Throughout dinner, Nauqenet’s attention was most focused on the largest human, the one who had saved her before. She wanted to know more about him. She wanted to talk to him, if that was possible. Suddenly, the sound of wind came from a few feet away, and a gust of strangely cold air blew the ant queen off the ceiling. She waved her wings madly, ending up on her savior’s shoulder. The other humans looked right at her and began to make even louder noises than before. The second largest one handed the one on whose shoulder she landed what looked like a broad, white, rectangular leaf. In a panic, Nauqenet crawled to the large human’s neck, touched her antennae to it, and pleaded with him, “Don’t kill me!”
The human paused at that instant. Surely he didn’t understand her. That was impossible, right? He put down the leaf, much to the objections of his family and replied, “Did you just talk?”
He made his reply verbally, which the ant queen could not understand, but the thoughts behind it traveled into her antennae in the same way that communication between ants worked Nauqenet didn’t know what to say. She didn’t expect to actually be able to communicate with a being so different from herself. She had no idea their minds could be that complex.
After the human made his reply to Nauqnet, the other humans fell silent. The two larvae looked at Nauqenet while the other adult trained her eyes on the largest human. What were they thinking?
“Our minds are compatible,” the ant queen said. “My name is… Nauqenet. You saved me once in the forest. I know you did it on purpose. I can’t believe I get to thank you for it.”
The other adult made some noise, and the one the queen was talking to replied to it, “She’s thanking me for not stepping on her a few days ago. I’m going to go let her out in the backyard.”
He stood up, opened a flap in the wall, and stepped outside. Once the flap was closed, he said, “My name is Josh. How are we talking like this?”
“All ants communicate this way,” Nauqenet told him. “We connect our minds and think to each other. Are you a queen?”
Josh laughed. “I’m a man, so I’m more of a king, but don’t tell my wife.”
“She’s like a partner. We live together and raise kids, kinda like what you do, except on a much smaller scale.”
“You work with your queen as an equal and have only a few children?”
“Yeah, it’s how all human families work. Well, most of them. Instead of just one woman giving birth to thousands of babies, we have an equal number of men and women. That way, each woman only has to have a few kids to keep the species going.”
“Does ever human have a mind of its own?”
Josh wasn’t sure what she meant by that. As he hesitated and tried to understand the question, his wife came out. She made some sounds at him, and he replied to her, “I know it seems crazy. Let her talk to you, and you’ll see that I’m right. Nauqenet, show her.”
The ant queen looked at the woman and didn’t like her expression as she looked back. Josh’s wife was afraid of insects, no matter how small they were, especially winged ones. Still, she put her hand down near her so that she could crawl on. She didn’t want to believe her husband was crazy.