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The Colony

by Victor Gente Delespejo 

Posted: 15 December 2007
Word Count: 832
Summary: How do we know that the overwhelming phenomena we face in this world are not the byproducts of organisms that are so beyond our scale that we cannot conceive of them as they truly are?

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'Hi there auntie, how are you today?'
'Mornin' Termy, I'm fine, praise the Lord, blessed Lord,' said auntie, looking up at the dome. She didn't look as good as she claimed though. Termy noticed it. Wasn't hard to.
Normally he wouldn't have said anything. But this wasn't a normal day. Everyone was acting strangely.
'Worried, auntie?'
'How can I not be, child? You heard the warning, haven't you? Sure you have, everybody has,' she replied with a sigh.
They both looked around. An eerie calm was wafting through the atmosphere, stretching the sinews of composure. She knew the feeling very well. You never could tell when one would break with a twang, shattering the calm and activating the undercurrent panic.
'Auntie, do you think our Lord and Queen hates us?' asked Termy, his eyes full of question marks, yet completely devoid of fear.
'Termy!' gasped auntie.
She felt like scolding the child, but she reconsidered when she saw the innocent wonder in his eyes.
'Termy, our Lord and Queen loves us and provides for us every day. Why, everything you see around you has been provided by the Lord. Our structure, our order, our wealth, our friendship, our love and respect for each other.'
'Then why is the Lord sending another threat to us?' he asked, clearly eager to understand the contradiction. 'At home, they say that this threat is moving in our direction with "disastrous pace," that "her steps are... thunderous," and that her eye is... "glittering."'
'They said that when she gets here, she'll "...blast through the dome, pick us off the ground, and wreak havoc to our colony." I memorised it auntie,' he added, proud of his fluent recitation.
He looked up towards auntie, waiting for praise. She always praised him when he did something well. Sometimes she'd even give him a treat. The threat was no longer in his mind. It had vanished in thin air, under sweet images.
But it was very much present in auntie's mind. She just gazed around again, trying to not lose her cool, not in front of Termy.
'What's wrong auntie? Didn't I say those things correctly? I'm sorry, I'll do better next time, I promise. I'll go back and listen to them again and learn them...'
'No no, child! You did just fine. Now, forget them. There's other things to work on, so many things to learn.' She caressed him, and a smile lit his face up. She smiled back at him.
A faint rumble rose from the ground just then. They both felt it seep through their limbs, right into their thorax and abdomen. Their smiles disappeared.
'Is that the threat auntie? Is that her? Is that her?' he asked, pulling her by the arm.
She was ready to answer 'no' and change the subject, but a loud announcement interrupted her, echoing through the chambers.
'Attention, attention, everybody to emergency stations... I repeat, everybody to emergency stations...'
Twang! The quickening had arrived. An extreme urgency overflowed the chambers. Millions started dashing through the corridors, rushing to their positions, bracing for impact. Most had already left the colony, but she and her whole family had chosen to stay there, along with many others. It was her home. She could never abandon it.
She picked Termy up and scampered to the shelter, running as fast as her aging legs could carry them both. The rumbles were getting stronger and louder, and a series of terrifying shrieks resonated in the chambers. They were coming from the exterior, from beyond the dome, merging with the chaos and drowning everything in a current of mayhem. Disaster felt terrifyingly close. The warning announcements could barely be heard anymore.
'Attention, attention... Brace for coming impact... I repeat, brace for coming impact... Katrina approaching... Katrina approaching...'

Meanwhile, on the outside, the approaching entomologist stopped for a moment. Was someone calling her name? Couldn't be. There was no one around for miles.
She reached into her side pockets, looking for a piece of gum, her eyes getting caught by her embroidered name tag. It always seemed that read upside-down as it appeared to her now, her name took on an alien, aggressive form, anirtaK. AnirtaK. Like some sort of ancient demon. How unfair! Katrina was a wonderful name, sweet and girly and playful just as she was, and she could never really accept its dark and ominous reciprocal.
Forgetting all about the gum, she resumed the tune she had been whistling, eager to chase away those damp and disturbing thoughts.
She turned towards the mound.
'Wise men say, only fools rush in...'
She dropped her heavy backpack on the ground and grabbed a tiny pickaxe from its side pocket.
'But I can't help...'
She slapped the mound walls with her other hand to test their composition.
'Falling in love with you.'
She raised her arm high, with pickaxe in hand, still whistling, and started picking the mound in a slow, steady rhythm... digging a hole in its walls...

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Comments by other Members

Becca at 11:40 on 19 December 2007  Report this post
HI Victor,
I've a sense of a termite mound, is that right?

I didn't understand this bit:'She looked down at the tag on her shirt and traced her name with her eyes: “anirtaK.” It always amused her to read it out backwards, especially when working in the field.' Is it there for a reason I've missed?
There's just one massive white-bodied queen in a termite colony, isn't there? But there's no male to go with her. She's serviced by workers, and then there are the soldiers with huge jaws, and when the colony is attacked they line up at the entrances and will attack if they can, while the workers rebuild the damage. I think I'd have liked to have seen it described more, is Termy a worker, a young soldier?

Jubbly at 16:46 on 26 December 2007  Report this post
Hello Victor,

I enjoyed the slow reveal here, as one who has seen countless children's films from a small critters POV, I could easily imagine the scenario. I think the name backwards Becca, sounds like 'attack', that's how I read it anyway, maybe Victor can enlighten us. Some really lovely writing here Victor and a real sence of urgency and sympathy for the poor little things.

Well done


Account Closed at 17:48 on 28 December 2007  Report this post
I really liked this - great idea! I read our 'Lord and Queen' as one being (?).



Sorry for only a very brief comment, but i just really liked it!

foundit at 20:19 on 28 December 2007  Report this post
This comes over like great background for a natural disaster leaving you to wonder what the outcome may have been. What happened to the little boy and his auntie what stories they could tell.
Katrina spelt backwards was a nice touch...
I enjoyed reading it.

Victor Gente Delespejo at 12:06 on 03 January 2008  Report this post
Thanks for your comments guys.
px, you are right, Lord and Queen is one being.
And Katrina is anirtak spelled backwards, just like it would be seen as a tag on a shirt by the person wearing it. Strictly speaking Joe, I would have liked to also invert the characters to make the perception totally realistic.
And poor little Termy? Well, he's neither a worker or a soldier. He is just a young little boy, an innocent little child caught in the middle of a storm. He is you. He is I. He is the child next door, the person down the road, the citizen over there, the individual who -- while he (or she) was sitting there, enjoying his life and doing what was expected of him -- got suddenly blasted out of existence by a force totally incomprehensible to him.
And pertinent. After all, there is a valid possibility that what is picking the human Termies off the land is just an incomprehensible consciousness on its way to its daily routine, a consciousness as incomprehensible to us as we are to the termite Termies of the world. Isn't there?
Warning... Walmart approaching... Paris Banlieue Riots approaching... Jihad approaching... Police Statehood approaching... Anarchy, counter-anarchic totalitarianism, counter-totalitarianist ultra-liberalism approaching... green reform approaching, green fascism approaching, creationist conservative reaction approaching...
Warning... Warning... Katrinas approaching, and they do not have to be supernatural to have an extraordinary impact on the Termies of the world and their colonies

Okkervil at 22:05 on 14 January 2008  Report this post
Heh, I think this is charming as well as being, as you say, Pertinent. I liked the idea that she imagines, or can faintly hear, the termites yelling her name- a bit dark, a bit ridiculous. The choice of name is alright too, blurring the line between what you suggest is a conscious and deliberate force, and mindles random disasters. The name-tag line tripped me up too. I understand what you mean, and that you want a (slightly) subtler way of confirming the lady's name to collude with Termite Prophecy, but it just doesn't feel very cogent. 'It always amused her... especially working in the field'- you wonder, why? It feels awkward, and lacking in logic, whereas the rest of it is tight and well contained. Maybe 'she reached down to grab a tiny pickaxe from the side pocket, eyes caught by her embroidered tag. It always seemed that read upside-down as it appeared to her now, her name took on an alien, aggressive form, anirtaK. AnirtaK.' Maybe that's a bit rubbish, but perhaps y'know what I mean. Anyway, I likes it, makes a fine point wi'out climbing onto a soap-box.



Victor Gente Delespejo at 12:01 on 15 January 2008  Report this post
You make an excellent point James. Thank you. I will change it as such, for what you say not only makes sense, but it works really well.

Okkervil at 13:13 on 15 January 2008  Report this post
Glad to help, fellah

Account Closed at 12:21 on 26 September 2008  Report this post
Quirky and dark, I loved the sense of tension rising in this - and the pay-off is good too. I did wonder whether you should have little section breaks and have each section with a different point of view, as it does chop around at the moment. Just a thought though!


BobCurby at 00:53 on 28 September 2008  Report this post

You make me feel so guilty. I hang my head in shame.

As a young boy, I used to kick over embryonic 'anthills' as we called them, just for hell of it!

Naturally once these colonies got really established the anthill was truly a hill. We had one in our back yard that we built our pump house on top of, and put a 5,000 gallon tank on top of that. I would have loved to have seen inside that one!

BACK TO YOUR WORK this is a brilliant sojourn into the heart of the termite colony. I worked out your brilliant link to the world in which we live. I too took 'our Lord and Queen' to be one termite, the very fat almost gelitaginous queen that lives in very bowels of the mound, the 'fat cats' of the society in which we live (?)

AND YES, I've been bitten by the soldier termites, though they don't have any formic acid like the ants do - but hurt all the same.Perhaps the soldier termites might be the governmental or authoritarian forces under which we live?

This reminded me of the giant creatures playing marbles with the galaxy in which the Earth resides, at the end of one of the MiB movies.
Good short story.


Victor Gente Delespejo at 02:14 on 29 September 2008  Report this post
Hi Axxx, thanks for the feedback. Yes, it may need a little help with sectioning. I'll give it a go.

Steve... it's awesome when a reader connects with the essence of a piece of writing and grabs its little details. Absolutely awesome. Thanks man. Write on,


PhilR at 17:55 on 14 December 2008  Report this post

I was drawn into this story almost immediately by the unsettling tension and sense of impending disaster that continued throughout the first part.

At first I thought this was going to be a full blown Sci-Fi story and halfway through found myself wanting more description of the dome and chambers surrounding it. This desire was quenched when I realised what was actually going on and that a certain amount of vagueness was necessary.

I liked the fact that so much atmosphere of the piece was conveyed through dialogue. The lyrics towards the end felt a little forced to me and perhaps unecessary, but ultimately did not ruin the overall feel.

Original and well written.


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