Renée crosses her arms over her chest. “I’m going to need a few more details than that, Wiki. What about the ants?”
“The fungus – called ophiocordyceps unilateralis – infects the ant’s central nervous system.” I swallow, as they all nod. “Um, see, originally scientists thought the fungus took over the ant’s brain, so it didn’t know what it was doing anymore. But now they’ve discovered the infected ant knows exactly what’s happening but can’t stop it.”
“Stop what?” Baka says. “You’re not making sense.”
“Give the girl space,” Renée says. “She’s thinking, and telling us about real zombies, so shut up.”
Clinton shifts closer to me, giving me a soft smile. It’s nice. Like he is supporting me, without telling me what to say or do.
“The fungus takes over the ant’s movements, through its nervous system. So it controls the ant’s entire body and the ant can’t do anything to get control of their body back.”
“That’s not zombies, that’s a body snatcher,” Enrico says, looking horrified.
“Where does this happen?” Nomhle says. “Here? Tell me isn’t here?”
“That is tricky. Most of the information says, ‘tropical locations’ and Africa does have tropical locations. But most of the footage I’ve seen is filmed in South America, in places such as Brazil.”
“So not Africa?” Nomhle says.
“Not that I’m aware of,” I say. “But Africa does have tropical locations. I simply haven’t heard of a case outside of South America.”
“I’ll take it,” Nomhle says. “From you, Wiki, that’s good enough.”
“And they held the Olympics in Brazil,” Enrico whispers.
Clinton laughs. “Yeah, all those people freaking out when we held the World Cup for soccer, saying they’ll be murdered or get ebola. Yet they had no problem holding the big games over there with that zika virus and zombie ants.”
“Africa needs better PR,” Renée says, sounding wise and confident. “The Western world has the wrong idea about us. Someday, I’m going to do something about it.”
Everyone murmurs in agreement. Of course they do, even though she hasn’t backed up her assertion with any facts. Even so, I could see her having a career in marketing and public relations. She’s got that poise, confidence. Charisma, they call it. She could be reciting multiplication tables and people would be listening and nobody would think she was weird.
“Zombie ants,” Enrico murmurs.
Clinton chuckles. “My man, you got to get over it. The conversation has moved on.”
Enrico looks Clinton right in the eye. “I’m telling you, if I lived in a place where some fungus could take over my body, I’d be shitting bricks.”
Baka snorts. “Now Wiki here is going to tell us if you really can shit bricks.”
I clamp my lips down, tight.
“Oh there she goes,” Renée laughs. “You know when she does that, she’s got something to say.”
I look at Clinton, uncertain.
“Only if you want to. Say the word, and I’ll make them back off.”
But before I can tell him to help me out, other words are falling out of my mouth. I just can’t stop myself. “Wombat poo is square shaped. Which isn’t the same as bricks, which are typically rectangular, but squares do have right angles and–”
Everyone breaks into laughter. Even Clinton, who is trying to hide it.
“I’m so embarrassed,” I whisper.
Clinton stops laughing and looks me in the eye. “Don’t be. You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met. Don’t stop being you.”
I don’t know what to say to that statement, so I return to my lunch of rice and broccoli. Maybe my father has a point; it is pretty tasteless.
Tell us: Do you think Renée is right. Does Africa need better PR to help its global image?