"My-self?", the other ants looked at each other and back at the new ant. "What's a self?"

The ant chuckled. "Your self is who you are. You know, what makes you different from the other ants around you. With different interests, hobbies, ideas, careers, friendship groups, skills, expertise, all that stuff. You are all individuals, not just robots carrying out duties. There's a whole world of what you can do, limited only by your imagination. You can choose what to do with your time; you can become anything you want, so long as you have the aptitude for it."

"But we are already ants", said one of the ants. "We already have lots to do each day to maintain the colony. There are the babies and elderly to look after, the queen to take care of, everyone needs to eat and we have to keep expanding the colony for the new ants coming through. How can we keep all this going and still go off and do different things?"

"You get a job. Earn some money and then you can buy your food, pay for somewhere to live, pay for your babies and the old folk to be looked after and then your time is your own. You can get into music, or travelling. You can become a lawyer, a doctor, a builder, a nurse, whatever you want, so you can earn the money to pay for your lifestyle," said the ant.

"But the babies and the elderly won't know those looking after them and many in the colony will become strangers," said another ant. "And why should we buy food when it is already free? Why would we pay someone to build the colony when we already know how we want it? We all have a job to do here in this colony and that is what gives all of us everything we need."

"And if we are all divided, all in-divide-u-alls," said another ant, "all off doing our own thing, then what happens when the colony is under attack? Who protects it? Who looks after you, if you are sick or hungry?"

"If you work hard at your job, you can pay for everything you need," said the stranger ant. "And there are other people to look after you if necessary. It's their job."

Some of the ants started moving away, shaking their heads as they got back to what they were doing. But other ants were intrigued and lingered for more stories of this magical world where you had a "self" and could do whatever you wanted. They asked the ant question after question and the discussions went on far into the night. The next day, a group of the ants announced they were leaving the colony.

"We want to see what it's like," they said.

"But who will do your jobs?" asked the other ants.

The ants who were leaving looked a little shame-faced but they were determined to go. "If each ant just takes on a little more," one said, "Then the workload won't seem too big."

A wise, old ant came over to them.

"What you are forgetting," she said, "is that you already have a natural purpose in life because you are an ant and what you do as an ant affects not only the whole of the colony but also everything of life all around. We aerate the soil and compost it by bringing in bits of plants and the remains of other insects. We bring seeds into the colony and some of them sprout and grow into new plants. We help in the decomposition of plant and animal matter and we are a very important part of the food chain."

"Without us, some species would become extinct. All this nonsense about being a lawyer or a doctor - whose dreams are those because they certainly aren't ant dreams? If an ant tries to live the dreams of someone else, they will no longer be an ant and, if they are no longer an ant, what are they? And what becomes of the ant colony?"

The group of ants looked even more embarrassed as they shuffled their feet and mumbled in reply, but they still left and life became harder for those left behind. They each took on more work as they tried to maintain the ant colony as it had been. Another group of ants followed the first group and left.

A week later, another group went after them. The other ants worked much harder but there were not enough of them to do everything. Some of the babies and elderly died because they were not fed or cared for. The colony stopped expanding and parts of it began to crumble. Sickness, stress and disease spread. The queen ant was not laying as many eggs because the quality of her food diminished and, gradually, as more ants left as things got harder, as the babies stopped being born and the elderly died, the whole of the ant colony died and all that remained were the excavations and mounds until they were washed away in the rain.

All the "selfs" and "in-divide-u-all" ants, lost in the distraction of their new, fantasy lives, also died because everything of the natural ant colony that was there to nurture and remind them of their true purpose as ants in the dream of ant life was gone, hijacked by dreams of fantasy that have nothing to do with ant life.

Once Upon A Time
by Fiona Cristian
Love For Life Video
Short Stories Recorded Mid 2009
8 Minutes 38 Seconds

The House
by Fiona Cristian
Love For Life Video
Short Stories Recorded Mid 2009
8 Minutes

The Origins Of The House
by Fiona Cristian
Love For Life Video
Short Stories Recorded Mid 2009
4 Minutes 48 Seconds