She stretched out on the dirty old ground. Her chin rested on her folded hands. An army of ants marching by, in her head, she could hear their steps as the Queen led the way. “One, two, three, four, forward march,” said the muscular insect behind her Majesty, The Queen. Her feet stirring, she marched along with them, eyes never leaving the tiny soldiers. They had wars to fight, a dynasty to save, and food to forage. Ants are the hardest working creatures on the planet.
A flutter from the rafters piqued her ears to attention. It was Dexter, the old owl, who would spend his final winter in the comfort of the dilapidated old refuge. Bringing one finger to her lips, holding it still, she warned that creature of letting his presence known again. If the mice knew he was lurking, they would surely leave and deny him of a warm meal that evening. A hush grew over the small room, her eyes once again of the colony that forged through. Placing her hand to her forehead, saluting them all, that’s when it happened. Building inside, the dust tickling her nose, a sneeze came without warning, blowing half of the troops away.
“Oh no, I am ever so sorry, your Majesty. It was not my fault,” she begged. With a quick brush to her nose, she watched as the angry mob returned to the formation, their little legs shaking from the near encounter of death. She could hear him laughing. Dexter took great joy in her whispered ramblings. He was almost sadistic in his taunts of the young one. “Stop it, I say. You’ve done enough already,” she whispered, knowing his keen sense of hearing would shut him down before she finished.
As his wing fluttered, the old owl gave a warning. There was danger on the way. No matter his games with the small one, he protected her with his life.
“ALICE, where the hell are you today. I know you aren’t in that barn again,” the voice screamed.
As the footfalls advanced, the little redhead scurried into the corner, the ant’s standing guard. Tucked tightly into a small crevice, she huddled once again. Pulling her dirt-covered knees to her chest, she held her breath for as long as her lungs would allow. The fire building inside her chest, she stayed as quiet as a mouse. Screams played in her mind. She didn’t want to go back. Not yet. Not ever.
“Got you,” he grumbled, an arm reaching back to grab a handful of auburn locks. “I told you about this place. It’s not safe for a tender young thing like yourself,” he said, yanking Alice out of the space, dragging her across the floor. No warning was given. Dexter flew from the rafters, his nails scratching across the man’s head. He would provide Alice enough time to escape. His last gift to his friend.