“How will I know it’s over?” Marika fretted.
“You will,” Jurena assured. A month older, she was already Bronzed.
“But nothing …” Jurena lowered the edge of the tent and stole away. She wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near Marika. Especially not tonight.
Marika listened to the silence. She shivered and tried to not think of Undine, her neighbor, who had never reappeared. Not all did.
The darkness filled her, thick as molasses. Her limbs grew heavy. Her ears began to ring.
Perhaps it was the magic.
Perhaps it was that drink.
Shadows entered, and Marika’s mind filled with molten spears, lava on dried grass. Encroaching. Coming near.
The fire lit her from within. The biting ants. The heat. The pain.
Perhaps she dreamed.
By dawn the elders had removed the gloves. The bullet ants were still.
Marika’s hands were bronzed with stings.
Her childhood scoured clear.
For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge
Note: I don’t know why this photo brought up the image of a years-ago-seen video about Initiation With Ants video, filmed by National Geographic. But for some reason it did, and so I let it take me where it wanted to lead.