The Death of Queen Beatrice (2019 failed entry CBC Short Story Contest)

Willamina hated flowers.  She was emotionally allergic to them.  She detested floral scents, colors and patterns with a passion.  She hated flowers almost as much as she hated her job, the same job she had been stuck in her entire adult life, but there were no other jobs she was qualified for.  The Queen made sure of that.  If there was one thing she hated more than her job, it was the Queen herself.

Queen Beatrice controlled everyone and everything.  It was by the Queen’s mandate that Willamina and her sisters were rendered infertile as children and Willamina resented her Monarch for it.  What if she wanted children of her own?  This was not her current concern.

The sun had long set on the day and one of her sisters, Brenda had not returned.  Willamina’s anxiety was genuine.  The job was fraught with many hazards.  Just that day, Willamina had seen someone she once knew bumbling around like a zombee.  Elizabeth … Beth…, Willamina reminded herself, had been bitten by a fly a few weeks prior while out foraging.  Fear her condition might be contagious led to Beth’s exile, again by edict of the Queen, adding just another layer of loathing on Willamina’s part.

Willamina spotted Susan in a crowd and rushed to ask if she had seen Brenda.

“Sorry Billie, I haven’t seen her today,” Susan said with recognizable sadness in her voice before going her way.

Willamina spent the whole night through pacing nervously.  Brenda did not return.  She felt sadness in her heart knowing another sister had fallen.  She could no longer deny the truth of it, that Brenda was probably never coming back.  She would be just another casualty of the job, just another number on the growing list of fallen sisters.  Willamina was furious.

It’s just the way the world works.  There’s nothing you can do about it, Willamina could hear the words she had suckled on since youth sour as they echoed in her head.  She could no longer accept them as truth.  She had had enough.  Something had to be done.  She could no longer stand idly by while one by one her sisters died, but what could she do?  She would stop the Queen, but how?  Slowly in the back of her head a plan began to form and take shape.

First, she gauged general sentiment toward the Queen among other workers, beginning with those she most trusted before expanding to those she trusted less.  Males could not be trusted at all.  They were a bunch of fat and lazy dumb drones; obedient only to the Queen and so she did not attempt to feel them out.

Much to her surprise, almost all of her sisters shared the same abhorrence for Queen Beatrice in hushed whispers, but they were afraid.  They were afraid of what the Queen would do if she even caught a whiff of dissent, but Willamina was not to be deterred.  She started again with her most intimate circle.  Honey was the first of her sisters that Willamina approached and actually broached the idea of a revolution.

“Oh, no Billie, no, you shouldn’t think such things, let alone say them,” Honey said horrified at first by the idea.  Her concern for her friend’s welfare was obvious in the expression that came over her face.

“You hate the Queen as much as I do,” Willamina pressed.  “Every day our sisters fall, another sister you know dies, maybe more than one some days.  Who’s next?  How many more of us must die before we do something?”

“It’s suicide, the Queen will kill anyone that rises up,” Honey stated as fact.

“So we die.  It’s suicide if we do nothing.  We either die one by one on the job, or we take a stand and who knows, maybe we won’t die,” Willamina retorted.

They debated the issue dead with Willamina eventually prevailing.  Over the course of the next few weeks she had been successful in recruiting the majority of workers to her cause.  They were lucky enough to fly under the Queen’s radar, but Willamina knew that it wouldn’t continue much longer.  They would have to act and act swiftly and decisively if they were going to be successful in pulling off their coup.  There could be no more hesitation without putting everybody at risk.

It was on a hot humid morning in mid-August when the workers assembled by Willamina carried out the plan they had orchestrated to overthrow Queen Beatrice.  As the sun rose and bled red on the horizon, the workers revolted in force and a great battle ensued.  The numbers were near equal on each side of the conflict and so too was the death toll.  Willamina witnessed Honey’s head being ripped from her body among many other horrors.

During the battle, Willamina caught sight of Queen Beatrice and she became singular in her focus.  In that moment, all the hatred she had known for the Queen transformed into an uncontrollable rage.  She made a beeline straight for the Monarch.  As she attempted to attack the Queen, she felt the first wound sting her, followed by another and then another.  The pain was excruciating and before dying, Willamina managed to deliver a stinging wound of her own.  As the white lights blazed and burned in the back of her head, before everything went black, Willamina could only hope the one and only strike she was able to deliver would prove fatal to the Queen as well.

***

The burden on Queen Beatrice was enormous.  Hers was not an envious task.  The world was a harsh place and without her guidance chaos would consume the ungoverned and they would all perish.  She existed to serve her population, to maintain the order that was necessary to ensure their survival.  She existed to save the masses from their baser instincts.  This was the onus of her station and she took her responsibilities seriously.  She took no joy in the hard decisions she had to make, but make them she did all the same, because their continued survival required it.

There was little she could do to prevent the deaths of workers.  If the workers didn’t forage they would all starve come winter.  She did her best to limit the dangers to the adult population, keeping the children safe.  It was unfortunate, but necessary.  It was just the way the world worked and there was nothing she could do about it.  She did not invent the system that had seen their survival over countless generations during times of peace and strife.

She had heard the buzz of worker dissatisfaction, but she did not take their grievances seriously.  The workers were always complaining about one thing or another, after all.  When the workers revolted, she was caught completely off guard.  The workers swarmed the Royal Court and those loyal to Beatrice did their best to repel the attack that led to decimation on both sides.  The revolt was eventually put down, but not before a worker broke from the ranks and made straight for Beatrice.

Willamina, Billie…the Queen put a name to the face, but before she could react, before she could say or do anything, the worker was on top of her.  Beatrice was struck, she felt the sting and knew the wound would prove fatal.  Blinding white light obscured her vision and pain racked her body.  She fell, doubled over and curled up.  She died feeling betrayed by the population she existed to serve.

***

All the workers that took part in the revolt that day suffered violent deaths as a result.  The few drones that survived began feeding the remaining larvae Royal Jelly in an attempt to produce a new Queen and begin the cycle of subservience anew, but they would never recover from the collapse of the hive’s population.  They would never be successful in producing a successor in time and when winter came they too would die.

The death of Queen Beatrice is not an isolated event.  In recent years, events such as these have been occurring much more frequently.  In hive after hive, entire populations have been wiped out.  It would appear no hive is immune.

 

T J Therien

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