Sunday, August 21, 2005

#67 - The Hormigaville Posse

Down in Hormigaville, the townfolk were abuzz with excitement. The dreaded outlaw, Blackeye Woody, was in the area. A wanted poster said, "Dead, Alive, or Severely Bitten." Blackeye had killed, maimed, or otherwise wiped out entire populations, and the law needed help. A posse was requested, and thousands answered the call.

No ordinary six-legged posse this; these hombres were tough. Built for strength and able to heft fifty times their own weight, they had only one disadvantage: they were about six million times smaller than their prey.

Still, you can't ignore the pleas of fellow citizens, especially when there's a harvest to bring in, and work to do before winter. Also, the queen (Yep. A queen. A grumpy one, too.) was mighty insistent. "Take him out, or don't bother coming home tonight!" she signalled.

So it was that, antennae quivering, the Hormigaville Posse rode into immortality.

They followed the trail south to Dead Ant Pass. The pass was treacherous, but a trifling inconvenience compared to what awaited them on the other side. Some fell to their deaths or lost their way, but most of the twenty or so thousand that joined up managed to stay with the pack.

Once clear of the path, the trail grew stronger. Blackeye, slob that he was, always left a trail. Crumbs of food led the way. A strong scent of protein announced that he was close. And deadly.

It happened so suddenly that the vanguard never knew what hit them. A flood of water suddenly swept through the arroyo, cutting off the advance scouts from the main group, taking hundreds of their comrades with it. Momentarily confused, the troops tried to find a way around the flood. Finally they found the scouts, after going around the canyon that had already spelled doom for their friends.

The scouts, however, did not have happy news to report. The trail had gone cold, and the crumbs that had been so plentiful earlier had somehow mysteriously vanished. Also, there was an equally mysterious smell in the air. A storm was brewing. Perhaps shelter should be sought?

"No!" shouted the leaders. "We have our orders! Blackeye must be found!"

Then, suddenly, a chilling sound filled the air. A deep, evil chuckle. "He's right here, boys," said Blackeye Woody. "And he's got a piece." With an evil sneer, Blackeye raised his dreaded weapon.

The posse began to scurry. It was every ant for himself as they looked for a hiding place. There were so many of them that they couldn't get out of each other's ways. The sneering laughter of Blackeye Woody grew louder until, suddenly, the deathly scent of mint filled each ant's nostrils (assuming, for the moment, that ants have nostrils). One breath was all it took, and thousands of the Hormigaville Posse gasped their last within minutes.

Few survived. Those that did managed to find their way back to town. For weeks afterward the legend of the Hormigaville Posse grew. In fact the ants, notorious for their ability to forget every disaster that had ever befallen them, were soon eager to return to the hunt. Another poster appeared in the window of the Sheriff. The new Sheriff, one of the survivors of the original Posse, smiled as he saw the thousands of eager recruits that had been born since the disaster that had nearly done him in. He would soon send these brave souls off to meet their certain doom.

He, of course, would be behind them.

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