The Fate of the Heche

Little is known about the indigenous Heche people of Northeastern Mexico. They were sedentary, built earth homes and lived simply in their harsh desert climate. They would be almost unremarkable from a historical standpoint if not for their close association with another “tribe.”

The Pueblo ant is not really a separate species unto itself, though some “splitter” etymologists have given them their own subcategory, it is really a member of Aphaenogaster bidentatus. As a species it operates typically of social insects in desert climes. They build thick-walled earth mounds that protect their nurseries and food storages from the desert heat. They are mostly nocturnal foragers, though some colonies have been observed collecting pre-dawn dew. One intriguing aspect of the Pueblo ant is its habit of building its home in other species’ preexisting den.  Their original common name came from a Solano word meaning “usurper.”

The ants were first noticed on an archeological expedition to the Tamaulipan mezquital, mounted in an attempt to uncover the remains of the Heche people’s village. In a territory where they had little to no natural predators, the ants had flourished to an alarming degree. One member reported mounds upwards of six feet tall, remarkable only if we fail to take into account that termite mounds can reach thirty feet in height and extend even further underground.

During “down time” the junior archeologists would hack into mounds in order to watch the ants race to rebuild their city walls. The ants showed no undue aggression, in fact the archeologists noted that the ants had no sting or bite to defend themselves; the only thing they appeared to have on their side was persistence. Alan Bradshaw, foreman of the dig, noted that late one morning another member had taken a trawl to the side of a mound. By mid-afternoon swarms of hundreds of ants had sewed the wound neatly closed. One mound, upon exhumation, was discovered to contain the skeleton of a tree.

All this was merely a diversion by frustrated and bored grad students; the dig was going nowhere. They dug dirt and sifted sand but only turned up fragments of the native’s day to day lives. It was nearly the middle of June, daytime temperature averaged at 114° and they were running low on funds. While Bradshaw and the senior members of the dig congregated to decide the project’s future, the younger archaeologists decided to visit their hexapodal neighbors one last time.

The Heche were said to have a peak population in the low hundreds, had a rich craft and farm tradition, and engaged in trade with their neighboring tribes right up until their sudden disappearance. The question of their downfall rings unanswered still, though theories have been put forth: sudden plagues, invasion by marauding tribes, even natural catastrophe. Proving them one way or another is frustrated by the native’s lack of written language, though information still survives. The neighboring Solano people tell of a Heche man arriving exhausted after many day’s travel, emaciated and weak, too tired to even say his own name. He died of dehydration the next day. This event has been estimated as taking place around the time the Heche people disappeared from the cultural map, but brings us no closer to the truth of the matter.

Whatever the cause of their eventual demise, their fate became clear when the junior archeologists cut into a Pueblo ant mound and found not only the wattle-and-daub walls of a hut, but the remains of five mummified Heche.

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