The story challenge continues! The idea is to incorporate 9 different elements, suggested by commentors, into a single story. Why? I just wanted to see what would happen. I got the idea from Senia and her Story Tuesdays; I have found them a lot of fun to read, and a nice change of pace from the usual blog reading.
Again, this is rough-draft quality…straight-through writing, no back-edits, over about 1.75 hours by my watch. This installment knocks two more “must have” elements off the list, leaving 5 more to go. At this rate there will likely be 1 or 2 more installments.
Feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the comment area if you want to try to influence the direction of the story, or ask questions, or guess to see what might happen next…
Part II of The Bee Story
RECAP: In Part I, we’re introduced to Ulrick the disaffected bee, who is off to find some nectar under unusual circumstances that have escaped his notice. He’s left the Hive in search for nectar…
The sky was turning smoky, and the rising humidity started to put Ulrick on edge. Bees are not big fans of smoke, because it makes them drowsy, and a drowsy bee is a lazy bee. The concept was downright terrifying, because lazy bees tend to be dead. The smell of smoke is, to a bee, the very smell of death. The sky, usually so comforting with its welcoming openness, was not herself. The rising humidity was a lesser but still valid concern, as it was a precursor to the possibility of rain. Though Ulrick himself was a champion raindrop dodger, that didn’t mean he liked it. Rain made everything take longer, watered-down the nectar, and made his wings damp and less buzzy. A damp bee, though not lazy, was certainly not a happy bee either.
These two environmental factors alone were not enough to deter Ulrick, but the strangeness of his mission—the unusual destination plotted by his supervisor, and the surprising lack of surety about his flight path—was enough for him to consider a rare (for him) stopover at a sheltering structure to think things over. And maybe find a bit of something sweet to replenish his tired wings; Ulrick realized that he’d been flying for quite some time, and he needed a bit of a pick-me-up if he was going to last the mission. His antennae detected the faint hint of sugary molecules beneath him. Thus orientated, Ulrick let himself drop from the sky with a lazy flutter, performing an un-powered controlled descent toward the source of whatever sugary goodness beckoned. This turned out to be a small house, typical of the kind you’d see in New England, in the kind of yard that was usually friendly to bees, with a nearby orchard offering both shelter from the wind and flowers to draw nectar from: in other words, it was a prime destination. They called them “primes” for short, and primes were the supply backbone for the entire nectar-industrial complex. Ulrick had in fact scouted a similar prime, in the southern zone about 3 long buzz steps from Hive Central, and knew it well. That there was another prime off to the northeast, about the same distance away, would be good news for the Hive.
“Hello, Ulrick! What are you doing here today, of all days?”
Ulrick startled. It was Tiffany, the small domesticated hamster from the southern prime, watching him from outside an open window. He almost collided with the house, one wingtip nicking a rough wooden clapboard with a slight snicking sound. Tiffany watched with some concern.
“You ok, Ulrick? Maybe you should have a sit. It’s not a good day for flying!”
Ulrick settled down on the window sill, still disoriented. Was he dreaming? Did the smoke get to him? Maybe he was already gripped by laziness, and was already dead. He kicked out his legs in a spasm, seeing if being dead affected his ability to move. Apparently, it did not. He blinked in surprise, as well as he could as he had no eyelids. It looked more like a spastic shrug to the casual observer, but Tiffany picked up on the general idea. She scurried back into her cage, and got a sweet piece of fruit to toss out for Ulrick to refresh himself with. His autonomous bee instincts kicked in, and he hopped toward the fruit to suck dewy droplets of sustenance from its moist surface. Kiwi!
This was rather perplexing, because Tiffany also gave him fruit at the other prime. Not this one. There had to be two Tiffany hamsters, because his bee senses told him that he had flown toward the northeast, not south. He explained this to Tiffany II.
“Oh, but I’m the same Tiffany” said Tiffany.
“It’s possible that you think you’re Tiffany” countered Ulrick, “but clearly you’re not, by the Rules of Bee Logic, which tell me that I’m in the Northeastern Zone.” He explained that bee logic was very precise and infallible, as it was based on bee intuition, which itself was based on the constancy of the very cosmos itself. The sun went up and the sun went down every day without fail. Bees woke with the sun, and danced with it to show each other the way to life-sustaining flowers, themselves sustained by the very same light that bound their fates together. “Q.E.D.” concluded Ulrick.
Tiffany was impressed. “Wow, we don’t have anything like Bee Logic here in the hamster cage” she said. “We’re mostly chewing up stuff, and we don’t go outside. I really DO want to go outside someday though!” She gnawed a pellet nervously, simultaneously terrified and excited by the very concept. “But not today, because of the suns.”
“You mean ‘sun’, of course” clarified Ulrick pedantically. “There’s only one sun. That’s the whole foundation of Bee Logic.”
“Oh no, there are two suns today. Didn’t you see?” Tiffany pointed out the window. Indeed, there was the regular sun, bright in the sky, casting friendly sunbeams through the gently swaying leaves of the apple trees outside. But there was also a darker, brooding sun, and this was the one Ulrick noticed for the first time. It looked like an angry sunset that had been forced to do not only dusk, but the dawn and afternoon shifts as well, becoming swollen with resentment. His bee senses resonated with its power, and whispered to him that he was indeed to the northeast of the Hive, and not to listen to foolish hamsters. But if there were two suns…
Tiffany shuddered. “It’s been like that all day. I tried watching Oprah, but it didn’t help.”
Ulrick peered into the room that Tiffany occupied. “Say, is there another window on the other side of the room? I’m going to go check it out.”
“Yep!” said Tiffany. “Go for it! Just stay focused on the light at the end, and not the light at the top of the room. Otherwise you’ll get hurt.” Though Tiffany was not schooled in the rules of Bee Logic, she did know that bees tended to be confused by competing light sources. It all came from believing there was just one sun, she gathered. If your idea of the sun is a bright light, then you’re bound to think everything bright was the sun, with predictably hilarious results. Fortunately, she thought, hamsters were not bound by such dogma; it was a lot more practical to just be scared of everything that moved.
Ulrick had successfully navigated the room, and sat on the window sill. The view was different here, and he felt himself bathed in the light of the other sun. It filled him with images of flowers and nectar, not the specter of smoking death. His bee senses also told him that he was, indeed, south of the Hive. Not to the northeast, as the other sun had told him in savage whispers. He buzzed back to Tiffany’s cage, perplexed.
“THERE ARE TWO SUNS!” he buzzed with great alarm and earnestness.
“Yes, that’s why it’s not a good day for flying” Tiffany said. “Isn’t your bee dancing code based entirely on the sun? If there are two suns, what does that mean?”
“I…I don’t know” said Ulrick. He felt quite lost. His entire world had been shattered. If there were two suns, he had to question everything. Just when he was starting to get the hang of that whole ‘Nectar = Life, Life = Nectar’ equation with everyone else.
Tiffany sensed Ulrick’s unease, and adopted a comforting posture by lying on her belly so she was a little more at his level. Ulrick’s gaze was unfocused, even more so than usual for an insect with a nearly 360 degree field of vision, but the small hamster’s presence made him feel a little better.
“Back when I was a hamster attending Columbia University,” said Tiffany, “I sat in on a seminar about Einstein and Relativity. Did you know that Einstein got the idea for Relativity by watching trains go by as a youth? He watched them go by and go by, and he noticed that if something were to fall on a train moving by him at a certain speed, to an observer on the train it would look like it was falling straight down. However, to the young Einstein sitting on the bank watching the train, the path would appear curved. So that’s how he apparently got the idea.”
“Oh” said Tiffany modestly, “I was in the cognitive science program, assisting Dr. Pankow and Dr. Musso in their research on incentive-based spatial mapping strategies for small mammals. I was their fastest hamster, but my data didn’t quite fit in with the other data so they labeled me an ‘outlier’ and Musso took me home. This is her house. She tells me sometimes that I was meant for greater things, but I don’t really know what yet.”
“And, um, who is Einstein?”
“Einstein was a famous scientist who invented something called Relativity, and it’s all about how things look different depending on where you are standing. The math gets a little hairy, I’m told, but I can only count up to 1 so I just remember the part about things looking different.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about” said Ulrick, suddenly wishing that he too had gone to college.
“Well, I’m just saying that so there are two suns, and that’s really confusing and damaging to the bee logic principles you just told me. But it’s all really just kind of a point of view, right? I thought that maybe that would make you feel better.”
Ulrick mulled it over. His strength had been restored by the fruit, and though his faith in Bee Logic had been seriously questioned, Tiffany somehow made sense in her hamsterish way. The red sun still was wreaking havoc with his bee senses, but really…it was just another point of view. It was likely that the strangeness of his supervisor’s bee dance was due to the two suns. Well, if that was the case, maybe the dance still led somewhere that it was supposed to. All dances led somewhere, didn’t they?
“Are you going to stay to watch Ellen with me, Ulrick? Harrison Ford is on!”
Ulrick hopped to the windowsill. “Maybe next time, Tiffany! Thanks for the fruit, and for the help…I’ve got some flying I need to do.”
Tiffany waved. “Fly safe, Ulrick! Come back and visit me soon!”
Ulrick launched himself into the sky, waggling his wings by way of waving back.