There is a group of three ant
s huddled together on the edge of a vast field
. The edge separates the field on the east
side from a forest
on the west
. Far to the east the field rises into a range of mountains
. Spread out between the forest and the mountains are nine humanoid
s, facing west with frozen grins. The single leg of each humanoid tapers down to end in a hard smooth surface like a hammer’s head. The humanoids glide sideways two feet above the ground, in straight, parallel paths across the width of the field from the ocean in the north
to the cyanide
desert in the south
and back. They do not move as a group, but accelerate and decelerate unpredictably. On the ground by the path of the first humanoid is a smear
which may once have been an ant. Cries of distress
float on the wind.
Late in the evening a new ant emerges from the forest at a point a little north of the group. He looks like a college professor. His name is Thaddeus, but he is popularly known as Smartbug--a superhero of sorts. He hears one of the lamentations and goes off towards its source. The other ants upon seeing him run up to him and start frantically blubbering out their sorrows.
“THE CRUEL MIZZWRETYPTCHU, THEY WILL NOT LET US PASS! BEAUTIFUL FEMALES AWAIT PAST THE MOUNTAINS, WE WERE TOLD THIS BY THE MAN IN THE HUT IN THE FOREST, BUT WHEN YOU TRY TO PASS, THE MIZZWRETYPTCHU SAY, ‘YOU ARE A FROWNY. YOU MAY NOT PASS,’ AND THEN THEY STOMP THE SHIT OUT OF YOU, IT HAPPENED TO BILL!” and they point to the smear.
“Hmm, okay. Let me think about it." He spends a minute pacing and silently talking to himself and making gestures in the air. (The problem, in case you’re not an entomologist, is that the ant jaw is stubbornly fixed in the shape of y = -x2, making all ants irredeemably “frowny.”) “Okay, here's the answer. Here, let me draw a picture." He grabs a stick and starts scratching a diagram in the dirt. "Okay, you've got the forest here, and the mountains here, and in between it's the Mizzwretyptchu, moving along parallel lines. Now, the Mizzwretyptchu never turn their eyes from due west. That means they only see the eastern face of any object.” He draws a circle to the left of the Mizzwretyptchu, draws a line down its center, highlights the circle’s right half, and draws a dashed line from the nearest Mizzwretyptchu to the circle indicating its line of vision. “Now, when I face east, my eastern face is a frowny, although my western face is a smiley.” He turns to face east, and sticks out his ass behind him. Ant asses very much resemble ant heads, except that ant buttcracks look like the graph of y = +x2. “But, if I turn to face west, my western face becomes a frowny, while my eastern face is a smiley!” Here he turns around to point his smiley ass eastwards towards the Mizzwretyptchu. “So the answer is to face west as you approach the Mizzwretyptchu; in other words, you walk backwards.”
As soon as the others have finished praising his uncanny problem-solving skills, he proceeds to put his plan into action, and sets out backwards across the field. As he jogs along he speculates on the anatomy of the females across the mountains, and on whether Holcroft’s or Mitchell’s theory on Aesthetics Of The Female will prove correct. He has never seen a female, nor have any of the others; they are mythical. At the end of an hour he arrives at the line where the first Mizzwretyptchi patrols. Instantly the Mizzwretyptchi zips down from where it had been cruising in the far north. It stops in front of Thaddeus and shoots beams of bright blue light out of its eyes. Thaddeus finds he cannot move.
“ARE YOU A SMILEY OR A FROWNY? SHOW YOUR FACE!” An invisible force pulls up Thaddeus’s ass to face the Mizzwretyptchi’s eyes. “YOU ARE A SMILEY. YOU MAY PASS.” The blue light fades and the Mizzwretyptchi glides away to the south.
Thaddeus jogs on through the night, passing a Mizzwretyptchi every hour. By the time the last Mizzwretyptchi is passed it is nearly dawn. Thaddeus has finally settled on four and eleven as the number of heads and antennae on a female, and has formulated his own ingenious compromise between the competing Holcroft and Mitchell systems. He quickly skips up the side of the mountain range to its apex and looks down through his hind legs to survey the lands beyond.
The mountains fall to a field which stretches out to meet a forest in the far distance. Between the forest and the mountains nine Mizzwretyptchu float with their backs towards him. Beyond them, right at the edge of the forest, Thaddeus spots several tiny figures, silhouetted against the brilliant dawn. With his keen ant eyes, Thaddeus can just make out the females’ features.
“Ho-ly shit!” he mutters softly. “Holcroft and Mitchell don’t know what the hell they’re talking about… What are those thingies?!”
Without stopping to turn himself around, Thaddeus leaps down the side of the mountain towards the females. As soon as he leaves the base of the mountain range he suddenly finds himself paralyzed in the middle of a pool of blue light. “ARE YOU A SMILEY OR A FROWNY? SHOW YOUR FACE!” The Mizzwretyptchi scans the face of Thaddeus which faces it. Since the Mizzwretyptchi faces east, this is Thaddeus’s western face.
“YOU ARE A FROWNY. YOU MAY NOT PASS.” With five swift strokes the Mizzwretyptchi drives Thaddeus into the ground.