He wakes up, not in the golden warmth of his hive like all the other bees, but someplace dim and dusty.
The ground is hard beneath him, and the air is stale and sour.
He rolls from his back onto his stomach and lifts himself onto his feet. They clink on the steel surface of the bench. As he tests each leg to make sure they work, a towering figure looms above him, casting him in shadow.
The eyes gleam in the dark as the cracked lips part to reveal a row of giant teeth. The bee backs away until he hits the wall behind him. One enormous hand, hard with callouses and stained with grease, scoops him up into its palm.
‘How’s my finest creation?’ booms the voice. ‘Come on, little one, let’s set you free.’
The bee turns a few desperate circles upon the palm, his tiny mechanical heart ticking away in his chest. Every side of the palm drops off like a cliff into the darkness below. He races back and forth, panic-stricken, terrified.
A deafening screech fills the air as a sheet of metal rolls up into the cobweb filled ceiling
Bright, brilliant, golden light washes over the bee.
The fingers, so large yet surprisingly nimble, spin something on his back several times. When they let go he can feel the cogs moving inside his body. His wings begin to spin. He lifts up into the air and flicks one way, and then another before racing out into the golden light and azure sky.
Flowers bob cheerfully in the breeze, dancing with the wind. The bee rests on the golden centre of a large pink bloom, drinking the nectar. He fills a tiny tank in his belly. When it’s full he lifts off and heads for a hive which hangs from a nearby tree.
He enters the labyrinth. The walls are dripping with honey and each corridor is busy with the soft fuzzy bodies of other bees. As he deposits the honey and prepares to leave once more, the other bees begin to gather around him.
Their buzzing grows louder and louder.
More and more appear until he’s surrounded by a wall of black and gold.
He tries to reply, but as the tiny gears inside his head turn and set off his own version of buzzing, it doesn’t sound quite right. The other bees don’t understand him. They pull away at the incomprehensible noise, disgusted by the intruder. He feels a knock from behind and falls into a vat of honey. As he picks himself up, another soft yet powerful body knocks him from the side until he topples down a level.
More workers join in, shoving, pushing and knocking until he’s at the opening of the hive. One final knock and he falls over the precipice.
He forgets to use his wings and drops down to the ground.
Bouncing across the grass, he lands with a thump against a tree root.
Little gears and cogs scatter around him.
For a long time he lays there, his mechanical heart ticking slower than before. Carefully, he stands, only to fall back down. He tries again and falls once more. Each time he topples down onto his right side, so on the third try he stands and rests more of his weight on his left side, distributing the weight between each leg.
He looks back and sees that his far right leg is missing.
So he lays back down among the blades of grass and yellow dandelions, and watches the bees up high in their hive, buzzing as they work.
He tries to buzz too, but now no sound comes out at all.
The world turns dark, and then re-emerges the next morning with another milky blue sky. All the flowers open their petals to the dawn. Birds start singing and the sweet fragrance of blossoming trees fills the air. But the bee still lies in the grass where he fell, his shiny metallic body smeared with dirt and dusted with dew.
He rests his head on the ground and doesn’t lift it.
His heart is still ticking, but just barely.
The hive above buzzes with activity as the workers collect nectar and fill more vats with honey. They ignore the intruder below as best as they can, making a point to avoid flying near him and refusing to look in his direction.
Today, the garden is theirs for the taking.
And there really is quite a lot of work to do.
The sun rises higher. It grows hotter and burns with a white intensity.
Still, the little bee below doesn’t move.
He doesn’t look at the bees above nor the cheerful flowers below. He doesn’t watch the birds or listen to the rustling leaves upon the tree. He just shuts his clinking eyelids over his eyes, and lets the world go blank.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
The bee wakes to the crash of enormous feet coming towards him. The earth shakes with each step. Blades of grass crush beneath the boots and dandelions emerge completely flattened. Scrambling backwards helplessly, the bee pushes himself as far under the tree root as he can, trying to hide his mangled body.
But the giant doesn’t look down at the bee.
He places a tall metal contraption against the tree and begins to climb up towards the hive. There’s a tank of some kind strapped to his back. A hose is connected to it and hangs threateningly from the giant’s belt.
The bees in the hive start to panic.
One by one they try to chase away the giant, but as soon as they get close, the giant pulls out a spray bottle and the bees drop down to the ground, paralyzed. None can get close enough to stop him. When he nears the top of the ladder and the hive is within easy reach, he unclips the hose from his belt, adjusts the nozzle and aims it at the beehive.
The little bee down below watches in horror.
His heart begins to tick faster and faster. He drags his body out from under the tree root and his wings begin to spin as the remaining cogs turn somewhere inside him. He floats up, slowly at first. Then with a loud click, he soars up into the air straight towards the giant.
By instinct, he heads for an exposed bit of skin and punctures the colossal arm with his stinger. The giant cries out and sweeps a massive hand towards him, but the bee dodges and flies at him once more.
‘What the hell?!’ screams the giant.
But the little bee doesn’t stop.
He stabs at the reddening skin again and again as the other bees watch on in awe. The bee seems completely unaffected by the spray bottle. Even the hose with its gushing toxic spray doesn’t stop him. The giant drops his hose. He throws down his spray bottle, slides down the ladder and with a thundering roar runs from the tree.
The bees emerge from their hive one at a time, staring.
They surround the mechanical bee in a thick wall of bodies.
Not one makes a sound.
Suddenly he feels something push him from behind, but gently this time. As one, they usher him into the hive, where he lands with a clunk, his wings having finally reached the end of their cycle.
One particularly large bee with gleaming wings and a golden crown of fuzz on her brow comes towards him. She stands at her full height without making a sound. And then, to the utter surprise of the workers, she gently begins to clean him. Then she clasps his wings and spins them around until he feels them coming back to life.
He spins his wings, which helps him balance on his uneven legs, and then flies out to gather nectar. The other workers join him. And even though his legs are uneven, his body is smooth and he can’t buzz, the other bees know that it really doesn’t matter after all.
Because beyond the cogs and gears and metal, he is very much the same as them.