Nightmare Fuel: Day 10

We knew the bees were dying.

Scientists first reported it in the mid… whatever it is that people decided to call that decade between the 90s and the teens. Every year there were fewer and fewer bees, whole colonies just biting the dust, and nobody could figure out why.

Oh, we theorized, certainly. Someone came up with a really fantastic theory called Spontaneous Colony Collapse that made it seem as if these abrupt, catastrophic disappearances of entire hives, entire colonies were something that just sort of whoops! happened and there wasn’t that much we could do about it. That theory kind of slid out into the common consciousness, and we stopped worrying about it, because we had to worry about not losing our houses and what was that crazy Snooki girl going to get up to this week.

So we stopped paying attention to the bees, we stopped worrying about where they might be going, and hey wasn’t it nice that it seemed like maybe we weren’t getting stung as much in the spring and summer because there weren’t so damn many of them any more?

It was a little more than ten years later when the bees actually made it onto the endangered species list. I remember reading about it, and being disturbed and sort of horrified – I mean, BEES, you know? They’re just one of those critters that are always everywhere, like ants. Yet right after I read it, I didn’t really think about it.

Till I went to the park. I do that sometimes, just to get out somewhere that’s sort of nature and sort of a museum and there’s people and squirrels and flowers. It’s a whole bunch of niceness all together, and in this one park that I really like I’ve found this spot where there is an old stone bench around behind a wall, and it’s almost surrounded by flowers. Nobody really sits in it, because it’s in the shade a lot of the day and the stone is always cold, but it feels good to me, especially after all the walking. I can still hear people playing, but I get that little haven all to myself.

I was sitting there when I saw, so soon after reading that article, a bee. I didn’t quite notice it, because like I said. Bees are everywhere – except that now they’re not. When it clicked over in my head what I was looking at, I sat up, and went fumbling in my pocket for my mobile to take a picture of it. I was able to get the camera up, and zoomed in on the buzzing wings I could see as it hovered over the daylilies. That was when I realized there wasn’t just one, there were TWO! One was darting around after the other, and I know well and good that bees don’t pair off and mate or anything like that, but if there were two, maybe there were more. Maybe there was a colony in the park!

I followed them with my camera, which was a little awkward on zoom, until abruptly one overtook the other and they stopped dead in the air, hovering. I focused, and nearly dropped the phone.

One of them was a bee. One was not.

The bee was hanging nearly upside down in the air, kicking and twitching while it was held by one back leg in the hand of what looked like nothing so much as a tiny human skeleton with bee wings. And I don’t mean tiny like the size of a baby, I mean the thing was probably no longer than my pinky, dark and undeniably made of slender bones. In its other hand it held what looked like a bird or chipmunk’s legion, snapped in half. It poised above the thing’s head like a hammer, and then crashed down against the bee, dashing open its small dark head and spattering some fluid upon the lily below them. I couldn’t stop watching as the skeletal fairy-like creature landed them heavily upon the flower, tossing the bone aside. I couldn’t hear anything but the buzzing of its wings, though watching its jaw work rapidly I fancied I could hear a chitter as it rubbed one hand up and one hand down the body of the fallen bee.

Then it plunged its face down toward the dead insect, biting hard and wrenching a huge chunk out of the fuzzy black and yellow hide. It chewed and chewed and then bent to do it again, decimating the bee’s form in slow, methodical, utterly ferocious chunks. Soon there was nothing left but the legs, which got shoved haphazardly down into the bell of the flower, which was smeared with the same dark juice of which there had been a spatter from the death blow.

Apparently sated, the skeletal… fairy isn’t the right word for it, but good goddamn if that isn’t exactly what it looked like! It jumped aloft, wings beating their quiet, steady thrum, and it circled the lilies once before flying away, in search of I presume some new prey.

How in the hell was I going to report this? Worse yet – when those things ran out of bees, what would they turn to for food next?

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture by estherase on Flickr, under Creative Commons license.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 9

Physics didn’t quite work the same here.

That was partly a blessing, because that was what was allowing George Gordonforth, Assistant Night Manager of Stick-e-Bunz 24 Hour Discount Bakery, shimmy and scramble his way up a cement and metal support piling at least as thick around as his own not inconsiderable waist as if this were an even on a japanese gameshow and his chance of winning were dependent on rescuing a bug-eyed kitten stuck at the top.

It was also a curse, because it was allowing the zombies to climb after him.

They’d been after him for miles now, shambling a lot quicker than he liked as he had run through the woods, and followed the woods into a ravine where the rock walls amused themselves by dislodging bits of their own faces to roll underfoot for him and the double handful of his pursuers. What little luck was with him was such that they tripped more often than he did on the rolling hazards, and so it was largely them at which the little cascades of rocks were aimed, followed by the disconcerting deeply grinding chuckle from the surrounding mountainside.

When he’d spotted the train trestle ahead, his heart had leapt and then sort of landed on itself; sure he’d been able to keep running in this place when back home he would have collapsed panting to the ground miles back, and he was able to leapfrog boulderfall like some sort of preternatural parker expert, but even seeing it in glimpses through the trees he was dodging around, it looked to be at least some 40 yards in the air. As he got closer to the base of it, he corrected that judgement to be more around 100 yards up, sailing overhead from one side of the gorge to the other atop their thick supports.

It helped a lot, when climbing, that instead of just reaching around and clambering up the support as if he was a kid shimmying up a light pole, this place was screwed up enough at the root level that he was able to shove his hands straight into the concrete and hold on to pull himself upward, then jam in his feet and repeat with his hands further up, without actually apparently damaging the support. Unfortunately, as the group milled about at the base, it didn’t take them nearly as long as he would have liked to watch him and then begin mimic the movements, some on the same support, some on its twin nearby.

He was a few yards down from the top when he realized he could feel a faint rumble. A train, against all expectation! As quickly as he could push himself (fucked up physics or no, he didn’t feel like falling the length of a football field to see what would happen), he did until he was almost bent double beneath the wooden slats. Then he stretched his leg across and, in a leap of faith, let go with his hands so that he could jam his toes into the other support, straddling the gap.

Reaching up between the wooden slats of the trestle, and rather thankful for the gut that wasn’t letting him see the creatures creeping closer, he stretched a hand high and splayed it open as a train rumbled closet and closer. Soon it was roaring overhead, and he waited, biding his time until he felt something twitch at his trousers – THAT was when he let his hand grab hold of an axel and yanked as hard as he could.

Like the impossible leaping, and the climbing, screwy physics played nice and he felt his body darting upward through splintering wood of first the trestle and then the floorboards of the train, landing him on a lovely plus gold and red oriental runner carpet next to the hole he’d just created. Helpful hands reached for him, pulled George to his feet, and then settled him in a seat of his own.

“Welcome aboard, Monsieur!” came a smooth tenor by his elbow, and George half-turned, smiling – only to see that the face that he gazed into had a thoroughly reddish cast that followed through all of the skin exposed around the rather fine tuxedo. “Would Monsieur care, perhaps, for some tea?”

He nodded dumbly and sat back with a sigh to mull over this new development. Devils, more devils. They seemed to be everywhere, running everything, but never seemed to claim ownership of things, nor really participate.

That could only mean he wasn’t finished yet, that there was more to come, and when the devil returned bearing an exquisite tea service and set it on the table before him, he grabbed the creature’s sleeve. “Listen, you gotta tell me, what was that valley? Where is this train headed?”

With the detached elegance any Jeeves sought to acquire, the devil filched its sleeve free of George’s fingers and picked up the pot to pour the steaming water over the teabag already in the cup. “Frying Pan, sir – and Fire, of course. Do enjoy, won’t you?” It glided away, leaving George to look into the teacup he was already lifting to try to figure out what kind of tea he had been served.

There, sitting in the steaming water, was a neatly severed scrotum.

“Teabagged,” he groaned, and tossed the cup altogether down the hole he’d left in the floor before dropping his head to bang against the table.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture by DeepInSwim of DeviantArt:

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 8

In late evening Vienna, which was also early morning Vienna, candles and lanterns still burned in many windows along streets and canalways, red wax dripping down candleshafts onto the aging marble of softly arching bridges. Soft wafts of music drifted here and there from various balls both private and public that had not yet called it a night, though the horizon was beginning to faintly lighten in the east.

It was through this perfumed, pre-dawn fairyland that I and Lucia were walking, hanging on to each other as the heady whirl of the waltz and the spin of a cup too much of good wine unbalanced our steps just a touch. Not that we needed it, but it all gave us a rather fine excuse to have out arms about each other as we turned to cross a canal and paused in the middle of one of the bridges, leaning upon the solid stone rail. From here, it was a wonderful bit of ancient beauty, to see the unearthly casts of lights and shadows from the various balls playing across the buildings, and the candles and lanterns flickering by the flowing water.

“What are those?” Lucia asked, pointing at one of the decorated floats drifting down the canal, and I smiled, pleased to be able to share the tale I had learned only a few days before about the thick candles on the round, heavily decorated little floats, like strange fey flower blossoms more than a foot across. “They’re meant to be beautiful, like everything – like you, bella – but they are also said to be a memorium. The carnival of Vienna is full of delights and enticements, but every year there are tragedies. Too much fun, too much drink, and in the canals folk have fallen. Each of these is said to represent one of those who have lost their life into the Carnival, and is supposedly decorated in the colors of what they were wearing when they were lost – though how folk would know that is beyond me..”

I leaned closer, trailing my fingertips up her bare arm, my lips nearly brushing her ear as I whispered, “And it is said that, if you call out to them, one of the lost spirits will rise to rejoin the Carnival.” I could feel the shiver thrill down her arm, goosebumps rising on the skin, and smiled, shifting my hand to rest against the warm gathered blue satin at her lower back. Arousal tinged with fear, I had found, was all the more delectable.

Despite the thrill I had given her, though, she suddenly laughed, and leaned away to wrest a candle loose from the stone railing, while the float drifted ever closer; its candle was stark white in comparison to the thick garners of orange and russet silk and organza surrounding it. “Come, o lost spirit!” Lucia cried out gaily, and she leaned out over the water, my hand steadying her (and, I must admit, slipping a bit from her back to her bottom; who could resist such a sweet swell, even covered by bustled cloth as it was?) as she stretched out and tilted the candle, letting the molten wax stream from it onto the surface of the canal, and into the path of which the orangey float gently bobbed. The red wax dribbled across the folds of cloth and the silk flowers, and then a few drops fell right into the pool of heat-clarified white wax atop the candle.

Without warning, the lot of it tilted and lifted, water running off the sides to reveal a white porcelain mask underneath. The float was abruptly no mere float, but was in fact a broad and elaborate hat for someone who peered up at us, the eyeholes pinched down at the nose and up at the outer ends like cat-eyes. There was kohl or makeup around their eyes, darkening all of it, and Lucia’s laughter cut off in a yelp of surprise. Orange cloth dipped down from the broad hat to tie under the shin, and seemed to meet more cloth at the neck, though it was difficult to see from that distance, in the dark.

Difficult to see until, with no assistance, the figure rose straight up from the water to float before the bridge, and then drifted close, reaching out gloved hands for Lucia’s, covering them around the candle. There was silence, although I think my mouth was working, trying to put word to any one of the impossible explanations my mind threw up, turned over, and discarded. Over the rail it floated, and then turned, swooping around Lucia in a circle but still holding her hands in a very definite beat that I realized after several paired turnings was a waltz.

“Nih- Nico?” she stammered as she was pulled in the lilting rhythm across the bridge, and then brought to a halt by the far rail.

“I’m… It must be a trick,” I managed, and my voice was unconvincing even to myself. I should have dashed forward, stopped it from raising Lucia’s hands and the candle; I winced as it forced it to tilt, pouring wax upon Lucia’s piled-up hair, and she yelped, I hope more in outrage than as pain. Then the straightened candle was settled upon it – and Lucia released, before being abruptly shoved over the railing on that side of the bridge by the thing swathed in the elaborate orange costume. I heard her cry out, and the splash, and then I ran for the railing, past the thing which was standing there looking down.

As I came alongside, it swept away, dancing toward the street I’d just left in time to a strain of violins I could barely hear before I screamed out for Lucia, calling her name, and again.

Then the round float, piled high with blue gathered satin and dark ribbons the color of Lucia’s curls, floated up out of the water, and the red candle was in the center. Before it even made it to the air, it was burning.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, artist unknown:

 

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 7

So no shit, there I was, minding my own business, right – like you do when you’re at work, y’know. I was sitting there, in my cube, trying to finish up the Total Production Summary report, and it was the end of the day on Friday, and I just wanted to get it DONE so I didn’t have to go back in the next day to complete the damn thing, or hear all about it on Monday.

 

I was just sitting there and the whole cube went dim. I mean, there was some light from the overhead, y’know, but most of my light comes from the windows, sort of bouncing off the pale grey wall outside the doorway of my cubical. I figured it was just Milton, y’know? I’m not sure if that guy even ever goes home, the way he just hovers all the time. Someone once told me he actually sleeps behind the file shelves in the basement, and I wouldn’t put it past him, he just creeps me right the fuck out, y’know?

 

So I was like, “What do you need, Milty? I’m kinda in the middle of something, here.” And my cube got dimmer, and I could feel him behind me, like he stepped all he way into the doorway, and I just waited for him to mumble at me like he does. But he was quiet, and that was weird enough even for that freaking weirdo that I spun my chair.

 

And there it was. This huge blob, taller than Lumbergh even, dark like someone spilled ink all over a gigantic beanbag chair or something, except I never saw any beanbag chair with eyes like that, shiny and yellow and red, and it was looking down at me and I hope to god I didn’t actually piss myself, even though I totally felt like I had to then, seeing a thing like that.

 

It had about fifty tentacles, like a squid without suckers, or tree roots or whatever, and they just sort of unfurled out the front of it, and reached past me to grope around on my desk. Fucker knocked my Total Production Summary on the floor! Then it poked in my pen cup with one of them, and another yanked my stapler out from behind my Out tray. It made the weirdest noise then, almost like a sigh, but garbled, like somebody sighing through a vat of oil, y’know? It dropped my stapler.

 

Then all those tentacles curled around me and dragged me straight in, and here we are, you and me. So I don’t know about you, but I really can’t see much of anything. And it’s wet in here, I’m getting it all over my skin and starting to itch, and I can’t even get a good scratch in because the thing keeps moving around. I hope I don’t get a rash. Y’know?

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture supplied by G+ user Kary Gaul:

See more of Kary’s work on DeviantArt as Watyrfall.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 6

“It’ll be just like LOST,” my agent encouraged me, “Mixed with Survivor, except that you won’t have to crash-land first, and it’s going to be REALLY real, you won’t have a whole foodservice crew just off camera.”

He was more right than he knew, really; we were air-lifted to this island through god-awful storms, and I was a little surprised we didn’t crash.¬†People started disappearing before the end of the first week, and it didn’t take long before none of us could trust one another.

I struck out for the far side of the island, but I feel like something’s been watching me. Last night I felt all the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, even though it was so warm that it was dusk, with no cloudcover to keep the heat in, and I was still sitting in front of my cookfire with my shirt tied around my waist. Casually as I could I reached out to poke the fire and grabbed the end of one of the longer branches sticking out of it.

I didn’t hear anything, but there was a bit of a prickling breeze. I stood with a yell, brandishing the flaming stick over my head like I was some kind of viking with a freaking broadsword – staring right at this huge, roiling amorphous dark cloud. It shifted and boiled this way and that, and then arched over to reach past me, broadening like a hand, and then collapsing around the stick that had gone still up behind me.

The fire went out.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture supplied by MattTheSamurai; see his DA gallery for more work:

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.