Henry woke up very early in the morning on the third Saturday in October, excited for what the day would bring. You see, every third Saturday in October, Henry’s mother would hand him a bucket and ask him to fill it to the brim with apples. Last year she even let him venture into the dark and thorny nearby forest to find the sweetest apples one could only find in the forest’s darkest depths. Some said they were magical, on account of the fact that they could grow without sunlight, but Henry’s mother was pragmatic and wouldn’t let him speak of such nonsense. Anyway, once he filled the bucket, she would take it from him and make her delicious apple crumble. It was Henry’s favorite treat of the whole year!
“Henry,” Henry’s mother called from the kitchen. “It’s time to pick those apples!” Henry jumped out of bed, ran down the hall, and practically dove into his boots. His mother handed him the bucket and gave him a kiss on his little pink nose. “Now, beware the dangers of the forest,” she warned him as he pranced out the door.
Henry hopped and jumped through the trees, enjoying the feel of the crisp autumn air. All of a sudden, his bootlaces became entangled in one another, and he tripped over a log! “Ouch,” he yelled aloud as his shinbone pierced through his legs…and ruined his brand new blue jeans. The blood spurted out of his shin as he cried for help. But he had galloped too far from his house for anyone to hear his cries, and was all alone, open to all of the dangers of the forest.
After a few moments of screaming, Henry realized that only he could save himself. He remembered his Boy Scout training and began to fashion a tourniquet from his untied and blood-soaked shoelaces. When he had finished tying the shoelaces around his protruding shinbone, wincing with the pain of a much older man, he noticed a pair of eyes staring at him from underneath a bush.
The bush rustled as the gigantic wolf pounced. “Please sir,” Henry yelled, “Please don’t eat me! For if you let me live, I promise to give you a bite of my mother’s famous apple crumble!” The wolf paused to think in mid-air, then fell to the ground like a sack of dead baby raccoons. Luckily, he was knocked out by the fall, so Henry was able to get away. And he didn’t have to promise him any of his favorite yearly treat.
“That was close,” Henry said to himself as he limped through the forest. “I’ll have to be more care-AHHH!” Henry had stepped directly onto an anthill of fire ants holding pickaxes, and they began to chop apart his prized boots.
“Hateeg a moolash Cornish game hen!” The ants screamed in their ant language. “Stop! Please stop!,” Henry yelled. “Never, for you have ruined our home, and we will build shelter from the remains of your boots!” the ants yelled back in English, as they were smart enough to realize that he did not speak their ant language. “Dear ants, if you let me keep my boots, I promise to give you a bite of my mother’s famous apple crumble!” Henry pleaded.
“We ants have been tricked before,” the ants said, “first you offer us blankets and then we are infected with small pox. Then you rape our women, and then we are infected with syphilis. To ensure that you will do as you say, we will send ten of our strongest ant warriors with you on your journey.” Henry nodded solemnly. He had learned of the great ant rapes of the 1600s, and could not fault a people for learning not to trust the Sneaky Tall Man. Henry reached his hand down and ten ants climbed on top of him, their wives crying from the ground floor. “I shall bring them back,” Henry told them. They only cried.
The ants pulled upon Henry’s hair, distracting him from the darkened road ahead. Henry clumsily stepped onto a swinging mossy door in the forest floor, where his feet were quickly cut with spikes. A trap! “You idiot,” yelled the ants, “we shall never get that sweet sweet apply crumble now!” Henry could not respond, as he quickly lost so much blood that he passed out.
When Henry awoke, he was lying strapped onto an operating table. A dozen or so mice with notebooks were standing around him, taking notes and mumbling to one another in the ancient Maus language, as a large lab rat stood in the center holding a piece of chalk against a tiny chalkboard. Henry screamed, “where am I?” and all the mice fell silent. “Why, you’re in my laboratory,” the rat said. “I’m just going to do some tests.”
“But I’m a healthy boy,” Henry screamed, “I don’t need any tests! Please let me go, and I promise to give you a bite of my mother’s famous apple crumble!”
“Apple crumble, you say,” the rat doctor murmured, as the mice began talking excitedly amongst themselves again. “Why, I do love a good apple crumble. Especially since I won’t have to dig this one out of the trash. Let me talk to my compatriots, and we will let you know what we decide.”
As the mice huddled together, wrapping their tails around one another in order to prevent Henry from eavesdropping. As they discussed his fate, Henry felt his stomach growling. ‘Jeez, how long have I been here,’ he wondered, ‘is mother worried?’ His stomach growled again, louder, so loud in fact that all the mice stopped talking to one another. Suddenly, one mouse in the center screamed “A CAAAAT!!!” and the mice began scrambling this way and that as they tried to escape, accidentally intertwining their tails tightly together until they became a full-fledged rat king!
“No!” The rat in the lab coat screamed as the mice began rolling around in their spherical formation, knocking over bottles of expensive chemicals and the ashes of previously experimented-upon children. “No! My laboratory!”
“Dr. Rat,” Henry yelled from his shackles, “if you let me go, not only will I give you a bite of my mother’s famous apple crumble, but I will slaughter these mice and provide you with new ones! For I have access to a pet store.”
“Never! Pet store mice are dicks,” the rat screeched. Suddenly, the ten fire ants in Henry’s hair sprung forth, slicing open the rat’s throat so streams of blood and sinews of muscle sprayed out, covering Henry’s face. “Attack!” the fire ants hollered, as they began slashing the ankles of the rat king mouse pile. The mice screamed and cursed their attackers and death rattled until no mouse was left. The ten ant warriors turned and faced Henry.
“Now you will pay for bringing us to this evil place, Tall Man,” they said through gritted mandibles. “No! For if you let me live, I will give you-“ started Henry, but the tallest of the ant warriors cut off his tongue before he could finish. “Ants don’t eat apple crumble! Our leader is a Wannabe Tall Man, and we warriors will put his head on a spike as soon as we return,” the tallest ant said in English.
Henry was very scared. He was in a hellscape of broken mouse corpses that resembled his sister’s used tampons, and the smell of excrement and blood filled the air. He would die here, he knew.
The ten ant warriors started slowly enough. They twisted his fingernails with their little ant teeth. They cut slits in his fingertips and crawled underneath, mapping his veins as possible blood roads for the ant city they were planning to build in his rotten carcass. They peeled back his eyelids and stuck tiny spears into his cornea, pulling out bits of his eye to nibble on. Henry could not scream or blink or look away from the tortures he was feeling. His shin throbbed. His eyes throbbed. His fingertips throbbed. And his brand new blue jeans were stained!
Henry died there, and when his cut up body was found, his mother was so horrified by his appearance that she was too embarrassed to hold a proper funeral for him. Instead, she mixed his entrails with brown sugar, and topped her famous apple crumble with him. The ants came to finish the feast.
Kristina Felske is the founder and chief editor of the Other Otter and a big, big fan of appetizers.