A story about the mighty bee - what would we do without them?

Bees at Work

Bee Minus

By Stacey Dighton

 

    The cow was dead, deceased, terminated. It lay on its side, thick black tongue hanging out of flaccid, purple lips. The smell hung in the air like pestilence. I turned to my fiancé, Gail. She’d been a funny colour for days.

    “No good,” I said. “Meat's gone off.”

    A ragtag group of white, wannabe gangsters gathered round us. One of them pushed past me. A girl in a black vest and baggy jeans ran a hand through Gail’s blond curls.

    “Nah, you can’t touch that, blud,” a guy in an NWA T shirt said. “Give ya bare shits.” 

    The group laughed. All except Gail and me. We were starving.

    “It’s the disease, innit fam. Like COVID but worse.”

    “What you mean?” another kid asked.

    “I tole you already. Killed all the animals, innit. Like all of dem, dead. Look.” The boy rammed a heavy boot into the animal’s side. “As a dodo. And you know what dat means, roadman?” Another spotty, copper-haired kid shook his head. “No Maccy Dees fam. No KFC either.”

    “No way!” Coppertop exclaimed. “What? No three piece? No Quarterpounder with cheese?”

    “No blud. Can’t have dairy. No cows.”

    “Oh, you vexing me with all this peak talk, fam.”

    NWA continued. “Nah, serious. Cheese comes from milk, you wasteman. Don’t you know nutting.”

    “Yeah, I know that, I ain’t stupid.” Coppertop blushed.

    “Well, it seems like you are, blud.”

    I’d had enough. “Look, where’s the nearest farm?”

    “Ain’t do you no good, blud. No bees, innit.”

    Coppertop looked dumbfounded. “What you chatting about bees for?”

    “Oh my life!” NWA said. “You are some dutty wasteman, you really are.”

    I pulled at Gail’s arm. “Never mind, we’ll find our own way.”

    As we trudged up the empty street I heard NWA holler behind me. “If you ain’t a vegan, fam, you in bare trouble.”

    He was right, of course. The disease had come two months earlier, attacking every living thing on the planet. All except the humans that was, which I found mildly ironic given that we had being doing a pretty good job of wiping out every other species for the past four billion years. The farmers reacted by butchering and freezing what they had, but once the scientists realised that ingesting infected meat could kill you, the government instructed them to burn everything. That was a bleak day, but the worst was yet to come. Within a week the insects perished too. Ants at first, then beetles, ladybirds, butterflies, moths. And then the bees of course. They fell from the sky in great torrents of yellow and black. That was when we knew we were in trouble. Big, extinction level trouble.

    “I don’t know if I can make it much further, Matty.”

    “Yes you can. I know you can.” I turned to her. Her eyes were grey, her cheeks sallow. “You’re strong, Gail. Always have been.”

    “I’m so hungry.”

    It had been a long hike. We’d walked from the centre of Croydon and headed south. I knew we would die in the city if we stayed. We had to buy ourselves time by living off the land. Time for the world to figure out how it could artificially pollinate enough crops to feed eight billion people every-single-day. The problem was, everybody else had the same idea, and most were willing to kill to feed their families. Nearly every farm we visited en-route was either completely depleted or protected by armed villagers.

   “You can do this. We can do it, together.” I held her face in my hands and kissed her forehead.

    “What you after mate?” It was a big bloke with scruffy black hair and a flannel overcoat. He was carrying a rifle.

    “We don’t want any trouble,” I said.

    “Where you from?”

    “Croydon.”

    “Then why you all the way out here?”

    Another guy appeared from behind a parked van. He was even bigger and was gripping the handle of a pickaxe in shovel-like hands.

    Gail stood in front of me. “We just want some food, that’s all.”

    “Ain’t much here, love.” It was an older woman, maybe sixty. She stood in the doorway of a vacant grocers. “And what we got, you ain’t welcome to.”

    “But we’re starving,” Gail pleaded with her. “We haven’t eaten in days.”

    “Oh, and we have?” the lady asked, agitated. A young kid appeared from behind her, his malnourished face tucked under her arm. “Sorry sweetheart, but you’re not getting any of what little we’ve saved for ourselves.”

    “Some water then,” I offered. “Can you give us that at least?”

    The guy with the rifle nodded to his pal who pulled two plastic bottles from the rear of the van. He tossed them to us. “Now be on your way, before my mate here decides he needs a workout.”

    We retreated down an alleyway and cut across a deserted carriageway. I stopped once we reached the edge of a large grassy area. I opened my bottle and handed it to Gail. She glugged half of it down.

    “Be careful,” I said. “Save some for later.”

    “Drink yours too.”

    “I’m okay,” I said even though I was far from it. “For now at least.”

    I looked across the park and spotted something.

    “Wait,” I walked between a set of swings and a rust addled climbing frame. “You see that?”

    There was a group of people gathered around a lorry. The rear door was open and large boxes were being hauled out.

    “Is that what I think it is?” Gail asked.

    “I think so.”

    We ran across the park, suddenly all thoughts of grumbling stomachs, aching joints and wasting muscles pushed to the back of our minds. It was a supermarket delivery truck and it was full. Full of food containers. Enough to feed thirty, forty, fifty people for days. If we could just get enough to last us a fortnight, a week even, we would have a chance. I was sure of it.

    “You grab what you can!” I yelled, the wind in my hair and saliva in my mouth. “I’ll come from the other direction and see if I can get inside the truck!”

    I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. There were ten, maybe twelve people already looting the truck's cargo. We were going to be reliant on their generosity, their charitable spirit, all things that had been in short supply recently.

    A box full of chocolate bars suddenly fell at Gail’s feet and she looked down, too shocked to move.

    “Pick it up, quick!”

    She stooped and reached out her trembling hands just as another woman with straggly brown hair did the same.

    “That’s mine,” the woman hissed.

    “We can share it. There’s more than enough”

    “I don’t think so,” the woman said and snatched at the box.

    Gail snarled as she launched herself at her. “I said we can share it!”

    Suddenly they were engaged in a battle, the box flying off into the bushes as Gail clawed at the woman’s face with fingers like talons. I decided she was on top of the situation and headed for the truck.

    An old guy in a grey business suit turned as I approached.

    “Fuck off you prick. This is ours.”

    I was taken aback. “Woah! All I want is a little of what’s inside.”

    “Denny!” The old guy exclaimed. “This ponce thinks his getting some of our bounty!”

    “Eh!” A head poked out from inside the truck. “You what?”

    “This bloke ‘ere,” he pointed at me. “He thinks he’s getting his hands on what’s in our lorry.”

    “I don’t think so Dad.”

    “No,” the old boy reached into his jacket. “Me neither.” He pulled a handgun from the inside pocket. “Unless, that is, he wants a face full of holes.”

    Now, I have to take a moment to tell you this just so you can forgive me in some small way for what happened next. I’m not a violent man, not by nature. In my opinion the benefits of diplomacy far outweigh anything that can be gained by a punch thrown at another human being. But I had been patient, and I had been civil and yet it had gotten Gail and I absolutely nowhere. The situation just could not be allowed to continue. And of course, there was the fact that I was an ex Royal Marine. With two tours of active duty.

    When the gun was wrenched from the old boy’s hand, and the bullet entered his shin at approximately two thousand feet per second, the yell that emanated from his lungs could only be described as piercing. When the son tried to intervene he got a bullet in the shoulder for his troubles and went down like a one legged man trying to kick a ball. Everyone else left in a hurry. I turned to Gail who was sitting astride the woman with straggly hair, her nose bloodied, her eyes wide, vivid.

    “My darling,” she grinned. “Shall we eat?”

TO BE CONTINUED....