When you look at the ground in the desert, it takes a minute before your eyes perceive that everything beneath you is…moving. Briefly, you wonder what generous person put psychedelics in your Gatorade.
It doesn’t take long to realize, though, that unfortunately, this is not a hallucination or Sonoran mirage: The ground really IS writhing. With ants.
Some are brown and some are red and some are black; some are a combination of those colors. Some are carrying smaller (or bigger) dead ants. Some are just running in circles. They’re all doing something, anyway. They never just hold still. After a few minutes, they all start to look the same. Are the red ones actually brown? Are the brown ones red? Should I be concerned?
Makes me feel all creepy. I hate ants. They give me goosebumps in the desert. I’ve had to stop looking at the ground.
Worse than the ants (because they overwhelm three senses instead of one) are the flies. Laying on the searing hot cot, trying to take a nap, I hear the incessant buzzing of eight trillion flies within a two foot radius. They land on my ear and fly away, land on my leg and fly away, land on my face…Meanwhile, I’m thrashing and swatting and fighting and giving up, holding still, giving up on giving up, back to battle – realizing I’m never going to get a nap in these conditions so I open my eyes raving and demanding revenge.
I watch my leg intently, eager for the opportunity to take the hunt seriously. I see them orbiting my head, dipteric satellites, going around and around like it’s their JOB; like someone is paying them to keep me awake until I go insane.
Finally I feel a twitch on my leg. The slightest tickle. I turn my head slowly to get a glance at my victim and – there’s nothing there! There is no fly on my leg. But it tickles. It does! It still does!
I brush the non-existent insect away. Relief.
Confused, I wait again. Different spot this time, same tickle. Still no fly. This happens over and over. I swat away the real flies in the air, I brush invisible flies off my hands and arms and legs and — it’s official. The flies are not driving me crazy, as I’ve repeatedly told anyone who didn’t have any choice but to listen. They flies have driven me crazy.
As someone who has completely lost touch with reality, I decide that no one would hold it against me if I went on a rampage.
So I did. I killed so. many. flies. even limited by our primitive weaponry (a fly swatter made out of a stick and a piece of cut up plastic stuck together with duct tape). Seriously. I’m expecting my recruitment letter from CIA special ops: entomology unit any day now. And you know what? It was FUN. I enjoyed killing them. I never knew hunting could be fun! I feel I understand 99% of the residents of this state now. Should I run for office or something?
I mean, yeah, I felt bad at first. That feeling deep inside of me, the one that says, “they’re just trying to survive, like anything else on this planet,” makes me hesitate sometimes. And those times, singular lucky flies escape, undoubtedly beelining to annoy the hell out of someone else.
But you know what? I’m so over moral vegetarianism. Two days ago, I ate some freshly caught barbecued quail and it was the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in months. MONTHS. Screw quails and their cute babies and adorable little tufts of feather and the way they run around like mad when we approach them, back and forth like it makes any evolutionary sense. Yes they’re cute. They’re also amazingly tasty.
But I digress. I’m getting better at suppressing the last shreds of humanity I have left. The desert has turned me into a savage. Fly. Kill! Quail. Eat! Snake! No one cares.
I only have one moral qualm about killing these flies and it is this: Every time I kill one, I brush its carcass to the floor, exuberant and victorious. But after I saw what happened next, I felt a sharp pang of regret: The ants carried them away. I am helping, feeding, proliferating, ANTS. ANTS.
I will never win.