You know how people wonder whether the human race will go out with a bang or a whimper? I think the honeybees have answered that question for us. I personally see the hand of God in the fact that honeybee workers, classic nose-to-the-grindstone types, are just walking off the job. More and more colonies are turning up empty, or with just a few young and bewildered bees. It’s like the family that left their home in Oklahoma or wherever it was. They drove until the car ran out of gas; then they started walking. No one ever saw them again. Well, I figure this is our last warning. The pillar of salt was a warning. The global flood was another. The honeybees are simply the latest, but I think they show us how it will happen. I’ve seen this in a vision: people just dropping things where they lie and walking away, walking away from everything, and they don’t come back.
Now if we only knew which of the myriad sects was the correct one, the one that had God’s true word, we could all join. Maybe if only one person joined, we would get another chance. I am convinced that this time, as in the time of Noah, someone will see the light. Someone will understand the true word of God, act accordingly, and people will listen. But this has to happen soon. As I walk to and from work it seems to me that more houses are empty, more businesses operate with a skeleton crew, more storefronts are abandoned.
So I think we will be saved, but one thing has me lying awake at night. Suppose one of the countless sects that has been extirpated over the last few millennia was the only one that got it right. Or what if no one has ever understood the Truth?
I’m doing what I can. I’m researching forgotten religions and setting up websites for all of them. Go online and Google “religions.” You’ll find them, mixed in with all the familiar ones. Ritual of the Gnaath. Sisterhood of Eternity. And so on. Each has a PayPal button. I’m not taking that money myself! It really goes to that religion, for website maintenance. I figure if I can revive any of these religions it will improve our odds. And I’m getting lots of hits, lots of contributions. Do I have yours?
Buzzing black flies careen into the dusty plate-glass window. Through it, I see him park his Harley by the ancient pipe-cactus at the side of the road. He opens the door. It jingles and a blast of hot, dry air circulates the aroma of coffee, frying burgers, and burnt bacon. Before the door closes I feel, more than hear, the thrum and warble of the thing over the bend, though there is a sound that carries above the tinny classic rock coming from the little speakers in the booths.
Marla, that’s what her nametag says, extends her lower lip and blows a lock of her curly raven hair out of her eyes. Green eyes. Green eyes clearly frustrated with the customers. She notices him in a second, sure as a kangaroo rat knows a plump cactus blossom has fallen to the desert floor. She leaves her station, coffee pot in hand, and greets him.
He clanks his dinged metal thermos on the counter. This guy isn’t here for science, or profit, not on that bike. Curiosity or art, maybe. But I don’t think so.
“Damn if I know where my next cup is coming from,” he says. “Better fill ‘er up.”
Her body language screams disappointment. Those green eyes search for something more. I think of all the last stop diners I’ve been to. All the signs that said “last gas for 200 miles” and I laugh, then stop myself.
I came for the thing that opened up round the bend. But I was heading away, out of town, when I stopped in and saw her.
I understand why she wants to go. She’s seen the interviews of prospectors and storytellers and their tales of beauty and wonder on the other side. Those that come back. The lucky few that do, show up in random places. Tuscaloosa. Perth. Johannesburg are the hot spots, lately. Those that aren’t mad, have been “touched”. I guess you can call it that. Touched with a bliss that is apparent and infectious even from a TV screen.
What is it about this guy? Is he a Prospector? A treasure seeker? A thrill chaser? Just another pilot of purple twilight doing it just because? I want to ask him, maybe convince him to take me along, but it will ruin their moment.
She walks with him outside. That whine and warble is louder now. The government men will be here soon and I don’t want to be around when they do. Being detained is not pleasant.
I watch them kiss goodbye. Why he doesn’t stay with her or take her with him, I don’t know. Guess I never will. Some people just have to drive.
He speeds off, trailing a cloud of dust. When the sound of his engine fades, I will go to her, or think of something witty to say if she comes to refill my coffee. There is nothing here for her now; soon there will be nothing for me.
We’re changing things up a bit this week, giving you updates on cabalists you haven’t seen here in a while mixed with some microfiction pieces that are even more micro than our usual fiction. Click here to read today’s update, or just click “previous story” further down this page.
Although I’ve finally found the ideal parallel earth for me to move to, in which all the necessities of life are free, there is no war, and everyone is happy all the time, unfortunately it turns out the dominant species here is a kind of hyperintelligent dolphin.
Here’s this year’s installment in the series that includes A Winter’s Fantasy and A Winter’s Fantasy II, once again a tip of the hat to the esteemed Mr. Ogdred Weary.
Uncle Cuthbert summoned us to his rooms in the North Wing. Edmund and I found him there, propped up on a heap of pillows with a lily-pad-pattern comforter pulled up to his chin and fires blazing on either side of the bedroom.
He was always sick, but we’d never seen him this bad.
“The countess assures me of your discretion,” he said, and we tried to act humble while he caught his breath. “I have… a task.”
He coughed several minutes before continuing. “The pond. Where I studied. Many years. Dangerous. In this cold. Creatures. Keep in. Walls up. Don’t…”
That was all he had strength for. His doctor wouldn’t let us wait for him to wake.
The woods were frigid — tree trunks coated with ice, path glazed slick. It was hard to walk, but not hard to find the pond. A little path led from the shack that had been Uncle Cuthbert’s research station.
We didn’t see any wall, although we tromped through the woods until our feet felt like stones. Pieces of glass lay everywhere on the ground, like windowpanes without windows. A few leaned up against trees.
“That could be a wall,” said Edmund.
We made fast work of it, setting up a wall of glass all around the pond, then hurrying home to thaw by the fire.
The glass was still there the next day; it must have worked.
Dark came quickly under the trees. We’d worn warmer coats and triple socks, and thought we’d wait to see what we were holding back.
They lifted themselves from the pond around moonrise. Long fingers, long noses like icicles — they were icicles. When they rickety-walked closer, I could see air bubbles, trapped insects, and bits of water plants inside their transparent bodies.
I backed up. They could just slip through between the panes. But the glass distracted their sharp fingertips. They drew patterns, lacy, intricate, mesmerizing to them and us. I didn’t think we’d make it until morning — our coats weren’t that warm, and our socks were full of snow.
I couldn’t move my eyes, could barely move my hand. I found a rock. I don’t remember throwing it, just the crash, the shrieking, their icy-sharp fingers on the backs of our necks as we ran all the way back to the house, and the shivers we couldn’t shake until summer.