Once upon a time, in a wall far from where you live, there lived a family of ants happily and contently living their ant lives. For most of the day, they were extremely busy carrying the meat they had found in the kitchen sink back to their nest or breaking apart biscuits the humans had dropped on the tiled floor. The ants were so busy, they failed to notice that there had been a spider living amongst them for the past several years.
Spider first decided to live with the ants when he was attending the local Spider School. His teachers had attempted to show him what a spider’s life should be like, and, although he enjoyed being taught how to build webs and move at incredible speeds, he didn’t feel right having to catch and trap flies or eat grasshoppers. While on his way to school one day, he saw a trail of ants heading into the wall of a house. He loved the way the ants walked in groups and was curious about where they were heading, so he decided to follow them instead of going to school.
Living alongside the ants, Spider watched and gradually learned to live as the ants lived. He copied the way they walked in lines and learned to speak the ants’ language by using two of his front feet to touch their feelers and communicate with them. One of his favourite things about being an ant was gathering and then eating all of the sweets they were allowed to eat. Unlike being a spider, where confectionary was forbidden, the ants would have an enormous celebration whenever one of them brought home a piece of leftover birthday cake from the kitchen. He admired the way the ants worked together and played together as well. A spider’s life can be a very lonely life, he had thought on many occasions.
When Spider first started living with the ants, he was much smaller, but now his size was beginning to give away the idea that something may not be entirely right. Some of the ants had started whispering in secret about his size and, even though he had tried to ignore it, Spider knew that the ants would figure out his story before too long. Ants that used to be his friends were now starting to play with other ants, and he was being asked to come out of the nest on fewer and fewer jobs. Spider was regularly given work to do inside the wall and, before long, keeping the rooms in the nest clean was the only responsibility he was given.
Just as he thought his time with the colony had come to an end, The Queen called Spider to her chambers. Spider crawled into the Queen’s chambers with his head bowed low. “You wanted to see me, My Queen?” Spider said softly.
“There is talk, my dear ant, that you are not who you say you are,” The Queen said with a humbled authority. Spider silently raised his head, tears forming in his eight eyes.
“This is true,” he answered with a lump in his throat.
“Let me ask you a question,” The Queen insisted, “What is an ant?”
Spider thought for a moment and responded, “Well, they are small.”
“A flea is small, yet it is not an ant,” said The Queen, “What else?”
“Ants eat sugar and meat, and work together for many hours a day.”
“Many other animals also work well together and eat sugar and meat, yet they are not ants.”
“Then it is my legs that give me away. I have eight long legs while ants have only six.”
“After some of our battles,” The Queen began, “Many of our ants come back with less than their six legs. Are you suggesting they are no longer ants? It seems it is not your legs that give you away, but perhaps it is your heart. You have been with us for so long, do you not feel more at home being an ant? If not, you are free to go and be who you wish to be. But, be warned, if you stay, you must work hard to prove you are one of us.” Spider thought for a moment and realised that, in his heart, he felt more comfortable living with the ants than he ever could living life with the spiders. He left The Queen’s chambers feeling more confident in his decision to remain living with the ants than he ever had before.
Spider continued to work hard inside the wall and, over time, the ants once again accepted the spider as one of them. Word of The Queen’s acceptance of Spider quickly spread through the colony and, every time an angry ant would ask The Queen why Spider should be allowed to stay, she would reply, “Prove to me that you are an ant and I will ask him to leave.” As no one could answer the question, Spider stayed and lived a happy life as the ant he always wanted to be.
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