“There is a swarm of bees amongst the whales. Or at least I thought there was at first.” Dr. Pete Pistil paces, puffing his pipe, “I first noticed it recording mating beluga in Antarctica. Then off Havana, bees overtaking the satisfied grunts of the manatee. There it was again in San Francisco Bay, a soft drone underneath chirping dolphins—a single angry queen slowly joined by a whole buzzing army. Inescapable.”
“They’re in the ocean?”
“They’re everywhere, now. Louder every day. Louder means closer.”
“So?” I collapse in a leather armchair. Classical music plays on a reel-to-reel on his desk. Music and—bees? Pistil offers a snifter of something, noticing my concentration on the tape.
“Hear it behind the orchestra? The buzzing around Holst’s universe?” He giggles, “First measured but insistent around Mars, next a few drones encircle Venus, now, a swarm in Uranus.”
He stops the tape. “That’s what my audio-tech said about a waveform masking a mewing orca calf. That isn’t it.”
I strain my ears. The faint buzzing continues without the tape. “Tinnitus?”
“That’s what my doctor said about test results shoved into a file. That isn’t it either. It’s in earth itself. See, mucking around the ocean with recording equipment, I was one of the first scientists to notice. But, miners have known it for years. ‘El zumbido’ it’s called in the Atacama Desert; in the gold mines of Shandong province, it’s ‘Dìqiú huángfēng.’ Roughly ‘earth-wasp.’ A little on the nose for my taste.”
“Why have you brought me?” I slam the glass and head for the paneled oak doors. “You want me to help fight giant bees in the earth?”
“Fight them, Dr. Stamen?!” he buzzes, sharply grabbing me by the lapel with his sticky pollen-covered fingers, “Why would we want to do that?”