Back in February I was doing laundry and found that the clothes in our hamper were covered in dead red ants, meaning that we were officially invaded by ants for yet a fourth time! That means (for no other reason than it’s interesting) that it’s time for another post about the creepy-crawly things that (still) keep me up at night and made me tuck in my mosquito net with a vigor that might be described as “mildly psychotic”.
First, allow me to introduce you to my arch nemesis, the Army Ant. Please take a minute to click the link and study the pictures of these ants. You’ll notice that most of the photos Wikipedia authors have provided are pictures of ants killing things, or doing things that ants should not do, like build tunnels and bridges so that no obstacle may stop their incessant hordes from swarming. These ants (commonly known as “red ants” to Zambia Peace Corps Volunteers) never really nest; they just keep marching. And marching. And marching. Nothing can stop them. Not walls, or trees, or me trying to stomp millions of them to death. In fact, the only thing known to deter them is fire and smoke. They are, as you may have gathered, my least favorite creature in Africa (beating out only the bot fly for a close second).
So today, my intrepid readers, I bring a story of terror in the night, climbing over your walls and biting your toes…and thankfully it happened to somebody else.
It was a
dark and stormy night pretty average night on the hut home front. Rob was alone with our dog, Sadie, while I was away in Lusaka for a malaria training bootcamp. Rob was having his normal evening: bathing, dinner, reading, then tucking that mosquito net in with extra vigor before finally falling asleep. Sadie, our dog who was extremely pregnant at the time, was curled up near the bed on one of our floor mats. Our cat, Sir Dinkus, was off catting around outside and thus is not a part of this story.
Rob was leaving the next morning to meet me in Kasama, and thus had an alarm set to wake up at 4:30am in time to bike to the nearest village with transport at 5am. Around 4:25am, something shook him awake. More specifically, it shook the whole bed and woke him up. He opened his eyes to the dark hut and looked around. What the hell was that? Then, something slammed in to the bed again and a paw punched into his face through our mosquito net. “Sadie?” He asked in an about-to-be-murdered-horror-movie-victim voice. He slowly opened the mosquito net open to feel around for our solar light and realized that, in addition to our increasingly frantic, whining dog, he could hear what sounded like the pitter-patter of little feet. Millions and millions of little feet.
Rob flicked the light on and assessed what was rapidly becoming a horrible nightmare. The floor and walls appeared to move on their own as carpets of ants crawled across them. “Sadie! Come here!” Rob hollered at our dog. He scooped her up and threw her in the bed – the only surface not yet covered in ants. He tried to brush them from her fur while she cowered in the covers. With Sadie (mostly) safe and unlikely to go into premature labor, Rob then turned his attention to his first foray into the world of Xtreme Scenario Packing.
First priority: Shoes. As soon as Rob stepped out of the mosquito net the biting began, and it was his feet that suffered from the millions of tiny pinching jaws. Unfortunately, any form of footwear was on the other side the hut and, concurrently, on the other side of a large contingent of unnecessarily moody army ants. It was in this moment that Rob discovered the all important “hot foot” defensive dance maneuver. Stomping his way across the sea of small black and red shapes, he found that his shoes had thus far been ignored by the ants and were safe for use. Now able to continue “hot foot” in relative pedi-safety, Rob set to packing his bags and getting the bike ready. At this moment, you may imagine the sound of “The Eye of the Tiger” as he hot-footed around the room, stuffing clothing into bags and dragging his bike outside. Meanwhile, ants fell from the rafters onto his face and neck (biting), they crawled onto his hands as he grabbed clothes and stuffed them into bags (more biting), and they tried to cling onto his shoes when he was hot-footing down on them (attempts to bite). He packed faster than he had ever packed before.
He threw his finished bags outside by his bike where there were no ants (just a giant moth measuring nearly 12 inches across that thought Rob’s face was a good landing spot every time he went outside) and he ran into the hut one final time to rescue Sadie. At this point it is worth noting that we had a rather neurotic dog. Sadie, on the best of days, was not a bastian of grace and poise. Tonight, any remnant of cool left her because in her delusional panic to escape the ants, Sadie ran back into the house and back onto the bed as soon as Rob put her down outside (the first time). Eventually Rob escaped into the ant-free night (Sadie was safe at the neighbors house) and began his seven hour journey to the provincial house, where I (arrived and waiting for him) was incredibly grateful that
I was far from the village Rob was now safe.