What Lives Within (Fiction)

Dead tree trunk in our yard... my imagination frightens me with possibilities of what has made this home...
Dead tree trunk in our yard… my imagination frightens me with possibilities of what has made this home…

I went inside a beehive for the first time last night.

You think I’m crazy; I see it in your eyes. I know, because it’s the same look my husband gave me when I told him about it this morning.

But it’s true. Even as my husband scans the Yellow Pages for a psychiatrist (doesn’t he know the internet is much more efficient?) I stand by my claim. I have a bee sting on my neck to prove it.

Well, Larry (that’s my husband) says the flaming red welt doesn’t prove anything- except that I’m a raving lunatic with an allergy to bee stings.

In defense of Larry’s skepticism, it seems logically impossible for a woman my size – five feet-six inches tall, one-hundred-forty pounds…. okay, five-foot-four; one-hundred-sixty pounds- to be able to fit inside even the largest of hives. Near as I can figure, the bee sting must’ve shrunk me in some way and they carried me in.

I made the mistake of supposing this scenario to Larry.

One eyebrow raised, he’d studied me for a few seconds. “You seriously believe bees carried you into a hive. Just how many bees did it take to do this?”

***          ***          ***

He looks up at me and reaches for the phone, left index finger marking a number on the yellow page.

The light in the room dims and we both turn toward the window behind him.

“What the-” Larry’s jaw hangs slack.

I walk to the window, almost in a trance. I place my palms on the dual pane glass separating me and the thousands of bees. “They came back,” I murmur.

I hear the chair scrape on the tile. The window grows warm beneath my palm and outstretched fingers. Burning, as if a flame flickered beneath my bare skin.

“Hi, yes, I would like to have my wife evaluated.” Larry pauses. “Well, she says she was in a bee hive last night.” Another pause. “Yes, inside the hive.”

The heat radiates up my arm. I want to scream.

“Um, yeah, that’s her.”

I must have screamed.  His voice is more audible, so I know he’s turned toward me.

“I’m not sure what’s happening,” Larry says in a quivering voice.

I want to tell him it’s okay, but I sense otherwise. I gasp for breath.

“She’s collapsed on the ground clasping her stomach.” Another pause. “Yes, I’ll call 9-1-1.”

“What the-?”

I hear the phone drop to the floor before I cry out in agony.

For a second time, words escape  him. I hear his footsteps retreat and the front door slam. The skin on my abdomen tingles so I rub my hand across it. Puzzled by the moistness, I look and am shocked by the smear of blood and the dozens of bees clustered around my fingers. Gasping for breath, I crane my neck to get a better look.

Hundreds of bees pulse in my abdomen, visible through several holes in my skin. As their energy increases and they venture further from me, my strength weakens. I’d read about the spread of hybrid cleptoparasitic bees in an article on MSN but chalked it up as sensationalizing to get clicks (it worked.)  Now, I know the threat is real.  They have chosen me.

I also know it will be a matter of time before they leave me an empty shell.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

This was a story I started for a writing contest, but missed the deadline. This week of Christmas, you might expect a feel-good story… which is why I decided to finish this creepy/bizarre tale. I’d hate to become too predictable :)

Inspiration:  A few fears came together for this one.

First, there is my fear of bees in general, heightened by the increased presence of Africanized honeybees (a result of hybrid breeding), which are generally more aggressive than European honeybees.

Second, in doing some research on bees, I read about some cleptoparasitic bees, which use a host bee’s nest to thrive, eventually killing off the host.

Third, I remembered the horrifying ways of the tarantula hawk. This wasp actually overtakes the tarantula and lays the egg in the spider’s abdomen. Several months ago, I’d watched some YouTube videos of tarantula hawk wasps in action, and found a National Geographic video that gives me nightmares. (Click the link, if you dare… bwahahaha!)

Bringing all these fears together, I wondered, “since humans like to muck around with nature, what if further cross-breeding resulted in bees that thrived in human hosts?”

Normal people don’t think this way, do they?

On that note, have a wonderful holiday! I may not be online much for the rest of the year.  Just wanted to warn you that any absence is only temporary.  I will refrain from typing the obvious 3-word Terminator catch-phrase.  (You’re welcome.) :roll:

Little Obsessions

Little obsessions run in my family.... kids can't stop talking about snow (and it looks like yet another storm has missed us!)
Little obsessions run in my family…. my kids can’t stop talking about snow (and it looks like yet another storm has missed us!)

Have you ever been fixated on something and you can’t stop even when good sense dictates you should let it go?

Oh. Maybe it’s just me.

On Sunday night, I noticed that some of the shaped poetry on my blog isn’t displaying properly now. I haven’t changed themes, and at one time, the formatting was fine. It was eleven o’clock at night when I ventured into the WordPress themes. I previewed no less than thirty themes and found a reason to not use each of them. By the time 2:30am rolled around, I resorted to keeping my same theme and just replaced the text of the most messed up poem with an image so it would display properly.

What happened here is classic “me.” Something gets stuck in my brain and I obsess over it, analyze it and basically over-think it until I end up doing nothing. Sometimes doing nothing is a decision, but other times it’s simply sticking with what I know because I’m unsure about what I don’t know. Too often I fall back on clinging to the familiar.

There are occasions when the obsession does turn to action, though. Like when I eat one Reese’s peanut butter cup and save the other one for later. “Later” turns out being ten minutes of non-stop thinking about how yummy that chocolate and peanut butter would taste. I won’t mention what happens when I have Oreo cookies or chocolate-covered cherries in the house…

In retrospect, I realize staying up that late and beginning the work week on three hours of sleep wasn’t smart. It’s probably no coincidence that I’m now fighting off a cold and sinus infection. I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson, but I know it’s just a matter of time before the next little obsession worms its way into my consciousness.

I was all set to end this post, when an envelope scribbled with my messy writing caught my eye.

She carries more baggage than an airport carousel.

One thing they taught me was that my affections are currency to be bought, sold or bartered

Beneath the envelope I found a folded paper with a forgotten young adult story idea. It began, “Marty Hines used to be the most popular girl in school. Now, she’s the prettiest has-been in juvi.” I don’t normally write YA, so I set this aside several months ago.

I discovered yet another partially-written story. I had a vague recollection of it as I skimmed the text, some of which I couldn’t read. Have I mentioned my handwriting is horrible? I paused at these lines: I was his ego trip. I brought him the adoration he could get from a puppy, except I was potty trained. 

I can’t say why these thoughts were tossed aside to gather dust. Something about timing, I think. Perhaps in all this randomness hides a glimmer of my next obsession.

I’ll know if I’m frantically typing at midnight, paying no mind to the passing of time or loss of sleep.

Afraid of the Dark

Scary, those things that lurk in the dark...
Scary, those things cloaked in darkness…

I don’t dwell in dark places.

What lurks in the recesses,

the lonely parts

of my mind, frightens

me more than monsters

haunting stuffed closets and

dusty under-beds.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Inspiration:  I wrote this recently while struggling with the sadness that settles over me at times.  I didn’t have a reason to be anything other than content, which is why this recurring ‘darkness’ gets to me.  I don’t understand it, can’t explain it, and never know how long it will last, which is why I fear it.  I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to find a monster in the closet, but at least I can comprehend that… and would have a chance to beat it into submission :)

I hope you have a beautiful Monday.  I’m glad you stopped by today!

Holiday Survival Discovery: They Don’t Call Me Bonnie (And I Don’t Know Clyde)

12-10 Lights

Last year, my older son had a sometimes job of exercising an elderly lady’s dog. She had been ill, so it’d been over a week since the dog had been walked. One Sunday, Sarah* called. (Coincidentally, this was the day following the lice debacle and the kids decided the day must begin for me after a mere four hours of sleep.)  She asked if I could run some errands for her because her helper didn’t show up. I told her I could.

We arrived half an hour later, as she requested. On her counter, she had a list of items she needed. She crossed off paper towel. She read through the list again and crossed off a couple more items. I saw orange marmalade and water and asked her if she had brands she preferred. “You don’t need to worry about that stuff,” she said as she crossed those items off as well.  “I just need a couple things to get me through the holidays.”

“Okay. Which things do you need?”

“I need a carton of cigarettes.”

“All right.”

“And a bottle of LTD.”

I had no idea what that was, until she opened her cabinet and pulled out a nearly-empty bottle of Canadian whiskey.

I smiled and stifled a laugh. Cigarettes and whiskey to get through the holidays. Maybe I should try that!

She handed me her car keys, but I insisted on using my own car. Then she handed me her bank card. “Are you comfortable with using this?”

I hesitated. “Um. Okay.” What I meant to say was, Are you crazy? Of course I’m not okay with it!

“I’ve never had an issue with it before. I have plenty of bucks in the bank,” she assured.

“Um, okay.”

I drove to the place she told me to get the cigarettes.  What if she’s setting me up and she reported this card stolen? I shrugged the nagging thought off and chalked it up to writing too much fiction.

I handed the gal behind the counter the empty cigarette pack. “I need a carton of these, please.” I’m sure I didn’t ask  like a smoker would. She set the carton on the counter and I handed her the card. Please don’t ask for ID. If she asks for ID, do I run or try to explain why I have a bank card that wasn’t mine?

She didn’t ask for ID. I returned her wish for a Merry Christmas and breathed a sigh of relief, still unable to believe a carton of cigarettes was nearly $57 dollars.

Next, I pulled into the parking lot of the liquor store she said to go to. I wonder if LTD is a secret code for something illegal? Again, I shook off the worries and blamed it on watching too much crime TV.

I don’t drink (except for Lipton on the rocks) so I stepped inside and marveled at the sheer number of bottles. I found the bottle I’d snapped a photo of. Mission almost accomplished. I wondered if I was tempting fate and jail time by using this card a second time.

Again, as I checked out, they didn’t ask for ID. As I drove back to her house, another worry crept into my mind. What if this was a test? She might ask me to score some medical marijuana next time.

Oh no, there wouldn’t be a next time. She’d have to wait for her helper.

The constant worry confirmed what I always knew: I was not cut out for a life of crime (or using someone else’s bank card with permission.) But I did walk away with a new bit of wisdom imparted by our elderly acquaintance. If the holidays get too much, I now know that whiskey and cigarettes can get me through!

*Name changed to protect the wise :)

Do you have any secrets (legal or not) for making it through the holidays?  I love this time of year, so I don’t usually get too stressed… but it doesn’t hurt to keep ideas on hand!

The First Supper (fiction) & Emilio Pasquale Photo

Photo courtesy of Emilio Pasquale (click photo to view his site)
Photo courtesy of Emilio Pasquale (click photo to view his site)

Mackenzie Walters stood in the center of the large ballroom, soaking in the rays streaming in from the windows that made up the better part of three walls. For several minutes, she stood, transfixed by the lush gardens surrounding the banquet hall. The resort had touted itself as an oasis in the desert and she had to agree – nowhere else in Phoenix could she be transported to the tropics. She almost forgot it hadn’t rained in fifty-three days.

“Are you okay, Mackie?”

She glanced over her shoulder and saw her best friend, Heather, lingering in the doorway. She shrugged. “Yeah, I think so.” She turned to a nearby table and tugged at one of the white napkins to give it a taller peak. A flicker of memory made her smile; something her mom would say about busy hands and idle minds.

“I’m not so sure.”

“I appreciate your concern, but this is exactly what I want to do.”

“I think you’re in shock,” Heather said. “I mean, your parents died only four weeks ago and immediately you started planning this extravaganza.” She made a sweeping motion with her left arm.

Mackenzie nodded. “Yeah, there wasn’t much time to pull it together, but I think the place looks nice.”

“It should, for what you’re paying for it.”

She closed her eyes and inhaled. “Do you smell that?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s chicken piccata, pasta and fresh green beans, but it might as well be filet mignon and caviar.” She nudged a glass to line it up with the knife at another place setting. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience.”

Continue reading