He sat on the bed waiting for the attack to start. He stared at the crack in the wall. He knew that any moment now, the army would break out of the crack. They were waiting there, waiting for him to go to sleep, so that he would be easier to attack. He could not afford to fall asleep now. It was kill or be killed. Gone were the days when the maximum damage such a battle would inflict on him was a few bite marks, boils and some rash. Now they were bigger, badder, poisonous and very dangerous.
He had literally begged his landlord to pay for the pest control and fumigation. He had refused to pay the rent unless the landlord did it. There was a long standoff, where the landlord claimed that the rent contract did not oblige him to make the apartment ant-free. Which apartment does not have ants, he argued. All you need to do is make sure you don’t leave food outside, and keep the house clean. But he would not listen to the landlord. He insisted on fumigation. The fumigation would cost as much as two months’ rent. He threatened that if the landlord did not pay for it, then he would get it done himself and not pay rent for two month. The landlord said he would deduct the amount from the housing deposit. The standoff continued.
He had not always been this way. The ants were always a problem, but not as big a problem. Now they had spread from the kitchen to the bedroom and the living room. There would be ants in his clothes, in the cupboard, even inside his computer cabinet. The ants were literally taking over. He could not sleep properly. One night he woke up, to find ants crawling on his bed. They were on his bed, and were even inside the mattress. There were ants crawling on the wooden bed.
His landlord told him that he would not pay for the fumigation because he was not convinced about the ant problem. When the landlord came over, the ants would retreat to the crevices and holes. His clothes, his furniture, and his gadgets would be free of any ants. The only ants his landlord could see were a few which were swarming around a grain of rice on the kitchen platform.
“See, this is just normal. Why do you want me to spend so much for the fumigation? Just don’t spill food like this, and if you do, clean it up before the ants get to it.”
“But I am telling you, usually the ants are all over the house. They have retreated today because you came. They want to avoid being fumigated.”
“Shyam, do you understand what you are saying?”
“I know how it sounds. But believe me, these ants are very sly.”
“Bye, Shyam. I need to go now. As I said, get the fumigation done at your own expense if you want.”
Finally Shyam bit the bullet and decided to get the fumigation done. The process was simple. His house would be sealed for a couple of days, and some mild nerve gas would be pumped in, killing off all ants and insects. The house would be ant-free in a couple of days. It all seemed right. But somehow Shyam was not convinced that all was right. A fear still lurked at the back of his mind.
Two days later he entered his house, which had now been de-gassed. There was an odd stink, but the house seemed clean.
“Mr. Shyam, we did not find many dead ants or insects in the house. Usually when people get fumigation done, there are a lot of those which need to be cleaned. But your house was normal. Hardly any dead ants”, the bug guy said.
Something did not feel right. That evening Shyam was sitting sipping a cup of coffee when he felt a slight spasm of pain in his temples, and suddenly a thought filled his mind,
“You thought you would get rid of us, didn’t you?”
“What????” Shyam spoke out aloud. What was this!
“Don’t be shocked. I am an ant talking to you telepathically.”
“What???” Shyam stood rooted to the spot. The words were appearing in his mind, and there was no physical threat, but he was too scared to even move.
“Yes. I am an ant. The gas had a strange effect on some of us. Most of us died, but a lot of us have developed an enhanced brain power. We can communicate telepathically, and it turns out our bite is now poisonous. Tonight we shall come out of our houses and kill you. Every bite this time will mean death. Over and out.”
So Shyam sat on the bed, shivering. He had tried to get out of the house, but there were ants swarming all over the door. All he could do was sit and wait.
A row of ants came out from the crack on the wall. They advanced towards his bed. Shyam sat, shivering, sweating, knowing he would die soon.
“DOCTOR!!!! DOCTOR!!!!” Vinita shouted.
“What’s the matter, Mrs. Dixit?”, the doctor asked as he rushed into the ward.
“What is the meaning of this? There were a few ants crawling on Shyam’s bed which I just brushed off. Is this what you call hygienic conditions? A patient is in coma and your staff does not even bother to check up on him at all? Look at these marks on his hand, they are definitely ant bites.”
“I’m very sorry about this, Mrs. Dixit. Nurse, who is in charge of this bed? I want to see all of you in my office immediately. But first ensure that there are no more ants around.”
“Is this what we are paying so much money for, Doctor? Ants biting my comatose husband? Ants??????” Vinita was still fuming an hour later as she sat in the Doctor’s cabin.
“OK, Mrs. Dixit. I admit it was our fault. The staff has been pulled up, and such a thing will never be repeated. But will you please let it go now? It was just a few ant bites. He is in coma, for god’s sake. It doesn’t affect him. He doesn't even know there were a few ants biting him.”
has written her version of the story
which I think is great.