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It is truly amazing just how much pain the human body is able to endure with the proper motivation.

For weightlifters and athletes, it’s the goal of looking better and becoming stronger that helps them push through the pain of exercise. For those trapped in the monotony of everyday office work, it is their families that keep them working day in and day out through the mental pain of never-ending paperwork. However, the one true motivator that has time and again proven to be the eternal motivator of humanity now remains trapped in my psyche like a song on an endless loop. That eternal motivator, of course, is fear. The pain it helps me push through at this very moment is that of exhaustion. You see, as I sit on my cold kitchen floor typing this out, I have made a stunning realization. I have been awake for over 3 days straight. I didn't even notice until I looked at the calendar but it's true. You'd think that with all I've endured this last month, I would have gotten somewhat used to my ordeal and the fear would have subsided even a little bit but no! It’s only gotten worse. It’s only further logged its talons in my brain and It’s the only thing keeping me awake and able to transcribe to you what has befallen me. So as I orate to you my plight I ask only one thing of you. Please, keep an open mind ok?

My name is Alex. My story begins last month in the middle of November. I would tell you where I live but there's not much point since soon enough, it won't matter. To give you some perspective on my surroundings though, let's just say in one of the southwestern states and leave it at that. I work at a car wash. Come to think of it, at the time of my writing this it'll be nearly 3 years I've been working there. It’s amazing how fast time flies when you have no aspirations in life, isn't it? You get used to a routine and are so comfortable with it that you don't even question it anymore. You just let your life slip away from you because the idea of changing anything about your routine holds the slight implication that it can all be ripped away from you and you'll have to get comfortable all over again. I did have aspirations for my life, but at one point or another, they just sorta slipped away from me. All of this is to say that I've been working this job for a very long time. I started off as a janitor and later as a cashier for the interior section. It's one of those nice car washes where you can watch your car get washed from the inside through glass. Eventually I moved my way up to the line to the point where I'm the guy who helps vacuum and dry off your car outside.

It’s more physically demanding work than I expected but the pay is significantly better than the clerical work I was doing before. Well, I'd been working that job for the last year and a half and I thought it was time for me to ask for a promotion. Not a big one mind you, I wasn't expecting to be made manager or anything, but I don't think it was out of the question to be given a job with a little more responsibility right? I knocked on my boss’s door with my speech already rehearsed in my head of various job positions I was going to remind him were available. The meeting however didn't go as planned. The speech I had planned in my head would have taken me all of 5 minutes. However, the actual conversation only lasted 2.

“No” My boss interrupted at the very mention of the word promotion.

“No? With all due respect, sir at least hear me out. What about my time in service here? I've logged more hours than anyone else here besides you sir” I said raising my voice slightly”

“I understand the time you've put in here, and I appreciate it but what you've got to take into consideration is effort kid.”

“Effort?” I replied with such disbelief that my voice may as well have been like a whisper.

“Yes, Alex effort. You've put in a commendable amount of time here but Time means jack shit when you're only doing the bare minimum you understand me?” He was standing up out of his chair, leaning across the desk on his hands at this point. Staring me down with those judgemental eyes that seemed to scan me for even the slightest sign of weakness.

“You think I don't see you slacking off out there every damn day? I've owned this business for a long time. I know how this job is supposed to be done. You do the bare minimum to stay employed and what you're gonna receive is the bare minimum, employment.” he said with a very serious tone.

I sat there for a moment in disbelief while pondering my response. Nothing came to mind however and before I could come up with anything to say he sat back in his chair and pointed to the door behind me, ushering me out.

To say I was furious would be a colossal understatement. What little of the rest of my work day I remember was spent in a rage-filled haze that seemed to occupy every corner of my mind like a fog. “Effort?” I kept saying to myself over and over again. I mean sure, I might go on my phone every now and then during shifts but who doesn't? Sure, I may take an extra 5 minutes on my lunch break from time to time but that doesn't make me a slacker. I'm a hard worker dammit! I know I am, and for this pretentious piece of shit to claim that I wasn't. Well, let’s just say that I didn't get a very positive reception for the rest of my shift. I don't think I said hello, let alone cracked a smile at a customer for the rest of that day.

As my time at work ended and I drove home I could sense that I was still seething. My grip on the wheel seemed to tighten exponentially and I had acquired a sort of tunnel vision while driving. Similar to when you zone out and stare into nothingness. Noticing that this was probably unsafe and that I was close to my local park I decided to stop by and go for a walk to clear my head.

I always liked the park. There's not much that I can confidently claim to enjoy with my life but Fishing has been and always will be one of my favorite pastimes. The lake at the park is the only notable body of water near my town so needless to say I’ve spent a lot of my free time going there.

After a few minutes of walking the path, I decided to sit on a bench overlooking the water. I watched the light shine off the water's surface for a few peaceful moments and allowed the anger in my heart to subside until all I was left with was a feeling of pure emptiness. A feeling which was quickly refilled again with a newfound sense of depression at my situation. As the newfound grip of sadness took hold of me I leaned forward and allowed my head to fall comfortably in between my hands staring down at the ground ahead when I noticed something peculiar. There was an anthill in front of my bench across the walking path. Not an uncommon thing I know. It's a park, fair to assume there are going to be ants right? Well, I'd never seen an anthill that looked like this before. Anthill isn't even the proper term to describe it as there was no hill. Just a perfectly cylindrical hole about 2 inches in diameter in the ground that appeared to devour all of the surrounding light, making it impossible to see down into it. Coming out of the hole was what appeared to be ants. However much like their place of residence they too looked like no other ant species I can ever recall.

In the same vanity as their hill they too were as dark as dark could be. On top of that, the insects were huge. They were at least the size of the tip of a pinkie with very defined mandible teeth that jutted out from their heads quite far. I stared at them for a good 10 seconds, soaking in every detail about the colony I had stumbled across when suddenly, the rage I had suppressed earlier came back. Only now it was accompanied by the dose of sadness which had originally filled its place. I don't know what it was, something about the creatures just disgusted me on a basic primal level and it reignited that burning anger I had originally come to the park to lose in the first place. I'm usually a fairly peaceful guy but the utterly unnatural look of the creatures just disgusted me on a personal level. Becoming annoyed by the fact that these insects had disgusted me so much and reignited my anger, I stood up, kicked dirt over the hole, stomped on the anthill a few times, and set off back to my car without a second thought. As I said, I'm usually a fairly peaceful guy. However, I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel good to let out some of my pent-up aggression from that day.

The rest of my day went off without a hitch. I went back home, watched some tv, and made dinner just like any other night. Everything appeared to be normal with one exception. As I attempted to toss and turn my way to sleep that night, I could not shake the feeling that I was being watched. Now let me clarify, I'm not just talking about that feeling you get that makes people sleep with their backs to the walls or the urge to keep the back of one's neck covered up by their blankets when falling asleep. It was very deliberately, specifically the feeling of eyes being fixated upon me. A feeling made more uncomfortable by the fact that from what I could see, there was nobody in the room with me. Exhaustion is a powerful weapon however and Despite this feeling and how uncomfortable it made me, I was able to eventually get some sleep for the night.

The next morning, however, is when things officially started to get weird. You see, I live on the first floor of my apartment complex. The different rooms are laid out in a way so that there are 4 separate apartments for each section. 2 rooms on the first floor and 2 on the second with a staircase splitting down the middle, and a little stretch of dirt and grass lining the walls of each of the first-floor apartments. I never paid much mind to the stretch of dirt that lay outside my room, I've never been particularly into gardening so I had no incentive to plant anything there or to attempt to upkeep what remained of the patch of grass that clung desperately to the edge of the concrete walkway. The reason That was the first day I ever showed interest in my little patch of dirt was due to one simple detail that stuck out like an uneven shelf of books. There was a pitch-black hole, with the diameter of a golf ball perfectly centered on the patch of dirt right outside my front door.

As I locked my door and turned my head to begin walking down the strip of concrete that led to my car I found my head immediately frozen in place upon noticing it. As I stood there analyzing it I felt a cold chill run down from the base of my neck, up to the top of my head, and down to my fingertips. I can't describe what it was about the hole that creeped me out. The fact that it was blacker than any shade I had ever seen was a good enough reason but there were others. The seemingly, perfectly cylindrical shape of it gave it an unnatural appearance that made it feel like it didn't belong there, more so than it already didn't. However, the reason I felt most unnerved at that moment was due to the simple fact that I had seen this hole before, the day just before that morning to be specific. This was the same type of hole I had seen yesterday, in the park.

“What the fuck?”

I thought to myself as I knelt down to get a closer look at the hole. From what I could see there were no ants, or at least none visible at the moment. Never letting my eyes leave the hole, I reached my hand across the patch of dirt to grab a small twig that just so happened to be there and began to slowly lower it into the hole. The twig was a good 3 inches long but yet, the hole swallowed it up entirely to the point where I could not stick it any deeper into the hole without my fingers themselves going into the hole itself.

“Just how deep does this go?” I thought to myself

With my body at the complete mercy of curiosity, I again reached over across the patch of dirt, this time picking up a small pebble. I positioned it carefully, calculating exactly where it needed to be dropped to fall perfectly into the hole.

“Are you alright ?”

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a firm grip on my shoulder which caused me to jump damn near out of my skin. I spun around quickly only to be greeted by my 1st-floor neighbor Ron. A very tall bald man somewhere in his mid 40’s who I'm fairly certain did nothing with his free time besides chew ground beef and lift weights. Not the kind of person you'd necessarily be comfortable with grabbing you out of the blue.

“Jesus Ron! You scared the shit out of me!” I stammered out between gasps.

“Sorry about that neighbor," He said in his gravely southern voice that was so cartoonishly cowboy-esk you'd swear he just got done marathoning a collection of Yosemite Sam cartoons.

"I called your name out about 10 seconds ago but you seemed so focused on, whatever it is you were doing that I guess you didn't hear me,” he said, chuckling to himself.I collected my thoughts, steadied my emotions, and after a few short breaths responded.

"Yeah, sorry. I'm fine, I was just checking out this weird-looking hole in the ground."

He made a half-hearted attempt to look over my shoulder and take a peek at the odd hole I was talking about, but quickly re-straightened his posture to look back at me.

" Well alright then "

His sentence was shortly interrupted by one of my backup alarms on my phone going off. Upon pulling out my phone I saw that this alarm, in particular, was to notify me that I had 10 minutes to be at work. I understand the seeming ridiculousness of setting an alarm so soon to my work start time but given the number of times I've fallen asleep in the parking lot waiting for my shift to start, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

"Oh shit, I'm sorry Ron! Gotta go! "

I said before quickly running off. He gave me a slight wave as he watched me sprint to my car. However, As I got in my car, threw it into reverse, and began backing up I neglected to wave back. My gaze remained fixated on the hole in my front yard the entire time I backed out.


I wasn't able to make it to work on time. Just barely anyways. Through my complete and total disregard for the very concept of "speed limits" and a fair share of annoyed honks and middle fingers tossed in my general direction as I dodged and weaved my way through traffic like a snake; I was able to make it to work only 2 minutes late.

Except for the scolding I got from my boss for arriving late, the rest of my work day was pretty uneventful. Although I'm not sure if I should attribute that to the mundane nature of the work itself, or if I was just burnt out from the torrent of emotions I had experienced there yesterday. Whatever the case may have been, however, I was able to get through the rest of the work day without incident.

I place emphasis on the rest of the “Work” day because As I pulled back into my apartment parking spot, my eyes immediately locked back onto the dark pit that sat in my front yard like an unnatural blemish. I wasn't even thinking about the hole all day at work or anything. As a matter of fact, I had totally forgotten about the morning incident maybe an hour after arriving at work. No, my attention immediately drew to the hole because I don't know. I wish I could explain it but I can't. The best way I can describe it is: like looking at the ocean. Sure, you CAN look away; but every fiber of your being compels you to continue staring for just a little bit longer. So that's exactly what I did. I stared at the hole for the majority of the walk from my car up to my front door and even then when the front door was closed, the image of it remained ever-present in my mind.

As the night drew near and I got myself ready for bed I once again found myself uncomfortable with the unshakeable feeling of eyes laid upon me. As I brushed my teeth and took my gaze away from the mirror to rinse out my mouth I got particularly large goosebumps as the feeling grew, seemingly exponentially. It continued to do so as I finally got ready to turn off the lights for bed.

However, I was stopped dead in my tracks when I noticed Two black ants staring at me from outside my window. I know it sounds ridiculous but that's the only way I can describe their behavior. Insects congregating around a window is nothing out of the ordinary. But these were no ordinary bugs. They were undeniably the same ants I had seen that fateful day in the park. Or at the very least they were the same species. As I approached the window and leaned over to get a better look at them, their posture did not waiver. They stood steadfast like statues. Staring right back at me. Much like the day I first encountered the creatures, the mere sight of them filled my stomach with a sense of disgust I didn't know the human body was capable of conjuring. It was a deep, primal disgust that seemingly begged my arms to move on their own to shut the blinds on them to get them out of my sight. I was more than happy to oblige. The feeling of disgust passed, however As I laid my head down for bed the feeling of eyes on my back did not. It remained that way through the rest of the night.

That was the point where my life took a turn and began to rapidly derail. As I left my apartment the next day I almost instinctively looked down to check on the anthill in my front yard. Sure enough, there were 2 black ants staring at me. I watched them the entire time I walked to my car and sure enough, they did the same. Just like the night before on my windowsill. I never left their sight

This time, I did not forget about the incident while I was at work. It didn't hinder my work but it certainly occupied a larger portion of my mind this time around. By the time I pulled back into my driveway later that day, I was hesitant to point my eyes any lower than dead straight ahead of me. I knew they would be there, but that didn't change the fact I couldn't stand the sight of the vile creatures. However, curiosity is one of humanity's most powerful instincts. I fought it as best I could, but the closer I got to my door the stronger it became. Inevitably, it took hold of me. Once it did I noticed that there were now three ants guarding the anthill. As always, they stared me down the entire time until I was safely behind my front door.

That was when I decided to finally do something about the apparent infestation and called up my landlord Mitchell.

"And you're sure it's been growing? Mitchell asked with a hint of skepticism.

"I wouldn't lie to you, man. You know what they say on all those animal planet shows. If you see 2 there's a whole colony" I retorted with all the confidence in the world.

“Isn't that only a saying for rat colonies or something?" He said with an even bigger dose of skepticism

"Look I don't know if the saying applies to all infestations. All I know is that I've been seeing more and more ants show up around my apartment so clearly, they've settled in the area. I'm not asking for much, just an exterminator visit is all you know? Get his perspective." I said that last line as calmly as I could. I figured the only way to get him to throw me a bone here was by making it not sound like a big expensive task.

He sighed " alright man. I got a buddy who works for pest control. I'll tell him to swing by towards the end of his shift for a … mock inspection. You have a good night Alex" and with that he hung up, sounding mildly annoyed at being convinced to actually do his job. The bane of any landlord's existence I suppose.

The rest of that night went fairly well compared to the previous one. I was feeling very at ease with having a professional come in to help out with the situation. On top of that, there were no ants on my windowsill like the previous night. All was right in the world until I felt the sting.

At an ungodly hour of night I can't even begin to recollect, I awoke to a sharp pain on the stretch of skin between my shoulder and neck. Upon inspection, in my bathroom mirror, I found a small red dot was the source of my pain. It hurt like hell and when I went to touch it sharp burning pain emanated from it that felt like a lit matchstick being pressed into my skin.

I inspected my bed to see if I could spot the culprit. Obviously, my first reaction was to blame my newfound neighbors. I had already grown very tired of them, but bed bugs do exist. I wanted to be thorough and see if it could have been anything else. Despite my investigation efforts I found nothing and went back to sleep. Telling myself that it must just be a strange pimple of some kind. Knowing damn well that wasn't the case, but nonetheless, I was too tired to care at that moment.

The next morning as I left my apartment I did my now routine checkup on the batch of dirt in front of my apartment. There were four of them now. Sure enough, like the night I first encountered them on my windowsill, they watched my every move without so much as taking a step from their apparent guard-like positions. Just like they had done every other time thus far, filled with annoyance at the pests, I kicked up some dirt at them violently in an attempt to get them to run back into their hole. An attempt that was without reward. They didn't move an inch. They stood their ground and watched me intensely from my front door all the way to my car, and even though I could not see them while driving out of my parking lot I still felt their gaze on the back of my neck.

When I arrived back home later that day I was relieved to see the exterminator was already hard at work, crouched down alongside my windowsill spraying some form of poison along the edges and underside of my wall.

“Hey man, thanks for helping me out,” I said as I walked slightly to the side of him whilst twirling my keys. He pulled out his earbuds and looked over at me

“I'm sorry, did you say something?” he uttered. I sighed, rolled my eyes internally, and began again.

“This is my place, your um … "I struggled to think of the word to describe the procedure the man was in the middle of.

“Pest controlling?” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

“ Oh! You must be Alex!” he chuckled to himself.

“Yes sir, I was notified of a possible ant infestation so I'm just laying some pesticides around all possible entry points into your home. All natural neem oil pesticides so they are nontoxic to you and any possible pets you may have.” I nodded along pretending to have a clue what he was talking about.

“That's awesome man, just make sure you get the anthill in the front yard too.”

He leaned his head over past my shoulder to scout the rest of the front yard.

“Don't you worry sir, I'll be sure to hit up any possible entry points as well as possible nest spots. As I go along” he said with a smile. After about 15 minutes he knocked on my door, informed me that he was done and to keep an eye out for any more ants, and left. I breathed a sigh of relief and quickly had my nerves out to rest. Finally, with some peace of mind, I was able to enjoy the remainder of my night relaxing with some video games and staying up late due to my day off the following day. All was right in the world. Until I laid my head on my pillow, and I felt the familiar gaze of eyes on the back of my head.

The following morning was as mundane as mundane could be. After sleeping in for what felt like the first time in weeks I Woke up, went about my morning routine, and sat on my couch watching some TV while thinking about what to do with my day. Eventually settling on going out to see a movie that I wasn't exactly dying to watch. I just couldn't think of anything better to do. A plan that was quickly cut short by the discovery of a new anthill on my front lawn.

About a foot away from the original and closer to my apartment lay an almost identical-looking copy of the strange anthill that had lived rent-free on my lawn for far too long. I was stopped dead in my tracks upon my discovery of it and was immediately met with a wave of annoyance at its existence.

"Fucking christ Mitchell. Some exterminator friend you've got" I thought to myself.

With a deep sigh, I resigned myself to a day of exterminating rather than relaxation and set off for my local hardware store to buy some bug killer. I wasn't exactly sure what to look for to help deal with my particular infestation. Eventually, however, I settled on a can of bug spray made for ants as well as a few of those little plastic bait traps that ants are supposed to inadvertently poison the entire colony with.

Again, I was not an exterminator by any means so I had no idea how to go about using the equipment I had just acquired. I figured that if I sprayed a copious amount of the bug spray along the bottom of my door frame and along my window sills, that would keep them from entering my apartment. As for the ant bait traps I just placed one outside both of the 2 anthills and figured they would have to investigate them eventually.

After that little side quest, I was finally able to enjoy the remainder of my day off. Or at least a fair portion of it. It was around 7 pm when I was sitting on my couch watching TV, just nearly drifting off to sleep that I felt a sting. It rattled my whole body from the back of my neck all the way down to the left side of my foot and caused me to nearly jump out of my skin with pain.

I instinctually stood up and threw off my shirt in an attempt to get what I assumed was one of my ant neighbors off of me and began throwing my shirt over my shoulders to try to swat it off. I did this a few times before realizing I was safe and there was nothing attached to me. I looked and looked and there wasn't any ant to be seen on the couch either. I made sure to pull out every cushion, move the couch and even check the surrounding furniture and I still found nothing. When I went to investigate my back in the bathroom mirror I couldn't see a sting mark either. A fact that was not relieving in the slightest. I didn't sleep much that night. I could still feel eyes on the back of my neck no matter which way I faced as I tossed and turned.

As I woke up the next morning I had a sense of looming dread hanging over my head that I couldn't shake. A sense of dread that was different mind you than the usual morning blues before one gets ready for work. As I closed my front door I took a deep breath and turned around to check on the anthills. To my complete and utter shock, they were gone. I couldn't believe it. For a few moments, I just stood there racking my brain for answers.

"Did they move out or something?" I thought to myself, unable to come up with any rational answer. "Did my traps work that fast? Even if they did the holes wouldn't be this covered up so soon" I thought to myself.

My ant traps were still there, looking quite lonely without any trace of an ant colony to accompany them. I chuckled to myself a little bit out of relief that it looked like my infestation problem had taken care of itself and set off for work.

A comforting fact. So why the fuck did I still feel it? That uneasiness I had felt that morning was still there. It hadn't grown, it hadn't decreased, it just remained there. A constant emotion in the back of my mind from the time I woke up, all throughout work, and even now as I had visual confirmation that my intruders were gone it remained. I opened my front door and stepped inside. The 2 black ants sitting on my kitchen table turned their heads to face my direction and stared at me.

In an instant, I felt my blood turn to ice and felt a cold chill run down my spine that seemingly paralyzed me in the doorway of my own home. I had never felt so uneasy in my entire life as I did at that moment. As I stood there frozen with fear, all the moments that had led up to this moment in time raced through my mind. The encounter at the park, the mysterious anthills, the windowsill encounter, and the dread I felt when I looked at these damn bugs all played back in my mind.

"Something is very wrong here." I thought to myself.

These were no ordinary bugs. That much was clear from their appearance alone, I had figured out that much and accepted it long ago. I'm not talking about that though. On an almost instinctual, primal level that I couldn't comprehend at that moment in time, something was simply very wrong.

When I eventually regained my wits, I began to walk past the table and to my fridge to retrieve a paper towel. The entire time their heads followed my every move, and I in return did not dare let the cursed insects out of my sight. With one swift motion, I yanked a paper towel off from its roll and smushed the bugs before they could escape. Their smushed remains left an unusual amount of black liquid on my paper towel that seemed unnaturally copious for something so small. I threw their remains away and pulled out my phone.

“I need the exterminator back here Mitchell. I don't know what kind of “consultation” you had this guy run for me but it clearly wasn't enough because there in my fucking house now.”

“You mean the ants?” he retorted

“No, the fucking lawn gnomes YES, the ants Mitchel Jesus!” I spat back at him.

He took a long deep sigh. Even though I had no visual indication, I knew him well and could tell just from the sign that he was at that very moment rubbing his forehead out of annoyance like he always did.

“Alright alright, ill call him just calm the fuck down kid. I'll text you his response ok?” He sounded very irritated at that last remark.

“Sure, thanks,” I said before abruptly hanging up.

After about 10 minutes I got a text from Mitchell that read: “He’s all booked up. Says he can do it 2 days from now at the earliest.”

I replied back almost immediately “2 days? That's not soon enough man! You gotta find me, someone, to get here sooner!”

“He's the cheapest one in town, Alex. He's the one I'm going with. You'll be fine until then, they’re just some fucking ants”

I threw my phone at the wall out of frustration and slumped against the kitchen counter, almost immediately regretting that decision before frantically going to check the damage. Just a crack on the screen. As I sat there kneeling I took a very long deep breath to clear my head. “Ok,” I said to myself before standing up, and calling in sick to my boss for the following day.

The following “sick day” was spent doing what, in my mind, can only be described as a full-on war. I returned from the hardware store with 2 bags in hand that were filled with more of those plastic ant bait traps, stick traps, and bug spray. I spent a good hour placing the various traps throughout my home in high-traffic areas where I thought the ants liked to travel. I sprayed down more bug spray along the windowsill and doorway and when I was satisfied with that, I laid down even more ant traps.

If I had to guess, I'd say maybe … 20 traps in total were scattered around my house. A number that is certainly overkill to anyone who wasn't privy to my situation, but it wasn't so comically overkill that one would look into my home and one would immediately write me off as a lunatic.

I half expected the ants to at some point come out and try to stop me. To stand in my way, move my traps, and even commit their usual crime of simply watching me. Not only did none of this occur, however, but I didn't see them at all that day. Not on my kitchen counter, not on my window, not anywhere. As I laid my head down for bed that night I still felt the now all too familiar eyes on the back of my neck. Aside from that though, it was like they were finally gone.

Whereas the previous day I awoke feeling unbearable dread, the day after I had gone to war with the ants greeted me with a sense of optimism I had long since forgotten existed. There were, once again, no signs of the cursed bugs anywhere. As I left my home and walked to my car there were still no anthills to be seen. My ant traps were still laid in my front yard and I reminded myself to pick them up when I returned from work. As I pulled out of my driveway and began driving to work I found myself in such a good mood that I even found myself singing along a little to the songs on the radio. A state of mind that I truly had not felt in what felt like ages. A feeling that immediately melted away as I noticed the ant crawling around on my hand.

Time slowed down and with what felt like one swift motion I smacked it off of my hand with the other, causing me to turn my car sharply to the left and nearly end up off of the road. I waited for the annoyed honks to pass me by until it was safe to pull over and once I was able to, I jumped out of my car and began to furiously pat down my body in search of any more ants. I found none, however, except for the now-dead one that lay on the dashboard of my car. After removing its corpse from my car I spent a good 10 minutes checking every nook and cranny of my car to see if I could find any more of them. When and only when I was certain that there was absolutely no chance of the insects hiding anywhere in my vehicle, I finally set off to work in complete silence.

I honestly don't remember if anybody talked to me at work that day. Whether it be because I was so trapped in my own head I didn't notice anyone's attempts or because I must've looked like a nervous wreck and simply nobody wanted to. Either way, fear was my only companion that working day. The feeling that used to only accompany me as I laid my head down to sleep at night now made itself present at work. The entire day I kept randomly slapping my extremities at even the faintest itching sensation. I'm sure I looked like a madman, but I couldn't help it. I was paranoid that they had followed me to work and at certain points, I even mistook the pain of a random muscle cramp for one of their stings. It was a very long day at work to say the absolute least.

When I pulled back into my apartment driveway the feeling of being watched grew so intense that it nearly made my eyes water up from the cold chill that ran down my spine. It took me a few seconds to muster up the courage to step out of my car and began walking to my front door. As soon as I did, I checked my front lawn. Still no anthills. This was not a comforting discovery. I had no more optimism about the situation and knew that this did not mean they were gone. It simply meant they had moved in.

“The exterminator comes tomorrow,” I told myself in an attempt to remain calm. An attempt that had not a hint of sincerity behind it.

Pain, pain was all that I felt as I was ripped out of my sleep at an hour of night I can't even begin to remember. Though it was pitch black in my room and I had no visual confirmation, I knew what the culprit was immediately. The stinging sensation was the same as I had felt on the back of my neck many days ago. What was different about this time however was the area of effect. It felt like the pain was everywhere on my body all at once. As quickly as I woke up and as quickly as I recognized the source of the pain, I leaped out of bed and yanked on my desk lamp cord. My desk lamp fell to the ground and its light shone straight up at my ceiling, illuminating the room with many mysterious shadows that seemed to surround me on all sides. It was enough light to see my current situation, however. Dozens, maybe even hundreds of ants had swarmed all over my body.

I immediately began to swat, slap, spin, and do everything in my power to shake loose the insects, all the while they continued to sting me over and over again. They felt like hot staples being driven into my skin and they were happening multiple times a second. The pain was so excruciating I felt like I was going to pass out or throw up at any second. As I spun in circles, shaking the ants loose from me, I noticed there were 2 ants sitting on my nightstand. Just like the day at the park, my house, and my kitchen, they watched me. Despite my frantic and fast movements in all directions, they stood steadfast like statues. Watching me writhe around in agony the entire time. I eventually had gotten enough of them off of me to the point where I could grab a can of ant spray I had kept in a corner of the room. Almost instantly, I felt the stinging stop. The pain didn't, but I could feel no new stinging occurring. As I looked down I noticed the ants fleeing from me. The ants on the nightstand were no longer there and the ones who were just attacking me a moment ago were now scurrying across the floor away from me as fast as they could. They weren't fast enough. They were resilient though. On average I'd say each ant took about a 3-second spray to fully stop moving. I honestly think I used up half the damn bottle that night. It's not like I was in any state of mind to have used the thing sparingly. I simply held down the spray button, and I didn't let go until I saw no more signs of life in my room. When it was all finally over, I counted 85 stings all over my body. They covered my chest, arms, legs, back and neck. It took a little while but after I was done cleaning the ant corpses from my room I decided to take a hot bath to try to soothe my writhing body, and promptly passed out in my bathtub from the pain

I awoke to the sound of a knock on my front door followed by a familiar “Hello?”. It took a few moments for me to comprehend my situation. I had a splitting headache like I'd never felt before. The pain from my stings might not have been as severe as they were last night but it was still present. On top of all of this, I had fallen asleep in my bathtub and had slept at such an agonizingly weird angle that my legs had fallen completely asleep. On top of all of this, I now had a severe neck cramp. I swear it took all the willpower in my body just to recognize that the person knocking at my door was the exterminator and with all the energy I could muster I shouted as loud as I could “I'll be right there!”.

Luckily, my bathtub is a piece of shit. Over the course of last night, my water had slowly drained off by itself so I wasn't a completely sopping wet pruney mess. It still took me a few minutes to eventually open the door for the exterminator though as I had to get dressed, down 3 aspirin, and splash some cold water on my face.”

“Are you ok there ?” he said as I opened the door. I imagine that my delayed response toppled with the ghastly appearance I must have exhibited aroused a fair amount of concern.

“Hey man, I'm sorry for taking so long. I had a rough night and slept in.” I said while reeling from the sunlight that was now piercing my eyes and seemingly stabbing me in the brain in a way that caused me to wince in pain.

“Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that sir.” He said, sounding genuinely concerned. "" what happened? If you don't mind me asking”

I told him the story as I walked him to my room. Neglecting to tell him the part about the ants standing on my nightstand watching the entire event occur.

“ Oh my word! That sounds awful! Well don't you worry sir, I'll make sure we take care of this problem today,” he said, patting my shoulder in an attempt to comfort me.

As he began to inspect my room he noted the number of ant traps I had strewn about my house. With a slightly concerned tone, he told me“If you've really taken all these actions that you say you have, then my only conclusion is they must have a nest somewhere in the walls or, maybe even under the floorboard.”

We talked for a little bit about options and where to proceed. Eventually deciding to drill holes into my walls at key locations to lay down bait traps and spray pesticides. Once he was done he bid me farewell and left. I followed shortly after and headed to work.

As I arrived back at my house later that day I instinctively checked the stretch of dirt outside my front door. When I did so, I found 2 new Anthills. Fear, annoyance, and any other emotion I had felt towards my intruders up until that point all faded away, and were replaced with pure unadulterated rage.

“God Damn It!” I shouted before kicking up dirt all over the hills.

“God Fucking Dammit!” I shouted a little louder as I began to viciously stomp on the two anthills over and over again to the point where I swear if there were some sort of cave underneath the hills, I would have broken through the earth itself and fallen in. After about 7 good stomps I found myself a little out of breath and while standing over the hills turned to face the road. A Woman who was walking her dog stood there with a look of confusion mixed with a hint of fear. I raised my hand to attempt to explain myself but before I could do so, she fled down the sidewalk. Leaving me alone with my unwanted guests.

“Fuck” i muttered to myself before kicking dirt over the now decamated anthills, and heading inside.

I couldn't get to sleep that night. I remember specifically the feeling of being watched was more intense that night than it had ever been up until that point. It mattered not if I faced the wall, away from it, or straight up, I couldn't evade it. With a deep sigh and a rub of my eyes, I resigned myself to go watch some tv for a few hours in hopes of passing out somewhere down the road. I sat on the edge of my bed and turned on my nightstand lamp.

As the light illuminated my room and I could now see my surroundings, I spotted them. Just like the night before, there were once again 2 sentinel ants watching me from my nightstand. Remembering the horror of the night before I immediately patted down my body, expecting to be covered with the ants once again. I quickly realized however that there were none to be found. I slowly turned my gaze up from my body to the ants and knelt forward to get a closer look at them. They stood there staring back at me, and soon enough it was as if we were both analyzing each other.

“What the fuck are you?” I muttered to myself.

I stretched my hand out and hovered it above the ants in an attempt to get them to move. They did not.

“Why don't you react?” I asked as I began to rapidly wave my hand back and forth above them.

Finally, in a bid of frustration, I stood up and made a swatting motion toward the ants like I was about to smash them onto my table. They finally reacted and moved backward to avoid my hand. I stopped my hand midair however and chuckled to myself.

“I got you, little bastards,” I said, moving my hand backward.

The ants stood there staring at me back. After a few seconds that seemed to drag on for hours, I laughed to myself about the craziness of what was happening. Eventually, I shook my head to snap myself from the never-ending staring contest and went to the floor by the foot of my bed to grab a can of bug spray. When I turned around to rid myself of the ants, however, they were gone. As if they saw what I was about to do and fled before I could take action. I spent the remainder of that night watching god-awful late-night television Eventually passing out somewhere around 3 am.

The sound of my backup alarm going off finally woke me up. I immediately recognized it as the alarm I used for when I would sleep in the parking lot of the car wash.

“Oh, shit” I muttered to myself before rolling off my couch and making a mad dash for my keys and shoes. I had 10 minutes to be at a place that was nearly a 25-minute drive away.

As I started speeding my way to work, in a vain attempt to somehow make it there in time, I began to rehearse my “I'm sorry” speech to my boss. I say ‘began” because I was quickly interrupted by the sensation of a sting on the back of my neck. Then another, then another, then another just like 2 nights ago I began to feel stinging all over my body. I jerked and twisted my body in response to the newfound pain but it did little to ease my situation. I started to see them crawling all over my hands and arms. How they had gotten into my car was a question I couldn't begin to think about at that moment in time. I looked into the rear view mirror and could see them all over my neck and shoulders. They were swarming me and stinging me all over my body. Once the realization of what was going on settled into my mind and the pain began to permeate every square inch of me I started wildly swatting all over my body in a vain attempt to free myself from the ants. Causing my car to begin swerving erratically all over the road. A particularly large sting nipped my in the patch of skin between my left shoulder and neck. Acting on pure instinct I lunged over to attempt to swat the ant stinging me there. When I did so, the motion of my arm caused my elbow to lean across the steering wheel, and send my already speeding car straight into one of the old oak trees that lined the road.

I awoke in the hospital a few hours later with a cast on my right forearm and a headache that made the one from the day before seem like a fleeting memory. The doctors told me that I had a concussion, a fractured rib, and had broken my wrist in 3 spots upon impact with the tree. When they asked me what happened I opened my mouth to tell them, but quickly closed it as I realized that the pain from the stings were completely gone. I pulled up the medical robe I was in and looked down at my chest. There was nothing. No sting marks or any other indication that the ants had ever attacked me in the car.

“How long was I out?” I asked the doctor.

“You've been knocked out for about” he stopped to pull up his watch “ 8 hours now”.

“Did the stings fade away that fast?” I thought to myself. “ They were gone in the morning yesterday too.”

“I uh,” I thought to myself for a moment about what to say. “ I fell asleep at the wheel,” I said, trying to sound as honest as I could. There was no proof that I was attacked by the vile creatures. They had made sure of it. I couldn't tell them “ i was swarmed by and attacked by ants. when there was no proof of the event ever occurring. They'd think I was high or something.

“That's what we thought,” he said as he began to write onto a clipboard.” your bloodwork came back clear of alcohol so we figured it had to be something else. Well son you're gonna be getting all the sleep you could ever dream for. When you never showed up for work your boss called your phone and we answered it for you. We told him what happened and he told us to tell you that you're going to be getting 2 weeks of paid leave while you recover a little. He said he'll have you doing light duty when you get back, something about a cash register I think.”

I chuckled to myself and nodded. After a day of evaluation, I was allowed to return home. I had to call a taxi however, my car was rendered undriveable by the accident.

As I opened the door to my home, dread didn't even begin to describe the emotion that swept over me like a tidal wave. It was the most soul crushing sense of impending doom I had ever known in my entire life. As I closed my front door it only grew more intense. After a few moments of standing there, taking in the dimly lit apartment, I slowly lowered myself into my couch and stared at the powered-off tv. As I did so, I spotted the ant that was running along the top of my tv. A newfound sense of anger boiled up within me and with one swift motion I grabbed my tv remote and chucked it at the ant. I had to use my left hand however due to the cast, which caused the remote to fly dead center at my tv screen, resulting in my tv being now effectively dead. I sat there in stunned silence for a few moments before dropping to my knees and beginning to hyperventilate.

“Think man, think!” I said to myself between strained breaths trying to calm myself down.

“What the fuck do I do ? I exclaimed in the vague hope some invisible higher power would tell me the answer and rid me of this nightmare. When no such enlightenment came and I had finally caught my breath, I sat back against the bottom of the couch and called the exterminator once more.

“So what are my options now?” I asked after informing him that the ant problem had still not gone away.

“Well, if the infestation truly has lingered on this long my suggestion would be attempting fumigation of your apartment,” he said

“Fumigation?” I asked

“Yes sir, the only 2 problems with that being that 1) it's a very lengthy and expensive process and 2) since you're in an apartment complex with other tenants living all around you, you would need to get them to sign off on it. Specifically you would need at least 2 neighboring tenants to sign off on having seen the infestation along with you. That way we could fumigate the whole apartment block that you're on.”

I sat there in silence for a moment. Contemplating who to ask for a signature, and also contemplating whether or not a fumigation would even work at all.

“Ask your neighbors for their signatures sir, as soon as you've gotten them give me a call back and i'll work out the details for the procedure with your landlord” he said sounding a bit impatient with my silence”

“Will do," I muttered before placing my phone down and sinking deeper into the floor. I could still see the ant watching me from on top of the tv. I walked by it and headed to my bedroom to sleep, it was all I wanted to do at that moment.

“Wake up”

I was awoken a few hours later by a voice whose origin I had no earthly idea came from. I looked around my room but saw nothing. After sitting upright in my bed ,staring into the darkness of my room for a few seconds I shrugged it off as a dream and reluctantly slowly lowered my head back onto my pillow. The second I made contact with it I heard it again.

“I said wake up!” the voice sounded annoyed this time.

I willingly obeyed its command and with one motion shot straight out of bed and turned on my light. Half executing to see an ax wielding murder of some kind standing beside me I was taken aback to discover not an indication of life inside of my room. After sitting in the light for a few tense moments I began to feel my eyes water up as a cold chill ran down my spine. The feeling of eyes on the back of my neck was so strong I swear it was as if someone had placed a blanket over it. I wanted nothing more in that moment than to cower back into my bed and hide under the covers, but I knew what I had heard. Someone was in my house, and I had to protect myself. I slowly owned my dresser drawer and took out my only means of protecting myself at that given moment, a small leatherman multi-tool, retracted the pitifully small knife attachment from it and began to sweep my house. I took it one room at a time.

Bedroom, Clear. Hallway, Clear. Bathroom, Clear.

One at a time I made sure every square inch of my house was without any intruder. Eventually, I checked everywhere. Every room of my home lay baked in lights. Yet I found no one. This did nothing to calm my fears, as I stood in the center of my hallway I turned my head to the side, knife hand outstretched as I began to listen for any movement of the intruder.

“Alex” the voice whispered

I spun around so fast I didn't have time to bend my arm inward and when I swung I ended up leaving a cut mark on the left side of my hallway wall. There was no one there.

I quickly spun back around the other way and began to slowly back myself out of the hallway and into the living room to make a break for the front door. When I reached the end of the hallway I thought I stopped dead in my tracks. The feeling of eyes was so strong at this point that I no longer felt it on my neck. It was everywhere. My entire body shuddered with fear as everywhere all at once on my body I felt like I was being watched. I couldn't breathe, I just stood there frozen. Had the chill running down my spine not paralyzed me with fear I might have been able to taste the salt from the tears that were now running down both of my eyes. It was however not a factor at all at that moment. The only thing in my mind was a primal instinct to sprint for the door and leave. Yet I just stood there.

“You took our home, Alex. It is only fair that we get to take yours." The voice spoke.

I didn't know what to do. I wanted to make a run for it but the voice sounded so close to me that for all I knew the intruder was right behind me blocking off the door.

“Where the fuck is he?” I thought to myself.

“Where are you!” I began to ask the question out loud as intimidatingly as I could muster at that moment, when I was struck with a sudden epiphany. The voice sounded like it was right on top of me…

I slowly turned my gaze to the right side of my body. The ant sitting on my shoulder stared back at me.

“Alex,” the ant said once more.

I felt bile rise in the back of my throat but forced it back down as I swiftly swatted the ant off of me and dropped to the floor, crawling back and watching it from the hallway wall. For a while, it struggled on its back but eventually, It found its equilibrium and got back onto its feet. Staring at me for a few moments before running under my couch and leaving me alone with my thoughts and fears. Soon after, the ant fled from my sight and I went to the bathroom to vomit. I slept in the bathtub that night. I didn't plan on doing so, but I spent so long hiding there that exhaustion must have eventually seized me.

The following day was spent living in what I can only begin to describe as all-encompassing fear. I quite simply just didn't know what to do. A part of me didn't believe the event of last night had truly happened at all and had chalked it up to a bad dream. The other part of me thought I was crazy. Even the smallest part of my psyche that believed the ordeal last night had occurred didn't know what to do. So I did nothing. So for a long time, I sat in my living room, trying to watch tv through the bottom left peephole that was the only part of the device that still worked anymore. I wasn't even truly trying to watch tv. Most of my mental energy was spent scanning the corners of my vision for any sight of the creatures and trying to think of a plan. After a few hours of anxiety-filled torment, I pulled out my phone and began to look for apartment ads near me.

“Nothing,” I thought to myself.

To be more specific, nothing within my affordability. As I thought the word to myself I quickly found my thoughts interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Run if you wish. We will follow. You owe us a home.” the voice spoke.

I quickly scurried away from my couch and sat in the center of my living room floor as I attempted to make out the source of the voice. I felt my heart sink into the bottom of my stomach when I realized the voice was coming from all around me at once. As if my own walls were talking to me. Not knowing what to do I went to lie down in the bathtub.

Like the night before I must have fallen asleep from exhaustion because the next thing I remember was waking up freezing from being in the tub for so long. For a while, I sat there contemplating what to do. I eventually pulled out my phone and called up mitchell

“Alex! How are you man?”he asked. “I heard about that accident you got into. I tried calling a couple of days ago but you must've not heard me or some-”

“I'm fine Mitchell,” I interrupted. “Thanks for the concern. listen, i was wondering if you had any other exterminators you could call or … I don't know, just anybody else who might actually be willing to help me out?”

He said nothing at first. “Exterminator? You mean for that ant problem you said you were having?

After a few seconds of annoyed silence on my half I spoke up. “Yeah, THAT ant problem. Listen, the guy you've been having see me hasn't really helped the problem at all. He says he could fumigate the apartment block but i'd have to get people to -”

“Fumigate?” he interrupted, sounding very surprised. “Woah woah, slow down there bud. Nobody's fumigating anything.”

“Look I know it's an expensive process and god forbid you actually help take care of your tenants Mitchell, but I have a serious problem at my apartment and your guy hasn't done shit for me!” I yelled back at him.

“My “guy” happens to be a very respected exterminator kid.” he said, sounding very annoyed.” If he says we gotta fumigate then by all means we’ll fumigate, but not until you offer up some solid fucking evidence of an infestation! “

“What?” I asked.

“I like to think I have been very patient with you and this entire situation Alex, but I am done wasting the exterminator's time with routine checkups to your apartment!” he said.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“What am I talking about? Kid, the guy didn't wanna be rude to your face and say you didn't have a problem. The truth is though that the last 2 times he's been over there he's called me back to complain about you wasting his time with an imaginary ant problem. He said that Every time he's been over to your place, he's never found any ants or signs of them being there.” he said

“That .. that's not” I began before stopping mid-sentence.

“Alex. Are you alright?” he asked softly.

I hung up and set off to go talk to my neighbors.

“Nope.” “Nope.” “Are you ok? You look terrible? Also nope”

These were essentially the answers I got from everyone in my apartment block. Not even my next-door neighbors said they had seen any signs of an ant infestation. The closest I got was one of the guys who lived 2 doors down saying he saw a few ants outside his house last week but that was it. I didn't have the signatures I needed to get the fumigation approved. I didn't have anywhere to go. With no other options, I went back to my apartment and slowly sank into the couch.

The way the living room lights illuminated my surroundings made my reflection very visible on the broken tv. The crack mark lay situated over the right side of my face. As I stared deeply into the tv I found my eyes going fuzzy. As if I were staring off into the space behind the tv. As I did this, I noticed the ants crawling up my legs from my reflection. Without ever once physically looking down at my body, I just stared straight ahead and watched them slowly swallow me up to my abdomen. It was as if I was disassociating from the world. The ants crawled even higher. Never once stinging me, just slowly enveloping my body. They eventually stopped once they reached my shoulders. Without actually looking down it was impossible to tell but there had to be at least a thousand of them on me.

“We are your problem, not theirs.” the ants all seemed to speak in unison.

My fugue-like state was quickly broken and reality came crashing down onto me like an anvil from up high as I stood straight up and began to swat them all away. When they were all finally off of me I stood there and watched them scatter in all directions to safety.

Once they were all gone the voice spoke from all directions yet again.

“So be it.”

I clenched my one good hand into a fist and screamed out in a mixture of frustration, fear, and anger that all seemed to rise up at once.

“Get out of my house!” I screamed before going to the kitchen to grab the hammer from under the sink”

“Get the fuck out of here!” I yelled as I swung the hammer into the wall above my living room couch”

“Where the fuck are you little demons? Get out! “ I screamed as I swung my hammer from wall to wall. Occasionally I would see a few of the ants in the holes I created before they would quickly scurry deeper into the walls to evade me. I attempted to hit them as soon as I saw them but they were fast and more often than not my hammer missed the same spot and I would just end up leaving a fresh hole instead.

How long this went on for I honestly do not recall. I was locked in the jaws of anger and completely at its mercy. The only thing I wanted at that moment was the death of the ants who had tormented my life and invaded my sanctuary for far too long. I only stopped due to the pounding on my door.

“What the fuck is going on in here?” my neighbor Ron yelled at me through the door sounding very annoyed. “ It sounds like a damn tornado over here!”. I placed the hammer on my table and opened the door.

“Hey ro-” I was quickly interrupted.

“Don't you “Hey Ron, me! What the fuck is going on in this house ? sounded like you were tryna tackle your way through the damn wall!”

“ Im … sorry” I began “I was just trying to … kill a few ants.”

He stared at me in disbelief for a few seconds before speaking. “Ants? Coulda told me you were fighting a tiger in here. Id've believed you too.”

“I know I know I'm sorry,” I said, choked up with embarrassment. Rons sudden arrival had completely snapped me out of my rage-filled haze and as I looked to my left to survey my handy work, I was now appalled by the scene I had created in my home. We stared at each other for a few more moments as I couldn't think of anything else to say other than feeble apologies. Eventually, I said the only thing I could think of.

“Ron, you haven't seen any ants around your home have you?”

He looked over my shoulder, and judging from the widening of his eyes and the pale look on his face, it was safe to assume he could see what I had done too.

“No … no I haven't,” he said slowly backing up “ if I hear you going ape shit like that ever again so help me I will call the cops Alex!”

With that, he backed up all the way into his apartment and left me there alone in the doorway. I slowly closed the door, took a few steps back into my living room, and dropped to my knees. As soon as I did so, my walls began to start murmuring. I once again decided to make a phone call.

“Hello? Alex, is that you?” my boss asked. “What can I do for you? You're supposed to be resting.”

“Yeah, I know I know,” I replied. “ Listen, I know I still have about a week's worth of leave left but do you think it would be ok if I came back to work early? I've been feeling really cooked up and I just really need to get out of this house and focus on something else.”

“Something other than what?” he asked

“ Umm, something other than … tv” I weakly replied.

He took a deep breath and said “well you know i'd never turn down help around the carwash, but unfortunately you coming back early would be a liability.

“A liability? I asked” the murmuring had grown louder

“Yeah, a liability” he reiterated. “ the hospital said you need at least weeks of rest. If I were to let you come back to work and you hurt yourself somehow, I'd be held accountable for it”

“ Sir, please let me come back” my eyes began to start watering. “ I promise you I'll be extra careful I'll … I’ll do cash register duty or whatever else you think is safest just please let me come back early," I begged him.

He replied “I'm sorry kid but no can do, you enjoy your rest and I'll see you next week”

“Wait!” I said before being cut off by the click of him hanging up.

I chucked the phone across the room and watched it shatter as it hit the kitchen wall, and slowly crawled backwards to rest my head against the front door. From where I was sitting I could see a dozen ants or so devouring a half-eaten bag of chips on my kitchen table. With no more options at my disposal and a newfound sense of hopelessness, I ignored the ants and walked to my bedroom to go to sleep. What else was there to do?

I didn't go to sleep that night, I just lay there flat on my bed staring straight up at my ceiling. The murmuring in my walls had never ceased. It continued on and on for a couple of hours until eventually, all at once it stopped. No more whispers or indistinguishable voices could be heard from all around me anymore. I took a deep breath and rolled over to face away from the wall and finally try to get some sleep. My plans were interrupted by the discovery of a single ant watching me from my nightstand. Almost instantly I shot out of bed and stood up. After a few tense seconds, I spoke to it first.

“I'm sorry. Is that what you want to hear? I'm sorry! I destroyed your home and I'm sorry!” The ant said nothing. It just stared back at me.

“Say something!” I shouted at it impatiently “what do you want from me!”

After a few more seconds of silence, the ant finally spoke. “ You owe us a home, Alex.”

As soon as the words were spoken the murmuring began again, only not from any of my walls this time, but from one clearly identifiable origin point. The voices were coming from my bed. As I made this discovery I slowly opened up my dresser drawer and pulled out my leatherman pocket knife and one of my many cans of bug spray and slowly approached the side of the bed. The ant on my dresser moved closer to inspect what I was doing but said nothing. With the bug spray being held out in my damaged arm I aimed it at the bed and slowly began to cut a hole in the side of my mattress. As the seams of it came apart I was met with the discovery of a sea of black made up of hundreds of thousands of ants that began to rapidly dart away in all directions.

I immediately recoiled in disgust and as I dropped to the floor I began to spray the poison wildly in front of me, desperate to kill the ants. My actions were quickly interrupted by a loud voice that spoke with more malice and hatred than I knew existed in the world.

“YOU WILL NOT HARM ANOTHER NEST!”

As the voice spoke I felt the walls around me start to rumble. As they did so the murmuring grew louder and before I could even register what the voices ants were saying, A large black tentacle shot out of the hole I had cut into the side of the mattress. It lashed out at me like the finger of Satan himself and as it swat across my chest I was able to see that it wasn't a tentacle at all. It was hundreds of thousands of ants all coalesced into a single tentacle-like shape. The tentacle writhed and swung wildly at me but maintained its shape the entire time. as I lay there on the floor looking up in horror, I Couldn't believe what I was seeing. The ants were moving with a shared consciousness. Acting on instinct I scrambled back onto one knee and began to douse the mass of ants with my can of bug spray. This had seemingly no effect, however. Apart from a few dozen ants falling to the floor, the ants held their structure steady. After a few seconds of my retaliation, the tentacle quickly shot even further out of the mattress and began to grow and grow and grow. Never taking my finger off of the spray button I simply fell back to the floor in horror as I watched the tentacle morph into an indistinguishable black tidal wave that began to envelop my entire field of vision, and soon after my legs. The stinging began almost immediately and as the pain in my legs became so intense I felt like I was going to pass out, the murmuring turned to screaming. I wish I could recall what they were saying, I really do. At that moment, however, I was encompassed by a primal instinct that limited my mental capacity to one task. Run. I rapidly began to scoot back, kicking my legs the entire time to get the ants off of me. The entire time more ants poured out of my mattress and made the tidal wave of ants grow even higher and higher. As soon as I was able to get to my feet I turned and ran for the door. As I did so I could hear the collective ants behind me growing louder and louder. With one swift motion, I swung the door open and as I stepped into the safety of my lit hallway the voices reached their height in one last act of defiance.

“ALEX!” they spoke before being cut off as I slammed the bedroom door shut. The second I did so, the voices immediately stopped. No more murmuring, no more rustling of the ants, it all simply stopped at once. I propped a chair against the bedroom door and hunkered down in my bathroom for the night.

Which finally leads us here, the present. Ever since that night, I've been holding up in my kitchen. I’ve consolidated what remaining cans of bug spray remained in my home and I've been sitting with my back to a corner of the wall for the last 3 days waiting for the swarm to return. It hasn't yet, but I can't give them an opportunity to sneak up on me. I can't risk falling asleep and letting them get me. I can't risk them getting anyone else. These demons can not be allowed to spread. I won't let them.

As I've been writing this over the last hour, the gas valve on my stove has been running the entire time. I don't know if the ants know what I'm planning but I do know that the murmuring has returned, and over the last hour it's been growing louder and louder. There's a lighter in my kitchen drawer, and as soon as I submit this story, I'm going to use it to destroy these creatures one and for all. There's a shared fire alarm system in my apartment block. I pulled it about 5 minutes ago and sincerely hope everyone within range has gotten out. I can't wait any longer. The feeling of eyes on my neck has returned and even though I've grown immune to the paralyzing effect it had on me, I know what it means. The ants are watching me. They know what I'm planning and will surely try to stop me. I'm sorry.

If there were any words of wisdom I have left in my tattered shell of a psyche, I doubt they would be of any worth. The only thing I can think of to impart onto you is this:

“We like to think we are the masters of our domain, but the sobering reality is that we are masters of nothing. The creatures that inhabited this earth before us will continue to do so long thereafter. Leave them be, and if you're lucky they will do the same. And for the love of god, stay away from anthills.”

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