Dreaming of Honey
Megan flipped through glossy gossip magazine pages as the TV buzzed inanities behind her. She really should have unsubscribed from the auto-renewal, but she somehow convinced herself that money wasn’t that tight. Nevermind that she was still underwater on the mortgage, nevermind that she didn’t have didn’t have an entertainment budget to speak of, nevermind that she didn’t know how she was going to pay the credit card minimums next months: by god she could afford fucking a magazine… even if it meant that her account was going to get one of those overdraft fees.
If only she hadn’t let the agent talk her into buying the condo… but after everything she’d be damned if she was going to lose it. Keeping the Condo, and her dog, were just about all she cared about anymore.
Cobo–her great, dumb, ten year old mound of a Golden Labrador–rolled his shoulders. A shivering wave of fur passed over his body. The dog opened his mouth and green liquid roiled onto the much abused condo carpet. Megan stared at the scene; startled, concerned about her dog… but more curious than anything. When he finished, she knelt to pet him. “You ok Boy?”she asked, concern in her voice. Megan had to jerk back to keep Cobo from licking her face.
Something twitched in the pool of vomit.
Megan couldn’t quite make out the moving bits, they seemed to be a darker clump amongst the bile. She leaned closer. The dog took the opportunity to wag his tail and hop up on the couch.
“NO Cobo, down,” she said, pushing the enthusiastic lab away from her. She looked back at the brown figures in the green. Tiny, half digested legs spasmed in the puddle. Three bees in various stages of digestion writhed about in the vomit.
Cobo kept wagging his tail, happy that he didn’t feel sick anymore.
On Monday she found four dead bees on the floor. Had this sort of thing been happening for a while, but Cobo had been ‘disposing’ of the evidence? She got out the broom and dustbin to sweep up the insects. She ended up forgetting all about it as she watched reality TV, absently scratched at Cobo’s furry head.
Tuesday, she decided to do something about the problem. Five bees had gotten into her apartment, and only three of them dead. The surviving pair buzzed about the living room, moshing into her window. She waved a broom around the air in an awkward imitation of a killing strike, managing to down one of the little bastards before it had a chance to sting.
She missed the second bee though, angered it. The insect landed, pressed its ass to Megan’s lower thigh. The hot prick of a thing made her bite her lip. The bee wafted off to die, half its guts clinging to the poison sack stuck into Megan. She bared her teeth as she plucked the painful spar from her goose pimpled skin before icing the spot. She cleaned up all the other carapaces and put ‘call homeowner’s association - bees’ on her to-do list.
She spent the next half hour rubbing away the pain in her leg. Her shows didn’t distract her quite as well that night, and Cobo was acting like he was sick.
Megan called Carl, president of the Home Owner’s association, from her cluttered cubicle at the office the next day. Every minute or so, she would look around to see if Mr. Ottley was glaring at her for ‘making personal phone calls on company time.’
“Hey this is Megan…” she said when the call connected.
“Oh… hey,” he said, and Megan realized he had no idea who she was she didn’t know how many times she’d introduced herself.
“Megan Bethany… over at unit 5?”
“Oh, of course.”
“Yeah, uh huh, I got a problem.”
“Well, I think there’s a hive of bees on my property. Or outside really, but they keep getting into the house. Can you hire someone? To take care of this?”
“Hmmm well. Are you sure they’re exterior? Because if not then they’re not really a homeowner’s association issue.”
“Wait, what? Of course they’re outside, they’re bees! Don’t try to weasel out of this, this is why I pay my HOA dues!”
“Well, ok, how about this; how about you hire an exterminator and when they take care of the issue and confirm this is an exterior maintenance issue we’ll reimburse you.”
Megan sucked in breath, “Ok, I’m going to be completely honest here. I don’t really have the money to do this; even if you reimburse me.”
Silence reigned, and for a moment Megan was worried he had hung up on her.
“Ok, well I’ll try to convince the board to outlay the money. We meet next week.”
“But this is an emergency! What if I was allergic?”
“Are you allergic?”
“Well no but…”
Megan took in a long breath through her mouth, snorted it out her nose like they’d taught her in yoga. ‘You’re fine.’ She thought to herself.
“Well fine! Do what you can… but please hurry! I’m not allergic or anything but I don’t want to come home every night to an apartment full of bees.”
Thursday, Megan unlocked the front door. She hoped that the problem -somehow- might have fixed itself. Frustrated bees buzzed inside the small apartment, maybe fifteen in all. They seemed to be fixated around the windows… which was good because it meant they weren’t swarming her.
Cobo ran up whimpering, jumping to her thigh. She said “Come here.” She knelt down and pet him. “It’s ok boy.” And led him to the bathroom while she said soothing things. She didn’t take her eyes off the buzzing things.
Another dozen seemed to have died about the apartment, most boiled alive in troughs around light bulbs. The living, stinging insects spun about the air looking for the source of their distress. Megan took the recently purchased a can of wasp spray out of her bag and proceeded to murder anything that moved.
*Pshhh* *Pshhh* *Pshhh* She stalked around the condo, dousing the baastards. The haze of chemical tang made her nose twist up. Megan reminded herself it was worse for the bees. *Pshhh* *Pshhh* *Pshhh* She began to appreciate the sound.
Bugs dead, she called Carl back… screamed at his answering machine. She thought about calling her mother, asking for money enough to stay in a hotel or to hire the exterminator herself. But no, she still hadn’t paid her back from last time. And it would be just like her mother to start picking at Megan: about her move to the city, about her ‘acting,’ about everything. And she didn’t need that tonight.
Megan decided she needed to keep herself occupied, walked into the kitchen. As the fresh chopped onions and potatoes sizzled in the large skillet, Megan could hear faint buzzing from above her head. She put her ear to the vent hood.
“My god…” Megan said to no one. “They built a hive in the vent.” She ran for her half roll duct tape, spent fifteen minutes sealing all the open spaces above the range where a bee could conceivably squeeze through. She called the same answering machine again, left an updated rant. Cobo whined and scratched at the bathroom door as Megan worked, trying to get out.
Megan had done her best to sleep in the car, but eventually given up. She couldn’t get comfortable. Resigned to sleeping in her bed, she double checked the vent hood and she fortified her room: closed the sliding glass to the patio, shoved towels beneath the crack in the door. “Up Cobo, Up.” She invited Cobo onto bed, clung to the furry mass of him. She snuggled up to him, appreciating the comfort of his earth dog stink.
Pride or no pride, nagging or no nagging; she would call Mom tomorrow and beg for some money. She wouldn’t spend another night here. When sleep finally overtook her, her dreams were full of honey pots with dollar signs on them.
Fire. That’s what he leg felt like. She bolted upright in the bed, clawing at the burning pain. She clicked on the bedside lamp, pulled up her pajama bottoms and turned her thigh to see an inch wide red welt.
From its center, clear liquid oozed. “Damnit.” She poked at the wound. It split open like a mouth.
In the hole in her leg, a furry infant bee face stared back out at her. Megan screamed and began to dig with her nails at the wound and the nestled bug within. The bee retreated, went deeper to avoid her.
She screamed and cursed and tore; breaking three of her short, acrylic nails before she had finally excavated the bug and the surrounding tissue. But there was more, it looked yellow in there. She shoved her fingernails back into her trembling flesh, terror making her almost numb to the pain.
Pinching her fingers together, blood spurting out all over the sheets Megan drew a waxy cylinder of her leg. It smelled of honey and blood.
She only remembered leaving the house, driving to hospital as a blur. And only later, sitting on bed in the assless hospital gown as she filled out her insurance information did she remember that Cobo was still in the apartment.
Questions came after an abrupt examination and some stitches to pull together the crude wound. She confirmed that the gash was self inflicted, but all the doctors wanted to know why she had done it to herself. No matter how many times she told them, they didn’t believe her.
‘Why?’ they asked over and over again, ‘Why did you hurt yourself?’ And she told them, over and over again. Hell, they could come back to the apartment and look. All the while Cobo was trapped in the condo with the bees.
Finally, she lied and they let her go, it was the end of the night shift and they had other issues to deal with. But by then the sun had risen and Cobo had been alone in the apartment all night.
All she wanted to crawl away to some hotel and hire someone to firebomb the condo. But she couldn’t, she had to save Cobo and then the Condo in that order. As she drove, she called everyone she could think might help her. Lots of voicemails, and some sleep addled acquaintances promised to help… as soon as they woke up, as soon as they got dressed; but not now. They could get there later the afternoon, after work.
Megan would have to do this alone. She approached her condo, wearing the same nearly indecent, blood stained pajamas she had rushed to the hospital in. She sat in the car breathing hard for four minutes before she summoned the courage to get out.
Megan walked up to her own front door. She placed a hand near the knob, barely touching the thing as though she were checking for heat from a fire. The air beyond the wood thrummed with a thousand tiny voices. She ran back to her car, pulled on the scrubby, salt stained sweats she had worn last week at the gym.
Pulling the strings of her hoodie tight, Megan opened the door.
“Cobo.” She called; praying that he would run to her, praying that she wouldn’t have to enter the apartment. No response, except the incessant insect noise. Dark shapes darted about in the molasses thick morning light. She sucked in air. She would do this slow, take her time. They wouldn’t attack her unless she spooked them. Right?
She walked past the kitchen, practically heaving. The bees had chewed through the duct tape around the range hood. Honey and wax slimed down through the black metal above the burners.
Megan crossed the threshold to the bedroom, the screen of bees growing thicker. She could barely think, the buzzing was so loud. She found what was left of Cobo whimpering in the corner.
The hive had been busy with the dog. Dozens of the insects darted in and out of a symmetrical series of wounds in his back leg. They’d built honeycomb around the dog’s tendons, burrowed holes along his thigh. Everything dripped yellow and red as tiny, still wet bees flew for the first time. Megan struggled to keep herself from retching. ‘Breathe.’ She told herself as she walked over to Cobo. Her fingers trembled as she reached down for her dog.
“It’s ok, Cobo. It’s gonna be ok.”
Megan lifted her dog and held him close, something she hadn’t been really able to do since he was a puppy and a good sixty pounds lighter. Movement disturbed the new hive. The haze of pheromones shifted. Agitated bees began to land on Megan. Stingers thrust at her torso or legs failed to reach the soft skin beneath the cloth. But some of the bees targeted her hands and feet, puckering her flesh with their venom and eggs.
Clutching Cobo, Megan ran; grunting with effort of carrying a fifty pound dog. The lab whined and tried to lick her face. Every ten seconds she felt another prick on her on a finger or along her heel. Her feet and hands began to swell, grow numb. Cobo yelped, bees landing all over his body.
Before she got through the door, three bees had managed to get through to her face: stinging her ear, her forehead and above her left eye. Megan managed to stagger the half stair case to the car. Fumbling to beep open the Honda, she tossed Cobo into the passenger seat and slammed her door closed. She couldn’t keep her hands from shaking, her left eye swollen till it was nothing more than a slit; she couldn’t even get the key into the ignition. Megan lost consciousness before she released the parking brake.
For hours after, hundreds of bees battered themselves against the car’s windows.
Neighbors called, huddled behind closed windows. A team of emergency exterminators drove to the complex. Men in bee suits wandered about the parking lot, like low rent astronauts in a low budget 50’s scifi movie. They filled the air with poison, killing bees in their hundreds.
Paramedics brought the woman to the hospital, the dog next to her having died earlier that morning.
Megan slept as sterile machines blinked and beeped all around her. Likewise, fifty the eggs needled into her hands and feet waited to hatch. Within a week, two hives would hatch: one in the center of Everlasting Mercy Hospital and one in the city dump where a dog’s body had been thrown. Megan twitched and murmured. Bees battered themselves against her window as she dreamt of honey.