“When the honeybees go, they’re taking us with them,” someone said to me once. As always, humans try to outwit nature and sidestep the consequences of their actions. In this case, consequences only multiply… (*CONTENT WARNING: Suicide. This story takes a dark turn at the end.)
We were too busy looking for outside threats to notice disaster on our own doorstep. After World War II, we had the threat of nuclear war to worry about. When that didn’t materialize, the doomsayers warned us about Y2K, and then that Mayan calendar fiasco. We survived the COVID-19 pandemic, but something new always lurked around the corner; some potential disaster to keep us distracted from the core issue, which was the damage we were doing to our planet. Our oceans were dying, our forests decimated and our climate was changing. Yet even with all of those odds against us, we could have repaired the damage.
The extinction of the honeybees marked the point of no return for humanity. We had done a good enough job on our own of killing off our precious bees, but they were holding their own until the Murder Hornets invaded North America. The giant Asian Hornets fed on our honeybees, decimating entire hives in mere hours.
Of course, science had a solution. They genetically engineered a new species of bee, a Bee 2.0, if you will. They selected the best characteristics of all species of bee, including the Japanese honeybee, which was quite skilled at combating the invasive hornets. They mixed in a little of this and a little of that. Some say they combined genetic material from African killer bees with that of cockroaches and tardigrades to make the new bee harder to kill. It was all speculation. Nobody except the creators themselves knew exactly what went into the new bee.
We found ways to keep our food supply alive. Miniature computer-controlled drones were built to give the new bees a helping hand with pollination until their numbers increased. A new generation of self-pollinating hybrid plants replaced many food crops. The general public learned to embrace laboratory-grown foods. In the face of adversity, we did what humans always do: We survived.
Honey grew scarce and expensive. The old supplies dried up, and the meagre population of new bees wasn’t able to produce enough to keep up with demand. The honey shortage led to the development of unhealthy synthetic substitutes, most made from high fructose corn syrup. So the mad scientists at the genetics lab went to work. They took a little dab of Bee 2.0 honey and combined it with a bunch of other ingredients to make it stretch. The result was Beezy – the first honey substitute that tasted close to the real thing, probably because it contained actual honey. Some people said it tasted even better than real honey.
Beezy was so popular the FDA allowed it to be pushed to mass market without fully testing it. Early indications were extremely promising. The new 2.0 honey brought some unexpected health benefits. It proved to be a kind of super fuel for the immune system. A new over-the-counter pharmaceutical called “Easy Beezy” outsold every other cold and flu remedy on the market. Over time, we learned that not only did it treat the common cold and flu, it cured them – absolutely nuked them, in fact. It even killed the dreaded coronaviruses that had killed so many in the past. Further study revealed a plethora of uses for the revolutionary product. It eliminated cancer, diabetes, and an ever-growing list of previously terminal ailments. AIDS no longer existed. Vaccines became irrelevant. It even seemed to affect the aging process. Scars faded, wrinkles smoothed. Elderly people looked years younger.
People seemed almost…immortal. Time would tell just how true that was.
The exciting new product was promoted as “The Elixir of Life”. We bought it and, like the fools we were, consumed it in copious amounts. Beezy surpassed everyone’s wildest expectations.
If only it hadn’t.
If only it had been deadly.
I lost count of how many times I had prayed and begged and railed at God for bringing this curse upon us. But the truth was, God wasn’t to blame. We did it to ourselves. We created it; conjured this cursed amber elixir straight from the bowels of Hell.
Prolonged life. Disease-resistant. No more fear of cancer, of pandemics and other silent killers. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want that? What possible downside could there be? Someone offers me a food that can do that, where do I sign, amiright? That was the thinking of the general population.
Beezy took the place of artificial sweeteners in nearly every product worldwide. By the time any adverse effects were discovered, nine-tenths of the world’s population was consuming it on a regular basis. Except for the ones too poor to buy it, or people starving in third world countries. They were the lucky ones. I had a severe allergy to honey, so I abstained as well.
I was angry at first. Angry that I had been denied the chance for immortality because of my allergies. Just one more chance for life to give me the big middle finger. I couldn’t swim in pools as a kid because of the chlorine. I lived in fear of insect stings. I had never tasted seafood, milk, or peanut butter. It wasn’t fair. And now this. The one product that might have cured my allergies might also kill me.
Yes, Beezy seemed like the answer to everything.
After all, who wouldn’t want eternal life?
Little Jimmy Wilson, for one.
Jimmy was an eight-year-old boy who lived on my street. He was riding his bike when some drunk asshole ran him down. The car dragged him for several blocks. His screams will haunt me until the day I die, which thankfully will be soon. The paramedics collected the pieces of poor little Jimmy and rushed him to the hospital. The surgeons did their best, but Jimmy was in bad shape. Arms and legs mangled. He had been decapitated, but somehow he was still alive. Unable to die but too damaged to heal, Jimmy was doomed to an agonizing existence as a stitched-up, oozing mess that should have been laid to rest with dignity.
As the years passed, more who should have died continued to live. Soldiers returned from the front lines of various wars with limbs blown off, holes in their heads, bellies full of shrapnel. Some of them were not much more than an exploded pile of meat, yet still alive, irreparable but conscious and feeling pain. Victims of violence, accidents, fires, all alive and suffering unbearable agony. All modern medicine had to offer was a pittance of relief in the way of pain medication. Powerful opiates were given freely without a prescription. All of them were addicted, but it no longer mattered. Nobody died from overdose anymore. Nobody died. The worst cases suffered brain damage but lived on, shuffling through the streets like zombies; broken and oozing, moaning and wailing in agony but still alive, sentient beings.
There was talk about putting them out of their misery somehow, perhaps through cremation, but the ethical argument was one no politician wanted to touch. None of them wanted to be the guy that tried burning people alive.
* * *
To escape the horror of reality, I made a daily trek to my favorite place – a grassy clearing at the top of a hill overlooking town. It was far enough away that I couldn’t hear the cries of the suffering. From that distance the town looked like it once had; normal, peaceful.
The smell of the wildflowers reminded me that I was still human, and still allergic. I fished in my pocket for the allergy medication I had bought the day before. The pharmacy had been out of my usual medication. Pharmacies were out of most everything except painkillers these days. There wasn’t much demand for other medications now that Beezy had cured everything. I paused to read the box of the unfamiliar allergy meds. Sublingual, it said. Place 1-2 tablets under the tongue as needed. Hopefully it would work as well as my regular brand. I popped two of the pills out of the blister package and placed them under my tongue. The metallic sweetness lingered long after the pills dissolved in my mouth.
I found solace in the silence, but most days I gazed to the heavens, praying for contact from another world, begging for one more chance. Was there anyone who could help us? Either heal this mistake we had made or send us into blissful oblivion?
Today, I lay on my back gazing into the azure sky and repeated the same mantra I’d spoken so many times before:
“If anybody’s out there, if anybody’s watching us, now’s the time to make contact. Please help us! Please save us from ourselves.” Tears streamed down my face. To another unseen entity of whose existence I was also doubtful, I added, “Please forgive me. I need to be free.”
I removed freedom from my pocket, placed the barrel under my chin and pulled the trigger.
* * *
The darkness cleared. The sky was still there, but now tinged with a touch of red. The sun must be setting. Slowly my other senses awakened. Numbness came first. I raised my hands to my face. It felt wet. My chin was gone. So was my nose, and one of my eyes. A gaping exit wound near my hairline told me I should have been dead. And then came the pain. A wildfire of agony ravaged what was left of my head.
Was this Hell? Was this God’s punishment to me for committing suicide?
No, I was alive. The sky, the rustle of wind in the grasses, the smell of the many pollens that bothered my allergies. I could still taste the sweetness of the allergy pills under my tongue, even though my tongue was no longer there. Sweetness. Sweeteners. Sublingual pills contained artificial sweeteners.
Easy Beezy, no more sneezy. I tried to laugh, but it came out as a gurgling noise.
Did this mean I was no longer allergic? Could I finally eat a lobster dinner or a peanut butter sandwich? I heard it sticks to the roof of your mouth.
What does it stick to if your mouth doesn’t have a roof?
Copyright © 2021 Mandy White
Published in DysFictional 4: Apocalypse Aplenty by Mandy White
One thought on “Easy Beezy”
Reblogged this on West Coast Review.