[This is a story that was straddling two languages: Korean and English. I’m still not sure which language suits it best, but the Korean translation is in progress. If you want to collaborate with me on it or have general feedback, please let me know.]
Little ant climbed to the top of the anthill. A grain of sand rolled down with her final footfall. Big ant sat waiting at the summit. Little ant panted, “You’re here.” Big ant smiled.
Big ant looked at little ant. He hadn’t seen her in a while. Just yesterday, he had been wondering how she was. Little ant dropped her satchel on the sand and plopped down next to him. He could hear her little breathing slow. Slow to a steady bloom. In, out. Puff, puff.
He stretched out his legs and let out a groan. “What took you so long? I got here an hour ago.”
“Sorry, I got distracted.”
“What was it this time?”
“There was a circle of pigeons.”
“It was a circle. I was curious.”
“Well, was there something inside the circle? What were they looking at?”
“Nothing. They were just pecking at a scattering of crumbs.”
He looked at her. “Seriously? You know, you could’ve gotten hurt.”
“They looked friendly.”
“Of course. All right, so what have you got?”
She rummaged through her bag. “I’ve got a piece of glitter, a crushed poppy seed, and…”
“And what?” He looked inside. She was covering something with her hand.
She timidly took it out. It was a clover leaf, bruised and battered from her trip. She looked down at it and paused.
“I wanted to give it to you but now it’s ruined.”
He looked at her. He took the leaf from her hand.
“One more game?” he said.
“Yeah,” she said, smiling softly.
Split the deck and shuffle. Switch halves and re-shuffle. Combine, cut, and deal.
They played with a hand of seven each. He started collecting the ribbons, and she, the animals. Neither could take the brights yet. She took the pile of cherry blossoms, her favorite, and he went through the motions, taking whatever he saw first. She just liked feeling the cards, seeing his fingers move. She liked the pictures, too.
“I’m gonna miss you.”
“I’m gonna miss you, too.”
She played with the cards. Not knowing what else to say, she kept turning them in her hands and stacking them neatly in front of them. When it was time, she put everything in her satchel and put it between him and her.
One by one, her legs fell off. He tried to watch but couldn’t. Instead, he looked to the sunset. She didn’t mind. When all that was left was her head and little torso, she started shrinking. She shrank and shrank until she was even littler than before. Her feelers did a final turn and curled in tight. Her head rested on the sand, orange and aglow in the sunlight.
He stayed very still and stared harder into the sun, not making a sound. He wanted to focus on the pictures but they would always belong to her. The birds flew off. The clouds moved quickly. The sun continued to sink low.
He covered her in clover and walked away. The sand blew over her, and he was gone.