Ep.46 – All the Busy Bees - Are you HUNGRY for Horror?!
All the Busy Bees by David O'Hanlon
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Produced by Daniel Wilder
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My father was in a secret society in college. I’m not sure what good it did him, but that’s why it’s a secret, I suppose. After college, he went to work for a retail giant and made COO in just a couple of years. Maybe it worked out pretty well. That kind of meteoric rise doesn’t facilitate a lot of father-son communication. He still made sure to let me know he cared. His secretary would call to tell me goodnight on his behalf, for example. I think it was my twelfth birthday when I realized he always called me ‘Rugrat’ because he had forgotten my name years before. The morning commute meant hearing him walk out of the house about the time I got up for school. He worked late every night and usually got home as I was turning off my light. I’m not even sure I remember what he looked like or if I’ve just constructed some amalgamation of Sonny Crockett and MacGyver to save on the therapy bill. I decided I wouldn’t be anything like him when I grew up. And I’ve succeeded. My studio apartment was the size of a motel room. The wallpaper didn’t match anywhere and was peeling like a bad sunburn to reveal festive patches of mold. Other amenities included my neighbor’s radio—since the walls were as well built as a gingerbread house—and a soothing whistle created by the ill-fitting sheet of plexiglass in the cracked frame of my only window. I also had the most social cockroaches in the world. Those little guys snuggled with me in bed and shared my food with the loyalty of a labradoodle and I didn’t even have to pay my slumlord the four-hundred dollar, non-refundable, pet deposit. That’s called a win. I watched one of the females dragging an egg sack under the fridge. I wasn’t even sure how roaches had sex and was in the middle of googling it when the knuckles my hit door. I got up and tried to check the time on the microwave, but it just blinked the same seven seconds it had since I plugged it in. I found it on the curb and it was probably there for good reason. The radiation leaking out reduced the heating bill though, so another small victory for Chuck Beyers. I opened the door and found a man in a cobalt suit that looked expensive and smelled cheap. He was paused mid-knock and lowered his hand with a sneer. “Charles Beyers?” “That’s me.” I leaned into the hall and looked both ways. On one end, a kid pissed on skinhead graffiti and down the other I found my geriatric neighbor, Jerry, heating a meth rock in a lightbulb. I looked back at the man and squinted a little. He was tall and lean with a narrow, vespine face. He held a leather briefcase just below a twinkling cufflink. “How did you make it up here without getting mugged?” I asked. “Your neighborhood is full of scavengers,” the man answered calmly. I pursed my lips and nodded. “Yeah, that’s kind of the point I was making.” “Scavengers know to move when the predators come through.” There was no bravado when he said it. It was just a cold, hard statement of fact that made my ass pucker and my stomach knot up. He asked to come in, so I showed him to the folding lawn chair that counted as my furniture. He sat his briefcase in the chair and turned to me, his hand disappeared into his jacket and my life flashed before my eyes. It was a disappointing show, to say the least. Then he pulled out an envelope. “My name is Richard.” He wiggled the envelop. “For me?” “No, Mister Beyers. I just find reading my mail more enjoyable in a stranger’s shitty apartment.” He didn’t even blink, let alone smirk. He just wiggled the envelope again. I took it gingerly and flopped onto the bed. It felt funny, not like a normal envelop but more like an old dollar bill. It was the kind of envelopes you bought when you ran out of ordinary things to blow money on. At least, I guessed it was since I hadn’t used an envelope since 2004. Inside was a letter from Arrant Extirpation Solutions. “What is this?”
It was all in the letter. Dad was the majority shareholder in AES and, when he died the week before, it all became mine. I guess I should’ve been upset about his passing, but he wasn’t any less available dead than he had been alive. Still couldn’t remember his face, just his bushy mustache. No loss. Plenty of gains. I stepped off the private jet with Richard in tow. A withered old man leaned on a cane a midst a sea of suits. The old man held out a veiny, liver-spotted hand. “Erwin Squire. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” “Likewise.” I shook his hand, which was suspiciously cold and moist like a piece of raw chicken. I rubbed my palm on my secondhand jeans. “The letter you sent didn’t say much. I’ve been asking Richard for more details.” “Good luck with that.” Erwin’s rasping laugh made me jump a little. It was like one of the alley cats back home hacking up a steel wool hairball. “I don’t employ Richard for his conversational skills. He glares at people and they do what I want. It’s a more efficient method than asking. You’ll be riding in the Bentley. I hope it is too your liking. Your father was a picky bastard.” “We don’t have to worry about that from him, sir,” Richard said over my shoulder. “Chuck has no standards. Shall I ride with him?” Erwin nodded and swept a hand towards the burgundy car. The driver stepped out and opened the back door as I approached. I hesitated and then slipped inside the car that cost more than my combined lifetime income. The backseat seemed to melt as I leaned against it and I sighed pleasurably. “Does it meet your tastes?” Richard asked as he dropped into the front seat. “Oh yes. It’s just fine.” I watched the chauffeur shut my door and slip back behind the steering wheel with the grace of a dancer. “I’ve never ridden in a car like this.” “Color me shocked.” Richard took a pair of gold-rimmed aviators from his jacket and slipped them over his frigid eyes. “I don’t want you to get the wrong impression about me, Chuck. For starters, I hate calling you that. Not because it is informal and, thus, unprofessional, but rather because it is the stupidest name ever. I loathe it.” “Blame my father,” I said with a sympathetic shrug. “I do. Moving on, you are now the majority shareholder in AES. This also entitles you to a place on our board of directors and the professional assistance of myself… a fact that I find almost as distasteful as your name. I do not like it and I am sure that you will not either.” The car pulled away from the airplane and found its place in the convoy leaving the private airfield. Richard turned slightly on his hip to face me. “Your father was a mean spirited, go-getter. He set his sights on something he wanted,” he made a finger-gun at me and fired, “and then he took it. You’re not that kind of a man.” “Is that a good thing or a bad one?” Richard’s eyebrows raised in though and he turned back around. “Neither, I suppose. Not every dog can be a fighter, Chuck. Sometimes a mutt’s only good for a bait dog.”
I thought about what my sociopathic secretary said over the next forty minutes. I fought the urge to ask when we’d arrive and just stared out the tinted windows as rural Arkansas passed by with little to offer. I wasn’t sure what AES did or how my father even learned of the company from his office in Cincinnati. Richard was an odd one too. His terrifying, monotone voice had the slightest hint of an accent… maybe Eastern European. Definitely one of those countries Bond villains come from. Then there were the cars and class of Erwin Squire. Thanks to my ex-girlfriend, I had seen enough Toby Keith videos to know these guys didn’t belong in the trailer-hood. So, what the hell were we doing in Arkansas? I was somewhere between self-realization and reliving a six-month-old argument with my former boss at Hamburger Hamlet when I noticed the factory in the distance. I watched as the vehicles made the turn in sequence. Fascination is the only word that comes to mind at what I saw next. The cars wove through a series of concrete barriers like the news shows outside of foreign embassies. We approached a twelve-foot high fence and two guards armed heavily enough to give GI Joe a boner immediately after. The car shook as it rolled over a cattle guard that Richard said was for bomb inspections. We continued down a long path and more of the facility came into view. For the most part, it looked like any factory from the city—except for the black glass tower rising up from the middle. It wasn’t a tower in big city terms, but the six stories of shimmering darkness stood out in the flat wasteland of eastern Arkansas the same way the surrounding bean fields would have marred the complexities of beautiful, downtown Cleveland. The cars pulled into designated parking spaces in the lot under the tower like synchronized swimmers. No movement was wasted as each vehicle halted and its crew disembarked to prepare a line of defense all the way to the elevator. Richard personally escorted me there and we waited for Squire to join us. The old man ambled inside, his cane clicking gravely against the imported macassar flooring. I stepped in and then Richard attempted to but was met by the tip of Squire’s cane squarely over his heart. “Cecil was a little too hard on the brakes today.” Squire aimed the walking stick and jabbed the button for the top floor. “I want that handled and then I want you to join me and Mister Beyers in the board room.” I wasn’t sure what to say and just stuffed my hands in my pockets. Something about Squire was more unnerving than the viciousness that emanated from Richard. You knew a lion was going to eat you. A scorpion might murder you or just be out cruising for a piece of bug ass. You couldn’t be sure. I shivered at the thought of impending sting. “So, is Cecil getting fired?” I asked. “Oh no,” he answered with a chuckle. “It’s hard to find good help and Cecil has been with me for several years now. He simply needs a reminder so it doesn’t happen again.” “Right.” I nodded like I knew what the hell that meant. “That makes sense.” “I’m an old man, now. Frail, even. It physically sickens me to say that, but I have to be more careful than ever before.” “It happens to us all.” “If cancer happened to us all, would it make it cupcakes and rainbows for the dying?” I smacked my lips. “I suppose not.” “I knew your father a long time, Charles.” “I prefer Chuck.” “I don’t.” Squire coughed softly into the crook of his arm. “I was a professor of his. He was a brilliant student. Not academically, mind you, in fact he was a complete idiot in that regard. Where he lacked talent, however, he made up for it with tenacity.” The elevator dinged and the doors spread wide to reveal my new kingdom. Offices lined all four walls and in the center was a round, entirely glass room. Inside it, four gigantic monitors hung like a cube from the ceiling over a thirty-foot long conference table. Squire squeezed my forearm softly as we exited. It was about as comforting as a proctologist grabbing your shoulders. “Charles, did you know that the American people waste over one-hundred-billion pounds of food every year?” “Closer to one-fifty, I believe.” “That’s right, Charles.” His face split into a smile so wide it must have been genuine. “The government is fighting over oil and will continue to do so. Unfortunately for those in power, it takes oil to go to war and get the oil. When that runs out, it will be chaos. Blackouts. Looting. Riots. And, if you can believe it, food shortages. Which brings us to the question, you’ve been waiting to ask.” “What the hell is this place?” We entered the round chamber and he gestured for me to sit. There was a dome on the table covered with a black cloth like the fancy entrée at those expensive restaurants on TV. I pinched the corner tentatively. My hand shook a little and even more so when Squire nodded for me to continue. I ripped it off like a Band-aid and gagged hard. “I guess I should have warned you.” He laughed a little until it turned into a coughing fit. “Meet trigona necrophaga.” Inside, a score of bugs crawled on, in, and through a decaying human head. The eyes were gone, probably the first things the little critters ate. Some hid in the graying shrubbery of the oversized mustache that occupied the remainder of the upper lip. Specks of orange and flashes of black bands behind their wings tipped me off that they were… “Bees, Charles,” Squire gave voice to my thoughts. “The vulture bee is endemic to Central America and has a, shall we say, curious culinary interest.” A tiny bee face pushed out of a putrefied ear and I fainted like a damsel in an old adventure movie.
I woke up in a wheelchair and glanced over my shoulder to see Richard pushing me along with all the emotion of a Chia Pet. “Good, you’re awake,” he grumbled. “Were you worried?” “That I would have to keep pushing you.” Richard stopped the chair and walked around me. A snap of his fingers told me to follow. “The bees, wasn’t it?” “Yeah. That was pretty freaky.” I staggered after him. “And that head they were crawling on… I mean, who was that?” “Your father.” Richard glanced back at me. “I thought that was obvious.” “Erwin killed my dad?” “Mister Squire no longer kills people or my employment would only be part-time.” Richard stopped and turned toward me. “And no, I didn’t kill him either. Your father did way too much cocaine and had a stroke.” “Oh.” “It is an unfortunate, but common, occupational hazard. We don’t exactly have governmental approval for what we’re doing here, so we fed your father to the bees.” Richard waved for me to follow him into a transparent cube at the end of the hall. We stepped in and the doors closed behind us before another set opened in front. On the other side we were greeted by Squire, two middle-aged ladies, and a guy that may or may not have been John Travolta. Also, on the other side of the door was a horrible, continuous racket—a droning buzz, underneath the heavy whirring of industrial machinery. Squire pointed up to the ceiling and I stumbled backwards. Richard braced me with a palm and shook his head disapprovingly. Millions of the bees, if not more, swarmed around hives each the size of a family sedan. “They can’t sting you, Charles.” Squire laughed and hobble along like he was on a tour. “They serve as an inspiration to our own mindless, little workers.” We walked to an intersection where a forklift was collecting pallets of plastic crates. Squire pulled a jar from one of the crates and held it up over his head like he was presenting Simba on Pride Rock. The brown syrup caught the light and shined with a reddish hue. “Honey is a superfood, Charles, that never spoils. Unfortunately, it has minimal dietary value.” He handed me the jar and continued his casual stroll. I looked at Richard and mouthed the word ‘honey,’ but he pushed me forward while Squire continued talking. “My ancestors, many centuries ago, found themselves in dire times and sacrificed their prized bull to a superior being.” Squire waved his hand dismissingly. “Perhaps the bull could have fed everyone for a time, but their willingness to put aside the needs of others led to something far greater. They were blessed with tremendous wealth in honor of their sacrifice and that’s how my family got into the business of cattle. Problem is, there’s a lot that goes to waste.” I twisted open the jar and sniffed the contents. It smelled like toffee and sausages and I felt my stomach flip over and kick me in the back of my throat. The old man ambled up a metal flight of stairs passed a running machine. Hunks of bloody tissue rolled along a conveyor and into the machine which rendered it into a paste collected in a transparent container below. As I climbed up behind him, I could see inside the machine which looked like a combination of woodchipper and juicer. “The vulture bee eats dead meat and turns it into a protein-rich honey. Well, in layman’s terms that is.” Squire pointed at the masticating metal teeth of the machine. “We’ve managed to simulate the process. You know what the best part is, Charles?” Squire squeezed my triceps. I think I might have shook my head, but I was trying not to faint again. “Any meat will do. Roadkill, beef, pork, medical cadavers.” A human leg fell from the conveyor belt. Squire snapped a finger at it with a grin. “Even Cecil’s leg,” Richard quipped. “That’s right, my boy. It doesn’t matter. No more wasted parts.” He held his hands wide. “Arrant Extirpation—complete and utter destruction of the material—that’s what we do here. We break it down to nothing but the nutrients. We have millions of jars ready to go and each one will feed a family of four, three times a day for a month. Show me any other food that convenient. Humans will have finally found a sustainable place in the food chain as both their own predator and prey.” I leaned on the safety rail unsure of how vomiting over the side might affect the turnout. How many nutrients were in a regurgitated McMuffin? Erwin Squire smiled like he would eat my soul and patted my cheek with his frigid, chicken hand. Then it happened. It was an accident. I was panicking and when he touched me, I startled. It wasn’t even a hard push, but it was enough apparently and the little old man disappeared right over the inadequately named safety rail. Geriatric puree sprayed unceremoniously into the collection tank below. I was dumbfounded and it showed, I’m sure. One of the ladies jabbed a finger in my face and hurled venom at me. “You killed him! You murdered Erwin. Did you all see that? You saw, right Lucille? He did that on purpose. This beggar pushed him right in.” Before I could defend myself, or even manage a word that wasn’t ‘oops,’ she flipped over the rail and into the oversized food processor as well. Richard rubbed his palms together and stared at the other lady, Lucille. He parted his hands and cocked an eyebrow. “Did you see anyone get pushed into the extirpator?” She watched the machine spin unimpeded by the two people that just got dumped into it. She reached for a dropped high-heel shoe and dropped it over the side like a coin in a wishing well before turning hard eyes to Richard. “The only thing I saw was thirty-six percent of our shares opening up.” Maybe-Travolta shrugged. “We should look into these faulty safety rails. Maybe we can have them painted a brighter color.” “Excellent. If you’d head to the boardroom, Mister Beyers will be joining you shortly. We’ve discussed our supply, now let’s bring him up to date on how we plan to cause the demand.” Richard winked and they laughed as they descended the steps. “I didn’t… oh shit, I am so sorry I killed your boss.” That was all I could get out. I wasn’t even sure if it was the correct thing to say. “Chin up, Chuck.” Richard gave me a fake punch to the tip of my jaw. “I told you I was your assistant. I take my job very seriously. However, if this is too much for you, if you want out, just say the word. I fully understand and, after all, the extirpator never stops running.” The End
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