Hornet's Nest

Born and raised outside of Chicago, I love writing in all its many forms and genres. I also love trees, birds, video games, and video game representations of trees and birds.

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
It hangs, brown and fat and drooping, its papery walls like so much windblown sand, the worker wasps on its surface like so many maggots corrupting a body. You stare up at the heavy hornet’s nest, your upper lip retracting from your teeth in disgust. Your fist clenches around a sharp gray rock; you can feel it, biting into your palm.

You wonder how many eyes are in the nest, and if they’re all compound, how many fractured pictures of you would kaleidoscope within tiny brains. Does it look like the mirror in the hallway?

You wonder how loud it would be if they all rose in unison, wings whirring against the weighty air. Would it be louder than the incessant calls of crickets and crows that drown out the dronings of cars crawling over crumbling roads? Would it be loud enough to deafen you to the sounds of your mom screaming, those nights you can always hear, no matter how far under covers, no matter how many pillows piled on your head, no matter how long ago it happened?

You think of bees. The bumbly kind, yes, and those that candy wax, but also waspish ones with horn-rimming stings, and of course, those long-lancing, smoking-jacket-clad yellow-fevers—Yellowjackets.

Moaning into the humid days, they pant for want of water. They used to find the sweat on your face, and sit there, lapping mostly salt. While they drank themselves shriveled, you'd lain perfectly still, trying not to give them cause to sting you.

He, too, had a mustard-colored suit. You'd always hated it. When he wore it, he looked like a plantation owner: starched and unyielding and terrible.

Your vision pulses yellow-black-yellow-black, and a trickle of blood runs through your fingers where the rock has sliced your flesh. You look at that red, not feeling your tendons cry out from beneath the pressure of the rock. You wonder how much saltwater it would take to drown the hive.

Staring at your hand, your vision flushes red. Red like her lipstick, red like her dress, red like spattered rings around black holes. The color consumes you until you are the one drowning in a red sea.

Your breath shudders.

It's fine. You're fine. This is fine.

You try to tell yourself this, but the rock has already left your hand. Of course you threw it. You'd known you would from the moment you picked it up.

The arc is perfect. When it smashes into the nest, the hornets rise as one, like perfect golden bullets; a cloud of shotgun shells in summer's setting sun.