(ADAPTED FOR KIDS)
Anthonee was a worker ant. In the vast, organized society of ants in which he belonged, he was born into the ant-worker caste*. Others castes existed, like the soldiers, drones and a queen, all playing their specific roles in their anthill….but amongst all these, the worker caste was the lowliest. They existed only to serve, building and repairing the anthill, as well as looking for food. Their society was a strict one, and everyone stuck to their assigned roles. Everyone, that is, except for Anthonee, who although he was an efficient worker like everyone else, was very different from the others in his caste, and often kept to himself. The other ants often wondered at him, for he liked to daydream and think of things no worker ant should.
For instance, when Anthonee and his fellow worker ants went out searching for food, marching in lines created by their special scents, he often peered past the soldier ants guarding the edges of their chosen path, and had the urge to stray away from the other ants. He felt their silent march was boring and had visions of leading the other ants in beautiful patterns, creating amazing motions that would please the two-legged giants who he sometimes saw watching them from above.
Anthonee also hated the earthen anthill where they all lived. It was made up of hexagonal sections, which were stacked on top and around each other, and covered by a towering mound of hardened sand. The severity and regularity of the structure vexed and irritated him so much that he often dreamed of breaking the entire anthill down to the ground. He wanted to build high roofs, made up of beautiful arching curves and twisting lines, and formed from polished specks of sand, which would capture the heat of the sun and glitter beautifully, showing the entire world how clever and creative ants could be. However, there was nothing Anthonee could do except quietly bear to live in the anthill. His tiny room was cramped and hexagonal and he hated it passionately.
Another issue which his work-mates just couldn’t understand was Anthonee’s love for their Queen, Antiqua. They were all bred to serve and love their queen but he took his adoration to unusual heights. As a worker, he was not allowed to even go near her, much less touch her, but he sometimes stared at her from the corners of his eyes when no one was watching. Queen Antiqua was the most beautiful ant in the whole of his world. Her eyes were dark and sparkling, her waist was tiny and her antennae were of a flattering length. Whenever he had supplies to deliver to her section of the anthill and happened to catch a glimpse of her regal loveliness, his heart would thunder and pulse like a trapped bird inside his chest, and his own short antenna would shiver.
He believed Antiqua’s glorious beauty deserved to be richly framed by soft, colorful ribbons woven by the skillful silk worms of the Far East. If he had the power, he would have commanded fire flies to shine their light on her elegant antenna, and he would cover her beautiful body in colorful pollen and flowery scents from every plant within reach of their anthill! Sadly, these were only fantasies and Anthonee could only watch, for she had already picked a noble drone for a husband, and settled down to a life of childbearing, cared for by specially bred worker-maids, who had the most gentle touch. Oh! How Anthonee loved his Queen and wished fervently that he could speak to her everyday..
But, Anthonee could not speak to Antiqua, for he was not allowed to love. He was only allowed to push, lift and carry. Instead of using his gifted hands to build beautiful things from the earth, he could only carry bits of nourishing and useful debris. Rather than use his amazing mind to think up beautiful designs and ideas, he was only allowed to think of schedules and chores, like any other worker ant. He had no choice than to let his eyes go half-blind, because of the endless hours he spent working and marching about in dimly-lit underground caverns; his eyes that ought to fill up with joyful tears when he looked upon the beautiful things he could create.
Anthonee had stolen away from his proper duties many times, to stare sadly at the eggs beautiful Queen Antiqua gave birth to daily, in her special hexagonal room where she is forever locked away. He watched the worker-nurse maids tend to the wriggling larvae which hatched out from the eggs, and he wept quietly, for they were born into various strict castes, just like him. He cried because these new babies had being denied a chance to be anything else but what their ant society had decided they must be.
Sometimes, Anthonee had dreamed of stealing a few eggs and running away someday, to start up another anthill of his own, where the baby ants would grow up and learn to build, dream, dance and live joyfully. In such a new anthill, art would be encouraged and love would be common. Surely, he would be happy there!
…..And yet, he had always turned away, and resumed doing what he was only allowed to do. He worked and dreamed, and his brother and sister ants stared at him in pity, for his eyes were always filled with a sad regret for all the things that he could not do. Anthonee the sad one, they called him behind his back, the one who could only wish and work until he could work no more, and his wishes slowly turned into nothing.
But they were wrong about him. What they saw in his eyes wasn’t regret, it was the birth of more ideas. For Anthonee was quietly and meticulously* hatching* a fantastic escape plan. And one day he knew his brothers and sisters would wake up to find him gone, and they would marvel, and perhaps Queen Antiqua would spare a moment to worry about him….for he would be far, far away, seeking adventure, beauty and the joys of life. Yes, he planned to journey far and without fear, for his heart belonged to the mysteries of the world, and he would seek them out, one ant on his own, made strong by his love of all things beautiful and free.