Alien Hornet by Calista Skye
- Grace -
“Did you hear about Michelle?”
Maddie carefully inserts the flat tool under the top lid of the beehive and slowly lifts it, breaking open the wax seal on the inside. Her voice is just a little bit too casual.
I tilt the smoker and blow a gray mist into the crack to make the bees drowsy. They’re not too alarmed, but it’s mostly a precaution. “The cashier at the general store? Is it bad?”
Maddie lifts the lid off, revealing the ten frames stacked vertically in the cubical wooden box. “As bad as you can expect.”
Curious bees fly around our heads and mill about in the hive, busy with their work. The smoke calms them down, and if any of them were to get aggressive in the defense of their hive, we’re both wearing beekeeper’s veils to keep them out of our faces and hair.
I lift one frame out of the box and examine the dense honeycomb pattern. “This one is only half full. I’ll leave it inside. So she got taken?” I replace the frame and lift another with slow movements to not excite the bees.
Maddie adjusts her veil. “Monday morning. Right in the store. Her phone started going crazy, giving her orders to stay still and zapping her and… well, you know the whole nightmarish procedure. Aliens marched right into the store and put her in a net. Dragged her away. People say she was brave. Didn’t beg or break down. Oh, this is a nice, full one.”
She lifts a frame, turning it around. It’s so full of honey it’s started to seep through the wax covering in places. Putting it into the big plastic tub we’ve brought, she drapes a light blanket over it so other bees stay out.
“Shit. She was always so friendly. But yeah, she should be exactly their type.” Blowing more smoke into the hive, I examine the frames and find two ripe for harvest.
“Yeah,” Maddie agrees. “The Bululg like fluffier girls. Oh, there’s the queen. Keeping busy, Your Majesty? Maybe wind down a little, now that winter is on the way?”
“God-damned fuckers.” I feel my jaws clench.
Replacing the lid on the hive, I try to suppress the white-hot anger that always rises in me when I hear about Earth girls being abducted by the alien invaders. The anger comes from fear, of course. The intense fear that one day, it will be me they’re coming for. Me that will be abducted by the Bululg and their servant species, me that will be auctioned off to the highest alien bidder. Me that will be used as a pleasure toy or a breeding sow or a laboratory rat or house slave or whatever else aliens use Earth girls for out in space.
Maddie grabs the tub of full frames and carries it to the next hive. “They sure are. Not much we can do, though. But I heard they’re taking fewer girls now. They say there’s some trouble with the markets, the Bululg are talking about terrorists and sabotage out in space.”
“Just taking one is too many,” I hiss through clenched teeth as we open the next hive. “They have no fucking right.”
“That’s not how they see it,” Maddie gently reminds me. “Everything they do is fully accepted by other aliens. Slavery is common out there in space. To them, we on Earth are the weirdos because we don’t keep slaves.”
Taking a deep breath to calm myself, I examine a frame, finding it only a third full. “You know, the Bululg are total trash. Fucking strip-mining our pretty innocent planet for young women… Sorry, it just makes me so incredibly mad.”
“We should all be mad,” Maddie says soothingly and pulls out a full frame, gently brushing the bees from it before she puts it in the tub. “But it’s such a frustrating anger. What can we do? They’re keeping us under almost total surveillance.” She unconsciously rubs her arm where the chip is implanted.
I blow more smoke on the bees, who’re getting a little agitated. These little workers are incredibly sensitive, and they can probably smell my anger. “Yeah. Well, we should do something.”
It’s how these conversations always end up. We humans are so powerless in the face of the aliens that all we can do is curse them and ball our fists in impotent fury.
“Meanwhile,” Maddie says as she replaces the lid and moves to the third and last of our hives, “looks like this is the last harvest for this year. We’ll let the bees have the rest of the honey to live on until spring.”
“Exactly,” I tell her and spray some smoke into the last hive. “That’s the difference between us and the Bululg. We’ll let the bees keep more than they need, just to be on the safe side. And we take good care of these things. When was the last time the Bululg gave us anything at all?”
“I don’t know,” Maddie says as she opens the lid with her bright pink, kitchen-gloved hand. “They haven’t actually given us anything. But maybe this anger that all of Earth’s population is feeling can be used for something? I don’t know.” She smiles into the hive. “Hey girls, it’s just us, come to get the tiniest little bit of your delicious honey…”
- - -
It’s still warm enough to sit on the porch in the evenings, wearing coats, thick sweaters, and sipping wine after a long day on the farm. The sky is still crimson where the sun set an hour ago, the corn stalks rustle peacefully, and the crickets are making a lot of noise all around. Bessie the elderly collie is lying peacefully on the floorboards, just within scratching range of both of us.
It’s a small farm house, old and creaking in every join. It’s always in need of maintenance, and we keep putting off painting the south wall. We both agree that we like the rustic, weather-beaten look of bare wood better than freshly painted walls anyway.
“This is nice,” Maddie sighs and takes a sip of the Zinfandel. “So quiet and peaceful. Cornfields waving gently, bees buzzing here and there, the smell of the fall season. This is one of those evenings that makes all the work worth it, right? We should have moved out here much sooner. The only thing we’re missing are two hunks to keep us company.”
I pour more wine for myself, immediately regretting the movement. “Ow! Yeah, we absolutely should have. Where are those farmer hunks we heard so much about?”
Maddie chuckles. “Sore shoulder? That’s what cranking the honey centrifuge all afternoon will do. Yeah, we really need some hunks. They can do the manual labor, and you and I can walk around looking fabulous and eating honey by the bucket.”
I take a sip of the wine. It’s pretty precious, because all agriculture on Earth has seen a steep decline in production. Wine is no exception. Under Bululg occupation, mankind seems to have lost some of its will to live. “Is that all we’ll be doing?”
“No, we’ll probably blow the hunks on request. It’s the least we can do after they deal with all the actual farm stuff. Or make love to them under a harvest moon. Rolling in the hay, in the most literal way. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s just a fantasy. There just aren’t that many farmer hunks left.”
“They’re all drunk all day,” I state. “Just like people everywhere. Drunk on cheap booze, trying to forget the Bululg.”
“Not everyone is always drunk,” Maddie protests. “Most people are not. But yeah, some are drinking a lot more these days. At some point we should probably consider growing hops and such for brewing beer. Big market.”
After the Bululg invasion, Maddie and I dropped out of college because there just seemed to be no point to go on anymore. The future seemed bleak, and it was a badly kept secret that college girls ran a higher risk of Bululg abduction than others.
We’d been best friends since elementary school, and both of us had always dreamed about living on a small farm. That child’s dream mostly centered around the unicorns and antelopes and zebras we’d ride all day, but reality turned out differently. The farm itself was cheap, mostly because it had been in Maddie’s family forever and nobody else wanted to run it.
We only keep bees and sheep right now, and the rest of our day is taken up with growing corn and vegetables, driving tractors and other machinery, and then falling into bed almost unconscious from exhaustion.
We have a small patch of herbs and a large meadow with wildflowers for the bees. We plan to add a lot more hives after we get experience with the three we have. One day the honey production will become commercially viable, but we’re not holding our breath. With the severe downturn in the economy from everyone just losing hope from the alien occupation, luxury goods like that aren’t selling at the prices we would need.
It’s not a bad life, and not something I would have done if the invasion hadn’t happened. It was a way to get away from all the bad news and the constant fear of abduction in the city. This place seemed paradisiacal compared to the constant anxiety in the city.
Except now that Michelle was taken, it seems the Bululg are kidnapping girls in rural areas, too.
I rock back on my chair, making the old floorboards creak. “Probably better for the hunks if they’re not here. They’d die from all kinds of sexual exhaustion. But it looks like it’ll be a romance-less life for you and me, Maddie. I can’t remember the last time I saw a guy I thought I might want.”
“I know how you feel,” she replies, a little tipsy already. “It’s so weird. Like, every time I see a man, I kind of scowl at him and think ‘How could you let this happen? Why didn’t you defend us from the aliens?’ Which is totally unfair and silly. The Bululg won against all our armies in just a day or two. Thousands of our soldiers died. And it’s not like only men fought them. But I can’t help it.”
I nod slowly. “It’s pretty deep in us, I think. Maybe the worst thing the Bululg did to us was that they made us despise ourselves. I guess that’s why all the guys on Earth seem to just have buried themselves in booze and video games instead of doing something. Why isn’t there a resistance movement? Someone should start one. Earth should start to rebel!”
Maddie refills her glass. “Why don’t you start one?”
I laugh without mirth. “A resistance movement? Me? I can barely kill a fly, and I weep like a child each time the butcher comes to slaughter our sheep.”
“Some of the best resistance fighters against the Nazis during World Word Two were girls,” Maddie points out. “Nobody suspects women. Certainly the Bululg would never suspect someone who looks as innocent as you.”
“Yeah. Give me an army to hide in, and I’ll resist just fine. See? This is how we all think. We all think we’re alone in wanting to resist. That’s why nothing happens. You need the safety of a mass of people to fight back. Actually, I don’t want to just resist. I want to hurt them. Hurt them bad.”
My angry words hang in the air for a while. I’ve been thinking about Michelle all day, and the fury needed an outlet. But I’m not going to let the Bululg ruin our peaceful evening.
Taking a breath and pushing the dark thoughts away, I grab a glass jar from the floor. “But let’s think of something else. Could I interest milady in a taste of honey? Guaranteed straight from the royal hives, with maybe only the slightest chance of pieces of wax in it. Which just adds mild crunchiness, and isn’t that exactly what you want in a first-rate honey? Some say the wax pieces are the best part.” I fill a teaspoon with honey and hold it solicitously out to Maddie.
She lifts one eyebrow like shes a snooty customer at a restaurant. “Royal hives, huh?” she replies, carefully taking the teaspoon and putting it in her mouth, sucking all the honey from it. “Yeth, I heard there ith a queen and everything. Of courthe nothing elthe ith good enough—“ Maddie suddenly goes quiet. Then she half-rises from her chair and points. “What the hell ith that?!”
There’s a bright light in the night sky, a blue ball so intense I can’t look straight at it. It descends and vanishes behind the trees.
I bounce up from the chair. “That was close! Must have landed right next to the beehives.”
“What wath that?” Maddie still struggles with her mouth full of sticky honey. “Meteorite? Headlights?”
The light is still there, creating an eerie blue sheen behind the trees. Bessie is up, baring her teeth and laying her ears down, tense as a bowstring. I suddenly start worrying about the bees.
“Maybe headlights from a car,” I try, heartbeat loud in my ears as a pull my jacket closed. “Those high-intensity things. Being reflected from the trees or a bank of mist. Could be trespassers.”
It’s not the first time drunk people have snuck into our farm from the main road, thinking they can score some free and easy corn from a farm that may be abandoned. They’re normally harmless and leave the moment they see us. But this looks different.
“Don’t move,” Maddie says with determination and goes quickly into the house. She returns with an old shotgun cradled in her arms, broken open and loaded with two brass shells. “Let’s not take any chances. People are going crazy lately. You stay here and make sure nobody goes into the house. I’ll check that light.”
The ghostly, blue sheen behind the trees is giving me a strange, ominous feeling. “You can’t go alone. We’ll lock up here and go together.”
She nods distractedly, peering towards the light. “There’s strength in numbers.”
We quietly make our way towards the beehives, one field over. We don’t need light to see by, because we both walk this path many times a day. I’m clutching my phone, ready to turn the flashlight on full and blind any trespassers there may be. I’m not the bravest girl, but this is our farm and I will defend it.
Already we can hear furious buzzing from the bees. All three hives must be in uproar.
Bessie growls, but keeps her distance — she knows the little insects can give a nasty sting, and she was never the bravest dog in the first place.
The blue light is not as bright as when in the sky, but it’s definitely not headlights. It comes from something else, something big and round that has never been there before.
As we slowly emerge from behind the trees and bushes, Maddie stops. “There’s someone there,” she hisses. “Stay behind me. Do you have a flashlight— oh, good.”
She slams the double-barreled shotgun shut with a dangerous, metallic noise and walks forward.
I turn the flashlight on and aim it to where I think I can see movement, right by the hives.
“Stay where you are!” Maddie yells with a voice much more commanding than mine would be in this situation. “We mean you no harm— oh fuck me to hell...”
When the light from my phone passes over it the first time, I don’t even see it, it’s so big. I just see the beehives. Then I let the cone of light wander upwards, and then…
“Oh my God! Stay away!” I hiss, ice settling in my stomach and lips not quite obeying me. “Maddie! It’s a hornet!”
It’s unmistakable. The vivid stripes like a yellowjacket, the shiny black parts, the spikes, the mandibles…
But it’s not a real hornet. It can’t be. Nobody ever heard of a hornet the size of a horse. Certainly not one that’s walking on two legs. This is only a man dressed like a hornet. A huge man, and the costume is insanely well made, but a man nonetheless.
He shields his fake compound eyes with a very human arm, striped in luminous yellow. With the other, he’s lifting the lid of one of the hives. A hundred thousand bees are swarming around him, buzzing at a fever pitch.
Behind him is a flattened ball, pale blue and the size of a truck. It looks like no car I’ve ever seen, but I suppose it could be a hot-air balloon or something. Except no balloon should give off a blue light like that – it’s definitely not headlights.
“Just be calm, sir,” Maddie says with a tense voice, keeping her distance to the bees that are swarming around the man and making sure to aim the shotgun away from him. “You can leave anytime you want. Those bee stings could be a real problem if you get too many of them. If you want, we could call an ambulance—”
The hornet-slash-man drops the lid, jumps into the air, and storms straight for Maddie, feet not touching the ground, making a buzzing noise so deep and intense I feel it in my chest.
“Stay where you are!” Maddie barely has time to aim, but before the man reaches her, she takes an instinctive step away from him and trips, then falls backwards.
The whole clearing is lit up by the muzzle flash from the shotgun. Ihave no idea where the shot went. But I can’t help but notice that the hornet-man is hovering right above Maddie and that he has a stinger for a tail. It’s a black, barbed stinger the length of a pool cue and as pointy as a hunting knife.
He’s tensing up, and it looks like he’s going to ram that thing into Maddie and kill her.
Fueled by hard adrenaline, Bessie’s furious barking, and the insane buzzing from the bees, I dive for the shotgun and grab the warm metal of the double barrel, pulling it to me and ignoring how the smoke of the burned gunpowder stings my nose. I have never fired one before, but I’m definitely going to try now. I’m not going to let that thing hurt Maddie.
The hornet-man slowly turns in the air and directs his glittery compound eyes towards me, coming closer as if he has forgotten all about Maddie. She’s still down. Maybe he has stung her already.
I fumble with the shotgun, fingers stiff and shaking from fear. Where’s the trigger—
The butt kicks my already sore shoulder and throws me backwards. I land with an oof as the wind is knocked out of me.
My phone is attached to my arm with a short lanyard, and I scramble to grab at it. The flashlight is still on, and I direct it up.
For a moment I freeze as the gigantic hornet hangs in the air above me, both human and insect, face a strange and nightmarish mix of both. The buzzing varies in pitch and intensity, as if he’s saying something. But while I’m around bees all day long, I could never talk to them.
“Get the hell away from us,” I wheeze. “We have nothing you want.”
He hovers closer, buzzing furiously, stinger curled forwards between his legs. A clear drop of venom hangs at the needle-like tip.
My skin creeps, and the horror of it all makes me want to cry.
Quick as a flash, he’s right next to me and puts his arms around me, then squeezes. I expect a sharp sting, but only have time to register that he’s warmer to the touch than I expected before he pulls me along with him, rising into the air as the buzzing resonates through my body.
The bees swarm around us, my only friends here right now, because Maddie seems to be at least knocked out and Bessie can only bark.
“Let me go!” I hiss and kick and punch at the hornet’s hard body, but it makes no difference. He pulls me towards the blue oval, and before I know it I’m inside a blue space with large hexagonal shapes everywhere, like the honeycomb in a beehive.
No. Not a beehive. They don’t use pulp for their hives.
This is the inside of a huge hornet’s nest.
Dumped onto the floor, I curl up in a defensive instinct. But I’m painfully aware that nothing can help me now.
The hornet stands over me, stinger still extended. He looks at me with compound eyes that are normal eyes at the same time, in a way my brain just can’t process. Leaning slowly down, his black mandibles open wide, revealing a human-like mouth behind them.
Shit. Asian murder hornets have been known to use those things to cut the heads off ordinary bees, murdering and massacring entire hives for the honey. And my neck would fit just fine between them.
It should be a female. Almost all bees are. Pretty much all hornets too. But that bulge between his legs, and that torso, which I now realize is almost completely human, could only belong to a male. The way he stands, the way he stares, the deep buzzing, even the size of the sharply pointed wings at his back — there is nothing female about this hornet. Everything about him is ridiculously male.
He buzzes again, and this time my hyper-anxious brain realizes there are words in the deep buzzing, words with a chilling meaning.