Below the deck of a weathered clipper ship a giant ant kicked back and let out a clicking noise of relief. It lifted an amulet out of a small, wooden box with its awkward stick legs. The amulet glistened in the flickering light of the lanterns that swung from overhead beams. Runes were branded across the wooden box and the ant read these aloud as it rubbed the amulet. Gradually the amulet brightened until it glowed a fierce crimson. The blood-colored light bathed the ant’s shiny exoskeleton as it continued rubbing the amulet. Soon the ant began to change- the shiny shell cracked to reveal new skin beneath, little fingers grew from its stick arms. Before long it was an ant no more- instead it had become a beautiful girl, sitting naked on the worn ship floor. The girl, still moving with a strange insect rhythm, found some colorful rags and tied them around herself.

She climbed up from below deck and crossed over to walk down the plank onto the dock. She picked up a discarded cigarette butt from the boardwalk and then bummed a light from a thin, pasty sailor. Puffing away, she stared into his eyes. He stared back, utterly entranced, leaning on the railing. The girl absentmindedly rubbed the amulet around her neck. Then she swung her arm and knocked the sailor clean off the railing. When he struggled to get back up she delivered a swift blow to his head with her knee. He fell on his face and she swiftly pulled off his sailor outfit. Soon she was dressed in the sailor suit- it was baggy but her beauty shone through. She drew a wallet out of the pocket and rifled through it. There were photographs which she let fall onto the unconscious, half-naked sailor, and there was money, which she counted. Satisfied, she went down the wharf into a bar and ordered a drink.

She drank and laughed with the sailors for hours, now and then rubbing the amulet. But the drunker she got the less she remembered to rub the amulet and soon she began to transform back into a giant ant. When the sailors and barflies saw her monstrous transformation they set upon her, smashing bottles over her head and breaking chairs on her back. She fought them fiercely, biting with her huge mandibles.

The sailor, dressed only in his underwear, furiously burst through the swinging doors and stood there, watching the melee. But when he saw the ant/girl he became once again entranced. He suddenly called out, “Leave her alone!” and the other sailors stopped, turning in his direction. “What do you want, Merkey?” one of the longshoremen demanded. While the two stared each other down the ant quickly rubbed the amulet and once again became a beautiful girl. Merkey grabbed her and they kissed, while the bar-fighters looked on in stunned disgust. Before the crowd could recover from their shock, the two pushed through the bar’s swinging doors and went out into the night, Merkey singing a sailor shanty and the girl occasionally harmonizing with her strange, haunting voice.

When the bar-patrons recovered, they rushed out of the bar and up the wharf but the ant’s clipper ship was long gone and they never found either of them.

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