They are happy there and go merrily about their business, metamorphosing from larva to pupa to adult, caring for their queen, maintaining and growing the nest, foraging for food.

Meanwhile, at one of the homes on the same suburban street, Kyle, 15, and his brother Jeff, 12, get ready to go to school.  They finish their breakfast, grab their book bags and head out the door.  Their school bus picks them up at the corner, so they need to walk half a block.  They hit the sidewalk and start walking.

There is much activity at the ant colony.  Leaves brought in by foragers must be cut into pieces to be placed in fungal gardens.  Larvae must be fed.  The nest needs constant maintenance.

As they walk down the sidewalk, the boys push each other around, as brothers are wont to do.   They playfully jostle each other all the way to the bus stop.  As they near the stop, Kyle gives Jeff a hard shove, causing the 12 year-old to stumble off the sidewalk.  Jeff’s sneaker comes down...

Suddenly, day turns into night at the nest.  But it is much too early for that, and it happens much too quickly.  The ants look up in astonishment and wonder.

… and lands right in the middle of the nest.  

Catastrophe.  Devastation.  Unspeakable destruction.  The darkness that impossibly descended from the sky hits the nest with indescribable force.  Most of the nest is destroyed.  There are millions of casualties.

The school bus arrives.  Kyle and Jeff climb aboard.

As they slowly rebuild their nest and mourn their dead, the devastated, bewildered surviving ants try to make sense of what happened.  Some say the crushing darkness from above was sent down by their Creator, in punishment for their non-belief.  Others are convinced that the ants that were killed must have been targeted by the Creator for their non-traditional ways, or non-traditional thoughts (in the case of those who did not display any wayward tendencies).   Although a small number of ants do not subscribe to either of those theories and fervently hold that no ant truly understands what happened or why, they are drowned out by those who believe in the various punishment scenarios.  

The minority of ants who refuse to believe that the “Day of Darkness”, as the event is now known, was a divine act are ostracized by the others.   They begin to be called “The Apostates”.  Some of the more fanatical ants begin to circulate a theory: the Creator allowed some of The Apostates to survive the Day of Darkness so that the surviving true believers would recognize that non-belief was its true cause.  The Creator, say the fanatical ants, who call themselves “The Knot of Truth”, made it clear through His actions that there is only one way to appease Him and make absolutely sure that there will never again be a Day of Darkness.  The ants must “purify” the colony by eliminating The Apostates and their heresy.

Although the “Purification” plan put forth by The Knot of Truth is initially met with some opposition, the fear of another Day of Darkness trumps everything else.  The Apostates are rounded up and summarily executed.  The Knot of Truth becomes the spiritual leadership of the colony.  Belief in The Creator becomes law.

The colony’s new dogma states that the ants had strayed from their Creator’s teachings, with the Day of Darkness the inevitable consequence.  They have purified the colony and are now living their lives in accordance with their Creator’s plan (as interpreted, in detail, by the Knot of Truth).  They will therefore never face another Day of Darkness.

The next morning, Kyle and Jeff walk out of their house on their way to the bus stop.  As they walk down the sidewalk, the boys push each other around, as brothers are wont to do.