We knew the bees were dying.
Scientists first reported it in the mid… whatever it is that people decided to call that decade between the 90s and the teens. Every year there were fewer and fewer bees, whole colonies just biting the dust, and nobody could figure out why.
Oh, we theorized, certainly. Someone came up with a really fantastic theory called Spontaneous Colony Collapse that made it seem as if these abrupt, catastrophic disappearances of entire hives, entire colonies were something that just sort of whoops! happened and there wasn’t that much we could do about it. That theory kind of slid out into the common consciousness, and we stopped worrying about it, because we had to worry about not losing our houses and what was that crazy Snooki girl going to get up to this week.
So we stopped paying attention to the bees, we stopped worrying about where they might be going, and hey wasn’t it nice that it seemed like maybe we weren’t getting stung as much in the spring and summer because there weren’t so damn many of them any more?
It was a little more than ten years later when the bees actually made it onto the endangered species list. I remember reading about it, and being disturbed and sort of horrified – I mean, BEES, you know? They’re just one of those critters that are always everywhere, like ants. Yet right after I read it, I didn’t really think about it.
Till I went to the park. I do that sometimes, just to get out somewhere that’s sort of nature and sort of a museum and there’s people and squirrels and flowers. It’s a whole bunch of niceness all together, and in this one park that I really like I’ve found this spot where there is an old stone bench around behind a wall, and it’s almost surrounded by flowers. Nobody really sits in it, because it’s in the shade a lot of the day and the stone is always cold, but it feels good to me, especially after all the walking. I can still hear people playing, but I get that little haven all to myself.
I was sitting there when I saw, so soon after reading that article, a bee. I didn’t quite notice it, because like I said. Bees are everywhere – except that now they’re not. When it clicked over in my head what I was looking at, I sat up, and went fumbling in my pocket for my mobile to take a picture of it. I was able to get the camera up, and zoomed in on the buzzing wings I could see as it hovered over the daylilies. That was when I realized there wasn’t just one, there were TWO! One was darting around after the other, and I know well and good that bees don’t pair off and mate or anything like that, but if there were two, maybe there were more. Maybe there was a colony in the park!
I followed them with my camera, which was a little awkward on zoom, until abruptly one overtook the other and they stopped dead in the air, hovering. I focused, and nearly dropped the phone.
One of them was a bee. One was not.
The bee was hanging nearly upside down in the air, kicking and twitching while it was held by one back leg in the hand of what looked like nothing so much as a tiny human skeleton with bee wings. And I don’t mean tiny like the size of a baby, I mean the thing was probably no longer than my pinky, dark and undeniably made of slender bones. In its other hand it held what looked like a bird or chipmunk’s legion, snapped in half. It poised above the thing’s head like a hammer, and then crashed down against the bee, dashing open its small dark head and spattering some fluid upon the lily below them. I couldn’t stop watching as the skeletal fairy-like creature landed them heavily upon the flower, tossing the bone aside. I couldn’t hear anything but the buzzing of its wings, though watching its jaw work rapidly I fancied I could hear a chitter as it rubbed one hand up and one hand down the body of the fallen bee.
Then it plunged its face down toward the dead insect, biting hard and wrenching a huge chunk out of the fuzzy black and yellow hide. It chewed and chewed and then bent to do it again, decimating the bee’s form in slow, methodical, utterly ferocious chunks. Soon there was nothing left but the legs, which got shoved haphazardly down into the bell of the flower, which was smeared with the same dark juice of which there had been a spatter from the death blow.
Apparently sated, the skeletal… fairy isn’t the right word for it, but good goddamn if that isn’t exactly what it looked like! It jumped aloft, wings beating their quiet, steady thrum, and it circled the lilies once before flying away, in search of I presume some new prey.
How in the hell was I going to report this? Worse yet – when those things ran out of bees, what would they turn to for food next?
This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture by estherase on Flickr, under Creative Commons license.
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