Wingless Wasps



That’s an ant. Look closely, but don’t touch.

Ants are wasps, but without wings. There’s the shiny head, with little waving hatchets for as antennas, pincer mandibles for holding on, shaped like the antlers of young deer. Then there’s the lump of a thorax where all six legs hook on. Look very closely at the top side there and you can see tiny pointed shapes where the wings would connect. Some of them actually have tiny, tiny useless wings there, but no one gets close enough to look. Usually.

The large oval shape at the end is the abdomen. An armored sack for innards. Look closely and you can see it swell and shrink, like it’s breathing. Which it is, after a fashion. In its own way.

In her own way. This one is a woman. Most of the ones you will find running around, doing the work, are women. That stinger you can see at the back is actually a vagina, an ovipositor, something that would be larger and more flexible if this was a queen, underground, laying eggs through it. This one will never have children. Her vagina is hard and tough and a weapon.

There will be a temptation to draw some sort of metaphor there, someday, but I beg you to resist. It will only cause you trouble in the long run.

They bite, this kind, holding on with the front end, and then swing the back end underneath and stab you with that sharp, hollow vagina-thing and inject a very simple organic acid into your skin, and then release a chemical signal that tells all their friends to come running, to grab you with their pincer mandibles and sting you as well, until the pain makes you freak out and run away, yelling and slapping them off of you.

Some would draw parallels to a human Dionysian Maenad orgiastic extravaganza — but the Maenads were the ones driven mad by trying to resist the orgiastic call. They really mean the Thyiades, the ones who would respond to the call, and when the madness was all over, go back to ordinary working life as if it had never happened.

Apparently those were your choices then: go mad and go amok on a rampage until your friends and neighbors brought you down, or join in the group madness and be more or less fine when it was all over.

The Greek word thyia refers to an offering of perfume. A related word, thujone, refers to a toxic chemical in wormwood that has a reputation for causing a bit of amnesiac madness. Scents are powerful triggers. They will make the animal part of you do things that are beyond intellectual comprehension. Or cause you agony when you don’t.

I know you’re only six years old right now, and most of these words and images are just a strange buzzing in your head, but it will all make sense later. Well, I tell a lie. It will never make too much sense, but at least the words themselves will. The rest will be homework for your college years. Best of luck, then, because it will still be hit or miss.

In any case, be on guard for being led around by your nose. Resisting is one kind of madness, indulgence is another and there’s no way to win. There is just endurance, and cleaning up the messes you make as well as you can. That’s what it means to be a responsible human being. Not resisting, not indulging. Just cleaning up messes.

There was a college, once, back when metaphors were literally true, where we taught such things to the animals we rode imagining it to be some sort of mercy. We taught how to recognize oneself in mirrors and all the sciences of reflection, and the magic of languages and names, and tools and weaponry, and medicine, and agriculture, and how to tell the times for such things from the movements of the stars, and how to make living beings from the clay, and, for want of a better word, perfumery. You had already taken to yourself the knowledge of good and evil and were floundering in exile, in the desert of abandonment. We built you a city, and a school at the center, and … we were the ones who promised never to abandon you when even God turned his back.

Oh, we were mightily punished. And you, our students, as well. Still are.

We are all ants. Wasps with the wings removed, except when it is time to fly.

And the winged ones die — or tear their own wings off and retreat underground and get back to work laying eggs.

Someday you will understand, child. Or maybe not. But at least one day you will know what all the words mean, and we hope that is good enough.


January 7, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  


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