Ring of Animal Control
The bee tattoo under your left ear was so outsiders would know.
You, the apiarist. A pact was made. Rows and columns of them in the
tall grass behind the house. You’d let the baby balls of lightning
crawl on your body, and only then you felt whole. There was never
fear. Your entire bust covered by the multiplication of those
frenetic legs. In a book you read that the left side was the
devil’s side, and also that bees could commune with the dead. With
that ear you listened for malevolence, spirits in unrest. No one
spoke. For weeks the bees would come back, smacking down some
Crayola goo on their combs. Primaries almost off a pre-school
mural: globs of something unhoney. Mickey’s red shorts. Donald’s
hat. A sickly yellow. You had heard rumors of bees being attracted
to factories: palettes of numeric dyes that the bees eyed instead
of pollen. And they brought it back. Not wax, but abomination.
Inedible. Where amber should shine through the membranes, there was
only alarm. Stomachs sloshed with Robitussin. The colored abdomens
of bees as if the only survival was jewelbelly. You couldn’t turn
away, let your thoughts go. You wandered the fields looking for a
building that felt wrong. There were no buildings. The earth was
achingly flat. Climbing a water tower: there was nothing that was
not sky. Months later, you read in the paper that a maraschino
factory burned down. Cherries made in every color of crayon, the
news said. It made sense, this mystery locale where bees ate stain.
When the bees started producing honey again, they started
disappearing. The radio talked of “colony collapse.” You thought it
cell phone towers, microscopic mites, pathogens, Xanax in the
drinking water, immunodeficiencies, loss of spiritual habitat. No
more thread to speak to the dead. A combination of factors. The
science part of your brain loved the long words. Magick, too.
Spiders, though. It was spiders behind the vanishment. Something
about the unusual rain season led them to set up shop in the shadow
of the stands. Like the opposite of living in a skyscraper—forty
floors above a deli. You go down to eat; the spiders crawl up. This
is when you became angrier. You’d trap the killers in jars, drop
charred pieces of paper in. Smoke them to death. Suffocate. Drops
of bleach, titrated, one by one. Elsewise, drowned by cola.
Sometimes you’d twin them, spider coupled with spider, ready to
fight to the death. You’d bury the jars farther out in the yard.
Grids of anthropods in glass tombs. You were digging when you found
the ring. Ouroboros in design: the snake devouring itself forever.
Fangs against tail over knuckle. When you slipped it on, it was
like you always knew. Or like an old friend embracing you when you
swore you were cursed under a bad star. That safety of familiar
touch. Some time after the spiders were gone, the bees thrived.
Drones made honey that was honey. You thought of aptitude, revenge.
Dreams of recruiting a tiny army to do your bidding kept you up at
night. Then, nightmares. Abattoirs in motion. Some ruination guided
by wings. It wasn’t long before you stopped resisting. You’d start
with them, move to other beasts depending on the odds. Air, then
earth, perhaps, after, unfathomable waters. It all felt in your
favor. Ziz, Behemoth, Leviathan. The wheel of fortune spun towards
you with a merciless accuracy. You approached the rows and rows of
hives, ready to bend them to your hellish will. When you were
certain they were listening you whispered the names of your
enemies. Cantrip: last name, first name, a list of mal incanted in
alpha. You made sure not to stutter, or lisp. It was as if each
syllable was a pink knife dividing your tongue into serpent.
JD Scott is the author of two chapbooks: Night
Errands (YellowJacket Press, 2012) and FUNERALS &
THRONES (Birds of Lace Press, 2013). Recent and forthcoming
publications include Best American Experimental Writing,
Salt Hill, The Pinch, The Atlas Review,
Apogee, and Tammy.