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Over the past month, I’ve been hearing this intermittent, buzzing sound. At first, I thought I’d be able to tune it out, but it just became more obnoxious over time. It transformed into a constant, vibrating noise in the back of my head. It was difficult to focus on anything. It became so bad that I had trouble sleeping, and it’s beyond me how my parents never noticed it. You know what they say though. You lose hearing with age, so I wasn’t surprised when they gave me confused looks. Tyler, my neighbor, heard it too, and I was relieved at that. It meant I wasn’t going crazy. He’s actually the one that brought it up when we were in my bedroom playing video games. So with him at my side, I was determined to find the source of this noise.
We searched my house first and placed our ears all over the walls. The buzzing sound never seemed to become stronger or weaker, so we checked outside. My original thought was that something was wrong with the air conditioning unit. If I was right, it would explain why the sound transferred throughout the entire house, but my theory was wrong. We stood beside the thrumming unit, watching the gigantic fan spin around inside. The unit was vibrating, but it wasn’t the sound we were looking for.
However, we realized the sound was louder outside than it had been in my room.
We searched my backyard up and down and stopped at the wooden fence surrounding my yard. We placed our ears to the fence and exchanged a knowing stare. The sound was coming from beyond the fence, and that was enough for the both of us. We climbed the fence and dropped easily to the other side.
The area beyond my backyard was filled with untouched forest. I had been over my fence a few times when I accidentally kicked a soccer ball over but not often enough times to explore. My parents always complained about there being poison ivy everywhere, and there was. We skirted around it and created a path without a problem. It was really bizarre though. All we could hear was this buzzing sound – nothing else. I mean, we could just barely hear the leaves and sticks cracking beneath our feet, and all other sounds seemed absent. There weren’t even birds singing.
As we kept walking, the buzzing sound grew louder, and eventually, we couldn’t see my fence anymore. We stopped several yards from a cluster of trees covered in tumor-like growths. We just stood there, staring at it, and neither of us could explain what they were. They appeared like they were apart of the tree as if the bark had bubbled outward in these strange formations. Trees can actually develop deformed growths called burls, something I learned in hindsight. Naturally though, our first thoughts were to poke it, but both of us were too chicken to get any closer. So, we grabbed rocks instead. It only took one toss; Tyler was a baseball player. The rock collided with one of the large growths, and upon contact, the growth exploded outward which sent chunks flying.
Not even seconds later, bees, thousands of bees, swarmed out of the opening and formed into a thick, throbbing mass. Both of us screamed and ran. I had never run faster in my entire life. The bees were hot on our heels, and I felt their stingers plunging into my arms, my back, and my legs. I don’t remember hopping the fence or how I arrived in my front yard, but I must have been screaming bloody murder. I stripped down to my underwear, and my mom began spraying me and the persistent bees with the garden hose. The icy, pressurized water didn’t hurt as bad as the welts that formed instantly.
I was ushered into the kitchen, and my mom began meticulously removing the stingers with a pair of tweezers. She lost count of how many she removed from my body. I was only allowed to change into dry underwear since the stings needed to be iced. The swelling and welts had been unimaginable, and now, I understand how people can die from bee stings. I was forced onto the couch with ice packs positioned all over my body. The majority of the stings were on my back, so I laid on my stomach and must have passed out some time later.
I woke the next day in the same position, and the ice packs had been removed. My mom refused to let me change into comfortable clothing until she inspected all of the welts. Thankfully, the swelling had reduced significantly since the previous day. Over a bowl of soup, I learned that my parents called an exterminator after the incident. Apparently, there had been bees angrily flying around our yard and some of the neighbors’ yards. By that point, everyone on our street could hear the enraged buzzing.
The exterminator arrived promptly and followed the trail of chaotic bees back to the nest. The man actually told my parents that it had been the largest colony he had ever seen. He sprayed so many chemicals that he didn’t want anyone near the area, not that anyone wanted to go investigate for themselves. The whole situation made me feel like a complete idiot. How could we have been so stupid?
My only consolation was that Tyler might have suffered just as bad as me from the bee stings. I brought this up to my parents and asked how bad his injuries were. My mother gave me this petrified expression that I’ll never forget. There had been nobody behind me when I raced around the side of my house. She hadn’t even been aware that Tyler had gone back there with me. I felt guilty, beyond guilty. Horrible images of Tyler being swarmed consumed me. I swore that he had been right beside me. What made me feel worse is that the exterminator never saw anyone. If Tyler had fallen behind, the exterminator would have known because he searched the entire area for nests.
About a week after the incident, Tyler was still missing. I decided to search the area for myself, but I wasn’t going unprepared. I grabbed a can of my mother’s hairspray along with a lighter from the kitchen. If any of these bees were still kicking, then I wanted protection. I hopped the fence and moved slowly through the forest, my right hand clenched tightly on the hairspray. The distance to the nest was much further than I remembered. I knew that I had arrived when I heard a thick crunch beneath my shoes. I glanced down and felt a shiver rush through my body. The entire ground was layered with bee corpses. I couldn’t see the dirt or grass, and in some areas, the bees just piled on top of each other.
I was on my last nerve when I approached the nests, trying my best to ignore the sickening crunches underfoot. I narrowed my eyes at the nest that we destroyed, and when I rounded the tree, the rest of the nests became apparent, nearly ten times larger. I cautiously nudged one of the nests which crumbled and revealed thick wax and honeycomb. Dead bees trapped inside of the nest oozed through the opening, and it was enough to turn my stomach. I grumbled beneath my breath and began poking the nest with more confidence, watching more of the pieces fall to the ground.
That’s when I heard the buzzing return. My heart skipped several beats, and I stumbled backwards and almost landed in the disgusting ruin of dead bees. I sprinted back several feet and raised the hairspray and lighter, watching the nest from all angles. These bees could appear from anywhere. They must have formed their nests throughout this cluster of trees, and it was very possible that their nests extended into the ground and beneath the roots. I bit my lip and waited for the swarm to appear like last time, but it never did. Instead, an odd and disturbing sight took me by surprise. I left the clearing filled with dead bees and stepped through several bushes, trying to confirm what I was seeing. My whole body quivered, and I wanted to call out. My voice failed me though, and it might have saved my life.
Not even ten yards from me was Tyler. He was just standing there with his back facing me, and something was wrong. His movements were off. His body was twitching involuntarily, and when he took a step, his posture was rigid while his arms were locked in janky positions. Despite the horrible feeling in my gut, I wanted to call out to him. My concern quickly transformed into fear. Tyler turned and lolled his head to the side as if his neck were broken. He knew I was here, yet he couldn’t see me. His eyes were gone. Two dark sockets stared back at me with bees crawling out of them. Sores layered his flesh which had turned into gaping holes, and a viscous fluid was running down his chin. I was too scared to move. I only ran when Tyler began lumbering toward me, swaying back and forth and twitching.
For the second time, I screamed and ran for the hills, trying to outrun the crashes coming from behind me. When I scrambled over the fence, I felt the wood scraping my skin, but I didn’t care. I pounded on my back door crazily and slammed it shut once my mother let me inside. She didn’t understand much of what I was saying since I was hysterical, but she gathered that I had found Tyler’s body in the woods.
By the time the police arrived, they waited for me to calm down, so I could explain what I saw. I was a mess, and they must have thought that I was nuts. They searched in the area where I saw Tyler, but they didn’t find him. They found his body yards upon yards away by a creek. Tyler had been reclined on his knees with his forehead against the ground, immobile and dead. I refused to ID him. I couldn’t see those empty eye sockets again.
When I recovered from the event, I wanted to know what happened. I emailed the pathologist who performed Tyler’s autopsy and practically begged for answers. I needed a logical explanation for what I saw. He explained how they were going through routine procedure when they hit a minor roadblock. When they sliced Tyler open, dead bees poured out. His body had been literally bloated with bees. His eyes were missing. His jaw was broken, completely unhinged. His teeth were gone along with his tongue which was replaced with wax. The worst part was this. His organs were gone. All that was left was the skeleton, muscles, and tissues which seemed to be the base for the extreme amounts of honeycomb within his chest cavity. The pathologist’s only theory was that the bees devoured his organs, but bees aren’t carnivores.
Credit: Ariel Lowe