The island air was stifling.
He wiped the sweat from his brow, trying to avoid staining the badge that identified him as an officer of the law. He'd clipped it to his shirt - hoping the humidity wouldn't mar his face too much.
It wasn't that he was vain - but everyone had been giving him stares since he arrived on the only ferry in or out of the island. He referred to it as the stare - the look he'd seen in people convicted of crimes, too guilty to give in and too cunning to admit their own guilt.
And as they surrounded him like bees, smiling enigmatically and speaking too quickly about too little, he felt that his badge was the only protection he had - a tiny and almost insignificant piece of plastic that was as much a shield in this strange place as anything else.
Crunch, went the wheat underfoot as he walked. Snap, went each blade of grass - broken by an unseasonal summer frost he had neither seen nor felt.
"Oh, her? She's gone. Probably off at a relative's house - you know children these days - better when they're out of your hair instead of in it!"
"That girl? Never heard of her before."
"... This island is off-limits to people like you."
The response changed a bit, but the cold tone didn't. And each time it got worse - the feeling that the little girl he'd come in search of, his daughter, was long gone.
As the tall grass crumpled against his shoes, he strode a bit faster - then jogged, then sprinted. Fields split in front of him, yielding a view of a central fairground area sub-divided into perfectly hexagonal lots; shaped for all the world like honeycombs, carved by the hands of the isolated folk who lived in this little commune.
He felt for the reassuring weight of his gun at his side - a weight he had left at home a mere thirty hours prior. The heat was suffocating, his badge an ineffective replacement - and as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, he realized that neither plastic nor law would do anything here.
But where would they hide...
Closing his eyes, he tried to imagine it rationally - when exercises like this were things people did for idle amusement the academy, instead of fear the ticking minutes as time he was letting slip away from him.
- He'd entered the schoolhouse, where the teacher had droned on about how none of the students would have ever let a sister out of their sight. She had a distinctly cheerful smile as she spoke - and it had made his skin crawl. When he'd asked the children personally... They'd laughed, almost in unison.
- The folksy and innocent-seeming inn had an equally folksy and innocent-seeming innkeeper. She'd smiled - it was too wide, all their smiles were too wide - and told him that he should simply relax. Enjoy the island, enjoy the honey - not think too hard about it.
- She was mocking him.
- Every day, the villagers left to the central fields. Every day it grew larger.
- And every day, he could smell something - a mixture of poured cement and hair caught in a toaster. And he could hear a distant noise that sounded like a kettle left on the stove for far too long - that, and something else...
Opening his eyes, he was aware of the presence of theres, staring at him. Unblinking.
The island air was stifling as the helmet was clamped over his head like an executioners mask - each line of mesh further obscuring his vision.
Crunch, went his back as he fell to his knees - and as he felt himself being dragged along the coarse grass, he could hear the buzzing grow closer and closer. He felt - knew where they were going, knew as soon as each half-mile grew interchangeable; each hexagonal field lining up perfectly to it's sibling.
And he knew what was coming next.
"This is murder..."
He whispered, voice unwavering.
But only laughed met his cries.
And then they were on him - swarming and hovering and stinging, sliding down his throat and across his face - tiny stingers implanting themselves futilely into his skin even as more tiny bodies cascaded down from wherever he could scarcely see nor imagine - and all his resistance was broken, and all he could cry were a few words -
"NOT THE BEES, NOT THE BEES - "
Until he could cry no more.
Prone, and exhausted he felt - rather then saw - his body being hefted into something woven together - something crude, and encircling. And he heard - rather than saw - the chanting and laughter as smoke began to fill his nostrils - still sore from so many tiny blades.
And as his screams mixed with the burning summer air, easy words and idle laughter cavorted on the fields below, as the giant thatch man and it's smaller prisoner burned, burned until there was nothing left but cinders - till nothing was left but a charred mess of ash, and plastic damaged by flames. And then that, too, burned - and there was nothing more.
Written by Stormlilly