The buzzing was quiet at first, just a low hum beneath the sounds of solemn hymns that barely registered to almost anyone—a seven-year-old at the front fidgeting with their black suit jacket and looking over their shoulder was the only sign that something had changed. The sea of black suits and dresses all sat down and quieted, but the dull drone remained, and some started looking skeptically at each other. None knew the source of the sound, and as it continued, it seemed to fade into the background, the service continuing with a eulogy by the deceased’s wife or possibly sister. I couldn’t really say much about the deceased’s family, having only known them from the local farmer’s market, and the words the woman spoke seemed to blend into the hum that, though in the background, had been growing persistently louder.
When the woman stopped speaking and tears formed on her face, the buzzing suddenly grew to a roar in volume, as the doors at the back of the small church pushed open and every head turned to see a blurry shadowy figure taking a seat at the back of the church. It took a second glance to figure it out, but it was clear what the figure was—a swarm of bees, so tightly pressed together as to barely be able to discern any individual bee from another and shaped into the form of a person nearly six feet tall. And yet knowing this to be wholly impossible and everything I was seeing to be wrong, somehow in that moment it made sense—of course the bees would come to the funeral. They did always sell honey at the farmer’s market. The bees were as big a part of their life as anyone else.
And it seemed as though everyone else had drawn a similar conclusion. No one screamed or ran or even commented on the matter, but instead after seeing the shadowy swarm take their seat, everyone seemed satisfied knowing where the drone was coming from and turned back to the front of the chapel where a priest was standing, preparing to say some final words before another hymn was sung and the service drew to a close, all with the loud buzz continuing from the back of the room.
When the funeral had concluded, I watched as people began to make their way to the woman who’d given the eulogy to offer their condolences and didn’t even have a second thought when the shadowy figure approached her. They said no words, but simply remained in front of her with their continuous hum and reshaped what functioned as arms into a hug around the woman, who seemed to appreciate the act. After the dark, buzzing figure released her from their embrace, they walked to the casket, and looked upon the deceased before walking back out of the building and reshaping into a traditional swarm.
I approached the casket to look at the person I’d known for years and looked down at the weary body below. The body had been cleaned up and placed in a nice suit and made to be very pristine. However, even the makeup applied after death didn’t quite cover up the mark from the stinger’s entry above their eye. I’d always told them beekeeping was a risk for someone with such a severe allergy; truly a shame to be proven right this time.
Rachel Keener is a twenty-one-year-old college graduate living in Texas who loves to write and does it as much as they can. They write a variety of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction in their spare time.