It Came From The Desert – Anthill Dawn

Retro Resolution Gaming Essay
 

Guest essay courtesy of SweetMrGibs

It Came From The Desert - Title Screen
It Came From The Desert – Title Screen

Interview with Dr Greg Bradley, 21:16 November 3rd, 2015, Lizards Breath Sanatorium, Nevada.

Interviewee is clearly insane, with unkempt white hair, staring eyes and a slither of drool hanging tenuously from the corner of his mouth. He seems calm at present but constantly fidgets. He seems to be holding something small and red in his hands. He won’t tell me what it is, but the nurses say he’s not a threat. Unfortunately he’ll only be coherent for an hour or so, so I’m getting started. . .

Hello my boy. It’s been a while since they’ve let me talk to anyone. You must be very special. Are you? Or are you sneaky? Are you after the gift I have in my hand? You can’t have it, I’m afraid. But I will show it to you, once you’ve listened to my tale. . .

It Came From The Desert - Ant Attack!
It Came From The Desert – Ant Attack!

Back in ‘51 I was a promising young geologist. I’d already seen several of my papers published and had begun lecturing at Oxford University. The world was my fossilised oyster and I was prying it open with my rock hammer. But it all changed that summer when my superiors sent me to the US. You see, there’d been a recent meteor crash near a town called Lizards Breath – how quaint a name I’d thought at the time – and they wanted me to study it. Alas, the things I witnessed there can never be unseen, and I fear that only by recounting my tale will I ever rid myself of the demons ANTS! that ravage my mind. For far too long the secret of that dusty town have been hidden in the back of my mind, and the cost has been the erosion of my sanity. Yes, dear boy, I realise that I’m quite mad, but these pills. . . they keep the voices at bay, at least for a while. Don’t they, voices? Yes.

Things started badly for me, even before I reached my destination. I ran into the local gang of greasers on the outskirts of town. They tried to run me off the road with their automobile! Ha! They didn’t realise they were dealing with someone with metaphorical and literal stones; a geologist! Having said that, I sometimes wish they’d succeeded, or at least given me pause enough to forego my mission and return home. Alas I was a hardy young fellow back then and, despite the poor welcome, I wasn’t about to run away at the first sight of trouble.

It Came From The Desert - Highway Encounter
It Came From The Desert - Greasers with Switchblades

Upon arrival I decided to head out to the location of the crash site. I unpacked my gear and began taking readings for background radiation. My god, they were off the scale! I decided that it was best to leave the area immediately – or ‘high tail it’ as the Americans would say, as I’d read that radiation could be potentially dangerous. Like eating too many of those ‘burgers’ the Yanks are so fond of. Then I heard it – a high pitched drone. Like this “SCREEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEE EEEEEE”. I covered my ears to try and dampen the effect, and then. . . and then I saw it. . . an ant the size of an elephant, an ELEPH-ANT! The scientific part of my mind immediately began to theorise about how such a creature could exist, whilst my bowels begged me to run. Unfortunately I could do neither and perhaps it was there, at my first meeting with the ants – GI-ANTS! – that my mind began to break. I’m not entirely sure what happened next; I believe I may have collapsed due to the noise, or perhaps I fainted due to fright.

When I woke up, I was in a hospital. Well, I say ‘woke up’, I was actually having an out of body experience! Can you believe it dear boy? After all that happened to me already? But, yes, there I was, looking down upon myself from a height of around fifty feet. And this is perhaps the most peculiar thing of all. . . despite not being in my body, I was able to command it. I knew I had to escape, so I climbed out of my bed and began crawling towards the door. Suddenly I heard the voice of a doctor outside my room, so I quickly hid underneath a desk. He entered my room but didn’t see me. Once he’d left I made for the exit, using beds and cupboards to avoid the attention of the hospital staff. It was like a game of hide-and-seek, with my freedom as the prize!

It Came From The Desert - Doctor
It Came From The Desert - Nurse

Within a few minutes, I’d made my escape! But what was I to do? I needed a plan! How best to warn the citizens of Lizards Breath of the impending danger? That’s it, I thought! The local radio station! I drove there immediately and spoke with the resident DJ, Dr Rox. I waited patiently whilst Dr Rox played the latest tune by Don Cherry, ‘Vanity’. . . ANT-ITY! Then, during an ad break, I seized my opportunity and strode into his studio, full of determination and purpose. The town, nay – the world must know! Dr Rox, I exclaimed, I need you to warn the good citizens of Lizards Breath of the giant ants that stalk the hills! Unfortunately, he thought me to be completely insane, so we jived to a few discs then I left.

Once outside I gathered all of my geology supplies – my compass, map, rock hammer, gun, flame thrower and grenades and headed back to the location where I’d encountered the giant beast. Intuition told me that if I shot off both of its antenna – ANT-ENNA! – that I may be able to disable or even destroy the beast. And such it proved to be. Unfortunately I’d neglected to call in the National Guard and found myself surrounded, and outnumbered, by more of his fellow ants. A nest! Yes! My lord, I was standing atop a nest of giant ants! What happened next? Well, let me tell you a story. . .

It Came From The Desert - In the shadow of the Ant
It Came From The Desert – In the shadow of the Ant

The larvae of the Large Blue butterfly mimic the sound and smell of young ants. When an adult ant comes across them, they gather them gently in their pincers and take them to a chamber deep within the nest. Once there, the caterpillars turn and feast upon their hosts. That’s right! They eat the ants! Once they’re big enough they pupate and fly to freedom! And so it was that I formulated my own plan. Remember, I had already heard the sound they make during my first encounter. Thus I curled myself into the ball and began making that horrendous noise. It worked! I was taken to the central womb of the ants; a giant chamber more than a hundred feet tall! Once the ants left me I went to work on the eggs, using my geology flamethrower to burn the larvae contained therein. A screeching noise stole my attention, and, as I peered through the smoke towards its location – I saw the thing that finally broke my mind, the queen ant! It hissed a warning at me, sharp teeth jutting menacingly from its dripping jaw, tiny arms flailing in dismay. “Stay away from me, you bitch!” I shouted. But it was no use; I’d baked a dozen of her off-spring and the queen was intent on exacting revenge, so I did what any person would do – I ran to the nearest elevator, called in my dropship and escaped to the spacecraft waiting in orbit at which point I nuked the nest.

It Came From The Desert - The End?
It Came From The Desert – The End?

And that, my boy, is my story. I don’t know what created the giant ants, or indeed what happened to the townsfolk of Lizards Breath, but I put a stop to the creatures. Now… would you like me to show you what I’ve been holding now like I promised? Do you feel prepared? Behold! A strawberry! Yes! Do you like it?. . Do you want it?. . Where did it come from you ask? Why. . .

. . .IT CAME FROM THE DESSERT!

Video (Commodore Amiga version) - Mikael Matikainen

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