Down. Down into the bowels of the anthill. Where neither the light nor the heat of the summer sun could penetrate, there she sat. It was not where she was really supposed to be, but she wished to remain there nonetheless. There, in that unattractive section of the colony where only the outcastes wanted to be secluded was where Lavender wanted to stay.
She did not always want to stay here. In fact, she was the last ant you'd expect to bring herself to do that. Lavender was young and pretty, but a bit too short, too thin and too giddy. Now, however, she had been reduced to nothing but a dusty, empty looking specimen without a reason to smile.
While sitting there, Lavender indulged in fantasies of a time when she was always laughing. That was when she was in love. So deep in love that she was completely blind to the fact that he did not really love her as deeply in return. Her brown eyes became hollow looking and her round face went blank as she disappeared into her memories.
Now, during one of her reveling phases, he happened to be passing through. Of all places, he had to come to this part of the colony to wrench her heart again. Phantom looked very tall and handsome next to his new find. A fool-hearted, blue-eyed ant that was just as blind as Lavender was at one time. He smiled a cruel smile at Lavender as he cuddled with his new victim.
With all her will, Lavender held back tears so that it did not seem that he won. Phantom knew better, he knew he had conquered her and sucked her dry. He continued on his way without tossing any verbal communication to Lavender. She watched them become enveloped into the shadows and disappear from sight.
When the couple had left, Lavender let her emotion go streaming down her face. She remembered how delightful he had been, how perfect, and affectionate. But just as his name suggested, these were only phantoms, lies. She had been in tunnel vision, only seeing him and not the truth. Lavender only pitied herself as the immense weight of the matter lowered itself onto her heart.
That's it. I'm finished. I'm going to end my suffering once and for all. She thought. Lavender got to her feet and headed down the tunnel that would take her to the surface.
In a moment's time, Lavender looked up to see the overcast skies. Perfect. She thought. The sun is not even out. The foul weather put Lavender into a lower depression as she decided just to sit somewhere in the surrounding grass forests to wait for the rain. She found an ideal spot to rest her misery while anxiously awaiting the rain to come. Empty eyes raised to the sky and antennae drooping, Lavender wondered why she was giving up.
Faintly, a sound of shouting reached her antennae. Lavender heaved a sigh, as she lethargically got to her feet again and started towards the sound. It didn't take too long to reach the source of the yell. It was a pile of pebbles. Lavender fixed an irked glare at the pile. Great, now I'm hearing things. She thought cynically. Yet the sound of breathing was definitely coming from the pebbles. "Someone please help," cried a feeble, cracked voice.
Lavender's heart jumped to her throat at the sound of a voice. "H-hello? Anyone in there?" she timidly asked the pebbles. A shadowy form stirred from within the pile. Without warning, three fingers popped out from a crack between two pebbles and wiggled. Lavender screamed.
"No! Don't go!" pleaded the voice. "I'll be killed out here if you don't help me". Lavender stopped in her tracks to look at the pile again. Swallowing hard she approached it again and peered inside to try to see who was in there. "How'd you get in there?" "No time to explain! Get me outta her before it rains!" Lavender nodded and hastily thought of what to do.
Lavender eye balled the crevice between some of the pebbles. I bet I could squeeze myself through. she thought and started to crawl in. It was a tight pinch, but Lavender's small size was cable of making it through. Soon she was inside the pile.
It was too dark inside to see who was in there with her. White spots of light indicated where the pebbles were placed. The rainwater would easily seep in and drown the inhabitant. Using the little light available, Lavender started pushing some of the pebbles off the pile to make a larger opening. Little by little, after exerting much effort, Lavender succeeded into making a large enough hole for the captive bug to get through.
The sky had grown very dark in the time that had passed, but there was enough light to see in the little pebble prison. Lavender looked to see whom she was rescuing. There was only the figure of a dirty, tied up ant. It was not possible to tell if it was male or female, young or old, dead or alive for that matter. She lifted the ant, which was surprisingly light for its size, and tossed it out of the hole she had made.
A wet crash landed somewhere rather far. It had started to rain. Instinctually, Lavender panicked and grabbed the body. She had to get this ant to the colony's infirmary. Trying with all her might, she dragged the unconscious ant towards the anthill.
After many trips and falls, Lavender made it to the base of the hill. Already rain drops had started splashing all around. Lavender knew that one could pelt her at any time. Taking a deep breath, she proceeded to climb the hill dragging the ant behind her. Near the top of the hill, an unexpected raindrop fell nearby. The impact sent Lavender tumbling down the hill.
Lavender was afraid to look up, expecting find the body to be gone. With antagonizing effort, Lavender's line of vision met with the other ant. It had awakened from the crash no doubt. It stared at her with big, pleading, green eyes. For a moment, Lavender was lost in a daze. Those eyes were so beautiful and clear. Common sense impelled her to get up again. Somewhere, Lavender found the strength to run up the hill and drag the other ant inside.
Through many twists and turns, Lavender successfully got the ant to the infirmary. Curiosity compelled Lavender to stay. Sitting there waiting for the ant to get his treatment, Lavender burned with many questions. Nearly two hours after she first brought the ant into the hill, one of the nurse ants informed her that the ant was fine.
"Can I see him or her?" she asked. The nurse eyed her curiously and slowly nodded. "You may see him, but please be very quiet". Lavender tiptoed into the chamber where the ant was resting. Nervously, she approached the bedside and hoped he was awake.
The ant's eyes were half opened and he breathed slowly. Obviously he had been through quite an adventure for he was covered in bruises and bandages. "Hand me my notebook please…" he wheezed. Lavender scanned the room for the notebook, but all she found was some tattered leaves. She handed these to him. "Who are you?" she whispered as he started to scribble on the leaves. He offered her a small glance. "My name is Fern Stonelifter".
A silence passed between them for a long time before Lavender stabbed at another question. "How'd you end up in the…the rock pile?" Fern sighed and shut his eyes. "It's a long story, but if you really want to know. I fancy myself a writer and I had published a work at a nearby ladybug village. Ladybugs tend to be short tempered and can become quite physical. They were insulted by the piece, so they bound me up and buried me alive. Then you were so kind as to try and rescue me. Thank you". He offered his hand in a friendly gesture.
Lavender shook his hand. "You look really tired, Fern. Maybe you should stop writing for a bit and get some sleep". Fern smiled a big smile. "Once I get started I can stop writing. It's a curse". He continued to rapidly cover the leaf in illegible writing. Again they were both silent. "Tell me about yourself miss".
Lavender hesitated, not sure where to start. "M-my name is Lavender…no last name," she started timidly. Fern perked an antenna. "No last name? Fascinating. I've never met anyone without a last name". Lavender gave him an empty, hollow look. "And I'm sure you have never met anyone without a reason for living. I am like dust, destined just to be blown about without any course of direction. I am also now without a heart and without happiness. A ruthless ghost has taken them. By making himself seem real, he led me into fantasies I had never dreamed of. When I found out what he really was, it was too late. He had already locked me in my tomb of tears forever," she related shakily as angry tears rolled down her cheeks.
Fern had stopped writing and listened attentively. "Great skies. You had a case of infatuation. You described it quite poetically I might add". Lavender rose to leave. "I've got to go," she sobbed hopelessly. Fern set down his notebook and asked her to stay. "I have another story for you. Please sit and I'll tell you". Lavender stopped at the doorway. She could easily just go on through that door, but to where. That lonely spot in the dark where miseries just waited to consume her? She turned and sat on the floor, so she couldn't see Fern's face. He would just be a voice.
"Once, not too long ago, there was a pretty young ant girl. Clever and seductive in every aspect, she would take foolish, love sick hearts and eat them like a hungry beast. There was a young lad, who thought like many others who had gone before him that he would be the one to tame her wild heart. She was wily and smart. She made the boy believe he was winning. The boy's confidence had grown so large it blinded him from many truths. When he was at his peak, she dashed his dreams to the ground. It was the boy who had been duped like many others. The girl had disappeared like the morning mists, leaving the boy trapped in anguish.
"He desperately searched for an escape from the grief. To him it seemed the only way out was death. In his hand he held a sharp thorn with which he planned to stab himself with. But, an old ant stopped him in his act. After the young ant related his tale to the elder, the wizened ant handed him a writing filament. He said to the boy, 'There is another way out of this. You have to make it yourself, young dreamer. You can either work hard to climb out of the hole of depression or you can give up and stay there for all eternity'. The boy stared at his two hands, one with the thorn the other with the writing utensil. He made his choice.
"The boy zealously threw down the thorn. He started writing. Writing about himself and what had happened. He shared his story with the many other ants that had been hurt by the girl ant. Together they were able to move on. What was better was the boy was able to be free. Writing became his passion and he knew that he would need to travel if he wished to share his stories with everyone. So, he left his home and wrote his stories, hoping to fully release himself and settle".
The story rang inside Lavender's head and pierced the remnants of her heart. "That boy was you, I presume". Fern sighed, "It is terribly obvious. Her name was Venus. And like your ghost, she tore me apart". "So, have you fully released yourself?" Fern's countenance lowered. "No…it still remains. Like a scar, it will never go away. But you learn to live with it. No matter how many stories I write, it will not cover up everything". Lavender frowned, but did find some comfort in Fern's company. "My heartache's name was Phantom. Fitting isn't it?" Fern yawned, "Yes…it is. He just disappeared. I'm…" He had fallen asleep.
Lavender did not move. She started plunging into deep thought at what Fern had told her. I wonder if I have a release too. That would be nice. It's better than running from the problem. But I don't like writing long stories. She sighed and remained awake all night wondering and wondering.
Fern opened his eyes groggily. The first thing he saw was Lavender, staring fixedly at the dirt wall by his bed. "Are you alright?" She popped out of her daydream. "What? Oh, Yeah I'm fine. I'm just thinking". Fern nodded and stared at her peculiarly. He ate what the nurse had left for his breakfast before getting out of the bed and picking up his notebook. "I best be going now," he stated energetically.
"Wait! Just a minute. Do you think I have a release too?" Fern paused. "Is that what you thinking about?" Lavender nodded. "Yes, everyone has one. You just have to know where to find it. If I were you, try writing too. You are very good at imagery". Lavender frowned. "I don't like writing long winding stories". Fern shrugged, "It was only a suggestion. Try poetry or something. Then maybe work your way up to longer stories. Perhaps you could write an epic".
A smile flew across Lavender's face. It was the first time she had smiled in weeks. "I think I'll do that". "Great. Come see me when you finish your story. Then we can work on it together and get it published…that is if you really want to," Fern offered. Lavender bobbed her head. "Of course. I'll be glad to see you again. But where will I find you?" With a clever smile Fern replied, "Well, I guess you'll have to find me. I'm sure you are clever and determined enough to do so". After these words, Fern disappeared from the infirmary and out of Lavender's life.
After a few moments, Lavender returned to her chambers to think. She stared at her blank leaf waiting for inspiration. Nothing came and she started to get discouraged. Then, something like a wind stirred in her mind and she thought she heard Phantom again. She blinked and wrote down a poem about Phantom. After an hour or so she finished it and read it aloud. Lavender started to gain confidence and wrote several other poems. Two about herself, one about rain, another about someone she once knew, and lastly she wrote one about Fern. The last one turned out a failure, but Lavender felt better. It was very late now and Lavender was tired.
The next day, Lavender went outside and tried again. She felt energetic as she started to write about Fern again. She tried for hours, but still couldn't capture Fern in a poem. Lavender tried writing about other things. A small crowd of ants stood around to listen to her compositions. Soon, her reputation spread through the colony and within a few days, she was sought out to write poems for others.
Never had Lavender felt so happy, but she still saw Phantom more times than she wished. Just a glance of him would flare up the old hurt. It was unbearable. No matter how many poems she composed, the weight never left. Lavender started to sink into a lonely state again. It seemed that the pain had returned with twice the fury and she started getting ill.
Staring at the dank, dirt ceiling, Lavender felt darkness consume her again. She was confused so she started writing her story. For days she did nothing but write. She lost sleep and her figure. By the time she finished, Lavender was so sick she couldn't pick up her writing tool.
Someone was finally smart enough to find her and take her to the infirmary. There, Lavender was filled with memories of Fern. It had been a year and her story was finished. She was full of memories of Fern and her story, Phantom was no longer a weight.
Now that her story was finished, Lavender debated what to do next. She read over her story. Another wind like feeling moved her to an inspiration. She was going to track down Fern. However, she was a little discouraged that she didn't know where to start looking for him. Lavender knew that before she got too worried about that, she had to get better.
It took awhile before Lavender was well enough to start her quest. While she waited, she wrote some more poems and wondered how to start. Lavender would have to travel to find where his last work was published. Filled with hope, she started feeling well and planning her next move. Which in turn inspired another story. She tucked the idea away for another time and set off.
Travelling for Lavender was a fun experience and she enjoyed it very much. She went to several places, found where he published last and went there. It was not hard to find him. Fern had gained a popular reputation in Insect City. Lavender was a little timid now, but she swallowed hard and went forward into the apartment he lived in.
Fern lived in an old shoebox that had been converted into an apartment complex. It was a little grubby and musty. Lavender saw a thin grayish ant in the lobby scribbling on some leaves. It was Fern. He was still as he was when she first met him, except now he looked a little saddened and lonely. She cleared her voice and greeted him softly.
Soft green eyes shot their gaze up at Lavender. At first they looked confused, but they widened at her familiarity. "Lavender?" She nodded. "I did it. It's finished." She handed him the leaves she had been writing on. Fern didn't give them a look, he gazed steadily at her. "I'm so glad it's you".
Something bad had happened to Fern, Lavender could feel it. She sat down next to him. "Are you alright?" Fern looked at her sadly and took her to his apartment room. Lavender gasped. There was so much trash and alcoholic drinks splattered everywhere she couldn't believe it. "What happened?" Fern sighed, "Being in the City can do a lot to a person. I didn't know I was doing this". Lavender read a scrap of his writing that he had left on a desk. It sounded like a drunken, cold piece that represented his misery. She looked up at him as he sat on his dirty bed and sipped at another drink.
Lavender was angry that Fern had let himself fall so low. He had been her inspiration, the uncatchable. She tore up his piece on the desk and threw it at his face. Then she grabbed her story and shoved it into his lap. "Read it!" she demanded. Fern shook a little and read it aloud. While he read, Lavender whipped up a poem about Fern. She looked it over and nodded. She did it, she finally captured him in a poem.
Fern finished reading her story and corrected some grammar. "It's a wonderfully written story". Lavender nodded. "I had an idea for a new one. Do you want to hear?" Fern drowsily indicated for her to continue. "It starts something like this…The hero is able to save himself from deep depression. He becomes sure of himself and saves a young lady. He is forced to leave her for awhile due to some opportunities that had sprung up and he falls into a pit of loneliness. It is only because he has surrounded himself with blackness of the city. All the while the young lady he saved becomes free to find him. When she does find him she wants to tell him how much she loves him, but she finds him in a dump like this and her heart his wounded again…That's as far as I've gotten. You can help me with the ending".
Her eyes were on fire, as she awaited Fern's response. He had listened attentively and a look of guilt alighted his face. "I'm sorry…" he whispered. "I only wanted to share my stories with everyone. They loved them Lavender, they did. I was appraised and went to parties and had so much fun. I forgot the real beauty of writing. I lost my release, it changed on me. I don't know what to do". Her gaze remained hard for another moment or two, then it changed into concern. "Start backwards…what do you want the ending to be?" she asked.
"I want to be happy again. I want real friends, real life, and real love," he responded. "It's what I wanted in the beginning. Will you help me?" Lavender pondered a moment. Action always spoke louder than words, she grabbed his hand and pulled him up from the bed. "You need to get out of here," she said as she snatched up her story and poem. "But what about my work here? And my audience?" "Fern! Leave it behind. You wanted real love and I really…love you".
Lavender's heart skipped a beat as the words escaped her lips. She always denied it before not wanting to be hurt again. Fern froze where he stood. He saw he had another choice to make. He took a step back, grabbed a bead of alcohol and drank it. "I can't go…I'm trapped". Fern watched Lavender's face become wet with tears. She marched to the curtained window and opened it. "You know where to find me…I'll be waiting". Lavender left melancholy and heart-broken.
The open window blew a breeze into the messy room. Fern inhaled deeply, and smelled the disgusting smell of garbage. It reminded him vaguely of being in the pile pebbles a year ago. It was Lavender who had opened an escape for him before. He stared down into the dirty streets to see Lavender stopped in the midst of making a decision. He glanced over his shoulder at the dirty room. Heaving a deep breath, Fern crawled out the window and hopped into the dumpster below.
"Wait Lavender! Wait for me!" Lavender turned to the sound. Fern stumbled towards her covered in grime. "What do you want?" "You opened an escape for me. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I let you go without giving you some appreciation. You've saved me twice now. I can't believe it. All this time…you were in love with me?" he babbled. Lavender frowned. "You never answered my question". "I want to be with you," he blurted.
It was an intense moment. Each not sure what to feel or do. Instinct took over and they embraced. Lavender felt everything that had pained her before leave. They shared the burden and could move on. But she could see hard times would be ahead of them. That didn't matter anymore. She found her strength and he found his. Together they returned to Lavender's colony to share life together and write their stories to share with their children.
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