Monday, 19 May 2014

Fiction: Flight of the Bumblebee (excerpt) Frances C Burton

I kept trying and trying to fly towards the sunlight, but I kept crashing into something. Something I couldn’t even see. There were no other leafed plants, no sound of humming, no other usual garden scents. Soon I was totally disorientated. Even so, it came as a shock to find myself stranded from the colony, completely cut off. There was no escape. Just as I was beginning to feel the fear of never sensing anything, flack!
“Oy!” I hollered. Bang!
“Ow! My eyes! That hurt!” I was stunned.
“No! What’s the matter with me?” I’d flown directly into something invisible—again! It was like an invisible wall.
“Hang on for me, Mayleah!”
I got up and once more prepared for flight. “Wait for me! Hey, wait! This is hard work.” I paused for breath and tried to calm myself.
“Curl forelegs and middle legs and …”
I checked my position. My legs were curled in evenly, and my speed was good.
“One, two, three …”
I felt very confused. My wings were in order, clear and well veined. By rights, I should be able to fly away without any problems.
“It’s so weird.” I was utterly perplexed, and I began to doubt my abilities. “I can fly properly, can’t I?”
It was the first time I had felt so alone, so desperately lonely. I tried again, but with the same painful result.
“Why can’t I fly? Why can’t I even fly to the clover?”
I was starting to feel very anxious. The dense yellowy-white spikes of the clover looked so very appealing, and I was so near them and yet so far.
“It’s a mystery.”
After another failed attempt, panic set in. I breathed in and breathed out as slowly as I could.
“Have I been careless?”
Thump! Stunned again.
“God, where are you? What is this? Some sort of cruel joke?”
My head beat with every collision, and my eyes stung and watered as I crashed around. I became so weary.
“Help! I can see you! Can’t you see me? Help! I can’t fly. Mayleah—look! Neyum! Help me, Ahlon. Ahlon!”
I hoped the others wouldn’t think I was making something of nothing. I could see them, and I buzzed and flapped my wings to get their attention. At last, Neyum spotted me. He was always ready to comfort and encourage any bumblebee.
“Don’t worry,” he buzzed. “We’ve got some honey ready for you for when you get back.”
“Who’s bothered about honey at a time like this?” I felt humiliated and frustrated.
“We’re all here to help you when you need us!” came the reply.
“Ahlon, I’m not joking. I don’t know what to do. How do I fly back?” I rubbed my face with my front legs. “Can you all see what’s happening better than I can?”
I was shocked that even Ahlon didn’t have an answer.
“You must have been put there for a reason, perhaps to learn some valuable lessons,” signalled Neyum. “Spend your time wisely. You’ll be able to fly properly soon, you’ll see.”
Instinctively, I wanted to buzz back shouting, “I’ll give you a few wise words, Neyum. One is ‘help’ and the other is ‘me’.” But I was too exhausted to be angry.
I was badly bruised and my wing joints felt as though they were seriously sprained. Any impetus I had to return to the nest left me right then and there.
The air was still; it almost felt absent.
For the entire time I had been aware of the fact that the garden beyond the invisible wall had beautiful borders. However, the more I struggled to get there, the more I could only focus on my own trapped position. Gradually, my awareness of the soft fluttering of butterflies around the buddleia began to fade. My appreciation for the flowers and even the nectar dimmed. I couldn’t cope with this isolation. All I could see were the edges of my wings fluttering madly. However cruel, this was no joke. I despaired.
“Why can’t they offer helpful advice?”
I lay on my back buzzing, groaning and sighing. It felt futile. I wanted to ask Neyum if a lesson really had to be so painful to learn. I wanted to invite him to tell me the secret to learning it faster.
“What an earth is it going to take?” I asked myself.
I mumbled to myself, then gave one last push with my wings and waved my legs with sudden fury in an attempt to lift myself. But I had no power and I stopped trying. I stopped moving, and I stopped crying. Strangely, there seemed nothing left to cry for. There was no point.
I lay still as if possessed by death itself and hoped I wouldn’t be easy prey for someone or something…It was at that moment that I realised why some bumblebees never returned to the nest, and I resigned myself to the fact that I was next and that nobody would come looking for me.
And then something flat and white sped towards me. It might have been a bird, but it didn’t have any wings or feathers, claws, feet or legs. It had at least four long sharpish edges. One edge slid underneath me until I had the impression that the ground had become pristine, clean, pure. I suppose it could have been a variety of leaf, but it wasn’t one I’d ever seen before. I rolled onto it easily, but immediately I noticed that it had no veins, no stem, no marks at all.
Nonetheless, I felt safe at last. I was raised up! I was saved or being saved, but by what or whom I just didn’t know. Yet I knew that I’d breeze through that invisible wall at last, and I did! I was ecstatic! At long last, I could see the sky and feel the breeze…No sooner had I smelled the flowers and felt sure I was saved than the white leaf tilted and I dropped. Down into the undergrowth I fell. The descent was fast, and it was a long, long fall. I landed with a thud. I had lost all the strength in my body to get up and fly away, and I didn’t believe I ever would regain it. I was too damaged and had lost the pollen I was carrying in the fall. Within seconds, my sense of freedom collapsed. I was overcome with a very deep and real sense that I had lost any ability I ever had to hum, laugh or sing. So I began to cry. In fact, I wailed.
I wept for what seemed like hours. I mourned for others who were caught out in the same way, and I mourned for myself. It was an ordeal which I could not explain and whose purpose I could not begin to grasp.

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