Spring is in the air! A joyous time that heralds the stirrings of warmth, the choirs of birds, and the blossoming of flowers. But as the world of beauty wrests itself from the cold grasp of winter, the skittering underbelly comes to life with it. Bugs.Disgusting, irritating bugs. They get in our hair, they get in our food, they get in our beds. As the warm weather spreads, they emerge from cracks you didn’t even know existed, shattering any illusions of control you have over your own domain.
In my particular case, it is ants. I hate ants, more than any other bug. The sheer volume of the bastards is overwhelming. With a spider you can just squish it, or fling it outside and be done with it. But ants don’t stop coming. You can kill them by the dozens, and within minutes their numbers are replenished. They crawl over every surface, unhindered by challenge, driven by a single-minded instinct for survival. If anything, it is their sheer determination that I resent the most. I needed something to utterly destroy them.
And so I turned to Ant Murder.
I have tried traditional bug sprays, traps and bait, but nothing seems to hinder their progress. I am desperate for some decent pest control, and I have heard nothing but good things about Ant Murder. First off, it is specifically designed with ants in mind (as opposed to bugs in general, like most other sprays), which allegedly makes it far more precise and potent. According to the description on the bottle, “Ant Murder uses an advanced and highly specialized poison compound, as well as anti-DNA, to vengefully tear ants apart at a existential level.”
Okay, so wow. That sounds kind of intense. But you have to understand, they got into my bowl of fruit, people. That’s like two pounds of fruit I had just bought that I now have to throw away because of these assholes! I felt no pity for them.
I decided to start in the kitchen, generously spraying the line of ants that ran across my counter and onto the floor. Ant Murder has an almost overwhelming blue raspberry scent, which I would suppose is more for my benefit than that of the ants. The spray adjuster was a bit wonky at times, but I’ll chalk that up to an individual unit error rather than a fault with the product line as a whole. Once I was finished spraying, I stood back and watched the results.
Nothing happened at first. The ants continued on their way, albeit a little damper than before. I folded my arms, ready to be disappointed. Then they stopped in their tracks. They milled about, seemingly having lost their direction. I leaned in for a closer look at the ants on the counter. They were behaving rather oddly. I guess by “oddly” I mean “not dying” which is kind of what I was hoping for. They seemed to be looking around, no longer moving together as a group. They looked upwards a lot, their antennae flitting about.
One of the ants slowly walked away from the group, toward the edge of the counter. It paused there a moment, looking around, then down at the ground below. I watched it curiously. Then the ant threw itself off the edge, falling onto the floor and laying still. A laugh burst out of me in a knee-jerk reaction. That had just seemed so… tragic.
Another ant approached the edge, looked around much the same way the first one did, then jumped off as well. Another one did the same.
“Wha-” I started to say, and then several more ants jumped off as well, tiny ant bodies piling up on my floor. I blinked. If I hadn’t known better, I’d say they were killing themselves. But that’s ridiculous, right?
I looked at the other ants and shook my head in surprise. They all seemed to be reacting to the poison now. Some just stared off into the distance, some were fighting, some looked like they were embracing each other. All of them looked like they were in pain. One ant was bashing its head into the wall over and over again until it finally collapsed. Others were doing the same. I backed away. What the hell was going on here?
My attention was caught by a group of ants on the stovetop. They seemed to be working together, turning the knob of a burner a click to the left putting it on “high.” I watched, slack-jawed. What were they planning on doing?
I didn’t have to wait long to find out. Before the burner was even red hot, the ants started throwing themselves into it, burning to death in what was evidently a preferable fate to whatever the chemical was doing to them. By the time the burner was on full temp, ants were coming from all over to throw themselves into it. Their bodies vaporized in little piffs of smoke.
I practically ran out of the kitchen. I snatched up the bottle of Ant Murder, my eyes darting across the label. Maybe I missed something? Did I do it wrong, or- Wait. Right there, on the back of the label. There was a picture of a dead ant, then nutrition facts (for some damned reason) and then right at the very bottom, in tiny print: “Warning: May cause sentience.”
What?! Is that what was going on? There’s no way this could be an intentional effect. I just wanted to get rid of the ants in my house, not torment them into killing themselves! I found a phone number on the bottle and quickly dialed it. As it rang, I watched more ants throw themselves into the burner.
A cheerful voice answered the phone. “Hello and thank you for calling the Ant Murder hotline! My name is Cindy! How can I help you? This call may be monitored f–”
I interrupted her. “Yeah, I just used your murder spray–”
“Ah, another happy customer!” she gushed.
“No!” I shouted. “No not at all! What the hell is wrong with this stuff?”
“I assume you are referring to the blue raspberry scent. Yes, we have gotten many comments on that aspect of the spray and we are listening to your concerns. I am happy to inform you that our current scent going forward will be a wonderful lemon zest, which we believe is more in line with what customers are looking for in our product. Thanks for calling!”
“No! I’m talking about the ants! This isn’t just an ant killing spray, they’re going absolutely batshit! What the hell is happening?!”
Cindy took a deep breath. “Bug spray of the future! Ant Murder (registered trademark) is a fun new compound specially designed to allow various types of ants to (for the first time!) understand mortality, the inevitability of death, and existential meaninglessness whilst also having their bodies slowly and painfully eroded from the inside out. Thank you for choosing Ant Murder!”
I stood there for a moment. I briefly wondered how often she had practiced that spiel. Then I screamed, “Why would you make that?!”
“Why on Earth would you want to make ants feel pain?!”
“Sir, I can’t tell if you’re joking.”
“Do you have a manager? I need to talk to your manager.”
After two minutes of peppy hold music, I was connected to a man with a velvety baritone that made me think handling these kinds of calls was his sole job description.
“Hello sir, my name is Warner Dawson. I understand you are having a problem with our product. How can I help you today?”
“How can you justify this?” I said. “You make ants self-aware long enough to be slowly killed by a vicious poison? Is that what’s going on here?! No wonder they’re committing suicide!”
“Sir, the label on the bottle clearly reads-”
“I don’t care what the label says!” I said, nearly hysterical. “I’m talking about the morality of your product’s existence in the first place! You people purposefully made this stuff to torture ants! That’s beyond insane! There’s gotta be, like, regulations against that! Oh Jesus, they’re impaling themselves on toothpicks! This is horrifying!”
He sighed. “Look, Mr…”
“Look Mr. Harper, you hate ants right? As in, you hate everything about them. ”
“I… they bother me, yes, but–”
“Don’t you want them to know that? Don’t you want them to feel your hate? To understand that their lives are controlled solely by your whims? Isn’t it unsatisfying to end a life without it grasping its own existence? How can you say something has truly been killed without it ever realizing that which you have taken from it? We are not content with merely killing the ant, Mr. Harper. We have to make it understand why it has to be killed. We have to make the ant understand that it is utterly insignificant, until the moment that we want it dead. Because we are powerful, and we demand it. That is what we are doing here. Showing the stars to a speck. Showing those below us their dismal place in the world. Think of the power you wield, Mr. Harper. Think of the destruction you now have control over. You alone have ensured that the last torturous moments of these pitiful insects’ lives are spent in soul-rending comprehension of their own harrowing, inevitable mortality. I cannot imagine anything more beautiful than that.”
I was speechless. This was madness. Ant genocide was happening all around me. Genocide I had started, but was unable to stop. My eyes landed on the counter. At first I didn’t register what I was seeing. It seemed like the ants were arranged in some kind of shape… My arms fell slack to my side.
I slammed the phone to my ear and shouted, “God damn it, does this stuff make ants turn to Christ before they die?!”
“Occasionally, yes,” Dawson said. “Futilely, of course.”
I hung up the phone. I slumped down in a kitchen chair. I felt sick. I wanted to leave, to let the poor ants’ awful deaths play out without me. But I stayed. I stayed and watched the whole miserable affair. I at least owed them that. It lasted for the better part of an hour. A number of them found ways to kill themselves, but most of the ants just milled about, trying in vain to shake off the horror. Screaming tiny ant screams I couldn’t hear. Dying far worse than any living thing ever deserves, no matter how insignificant. I took it all in, and let my tears fall.
Finally, there was no more movement. All the recently-sentient ants now lay still. Their torment was over at last. I rubbed my temples, staring at the dead on my kitchen floor. The ants had finally gone to their maker, but not before leaving me one last message:
Great. Because I needed this shit on my conscience.