This is the short story I wrote for NYC Midnight's First Round of the 2020 Short Story Challenge. Writers from all over the world are given 8 days to write to an assigned genre, subject, and character. The maximum word count is 2,500 words. There were about 4,000 writers all around the world participating in groups of 40. The top 5 of each group will progress to the next round. The winners will be announced at the end of March/ early April.
My genre was suspense, my subject a path, and my character a beekeeper.
Story Synopsis: The path near Karney’s Creek has a wild bee swarm and everyone knows Kalista Green is the best bee wrangler in town. However, something strange is going on with these bees.
Weavering’s Path of Whispering Pleas
Kalista Green turned the blade over the candle’s flame to heat it up. She took the honeycomb tray in her left hand and used the knife to scrape off the honey.
¨I feel like this whole process is getting more disgusting,¨ Lissy said with her arms crossed over her chest. ¨How much money are you going to make from all this work?¨
¨Enough. I like it, listen to this.” She used the knife to cut through the honey. “It’s satisfying, like ASMR,¨ Kalista said.
¨Mom, wanted me to come here to talk about the full-time science teacher position at Wayfarers Prep. There, I talked to you about it,¨ Lissy said.
¨Good chat. You want to help me set up this swarm trap up the road?¨
Lissy laughed and sat on the wooden bench and sighed, ¨Don’t you ever get scared?¨
¨Not really, money comes, it always comes. You are just jealous I’m a homeowner now.¨
¨Your house is going to cave in on you,¨ Lissy said as she looked at Kalista’s home, a white shipping container with window frames that didn’t match. It was surrounded by tulips and daisies. An expensive french door was at its entrance.¨When is the rest of all that going to match the door?¨ Lissy asked.
¨The door is the worst part, I’m going to trade it soon for a goat,¨ Kalista said.
¨How do you find these trading people, you’re such a freak,¨ Lissy said.
Two adolescents walked up to where Lissy and Kalista were talking. The kids’ eyes were scoping everything out.
¨Are either of you Kalista Green?¨ The boy asked.
¨Where’s the goat?¨ Lissy answered.
¨Shut up,¨ Kalista said to her sister laughing. ¨I’m her, how can I help you?¨
¨Bob at the hardware store said we should talk to you, that you are the best,¨ the girl said.
¨Best at dumpster diving and the best at collecting animals she feels too guilty to kill,¨ Lissy said throwing pebbles at Kalista’s bare feet.
¨No. Best at getting wild bee swarms out of people’s houses, fast,¨ the boy said.
¨It’s not in our house exactly, a big swarm is on the paneling of the path to our house,¨ the girl said.
Kalista put her arms out to her side with the knife in her right hand. ¨See the universe provides. I was going to put up a swarm trap, and now one has just landed in my lap. Free.¨
Lissy shook her head.
Kalista turned to the kids and they each took a step back and stared at her knife. ¨It’s ok,¨ she said as she put the knife down.
¨Where do you guys live? What are your names?¨ Lissy asked.
¨We are new here. We live in the backwoods near Karney’s Creek, ¨ the boy said.
¨There aren’t any houses out there,¨ Lissy said.
¨We built one,¨ the girl said and rubbed her wrists.
¨How long ago?¨ Lissy asked.
¨O.K. Let me save you from my sister, I need to eat lunch and gather my supplies, I’ll meet you at 2:00 pm, ok. How do I find the place?¨ she asked.
The girl took out an old paper with a map drawn onto it and said, ¨Weavering likes to be dramatic.¨
¨Weavering? Is that your dad?¨ Lissy asked.
¨No,¨ They both said in unison.
¨He’s our… our guardian,¨ the boy said while staring at his hands.
¨We need to get going. He’ll...¨ the girl said as they walked back towards the road.
¨Did you see their faces when they talked about their guardian, I hope he doesn’t sit there telling me what to do and trying to direct me.¨
¨Good luck, doesn’t that happen...like every time,¨ Lissy said.
¨Basically,¨ Kalista said as she finished cutting off the honey from the tray.
Kalista pulled up to the road where the two kids stood outside waiting for her. They were surrounded by a lush forest. She closed the door to her white Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck. She grabbed her tote bag with all of her bee accoutrement and started to take out her ladder.
¨You don’t need that,¨ the girl said, ¨The swarm isn’t that high. It’s this way,¨ the girl said and Kalista followed her up to the path between the trees.
She took out her phone to send a Google Map pin to Lissy, but there wasn’t any service. She pivoted her phone around in different directions to try and catch a signal.
¨There isn’t anything out here,¨ the boy said.
The path they were walking on had trees curving in on themselves like a tunnel. The sun rays peaked through casting shadows over them. No one used the road by the woods and the silence was loud. Slowly, birds, flies buzzing, branches creaking in the wind, and the rhythm of the forest pulsed in her chest.
¨How long have the bees been there?¨ Kalista asked as she adjusted her heavy tote bag.
¨Since yesterday," the girl said.
"A week," the boy said at the same time.
Kalista stopped, turned around to look at the two of them and size up the forest. The path was clear, if things got hairy she would just turn back the way she had come from, and follow it to her truck. After a couple of more minutes they reached the gate, it had elegant cast iron work on it.
They continued to follow the path toward the house on the hill. The path’s surface changed now to having small hexagon tiles that were tan in color.
The house up at the top of the hill looked like a bee hive, it was rounded and brown, but had windows and a door. Kalista squinted to try and figure out the material but the swarm to her left caught her attention.
Blue tinted plastic borders on the left side of the path were double-sided with a small open space in between the panels. Like it was made to be an aquarium. The height of the panels went to Kalista's hips.
There were thousands of bees climbing and moving around the inside of the blue panels. All huddled together as the sun rays spliced through the canopy and reflected off their wings.
"You were right, I don't need my ladder," Kalista said as she sat cross-legged and watched the bees as if they were in an ant farm.
A man came out of the front door of the house, he was in his sixties, with a black collared shirt, and black slacks. He had a limp and walked with a black cane down the path toward them. As he got closer, Kalista noticed his fake tan and dyed jet black hair. His smile was highlighted by white thick teeth.
"You must be Weavering. Quite the set up, you sure you want to get rid of these bees? It looks like they were made to be here,¨ Kalista said.
Weavering moved closer, looked down at her and said in a scratchy smoker's voice, "It was."
Kalista eyed him and the two kids and before she could decide what to do she started to hear whispers. On instinct she moved closer to the bees and placed her ear against the panel. Low moans of "Help us, please, help us, we are down here."
"What the...? It can't be, are the bees...talking?" Kalista said.
"Clear the path," Weavering said to the kids who jumped back onto the gravel, he hobbled next to them and gave Kalista a huge grin.
Kalista jumped up to her feet and lunged for her tote bag. The boy tugged it out of her reach.
"Listen.." Kalista said as Weavering flipped open a lever on the tree trunk. He pushed the lever down and the path of hexagon tiles opened up swallowing Kalista.
She dropped several feet down and the ceiling abruptly closed above her. She landed in a sticky liquid and blinked several times to let her eyes adjust to the tan glow of the enclosure. The groans were louder now, "Help us, we are down here, help us." Now they were coming from her left and right. She was in a small hexagonal cubicle. Her fingers touched the wall that was also slimy, yet thicker than the floor goo.
"Hello, can someone hear me? What the hell is going on?" Kalista said.
She heard the moaning intensify. Kalista thought they sounded like ghosts.
"What is this?" she said as she inspected the liquid with her fingers.
"I thought it was honey, but it doesn't taste like it, man," A voice said from the left.
"I know honey," Kalista said as she brought the substance to her lips, she took a deep breath and licked it then spit it out. ¨I think it is corn syrup," she said as she began to investigate the walls of her hexagonal cubicle. The walls had a different consistency, like Japanese screens, "I thought the walls had wax on them," a soft women´s voice said from the cubicle next to hers.
Kalista smelled it, ¨It's petroleum jelly, I think."
Kalista put her palms up on the wall and began to push on it and it wobbled and became loose, she ripped it down, exposing the cell next to hers. It was held up by Velcro.
“How long have you been here?” Kalista asked.
The woman blinked and rubbed her eyes, "I feel weird and tired. I think I have been here for only a couple of hours." Kalista looked deeply into the woman's eyes and saw that her pupils were dilated.
"You looked like you’ve been drugged. Did you eat or drink anything here?"
"No, I came to help out with the swarm and then the weirdo came out pulled the lever and suddenly I was down here."
"I just fell from the path and I did a lot of drugs in high school, like a lot, so far this stuff he probably put in the corn syrup and is absorbed by our skin doesn't phase me," Kalista said.
"We need to use this to get out of here so we..." Kalista stopped as she was moving around her hexagon as her blood went cold. A camera on the ceiling was focused in on her movements. "Shit,"she said, "This guy is smart and planning something crazy."
"Hey where are you from? ̈ Kalista asked as she studied the ceiling that was three feet above her head.
"Traveling through, my van was parked up stream when two kids approached me," she said.
"I wonder if all of us are the kind of people that are on the road a lot. No one is going to come looking for us," Kalista said, thinking of Lissy and how many times she has disappeared and let her phone run out of batteries.
"What's your name?"
¨Now let's..." Kalista was saying when she was interrupted by the ground below her moving, a conveyor belt, the corn syrup levels dropped around them.
The walls ripped apart and the Velcro screeched as they were pulled towards the direction of the hive house.
Weavering’s voice amplified around them, "Now, now, my naughty little worker bees. There is no exit."
They all continued to be pulled along, about twenty other drifters were visible along the underground path.
The conveyor belt stopped. The lights went out and they were stuck in darkness, their heavy breathing was all that could be heard.
They covered their ears to guard against the sound of the walls moving around them. A bright fluorescent light kicked on and they were now in an underground warehouse.
Weavering came down from the surface on a staircase with a glint in his eyes.
Kalista whispered to Cyan, "We have to do something now, we may never have him down here again."
Cyan held onto Kalista’s shoulder for support and answered, “Look at us, we are all too out of it to do anything, that is why he is coming down here with no fear.”
"I hope you enjoyed your welcome to my factory. This will be your new home," he said with his white fake teeth almost glowing.
Kalista felt around her pockets and remembered she had her lighter for the fire to smoke out the bees from their enclosure. She sized up the warehouse. The work tables that were set up in front of them had protective paper on top like when you go to get an examination from a doctor.
"We are going to build something together that..." Weavering started.
Kalista took a piece of table paper from behind her and coughed as she curled it into a ball. She took a deep breath and lit the ball of paper on fire and threw it across the room on another table. Then she ran up to several other tables and lit them on fire too.
Cyan yelled, "You’ll kill us all."
Kalista yelled, ¨Everyone out and up the stairs, we are all doused in corn syrup and petroleum jelly which are nonflammable, hurry."
The drifters moved around like zombies bumping into each other as they pulled themselves up the stairs. They charged over Weavering who was scrambling to get up off the floor.
Kalista ran to him, "Don't you worry, I’ll help you out. You’re going to do time for this.¨
Weavering was coughing too hard to respond. All of the people made it out of the warehouse. Kalista pushed them to keep walking to her truck, off the path and in the gravel, in case a trap door would be set off again on the path.
Kalista took everyone to the hospital and the police met them there to take Weavering away.
"I’m a performance artist, watch the videos," he said as he ducked his head to get into the police car.
A policeman came up to Kalista to shake her hand. "I heard you did some quick thinking."
"Just running on endorphins...Any word on the kids?" Kalista asked.
“Hate to be the bearer of bad news. Those weren't kids, they are actually in their thirties, twins, with a rare condition known as panhypopituitarism."
"So, they could have helped Weavering plan this whole thing and they are still out there? They know where I live, my sister..." Kalista said.
"Don't worry, my best men are on it."
Kalista watched Lissy park in front of the hospital. ¨Yeah, ok, well my sister and I are going to get out of town,"
“Antarctica is the only place without bees,” the policeman said laughing at his own joke.
Kalista walked away from him and met Lissy at the entrance, she gave her a big hug.
“Only you…” Lissy started.
“Zip it,” Kalista said.