The sunlight stings my eyes as it streams into the room. My body aches. I let out a tired sigh at the prospect of facing another day. I haven’t been feeling myself lately. I feel like I’ve been slowing down, my body grinding to a halt and my brain swamped with mud.

Today it feels much worse. Maybe I’ll sleep 5 more minutes.

I move to pull the duvet over my face, but something is wrong with my hand. I can’t move my fingers. I force my eyes to adjust to the light and examine my hand. I scream, but a huge bellowing sound fills the room.

What was that?! It sounded like a trumpet! Dismissing it, I return to the cause of my scream. My fingers have fallen off. I just have fingernails on a stump that must be my arm. Not only that, but my arm is huge. With leathery graphite skin.

I must be hallucinating. There must be a logical reason for me to be hallucinating.

I cast my mind back to last night. I came home, had dinner and went to bed exhausted. That was it. No alcohol, no medication. It doesn’t make sense.

Maybe it was the exhaustion. Maybe I’ve gone mad. Could burnout do this? I feel very odd.

I need help. Where’s Jack? He’ll know what to do.

I look to the left side of the bed to where Jack sleeps, but he’s not there. There’s no space on the left side of the bed. Or on the right. I’m filling the bed! Did we get a smaller bed? Panic adds to my feeling of heaviness.

I’m definitely in the same room, but everything feels smaller. I look for clues. The headboard is ours, as are the lights and the curtains. What is going on?

He must have gone to w- oh, what’s that? I can feel something moving underneath me. From somewhere under me, or perhaps inside me, I hear a muffled and distant ‘Argh!’.

It sounds like Jack. Is he downstairs? More movement. ‘Gerrofff!!’ Says the voice. Something pushes at my ribs. I try to hurl myself up and out of bed but I’m just too heavy. My limbs feel like lead, and my lungs ache from the exertion. I can’t tell if I’m making the noises I can hear or if they’re coming from somewhere else.

I roll from side to side to try and get some momentum. “Left!” I hear. I roll left and something lumpy extracts itself from my right side. As soon as its gone, my body grateful fills the void.

Something long keeps obscuring my field of vision. I can’t tell what it is, but it seems to sway, and keeps distracting me. Is seems attached to my face. Oh my god, it looks like a trun-

“LISA?!” says the thing that emerged from underneath me. I quickly turn my head towards it and see my husband Jack. As my face turns, its new appendage follows, and whips him on the side of the head, knocking him to the floor.

“Sorry!” I shout, but a strange noise comes out of me instead.

Jack retreats backwards, holding his throbbing head. His eyes tell of a fear I’ve never seen in him before. He cautiously steps backwards as if retreating away from a wild animal.










Down under

She scrunched up her face and squinted her eyes to get a better view through the magnifying glass. As an explorer it was very important to get a good look at things. Squatting down on the grass like a gangly frog, she lent forward between her knees.
The magnifying glass was like a portal to another world. All this time, she had been unaware of the hustle and bustle taking place underfoot. At ground level, concealed within the grass, this world was hidden in plain sight, tucked away from prying eyes.

She pursed her lips and breathed noisily through her nostrils, taking her work very seriously. Through the oversized lens, she saw what appeared to be a river streaming through the grass.

How peculiar.

This definitely warranted investigation.

She moved the magnifying glass back and forth like a trombone until it focussed closer to the earth.

Suddenly she realised that the trickle was in fact a flow of ants, making their way through the grass in rows of threes and four. They hurried along with such coordination and focus that’s he wondered if they were soldiers.

She quickly drew an ant in her notebook, before continuing her observations.

She squeezed her left eye shut, making her right eye as wide as possible. She jutted her chin to the side and slowly brought her right eyeball closer to the convex glass. This was how to look through telescopes and lenses properly. Only proper explorers knew this.

With her highly trained eye, she noted that some of the ants were carrying pieces of leaf at least ten times the size of the their own body. How was this possible?

If she carried a piece of leaf ten times her own body size, it would weigh as much as a car. And if it was as flat as a leaf, it would surely get caught in the wind and blow away like a giant kite.

Yet the ants seemed unfazed. Maybe it wasn’t windy down there in the grass.

But before she could analyse this further, she gasped. There were even smaller ants on top of the leaves that the larger ants were carrying!

She immediately wrote this in her notebook.

Despite their tiny stature, the endless flow of their footsteps had carved a clear route into the ground. It was so precise that she became curious about what would happen if it was compromised.

An experiment was necessary.

She held her breath as she gently placed a twig across their path.

Chaos immediately reigned at ground zero.

Some circled aimlessly whilst others scuttled haphazardly from side to side. More and more ants arrived on either side of the twig, increasing the confusion and disarray on both sides.

Her shoulders and cheeks drew closer together and her bared teeth felt cold. Pangs of guilt pulled at her stomach like a bungee cord. She hovered her hand in the air ready to remove the twig, but was frozen in fascination.

Out of nowhere, like a river that had suddenly burst its banks, the ants cascaded over the twig.

Several leafless ants had climbed on top of each other and formed a makeshift ant ladder so that the others could climb up and over the branch.

She wrote ‘ant ladder’ in her notebook and underlined it several times. It seemed very important. She underlined it several times. It would definitely become useful later.

Where on earth were they all going? From their urgency she did used that it must be very important. She decided to find out.

She carefully padded sideways along their trail like a crab, maintaining her focus on the ant trail at all times. Time was of the essence, but she knew that she needed to stay calm. The best explorers kept their cool under pressure.

Her mind flickered to the possibilities that lay ahead. She knew that ants had queens like bees did. But what kind of palace would be fit for an ant queen? Maybe instead of bricks, it was made with the leaves brought in by the foot soldiers.

The trail approached a big oak tree. Just short of shouting ‘Eureka!’ She realise that the tree was not the queens palace. She tutted to herself for nearly jumping to a conclusion before assessing the facts. Before the trail reached the tree, it disappeared into a small hole in the ground. From this hole, several ant trails flowed in and out, like a spaghetti junction around the eye of the storm.

This was not what she was expecting.

However, she knew where all holes led to. This simple discovery had given her the answer!

In her notebook, she wrote in capital letters ‘AUSTRALIA’.