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World of Gold

by Shlunka about a year ago in Nature
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The Dumb Life of Bees

“What’s with you and marigolds?” one bee asked another.

“It’s not the taste, it’s the texture, now come along.”

“If you say so.”

The two bees were indistinguishable from one another. They were, after all, the offspring of a rare cloning facility created by bees much smarter than themselves. The older of the two, Burt, was a seasoned veteran of the Wasp Wars, who still collected pollen for the hive in spite of having only one leg. That’s not to say that he had only one back leg and four other legs, but that he only had one leg altogether. It was due to this affliction and standard hive procedures that he be accompanied by another drone. Since the drones were, after all, clones, it was still technically Burt doing all the work by himself.

The other bee, a fresh-off-the-press greenhorn, went by the Jerome, an extension of his actual designation of J-1408, which is what his mom named him. They had been tasked with gathering pollen for the latest wave of offspring in what was essentially a pyramid-scheme of hive building. The old would work, contribute, and those contributions would go to the young as the old bees succumbed to their shortened clone lifespans. Dark clouds threatened overhead, teasing that they would unleash a deluge just as the bees finished loading up on pollen.

“I don’t understand, how can we be clones if you’ve only got one leg?” Jerome asked as they landed on flowers next to one another.

“I wasn’t born with one leg, idiot,” Burt retorted, flopping around to coat his entire body in pollen to make up for the lack of hind legs.

“So, you had to grow the one later on?” Jerome filled his legs with the yellow powder and cracked his neck, preparing to take a fully-laden flight.

“No, I, I’m not addressing that question.”

The two bees took clumsy flight as the heavy droplets began falling all around them. Burt had been caught in rains before, but Jerome was feeling the weight of the water on his wings for the first time. They flew over the marigolds, across a road, beneath the planks of a fence, and into an old barn that provided ample shelter from the precipitation.

“Another safe trip,” Burt declared, landing hard against a wall where the hive buzzed behind the boards.

“My life is so fulfilling,” Jerome added with complete sincerity.

They crawled between the small crack that led to the hive, and were greeted as heroes by the countless clones within. Jerome moved along with timid steps while Burt slogged his way through the honeycombs to deposit their wealth in the communal dumpster.

“What a beautiful thing this is,” Burt declared, staring at the black and yellow faces that perfectly resembled his own, “the paradise of the self.”

“Do you want to get coffee sometime?” Jerome asked, flicking the last bits of moist pollen off of his legs like a cat strutting away from the litter box.

“Do you take it black?”

“Of course. We all do,” Jerome shrugged.

“Good, I know the best coffee place in the hive,” Burt nodded, crawling across the honeycombs, “follow me.”

Jerome followed Burt through all the bustling and narrow corridors of the hive until they reached a café that had been chewed out of a piece of asbestos.

“Best shop in town,” Burt nodded with pride, “I wonder why they haven’t expanded to other hives?”

They walked in as another identical bee crawled out, coughed, and died.

“Thinning out the gene pool I see,” Jerome laughed as they reached the counter where a mirror image greeted them with two cups of coffee.

“You know what I like, Joe,” Burt slapped the counter with his one leg, “Jerome, would you get that coffee for me? Just until we sit down.”

Jerome obliged, carrying both the coffees with them as they wandered over to a small table and sat down. They said nothing for a minute, and instead enjoyed the warm nature of their drinks and listened to the ambient buzzing of a thousand clones living under the same board.

“Did you know that I’m the oldest drone here, Jerome?”

“I had no idea,” Jerome sipped his cup as a glistening fragment fell from the ceiling and into his coffee.

“Six months I’ve been collecting pollen. Six months,” Burt’s gaze roamed off into the distance.

“I’ve only been at it for six days and I’ve had enough of it. I’d like to retire someday.”

The two clones shared a laugh, and enjoyed their coffees.


About the author


Visual artist and writer working out of a small Virginia town in the Shenandoah Valley.

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