by Lauryn E. Nosek
They’re everywhere. I have welts all over my body. I’m surprised I’m not dead. My cousin fell but he had too many stings and it overwhelmed the epinephrine we were able to give him, so he was lost to anaphylaxis. We’re all huddled inside the house suffering from a different kind of shock.
“Who do we call? Animal control? The paramedics? Someone’s gotta come for Joe’s body. And who’s going to take care of those bees?” Eliza looks out the window, holding the curtain gingerly aside, waiting for them to come at us again but confident we’re safe.
I sit down in a comfy chair and realize I’ve been stung a few times on my rear. Wincing, I decide standing is more comfortable.
“Where did they come from?” my aunt asks, never losing the look of pure shock. She still doesn’t know what hit her. Welts dot her face like chicken pox, but these don’t itch. I doubt she’s feeling the pain she should and resent her a little for her numbness. Okay, I don’t envy the fact that her son is dead in the garden being swarmed by bees, but my whole body aches from the stings. I lean gently against the wall by the window keeping my eyes open and picking out the stingers that remain stuck in my skin.
“I think they came from the ground. The base of the tree there,” my dad points to the crooked tulip tree that had been struck by lightning during a huge storm years before. We’d made dinner on the grill and decided to eat at the picnic table on the far side of the tree because the weather was so pleasant. We saw a bee on the classic red checked tablecloth. Joe had pulled his epi-pen from his pocket just to be on the safe side, but Dad had waved him aside and swatted at the unwelcome insect with the spatula he’d used on the hamburgers. That started it. They just appeared out of nowhere.
Joe went down quickly and Dawn, my aunt, was quick with the epi-pen but there were just too many of them. He told us to leave him behind. Eliza had to pull Dawn off of him and drag her into the house.
“What made them attack like that?” Tim, my father’s brother and Joe’s father, asked. He was poking at the welts and wincing.
I shook my head in confusion while those around me did the same. Suddenly Tim hit my dad upside the head. “What the hell was that for?” Dad asked rubbing the area.
“It was probably you with the spatula. It made them swarm.” Tim went on berating him, the rest of us standing around trying to think of something we could do.
I looked out to where Joe was lying on the ground. Dawn had dragged him about halfway to the house before she’d lost her grip. There were bees all over him, crawling into his ears and mouth. There was something oozing out of his nose. I gasped and everyone looked at me and followed my line of vision, shuffling towards the window.
“Out of his…”
Then a bee landed on the window. We all jumped back, startled. Eliza pulled the shades closed. It didn’t keep us from hearing the next bee land on the glass, or the one after that. Tim went and put on the TV, turning the volume up on the news, looking for information but really just trying to drown out the buzzing. We sat down to watch because it was all we could think to do. Watch and wait for something else to happen.
We didn’t have to wait long. The buzzing which had been concentrated around the window soon spread to another window. Eliza reached over her shoulder to draw the shade on that one too and before they alighted upon it. I turned on a light so we weren’t sitting in the dark. The news ended without saying anything and a game show started. It was one of those shows where you’re supposed to play along at home but no one listened to the host so the contestants had to rely on the studio audience.
Soon the buzzing was in the ceiling above us. Each of our eyes would occasionally track to the ceiling before darting down to the floor in denial. Someone was about to spin a wheel for a ridiculous amount of money when the TV cut out. The lights flickered before following suit. Indecision had us paralyzed until something fell from the ceiling. It landed on my dad’s head. He reached up and touched it with hesitation. When he sniffed then licked the viscous substance he jumped out of his chair and called for everyone to follow him to the basement.
Some honey fell on me next and I managed to beat him down the unreliable steps. When the others figured out what was happening they were right behind me with the door barricaded as if it would help. I found the stairs to the bulkhead leading out of the basement and listened for the buzzing. But the buzzing was only from above us in the main part of the house.
I motioned towards the others that this way seemed clear.
“Are you sure it’s safe?” Eliza hissed.
“What else are we supposed to do? Wait around for them to turn the whole house into a hive with us in it? Honey seeping out of the boards? We’ve got to make a run for it.”
“But where are we supposed to go?” Dawn was close to tears as she asked.
Silence, except of course for the buzz of the bees overhead. Honey began to seep through the cracks between the boards overhead. Dad came up to help me open the bulkhead. “I say we make for water,” he said desperately as he began to use his shoulder to help the jammed doors open.
“And be stung every time we come up to breathe? How about the cave on the other side of the lake?” Tim suggested.
“Lake? What lake?”
“The one at the bottom of the hill behind the walled garden,” Eliza addressed me as if I were stupid.
“Oh right,” I say nodding. “The cave by that lake.” I put all my weight into forcing the doors open. Maybe it’s the pain that’s got them talking crazy but I just know we have to get out of the house. I don’t know why I know this but it’s the only thing that I’m sure of.
“It’s not going to give,” I say with frustration after a few more minutes of the two of us trying. “It’s going to take all of us. We’ve got to put all of our weight behind it.”
It took a few tries but with the bees buzzing down our necks we managed to accomplish absolutely nothing. The padlock holding the doors closed together held.
“Does anyone know where the key is?” I asked, fingering the lock.
“I’ve got a key,” Tim offers and hands me a ring of keys a janitor would be proud of mumbling, “Maybe it’s on here somewhere.”
Anyone looking at the size of the keys could tell that not one of them was going to fit. I threw the ring aside and started looking through the tools on the workbench at the other end of the basement. I grabbed a saw and some bolt cutters. They were taking turns trying each of the oversized keys. I pushed my way through and tried the saw first. Sparks flew as metal attempted to cut metal but not much else. Finally, I tried the bolt cutters. After the first two tries it broke on the third and the lock fell to the floor. The doors opened with minimum force. I pushed my way through into darkness.
I blinked several times before my eyes became accustomed to the low light. I couldn’t see the bees but I could hear them. Or it. All I could hear was one. And I couldn’t hear the others behind me. There was something moving in front of my face. It was moving but not going anywhere so I reached out to touch it and discovered I was touching the feathers from my dream catcher. The bee that was hovering around it settled down on it briefly before going to the other side and resting on it again.
I reached down beside my bed and grabbed a shoe. Fiddling with the feathers I annoyed the bee into abandoning his post for the wall behind my head. The sole met the wall and the buzzing stopped.
I rolled over, dropped the shoe, and closed my eyes again.
And the whining of a mosquito began, inches from my ear.