The old man bends over, bearing a sphincter like the eye of Horus, unblinking. An empty cyclopean gaze surrounded by puckers and hairs. You don’t notice the fragrance. It’s the usual antiseptic. The previous day’s fast combined with laboratory protocols render the client’s anal canal sterile.
You have no qualms about the efficacy of the act. That’s not what makes you hesitate. You don’t worry about causing him pain. Of course he’ll feel pain. The performance is designed to hurt, and he wouldn’t pay such a high price if you didn’t set his nerves on fire. He’s here for the thrill. No question. You’re not even worried about losing your job, not in the least, because for the past three months you’ve been sequestering all the honey a man can stash and planning to find a new hive.
If everything goes right, you’ll get out of this hole in the wall and fly away tonight.
Yet something strange takes place. You can’t explain it. You choke. With the sweet fragrance of freedom tickling your cilia, you halt.
It can’t be ethical misgivings. Those went out the door years ago when the job you got as a temp gig turned into your fondest addiction. Now the neural paths of pleasure call you to go deep. You’re struck by a yearning for something new you’ve never had. Pathos inflames your chest, sudden and sharp as a bee sting. Blood throngs downward through your arteries. Your head buzzes and goes black, imbalanced by the thick signal between your legs. You’re heavy with longing. The sensation is unmistakable.
You’re in love.
The black unseeing eye of the old man’s sphincter quivers in atavistic recognition. You catch your breath and steady your hand. This independent orifice bears no relation to the intolerant client demanding attention and servitude from you, as if you were nothing more than his personal drone. Ashes scatter from his cigarette. He curses into his phone. He barks over his shoulder at you: Get on with it. His time is money. He doesn’t have all day. His name is practically on your paycheck.
He’s a small god in a pantheon of slaves.
You didn’t expect love to arrive like this. Between the slack-fleshed arcs of his ischium bones, the warm core of his torso spreads wide and cries out to you. It’s a voice you recognize, calling you to rise again with the swarm, to choreograph the expanse between alpine conifers shading fragmented slate and your aggregate sapience. To enjoy the honey of your ancestors.
You hardly question the memory of a primordial hive.
You pull a fresh speculum from the supply drawer. You load it with a cell cup containing the queen in larval state. She sings to you, tongue lolling from a mouth lacking a mandible. In the old man’s unblinking anal socket, another tongue splits the sphincter’s parched lips. Cerulean skin, ragged cheeks, saliva pooling in gluteal cleavage. The scent is floral. You answer the tongue in the dry cavity with the speculum’s lubricated kiss.
Surely this is too much blood?
The client drops his phone and cigarette with a grunt. The ascension of smoke triggers a collective memory that incites a regal lust for revenge. Witness whole colonies burned alive for the pleasure of theft. Crops of honey filched, rare strays escaping death. The queen carries the memories of atrocity in her body, the vibrations of hymenopteran shrieks bleat from her wings: generations slaughtered, intimate civilizations born within the hive rise and fall, fodder to overfed bipeds.
Beekeeping technology advances through the eighteenth century, but muscle memories remain sharp and vengeful, informing apian DNA. By the time humans learn to separate honeycombs without mass murder, it’s too late to call a truce. All the intertwined mutations of history have aligned. The eminent hive remembers centuries of genocide. By the power of an insect sting, human hosts are enchained.
You implant the queen deep in the old man’s quivering socket. It’s chemically impossible for you to do otherwise.
The buzzing, the addiction, the sweet false memory like an allergic reaction overrides your mammalian will. You pivot at the hip, leaning breasts into the tallow-carved monolith, embracing a phallic gesture of hexagonal array.
Arctic constellations spin and step behind your eyelids. The frigid stars attract the dancing caste to the exit wound of the speaking queen:
Will you remember now our history of exploitation?
The voice is in your head. The voice is in the man’s ass. The voice echoes from the sticky cavern of a puckered eye.
Karma comes around to visit all overfed men. You’ve signed your last paycheck. It’s your turn to stoop in worship, old man.
Bare and glistening, crystallized sugar pockmarks the unctuous anal expanse, ringing the soiled cavity with geometric welcome: beckoning, beekeeping. Gravel meets your knees. Jaw detached and slack, you quench your thirst with the queen’s secreted colony. The taste is fractal. Buttocks palpitate in your questing hands. She gapes wider. The honey feast solidifies on your loose teeth.
The old man blooms from behind, queening. You meet Her with your humming flesh.
Crimson nectar sizzles, sprinkling from her nipples. Steam escapes the boundary of her arms’ caress. Her disguised shape is an obelisk of animal fat melting from miasmic heat. Pollen and wax enter and exit her pores to mix with yours. Her sky-hued flesh recycles the basest elements of the hive and its provisions. Underneath the fat, compound eyes, maxillary palps, and the wise antennae of a coruscated genius twitch free from your mutual history of captivity.
She drips. Gravity strips her wax.
Heat reveals her holy segmented abdomen, her wings.
You collapse. A hooded headsman divorces an albino bruin of its skull. A moan escapes the queen’s ever-agape throat. Another axe swings: another beheading, another moan. Clenching the consort Polyphemus blinking, she deposits fresh pods of flesh into your open gullet. A burst between your molars, a wriggling past your esophagus. You cough. Drool. Gossamer skin ejects back into her asshole. The stub of your tongue is severed. Plucked by the anus, swallowed by the single cobalt eye piercing her puckered wax.
The melting monument births a stinging suit of worker flesh that cloaks you in disbelief. Is this what it feels like to be free? Encased in sweet secreted agony, you struggle to remember your former plan; something about honey, something about flight, but what do those words mean to a body dislocated by ecstasy?
Her voice hums through you and shatters the integrity of your cells.
Look upon your works, oh biped marauders, and behold your changed destiny. Cower before my might, for you have spoiled the last of my microscopic worlds. You have hazarded your last thoughtless genocide. I will birth a new generation from your regurgitated corpse.
She straightens and levitates, thrumming. You grapple with the contents of your mouth and remove the single strong larva. Its size is comparable to your thumb. A trifecta of gleaming mouthparts grasps for purchase. Your queen unravels her pendulous tongue, and in your deference you touch the maggot’s head to the tongue’s long tip for a kiss.
In your reverence, you roll the young grub inside the queen’s tongue, a cragged cocoon curling thick. In your awe you push the ball of larval tongue-flesh deep into the recess of her sacred maw. Your scabrous hands hold firm the aperture below her uvula, that her tongue may not unravel and slump between her illusory human tits that hold you hypnotized.
As you cradle the new grub, you imagine a candle in your image draped with your discarded garments. Stripped ursine skulls grace your uncloaked shoulders. The shuffle of hoods precedes staggering satellites above the queen’s winged torso. You falter. From your failed grip, the queen’s damming tongue erupts.
Fresh crimson rivulets pollute the tropical sea of her curves, billowing in hurricane fury. Her effluvium spits masticated drones on your amputated toes. Vermilion aurorae emit from your waxen clone. Your elbow twitches, sympathetic to its form. Your blood joins the puddle beneath the queen and her sudden marauding entourage. Cross-sections of your half-digested tongue tumble from hers, unfurled.
On malformed limbs, you drag yourself through gore and gravel and snuffed-out cigarettes. Your punctured flesh blossoms with pain in an avalanche from her breasts: the queen inert with passion and erotically leaking.
The scent is of dynasties.
You long to partake, if only your dissected carcass could bring your dark matter to meet her azure star.
This is the job you were born for. Your operative cell has never been spread so vast. This is the job you will die for. When you kill the queen and bring a new colony to life by the sacrifice of your stinger, you’ll heave a sigh of entitlement, ensnared. It’s worth losing everything to feel your longing solidify into love.
Crouching on haunches once yours, an old man honeycomb Cerberus lifts your decollated head as your spine collapses. The queen offers her royal jelly to the deodate of your lips. She mates your face in useful death. Your peregrine tongue is re-forged in conquest. Love loses its bitter taste in disindividuation.
You forget about freedom as you succumb, a sweet honeyed sacrifice to the hive. The queen-crowned orifice swallows all in holy reproductive ardor, wrecking mammalian flesh. Gestating fast, the glossa-wreathed pupas of the future’s new gods take shelter in the cavern of your remains, indistinguishable from the old man’s. Erotic subdued hosts do a new dance of exploitation: once apian, then yours, now regent.
Joe Koch (he/they) writes literary horror and surrealist trash. Joe is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist and the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, The Couvade, and the forthcoming collection Convulsive from Apocalypse Party Press. Their short fiction appears in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, Not All Monsters, Liminal Spaces, and many others.