The half-hidden moon dusted the gnarled treetops with a powdery mist of silver light. Rain was falling gently as the old man ambled his way through the humid sea of foliage that was the forest. He grumbled and grunted and smiled strangely at the moon as he jostled his way towards some destination that was, at the time, entirely unknown to me. I supposed, at first, that he was some moonstruck, aged senior citizen – maybe a dementia patient, or perhaps he had Alzheimer’s disease.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I traipsed through that wooded area, which I had known since I was a child as Apia Forest, every night since the sweltering summer had ended and the deep Fall began to unfurl its tattered flag of ennui. I’d always had a penchant for the morbid, the melancholy, and I half-expected that the atmosphere of the place would enhance my poetic output; strengthen my imagery, obviate my bluntness. And I had never seen a soul on that trail before – not a living thing, save for the bees.
The bees swarmed the once-lush forest, hid themselves away amongst the piles of undisturbed dead leaves and the gaping holes that emerged in the trunks of the many leafless trees. Their buzzing was at first, to me, a noisome thing of petulance. It became an almost elemental aspect of my nocturnal excursions, my nocturnal scrawlings, as time went on.
For the past two weeks, strangely, the buzzing had been nearly absent, crushing the forest with the subdued whisper of the wind and the sound of the gentle autumn rain’s pitter-patter on the leaves.
I watched the man intently. His leather face, set ablaze by a clandestine grin that seemed entirely inappropriate, was worn deep by transverse lines that made his visage a thing of grotesque sweetness. He wore a periwinkle vest and a well-worn pair of vintage jeans. His hat was raised high above his bent nose, concealing a head of sagacious white hair. The Beekeeper walked through the forest, through pools of mud that must have hardened quickly around his maple-colored boots, and stopped before he reached the base of the barren hill.
He was carrying an auburn satchel in his right hand. I watched as he smiled, laughed, rambled insanely, yelled his prayers towards the moon as he removed a blanketed, amorphous thing from his knapsack.
The Beekeeper placed the scarlet-spotted, wriggling heap down at the hill’s crest, and began to sing, in disjointed, liturgical cadences:
“Oh, honey, my…honey, come right on back to me, come bee…with…”
And then a childlike shriek resonated throughout the thick autumnal air.
I heard, for the first time in weeks, the bedlam of buzzing bees that I had grown so accustomed to.
© Michael Abolafia
Michael Abolafia has been writing weird poetry and prose since he was a child. A native of urban New Jersey, he’s been published in several local outfits, including his town newspaper and his high school literary magazine, as well as in a number of minor poetry anthologies. A devout fan of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and others, Michael hopes to continue writing and eventually publish a collection of short stories and poetry in the near future.