Story 7 The Triplet
Just another Sunday night.
But to Daddy Tiger, the weekend has been particularly magical.
The kids had finally had their long-awaited camp. Both Daddy Tiger and Mummy of Four were convinced that the family was the best thing to happen in their lives.
After a delicious dinner and some time together playing games as a family, Tiger, Mum and the kids all went straight to bed. The children were so exhausted that most of them instantly fell asleep the moment they hit the head. No. 8 was the exception, who simply laid on his bed, reminiscing old memories.
No. 8 looked out his bedside window at the glow of the Full Moon and wondered where Epoh was now.
The Forest of Flowers
In a land far away from the comforts of No 8’s home, Epoh was making his way back to his homeland – the Rain Fleurest – after a joyful night with Lady Moonie and No 8. He decided to land next to a river to take a quick rest, using the moment to recall what the Ant Mother, the grand queen of ants, had told him before he left.
‘No. 8 must help you obtain a grain of sand from the moon.’
Unlike the rainforest where trees grow so high up they would threaten to touch the sky, the Rain Fleurest housed gigantic flowers that seemed to cast shadows over just about everything in the forest.
The Rain Fleurest lied in the ‘Nothing’ at the boundary of the world. None, save for the insects could ever hope to find its flowers nor reside there. For the vulnerable creatures that had little in the way of defending themselves, this has become their sanctuary and the promised for the last hundred years. That is, until the Muddies turned their world upside down.
Everything went well in the Rain Fleurest until mere 2 years ago: a single puddle laid on the ground, as the roots of the Flowers continued stabbing through its body. It looked upon the culprits in great contempt.
With an anguished cry, it thought aloud:
‘Why I must be one to lay on the ground, under their shadows? I should be as free as the insects and go as I please.’
A thought that changed the entire world.
His plea spread quickly among the Mud and was met with unanimous agreement. All of the mud began to question their existence and as they did, the land began to churn and crumble. Their rage could be contained no longer – they were dissatisfied with the state of things. As the mud ebbed and flowed like a raging river, the roots of the floral trees found that they no longer had any stable land to latch onto, forcing them to fall straight down into the rivers of mud.
It takes 100 years to grow floral tree, yet in but a brief moment, every tree in the Rain Fleurest found themselves fighting for their very survival. Gradually, the will of the mud empowered the tides of mud raging across Rain Fleurest. From the great rivers of mud emerged bodies with heads, hands and feet. This was the new race, recognizable to all who lived in the Vale of Flowers – the Muddies.
The Rain Fleurets, once the proud haven of the insect-folk and the flowers, had turned into a living hell. The Muddies – driven by their envy for the freedom of the insect-folk – killed anyone regardless of who they were. They splashed the spiders into pieces and ripped their webs apart. They smothered the ant mounds so that no light or oxygen could ever reach the ants.
An illustrious world that is in the danger of vanishing.
Epoh was put back into reality as he saw a Muddy walking toward his direction. He hid behind a rock and waited for it to pass. The sand he collected from the Moon was safely packed away in his rucksack. For Epoh, the sand was his life and the only way to save his family and the other ants.
Though the Muddies lack eyesight, their long decades on the ground has given them an extraordinary sense of touch – even the smallest vibration from a footstep could be detected. Epoh held his breath and stood still, wary of making any small motion. After a few minutes, the Muddy walked away and he continued his journey home.
After flying for a bit over a mile, Epoh reached his home at last.
Epoh’s home is one of the tallest ant mounds in Rain Fleurest at approximately 30 feet. There are more than a hundred smaller ant mounds that surround Epoh’s home in a hexagonal pattern, much like the ones on Epoh’s best friend, Beebie the Bee.
Once Epoh arrived at the mound, he unsuccessfully attempted to look for Aunty Ant, who was nowhere to be found. He decided instead to look for his sister - the Queen of the ants.
The mound is structured like a labyrinth with the Queen’s residence located at the very peak. While Epoh continued traversing the many bending roads, he passed along countless baby-sitting rooms and food storage warehouses.
The prime duty for an ant Queen is to deliver babies. As the Queen woke up from her bed, she could see Epoh walking through the door.
‘Hello, brother. Is everything okay?’
’Better than expected. I managed to elude all of the Muddies’ traps. I happened upon a chance meeting with No. 8 and Lady Moony while I was gone.’
‘That’s a relief to hear. Despite our hardships, I am glad that you managed to somehow find a moment of peace. Have you seen Mum?’ Epoh says no and asked if she knew where she was.
‘She’s probably next door. Try the room next to us on the right.’
The Queen was thoroughly tired; she had just delivered another thousand ants just on today alone. Despite her exhaustion, she was more than happy to set some time off to chat a quiet chat with her little brother.
Epoh went into the next room to see Ant Mum sitting on the balcony.
Ant Mum was arguably one of the oldest ants in this mound. Unlike most of the other brown-colored denizens, Aunt had a unique white complexion owing to her long age. She was sitting on the balcony and looking up the dark sky. She always remembered how beautiful her homeland was before the invasion of the Muddies. Though she had lived long enough to see the horrors that had befallen her homeland in person, she had always desired to save her people and other insects from this hell.
Ant Mum looked back when she smelled Epoh. Unlike the other races of ants, Epoh’s kin lack any eyesight; everything that they see become dark gray shapes. As such, they must rely on their sense of smell to go about their daily lives.
Ant Mum hugged Epoh and asked if he was able to accomplish his task.
‘Yes. Here it is.’
As Epoh took out the sand from his rucksack, he continued:
‘Can you tell me why I needed to go with No. 8?’
‘Yes, come with me.’ As Ant Mum beckoned to Epoh, she led the way and began to fly to an ant mound behind their home.
This mound resembles much like the other tombs apart from its size; it is close to twice the size of Epoh’s mound, which already has the privilege of being the tallest. All ants are forbidden from going inside apart from the Queen or Ant Mum. Ant Mum opened the door and they both went inside. Although the entrance was dark and cold, as they moved forward, the scenery began to shift, becoming far more bright and warm. After a few minutes, they entered into the main hall.
In the middle of the hall, Ant Mum and Epoh found An B sleeping on a bed.
Epoh was at a loss for words. He turned to Ant Mum, hoping for a reasonable explanation.
‘What happened?! Why is No. 8’s brother in here of all places?!’
Ant Mum looked into Epoh’s eyes.
‘I believe it is time you heard the truth.
You are not an ant, Epoh. You are a dog.’
Epoh gave a puzzled look at Ant Mum.
‘You are one of three triplets alongside An B and No. 8. As you were hatching inside the flower like all children in the Sweet Potatoes World are born, your mother mistook you as a miscarriage given how rare triplets were. She was incredibly distressed and buried the flower in the fields where she used to play as a child. But the flower knew that you were alive; you needed just a bit
more time before you hatch. The flower asked the floral trees of Rain Fleurest for assistance; those trees in turn asked us for help. As such, we went to the location where your mother buried you as soon as we could and managed to dig out the flower. We then brought you here to Rain Fleurest.’
Epoh could feel tears well up in his eyes as he continued listening to Ant Mum’s words.
‘You were too big to fit in any of our mounds when you arrived. Therefore, we decided to give you a potion to drink – a potion that removes the soul from its host. We implanted your soul into the body you have now. As for your old body, we decided to build a new mound to house it. ’
‘Why did the floral tree give me to you but not other insects? ‘
Ant Mum gave Epoh a sympathetic look. She lacked the heart to explain it to Epoh but she nevertheless forced herself to press forward.
‘You stayed far too long inside that flower. As a result, you lost your eyesight. In all of the Rain Fleurest, our race excelled at surviving without sight.’
Ant Mum climbed onto the body and slid her fingers onto the eyelids – the eyes underneath were as white as mist. She could tell Epoh did not take this sudden revelation well. She attempted to comfort him in some way.
‘It is regrettable that you lost your eyesight before you even had the chance to use them. But if there is yet any justice in this world, one day you will have your eye sight back.’
Though Epoh loved Ant Mum, he could no longer maintain his composure and began shouting at her.
‘Don’t ever lie to me. Getting my eyesight again? The Muddies would sooner disappear before I could see again!’
Ant Mum waited until Epoh settled down. Then she said gently:
‘Do you know how your name came about?’ Epoh shook his head.
‘It is actually engraved on your mound. It is a name given by your real mother. As she engraved your name, she said this:
“Epoh – look at it another away and you will see Hope. I am sure you will find it wherever you go up there in heaven. We will meet again soon.”
‘I want you to be with us forever. Nevertheless, in these awful times, we often have to make sacrifices for the people we love. We need you to be the real you - the Dog – and take us away.’
Epoh asked how he would do that and why he needed to go to No. 8.
‘No. 8 is not only your sister, but also a rabbit. On the Moon lies the police man known as the Giant Rabbit. He will not let anyone do as they please unless you are a rabbit. No. 8 is the best choice to us.’
There was another reason that Ant Mum chose to withhold from Epoh until later.
‘Drink this potion. Your soul will return to your body. Then place the sand on top of our mound. That will transport all the mounds and insects in the Rain Fleurest. It will lead us to another promised land.’
Epoh gazed down at his former body.
‘For the sake of my family and all the insects, I will do it. But how I find you again once this is all finished?’
Ant Mum looked at Epoh with a miserable look. Her eyes were filled with tears.
‘Epoh’, she said as she placed her hands on his head.
‘I will keep my promise; I will not lie this time. Once you become a dog, you can never return to being an ant again. That is also the reason why we chose No 8: so that you will find a place you can call home.’
Epoh found himself at a loss for words. All these revelations shocked him to the core.
‘Why? Am I to lose my family? My mother again?’
‘We would never want to leave you alone, Epoh. And we will not, mark my words. But you are the only hope for this land. We and all the other insects of Rain Fleurest have no power left. You alone can save all of us – your friends, your people, and your queen. They need you.’
Epoh loved his ant family – he would do anything for them. But at the same time, he could found himself unable to separate from them.
‘Epoh, though I considered you as if you were my child, this is not your real home. Please, find your family. We are not leaving you; we will never leave you. We will meet again.’
Ant Mum awaited Epoh’s reply. Epoh decided we would not let his family and friends suffer.
‘When will we meet again?’
‘We will go to your family to find you. I promise.’
Epoh cried as he began drinking the potion. Immediately, he feels a large impact on his stomach and jumped up. As he looked around, he found himself sitting on a bed. He looked at his hands and was met with big paws.
He searched the floor for Ant Mum. She was standing on his hand with the sand on her head. The entrance of the mound was too small for him to leave now. Epoh punched the wall which caused the entire mound to collapse. The sun burned his fragile body, singing his hair and evaporating any moisture that was left on his body. He walked to his former home and placed the sand on top.
Through the power of the sand, his old home, the nearby mounds, and all the insects in Rain Fleurest all turned into transparent in an instant and started to ascend towards the stars. Epoh stood on the barren field all by himself, feeling remorseful for not saying goodbye to his family. Though he wanted to stay just a bit longer, he could sense a nearby Muddy with his senses honed by living with the ants. He decided he needed to make his escape now.
Epoh did not know where to go. There was nothing left in the world for him. He found himself running back to the river where he had rested before and regretted making that promise to Ant Mum.
‘Are you okay?’
A familiar voice rang in his ear. He looked down to see Ant Mum sitting on his nose.
‘Am I dreaming? Why are you still here?’
‘How could I ever leave you alone again? I jumped off the tomb to come to you; I know your sister can take of the insects by herself.’
Epoh was so happy that he could feel tears welling up again.
‘Come on, don’t cry. Let’s go home. Your real home.’