Friday, October 21, 2005

Chapter 6.

As the flowers talked about what was about to happen, Nime sat watching them. After her adventure up the tree, just sitting in the flower patch felt agreeable. From her perch she could look at Mr. Azure’s blue or Mrs. Scarlet’s red as the afternoon’s cool breeze wafted around and gently rocked her. It felt sinful to waste time like this, which made it feel even better to do exactly that. In general, bees do not have time to simply sit down, so Nime knew there was something wrong.

She was already in the air before she smelled it. When the scent hit her she knew she was right: something was wrong, the hive was in danger.

Bees give off smells to communicate with each other. These are useful in a hive, when one bee may need to communicate with many bees, and doesn’t have the energy to talk to each one.

Now Nime got the smell of Attack. Attack is the pheromone that a bee dying in combat releases. The pheromone hit Nime at the tips of her antennae and traveled deep. It was the smell of horror, anger, and danger. She had only smelled it once before, when one of the workers died in a bird attack, and now the smell was so strong that the world seemed brighter and slower.

She flew to the hive, under the lee of a fallen tree. The tree had a hollow, so that when it fell, many seasons ago, it created a space. It was in this space that the queen founded the hive. It was a small hive, with large riches stored away: pollen, honey, and wax stores.

She saw the bodies of the hive workers and soldiers right away. She noted each had an identical wound: a puncture to their thorax.

There was no mystery. She heard the angry buzz of the wasps before she saw any. The buzz of bees is a perfect high C note. The buzz of a wasp was a low and broken G flat.

When Nime heard that she dropped out of the sky and crawled along the dirt like a common ant. She came to the area where the buzzing came from. It was the entrance to the hive.

They were yellow jackets. Five yellow jackets. Bees have a very keenly developed sense of numbers up to 6, the number of sides in a honeycomb and the number of their legs.

The five wasps were arguing as they ate honey and wax out of a pile they had dragged from the hive. Nime could smell the sweetness and the refined age of the honey. She crept forward to the area between the tree and the ground. She could hear them and could even see them through the grass.

Compared to her they were huge. They were at least 3 times as big in terms of weight, but their long legs made them seem much bigger. Nime would have barely come up to the first joint on the wasp’s forelegs. Their huge long heads sat on a slender thorax, separated from the abdomen by an improbably thin waist. Each section was heavily segmented in chitin. Despite the thickness of the armor, they moved with frightening speed and strength as they ate and argued. Their coloration, a shockingly bright yellow, flaunted their strength as predators.

The two wasps closest to Nime spoke to each other and ignored the other three. The honey gummed their mouths. “Boy, I’m stuffed. I love this stuff. Food of the gods. And it’s all ours.”

“Yeah, I’m stuffed too. But I can’t stop eating it. It’s so good.”

The wasps stopped as they heard the conversation around them take on a menacing tone. The biggest wasp was saying, “Look, it’s simple, I killed the most bees. I took the front entrance and killed them all as they came out. Look at them all.” The yellow jacket waved his long front legs out to the dead bodies scattered about. “I killed the most, I get the most to eat.”

The smallest wasp, named Simon, pointed to the big wasp and said, “Listen, Matthew, there’s food for us all here. We can stay out the season here eating this honey and wax. There’s more than enough for all of us here.” Peacemakers are not leaders among wasps. Even he seemed to realize this as he spoke. The other wasps ignored him.

Another said, “This’s nonsense Matt. You killed some bees? Who cares, they’re easy to kill. Just stick them with your stinger. They can’t even sting us through our armor.”

“They got Jack.” Matthew pointed his long first leg at a single dead yellow jacket surrounded by a pile of dead bees.

Simon the peacemaker said, “One got her stinger between his chitin. I saw it.”

“Poor Jack. Killed by bees.”

“Shameful.” They all murmured their assent at that. “Pathetic.”

Nime could smell them. The smell of wasp, venom, death, and Attack was in the air. She could even smell the bee venom that had killed Jack. The smell of attack was old. Nothing compelled her to waste her life trying to kill five yellow jackets. She wondered if many bees were able to get away.

“Look. I was saying that I should get more. I killed the most bees.” The others took affront at the big wasp, but they all were also relieved that they weren’t talking about Jack anymore.

The one arguing with Matthew said, “Well, it was my plan. Who discovered the hive?”

“Right Henry. So that’s why Jack died.” Matthew faced Henry fully, balancing lightly on his front legs, and looked for a moment like he was going to leap out.

Henry turned to face Matthew fully. “No Matthew, Jack died because he was a stupid wasp. Are you a stupid wasp?” Matthew had already backed down, resting on his hind legs. Henry repeated the question, “Are you a stupid wasp, Matthew?”

This question was asked in such a way that everyone was silent. It was obvious to Nime that Henry was the leader. Despite being smaller than Matthew, he was more capable, dangerous.

Matthew looked down, suddenly coy. “I’m smarter than these bees.” At this, the other four laughed. The smaller one clapped the joker Matthew on the back, happy that a fight hadn’t broken out.

Simon the small said, “You can kill them all, but I killed the queen.”

“You did not. That was just some fat drone who can’t even sting.” Everyone laughed again. “The queen bee is longer.”

Nime’s heart jumped. The queen was alive? She moved slightly. She didn’t hear her own movement, but she must have vibrated the air because each yellow capped head turned as one to look at her position.

The first few flaps of her wings were so powerful they carried her straight up in the air. She realized she was flying away from the wasps as she heard them behind her, their great loud G-flat roar seemed like it was inches behind her.

She angled sharply down into the long grass that surrounded the hive and risked a glace behind her. The two wasps who were eating honey collided and their wings entangled. They fell into the grass, and took to fighting each other. Two more wasps were behind her, and she couldn’t see the last, Matthew.

Before he hit her, she felt the air move ahead of him and she dodged to the left as sharply as she could. It worked, and instead of intercepting her, the wasp flew right into a blade of grass fell speed. He hit with a satisfying crack of chitin and crashed down into the soil.

Nime only had time to hope it hurt.

Nime buzzed between the grass. She dodged to the left, then to the left again, finding narrow spots easily. The wasps had longer wing spans, and Nime could see where they would have trouble getting through the spaces in the grass. She thought that if she kept low, then the wasps would not be able to get her. She thought they were slow from feeding, weighed down by honey and wax. Nime thought this with a sense of amazement. When the chase began, she had assumed she was going to die. Just the thought that she might have the advantage put strength into her wings. She flew as hard as she could until the wasp’s low buzz grew faint. Then she quickly dove into the dirt and hid in a ball of dry grass.

Of the two remaining wasps, Henry and Simon, Henry was still angry from the fight that had almost occurred and Simon knew it, so they both flew fast and hard through the grass. At some points they had to roll almost sideways to avoid narrow spaces.

Both wasps realized they would never catch Nime within a few moments. But out of annoyance and stubbornness, they kept up the pretense of the chase, neither one of them wanted to be the first to give up. Eventually Simon yelled to Henry, “Let her go. Who cares? One bee. One thousand bees. It’s no difference.”

Henry simply beat his wings harder against the air, rising above the level of the grass. Simon joined him as they stared over the grass, looking for a blade that did not move with the light breeze.

“One bee. You’re right, of course, Simon. Thanks for that. Let’s go. And thank you for trying to settle Matthew down. He and Gary are up to something. If you...”

Nime, hiding directly below them, heard them buzz away and lost their voices.

She was alone. For the first time in her life, she was alone.


Blogger acumamakiki said...

Oh my!

4:01 PM  
Blogger Doc NOS said...

Too much? Too violent?

4:01 PM  
Blogger Ilanna said...

I think it's good. It's not too violent. Children tend to learn about death and grief at a young age and it's not such a bad thing to learn it, and then learn that things can and will get better from that point on. Good to learn that there are dangers in this world to watch for. I'm of the firm belief that stories should NOT be sanitized for children (within reason of course [grin]) It's good that there's some drama and intensity. just my humble opinion. Keep writing i'd like to see what it goes from here. :)

5:56 AM  
Blogger Doc NOS said...

The movie version'll have to change the orgy scene at the end. Kidding.

I'll post another chapter up soon.

9:38 AM  
Blogger laurenbove said...

disney's pretty violent. Harry potter's pretty why not a violent violet?

10:00 AM  
Blogger acumamakiki said...

No not too violent, Lauren is right there is nothing more violent than Disney. My girl thinks that hunters kill any of the animals we see on the side of the KNOW where she got that.
I really like the drama and also the build-up of this story....need to read Chp. 7 now.

1:22 PM  

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