Winter – nat moon

When bees are born, we’re told we have a singular purpose: to serve the colony. Worker or drone, our job is to make sure the future of the colony is secure. In plain terms, we exist to support the queen. And if she ever stops doing what her singular purpose is — laying eggs, plentiful and healthy — we band together to kill her, and the workers pick another queen.
Today we’re being given the spiel — a hundred drones gather around one of the coven mothers at the top of the hive, buzzing, buzzing, as the workers do their thing beneath us. She tells us how important we are, how even though we don’t perform any “meaningful labor” our brief existence is essential to the prosperity of the hive.
We come from a long line of warriors, she says, whose sole purpose is to mate with a queen from another hive. For what she calls “genetic diversity.” I hear her drone on (no pun intended) about our other responsibilities and something called “winter” but the queen has crawled out from inside a wall of honeycomb and I’m lost in her relative resplendence.
Then she’s gone, behind and beneath hundreds of worker bees who are tending to the eggs she’s just laid. The buzzing becomes sharp, almost high-pitched. The eggs. Something’s wrong with them. They’re pale, and there aren’t enough of them. Not nearly enough. Some of them aren’t developed right, and you can see it, too. Body parts in the wrong place. A stinger coming out of an eye. All the legs grouped together at the front of the body so they’ll never be able to walk or fly straight, total Franken-bee. A ripple goes through the crowd, you can feel it. Wings that never stop humming are ferociously buzzing. There’s palpable tension as the air heats up from all the movement. We’re going to do it. We’re going to kill the queen.
We crowd around her, all 10,000 of us, workers and drones, alike jostling to get as close to her as we can. Hypothetical becomes material as the reality sets in: we are traitors. Committing regicide. Killing the queen for the sake of the colony. But we know it, deep down: it has to be done.
I can’t even see her through the crowd, but I hear the screams as she’s stung, over and over. The worker bees that sting her will leave behind a painful venom, ensuring her death is but swift agony. The workers themselves will die shortly after, as the stingers rip out part of their gut in a massive abdominal rupture. Swift, but agony. The most noble suicide mission. Countless bees sting the queen, making no one bee solely responsible for her murder.
And then it’s over. The workers are still buzzing, but in a new pattern. Some young workers remove corpses; a crowd moving slowly together likely indicates the queen passing by. But we are not in mourning. I wonder what’s next. Then, suddenly I feel it. An intense quiet. There are bees on all sides of me, and the drones are being rounded up, the center of a grotesque moving sphere that fills every square inch of the hive. We’re being pushed to the exit, and I hear the term “winter” again. And as we’re pushed out of the hive into the freezing cold night, I remember what the matron said about winter at orientation: winter means death.

nat moon is a visual artist living in los angeles with their partner, kiddo & pup. they are lucky enough to be married to a true curator and steward of books, and look forward to sharing their love of books with their kiddo (& pup.)

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