Ann’s TestOctober 6, 2015
The first day I saw just one, an advance scout. Ann had been gone for two weeks. The next morning there was a whole line of foot soldiers, pointing at yesterday’s squashed body like an accusing finger.
I had to get past them. The birds were waiting to be fed. I edged round the door. Nausea rose up my throat at the sight of their shiny black bodies and waving feelers. The pain hiding in my leg bloomed like fire as I limped to the end of the garden to fill the feeders. The ants were from her of course, she’d sent them but why?
I went back to the house. Pain muttered. The ant line was thicker. There was a hole at the bottom of the door through which they were pouring. I bent as low as my hip would allow. Ann’s test was under a paving stone by the back step.
I hadn’t any ant poison. I got the fly spray from the kitchen cupboard. Ants had never invaded before so I knew she had definitely sent them. They didn’t die at once, but the spray seemed to clog them up. They began to run in all directions, even up my trouser leg.
I screamed and danced, ignoring my screeching hip. A jar of PanYan pickle on the kitchen worktop shouted to me, “PanYan, pay Ann.” Oh yes, Ann, you will pay! In the bathroom I tore off my clothes, scrubbing my skin under the shower to get rid of crawly ants’ feet and feelers.
I went down to where Ann lives now but Richard came out and told me to clear off.
“BADRATS!” I shouted, waving my crutch. “BADSTAR!”
“If I see you again, I’ll call the police,” he shouted back.
“All right for you Mr Two Legs, wife stealer.”
“RAWKEN! BADRATS!” I started to limp away. I thought I saw Ann’s face, white against the upstairs window.
“PANYAN!” I shouted up at her, “PANYAN!”
The next day they were back and I knew Ann wasn’t going to give up. There was no fly spray left. Boiling water – I remembered my mother used to use it, but as I filled the kettle, I had a better idea. I used to like Westerns and there was something I’d seen once in a film, or had I read it in a book?
It nearly killed me, lifting that flag. Even with the crowbar, my hip screamed protest and when I saw the horrid, wriggling mass, I nearly fainted. By midday I was exhausted but it was done and every thing was ready. Now all I had to do was wait until Ann finished work and Richard got up after sleeping off his night shift.
It was four-thirty when I turned into Ann’s street, just starting to go dark. Richard came to the door looking groggy. I tried not to think about what was in my back pack; instead I concentrated on what I needed to do. I had the hammer ready up my sleeve and as soon as his ugly mug peered round the door, I hit him hard.
He staggered back and I followed him in. He looked like a great ugly insect with his eyes bugging out at me, so it wasn’t difficult to keep on hitting him.
I dragged him into the front room and shut the door. He’d made a bit of a mess on the hall floor, so I laid a trap for Ann, dipping my scarf in the blood and dripping it on the cream-coloured carpet up the stairs. When I’d finished, I hid behind the bedroom door.
It worked like a dream. I listened to the noise of her key in the lock. There was dead silence as she saw the trail of blood on the stairs. Suddenly she gasped and cried, “Rick!” then I heard the drumming of her feet up the stairs and she burst into the room. I already had the noose in my hands and she was trussed like a turkey before she even realised what was happening. Once I had her immobile on the floor, I could relax and take my time. As I sat on the floor resting, she began to gabble.
“Where’s Rick? What have you done? Mike, why are you doing this? Let me go. You’re hurting me. Please, Mike.”
I got more rope out of my bag, just to be safe. I rolled her round and round, tightening the knots. “Ann’s test, nest, test, sent, sent ants,” I explained between gasps.
“What are you talking about? Let me go!”
I got the roll of masking tape. “Pity me oat. O pity me at. Meat o mate o pity me. TIME TO PAY!” I hissed at her as I wound the tape round her head. I left her nose clear and her eyes so I could watch her reaction when I opened the box.
The pine floor was firm. The nails gave a solid thunk as I hammered them through her hands. Her face looked like it would burst through its sticky covering. It was harder to get the nails in her feet. Luckily she’d fainted by then, but I had to wake her up for the grand finale so I went and fetched a jug of cold water to bring her round.
I opened the box with a shudder of horror, watching Ann’s eyes widen. I tipped the box and the squirming mass fell on her face. I fished out the tin of syrup and dribbled it all over her body. That would keep them busy for a while. I went home, savouring Ann’s punishment.
I never meant to kill her. I just wanted to make her stop tormenting me. I was going to go back after a couple of days and set her free but my hip was so bad after all my exertions that I had to stay in bed for a week and then people broke in and brought me here, where at least it is clean and safe.
This place is called after St Anne. If you put in a hero, myself of course, you get ‘no ants here.’ Funny that, isn’t it?