Hide and seek when taken in vain can be as lethal as foxglove, because you never know when a triumph against your sister turns to a life saved; when a single noise is your betrayer and to hide inferiorly is to be thrown to the wolves. Of course by the time one figures that out it’s usually too late.

True to form, death was the last thing on Nicoal Smith’s mind as her eyes blinked open. In fact the exact words in her head were: I hate hide and seek. Why she continuously agreed to this particular game was beyond her. But the only thing that mattered now was getting her little sister out of whatever ludicrous hiding space she’d hauled herself into this time before their parents got home.

She began her search systematically, starting in one corner and working outward. She searched the first three rooms, avoiding her parents’ chambers-they were strictly off limits. As she crossed the threshold moving back into the hall, her fingers began to tap a ballad of raindrops on the fabric of her jeans-they sensed the danger her mind was unwilling to comprehend.

The young Ms. Smith began to search faster, her other senses catching up to the agitated digits, suddenly hyper aware. Now, too, a tickle had begun in the region where her skull met her spine. An intuition ignored. A herold shunned. A step misplaced. A death sentence signed.

A rustle sounded from the spare room. Got you now. Nicoal smiled, more relieved than ever before to end the chase. She strolled across the landing. The tension slipped down from her shoulders to pool like sweat at the bottom of her Nikes.

She opened the door, not in any particular hurry, and turned to peek behind it. Nothing. She turned to face the room and gave it a quick once over. Her eyes took in the familiar tan bedspread and wilting potted plant, the curtains trying to hold back the setting sun. Her eyes moved to the closet and she had begun to ease open the door when she heard the peculiar rustle behind her once more.

She pivoted to the face centre of the room where she expected to see the toe of a sneaker poking out from under the bed, where instead she saw a young man sitting on the edge of the duvet. A duvet on the bed that had been empty only a moment ago. He stood as Nicoal’s eyes met his.

All of the anxiety that had left Nicoal seemed to spring back like iron filings to a magnet.

“Who-who are you-get ou-out!” The words sounded feeble even as shrikes. Made even more insubstantial by the intruder’s gentle smile, unabashedly calm.

“Ms. Nicoal Smith I assume. It’s a pleasure,” He said, his smile contrasting Nicoals blankly horrified stare. Suddenly, Nicoal was grasped by a fear that bound her to the spot. A fear that forced thoughts from her mind like a rock into a glass of water; all sense sloshing over the side. A fear that whispered at what was to come.

She blinked twice. “Hi,”. The man stepped forward, his movements graceful and flowing and not quite human.

“My name is Lysander. May I call you Nicoal?”

But before she could answer Lysander began to sink, flowing to the ground like honey as a swarm of insects engulfed him, his sinking torso seemingly engulfed in a quicksand of ants. Ants that just a moment ago had been skin and flesh. Ants that just a moment ago had been Lysander.

And there was that noise. A gentle noise, the sound of whispered secrets behind stone walls. The sound of ashes falling upon bone. A sharp noise as well: sparks on wet metal. The sound of danger wrapped in courtesy. The sound of a million ants swarming.

There was a lull as the mound shivered and the girl stumbled back. Then the movement stopped, the noise ceased. Nicoal opened her mouth prepared to fill the silence with a scream. And scream she did.

And then she stopped.

The ants rushed her pushing down her throat and into her lungs trapping her breath. Nicoal was seized by the sort of fear that can only be comprehended by one in the arms of true horror. The sort of fear that is never spoken of because none live to describe the experience.

She was drowning, her lungs full to breaking as insects poured from her nose, her ears, her eyes, forming waterfalls of exoskeleton clad horror. Her skin shook with the billion squirming creatures beneath it.

Then they began to eat. And all thoughts were shoved from Nicoal replaced with agony-no that’s not right, this level of pain could not be named, it could hardly be comprehended, seeming to exist on a different plane than simple thoughts. They broke flesh, the swarm looking like snakes or maggots as they breached skin, consuming Nicoal from the inside out.

Her last sensation: not pain but of the squirming fear she felt in her stomach, the mirror of the thousand ants that writhed in her gut.

Her last thought: Myrmecophobia: the fear of ants.

All that was left were the few chunks of jelly-like flesh, her hat proclaiming allegiance to a popular football team, and the ants. Like a picnic gone tragically wrong; innocence turned to filth.

The ants coelesed into Lysander once again as a wide grey eye watched spellbound, speechless, transfixed. It wasn’t until Lysander pulled on his smooth white gloves, a few crimson stains the only hint to the atrocities that had occurred, that a cry slipped between Ryan’s lips.

Lysander turned to look at her, a small smile smearing across his face like marmalade. He cocked his head, “Hello,”.

He bent down and put a gentle hand to her chin as if to force her gaze to his. Ryan opened her mouth-to answer perhaps, or to scream-but any noise was cut off by the torrent of ants.

Written by Veda LeVasseur

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