Usually when someone complains or jokes about a problem they’re having, or talks about vermin and pests they have to get rid of, I quote-quip at them to use fire… and lots of it. And then chuckle.
This wasn’t so much a chuckling situation (even as I thought to say it), so much as a tremblingly try not to freak out at the imagined series of pain coming your way one.
What do we do, what can we do I mumbled far too fast.
Get out of here! Run! Corrida! Três yelled. I frantically beat at my exposed skin, thinking only of the pictures of some of the mandibles I had seen. Giant, big as lobster claws in my mind. Três trotted past me, and I started to run, winced at the results of our accident, then saw the swarm of the little bastards all over the trunk in front of us, coming towards us in efficient murder-lanes.
I screamed at that for sure and ran as though the ground were on fire.
There was space in that area, the thick canopy reducing most of the undergrowth, though any animal trails were hard to see, being busy with sprains and constant ant bites breaking skin. It wasn’t a great moment to also think about how allergic to bees I am. Or was. It’s been a few years since any stings.
Heaving and panting, Três stopped next to a vine-covered tree, scanned it a second, then leaned against it, carefully brushing at herself, fumbling in her pocket until she produced a lighter, melting off any tenacious soldiers still clinging to her flesh. She grimaced as she did so, looking back the way we came at the scattered birds, old rot, and warm puddles of condensed moisture.
All I could do was count over the fresh bites and thank the spirits or gods or whoever in charge of random events that none of them were the so-called bullet ants. Though there was a growing, spine-stroking fear about how toxic any of these species were.
Where… Where do we go from here? We can’t… go back. There’s no trail. I stopped to yell at a soldier ant doing his duty, crushing it between my fingers and tossing it away. Is there? I looked around. And if anyone is after us, they’re definitely going to find our trailblazing back there.
Then the ants can take care of them. Três tried to smile. Merda! She burnt another tiny exoskeleton to a crisp.
We should get a move on, I said, wincing at each bite we tried not to scratch at, thinking of all that delicious formic acid, all the oozing wounds that would take so much styptic (more than our small kits had) to handle.
I do not think there is a way back up to the trail, but if we can get to a crossing further on, that will help. And then on to the village. But I am not sure how well we can make a camp out here. Três had pulled out a compass from somewhere and confidently set us on on a route that would run close to parallel. Faulty GPS in hand, I followed.