Monday, November 07, 2005

Chapter 18

Simon got sick first. Then he died. He’d been over at the hive where he stopped moving for a moment and cocked his head to one side, as if suddenly curious. The other wasps ignored him until he became twittery, flapping his wings weakly, and then died.

While Henry was puzzling over that, the other two became twittery, their movements came to them in brief twitches that caused them to move uselessly in circles. Then they died.

Henry was still alive. He confirmed this for a moment. And after several more moments confirmed that he was not about to die. He monitored himself for the twitches. They did not come. He was not going to die.

From her hiding spot, Nime saw the particularly fearsome wasp with the particularly black head and yellow face hadn’t had breakfast. She prepared herself.

It didn’t take Henry long to figure out there was a new smell on top of the glazed honey. It was sweet and the honey’s sweetness masked its scent. Henry thought the honey would do the same to the poison’s flavor. He knew the food had been tainted. Yet he survived! He could not quite believe this fortune, even as he looked about.

What would he do now? It seemed reasonable that deeper into the hive lay pure honey, so he went about excavating for more.

That’s when the bee attacked him.

Bees are fearsome creatures. Nime had her barbed stinger and he mandibles at the ready. But even as she attacked Henry from behind, she knew the fight was over. Wasps are simply more fearsome than bees.

Nime died quickly, trundled up in Henry’s long legs, while his stinger quickly entered her thorax in a single movement. The feeling of attack was so strong in her that she did not feel a thing.

Henry hadn’t noticed that her movements had seemed twitchy, nor did he note the subtle oiliness to her hind legs, nor the sweetness of her last breaths. By then Henry was hungry and the bee’s body was available without further digging in the hive.

The twitching came on slowly. Henry’s dose was smaller than the other’s. After that there was nothing to do but wait.