The beekeeper could taste the despair in the honey.
It wasn’t only that there was less of it, or that most of his hives had collapsed. Rather, the sticky, sugary syrup tasted less sweet and more like a bitter despondence. Like even his bees had given up hope.
She meddled with the order of things she didn’t understand. A wish had become a maelstrom, and she didn’t know how to stop it.
“We’ve been out for weeks, manufacturing’s at a standstill. If we don’t get more we’re going to have to change our formula. We can’t afford that, they’ll shut the business down for good.” He wiped the sweat from his brow, lowered his face mask to breathe inside the stuffy, sweltering building. There was a moment of static, the noise a stark contrast to the echoing bangs from when the machines still ran.
“I don’t know what to tell ya. It’s like the damned bees flew off hell knows where. There’s just nothing there, man. No one’s got it.”
Perhaps it wasn’t too late, time a fluctuating thing that she could mend, mold like a waterway into a dam. If only she were careful.
Dead. Dead. Drying. Dead. No fruit. No seeds. A yellowed, decaying acre, twisting winds blowing up dirt and debris along with the sharp scent of decay.
“Another one, gone,” he said, though his wife was too far away to hear his voice carried away in the wind. He dropped the rough, dried plant from his hands, and it fell like vertigo that resounded in a closing door.
In her haste they got away from her, hummed a gentle tenor around her ears, and ducked into paned windows, hoping to release themselves from their glass and wooden prison.
“It’s the bees,” he said. “Or rather, the lack of them.”
He pushed the carefully crafted folder towards his supervisor, overfull with a stack of papers from his immersive study. It had taken months of testing, cataloging, monitoring populations. The results weren’t unexpected but carried the weight of a judge’s mallet.
His supervisor didn’t open the folder. Instead, he tapped an uneven rhythm on the desk with his fingers.
“And you expect us to do, what?”
The question caught him off guard. “You didn’t ask me to figure out a solution, just to find the problem.”
His supervisor leaned forward on his elbows, bringing his face close to his own. “The economy is collapsing. Shortages of food and consumer goods across the globe. Manufacturing is shutting down. You brought me the problem. Now tell me how to fix it.”
He gulped in precious air, knowing it wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear.
She’d been innocent in her intentions, but that didn’t stop the wave that overcame the world. Robert Frost was wrong, she thought before she took the plunge into darkness.
The world didn’t end in fire or ice.
It ends with bees and regrets.