The honey bee licks her forelegs and combs the pollen from her head. She stretches down the length of her thorax. What was once taut and hirsute now resembles the plundered stamen of a speedwell. She has been lost for six days. Her wings ache; an abnormal spasm pinches her bowels. She can hardly clock the sun as it passes across the sky. She senses a portent of cold in the air. She is nearly three weeks old and knows that winter is fast approaching.
Her life has not been marked by any great serendipity. Her birth did not come during an interregnum nor did gender grant her the chance for a proud mating death. She sustained the ancestral course: nourishing the young, extending the hive, performing housework. When her royal jelly had dried and her beeswax was spent, she was taught to fly great distances and sent out with the other spinsters to forage pollen and nectar.
Pressing the pollen into a ball with her hind legs, she affixes the golden nugget to a single hair on her corbicula. She has excelled at collecting foodstuffs from the start, searching faster than her peers, farther, but now it weighs on her like a fading talent. She has no use for so much food, let alone the stacks of nuggets she has abandoned along the way. Her hunger has waned with age. These daily rounds sate an instinct as immutable as the setting sun, but in her solitude, serve no greater purpose than relief.
She knows she will never again enjoy the thrill of a hunt with her comrades. She will never savor the proffering of a meal or the joy of welcoming a newborn child, and when the frosts inevitably come, she will not share in the warmth of the swarms shivering corporation. She knows this like she knows dark. She sails a sympathetic zephyr toward the blue horizon thinking of her first flight. The smell of nectar, green at her feet; she stepping off into the blue void, her body weightless, flying beyond the sounds of the hive buzzing somewhere behind to a place that only existed in the dreams of dead bees.
Sam Katz was born in Korea and came to the US at the age of 2. His fiction has appeared or will soon in The Good Men Project, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Per Contra, and Southern Humanities Review.