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Fiction by Andrew Buckner

TO MAKE OF THEE A NAME

Like a honeycomb smashed against the ground, I, Andrew Buckner, mediocre author, person, and sometimes acclaimed poet, felt my head explode, forehead first, onto my bedroom laptop.

The bees of all my untold stories, some not even consciously hatched, immediately hovered above my wounded skull. They plugged their soon to be electric stingers into the keyboard. This is where my motionless corpse could be found with a finger stuck on the L key. The narrative hive, yellowjackets in the form of book spines who turned red once they drank from the blood pool my face had fallen into at the moment the fatal blow to my skull had occurred, stabbed the keyboard with their tales. Upon doing so, they nimbly, instantaneously penned the chronicles my hands could never find the time to do (I was always running—fleeing my literary duties), hit ENTER, and sent bits of brain, my once unwoven stories, out into the world.

As eyes of all nationalities, personalities, divinities perused these words, contents, the bees would float through the internet, come out of the keyboard beneath the fingers of the individuals who had just read the singular tale of mine they told the world for me, and would make a home in their right eardrum.

At first, the receivers of these unwanted visitors would only hear a loud, throaty buzzing from these thumb-sized creatures of my psyche. As their respective din went on for hours, often days, the readers of my unpenned narratives would soon hear beyond the endless bzzz sound that had settled, perhaps eternally, in their ears. At this point, the beneficiaries would note that this wasn’t a bzzz at all. It was my story, the one the bee exited my head to tell, repeated in a whisper meant to cause brainwashing and obsession with my material, to craft of my name a legacy I never knew in my physical existence.

Tales of extraterrestrials being involved in the French Revolution, a cat dragging in pieces of a corpse that would come to life and torment the owner of the feline, and autobiographical bits about narcissistic fathers entered the readers’ ears. These pieces of my psyche were repeated so often that the audience members who heard them found themselves staying up days on end while whispering the words the bees buzzed to themselves. The buzzing of the mouths of the listeners, a near-perfect variation of what the bees told them when they originally told their respective tales, would greet passersby on the street.

Many of the audience members would, almost flirtatiously, approach the ear of the next unassuming listener of the chronicle. Their lips would twist in a seductive manner that comforted and compelled the passerby into an erotic state. There would be no desire to run. Once the lips of the taleteller got near the stranger and began unraveling my once untold tale, the passerby would begin repeating what they heard immediately. This would begin another endless, obsessive repetition of the tale. This would continue when the passerby met another passerby and did the same thing.

After these random people told other random people and they told random people, the world was filled with a rhapsodic, repeated buzz from the ever-moving mouths of those who listened to and reiterated my tales. Tens of people quickly turned into tens of thousands of people. No one slept. No one dreamed. They just went about their endless charades of repetition. The sound they made was nerve shattering. This was until one fog-drenched morning, May 6th, 2024, when not just the sound coming from their mouths but all of life’s commonplace dins went eternally silent.

It was as if this silence turned a murderous switch on in the listeners. Their inability to repeat the stories I was never able to pen during the era of my physicality caused a violent aggression. It was one which led to massacres, people on the street pushing others into oncoming traffic, and other people pushing others out of ten-story buildings.

From my otherworldly view, I, also silenced by my ability to interact with the world of the flesh, could only watch in horror and think that this was the worst case scenario of the creative spirit. It was a representation of those filled with ideas, burgeoning with thoughts, inklings, desires that would never come to fruition. This was due to a society that never gave them the time to use their voice, to get what is inside the honeycomb of their psyche onto the page, and craft it into a tangible beast. It was a sensation that I, a man who had worked more than two decades as a warehouseman, could fully comprehend.

God-like, I looked down onto what I created and knew I had to intervene. But, how? Any interaction would be breaking The Laws of the Passed, which made the dead unable to intervene with the living. I was at a standstill.

On the morning of May 9th, 2024, I watched a bee walking in a manner that reminded me of a proud middle-aged man on his way to work alongside Buckner Avenue in Lion’s Paw, Ohio. Bodies were hitting the pavement from being pushed out of surrounding buildings around him. A woman slit a man’s throat. She then stabbed him in the chest in front of a crowd of onlookers.

No one reacted. No one sobbed. No one gasped. The silence, the inability to exhibit emotion during such an impossibly ghastly circumstance, made my heart twist as if it were caught in knuckles filled with razor wire.

Such is a symbol of humanity itself,” my brain echoed at the unfolding scene. We conform. When those around us weep, we weep. When those around us stay silent, we stay silent. But, what can I, someone who is forced to not act, do?”

No answers came. Perhaps they never would. Then another deliberation broke the ice of my frozen mental palisade: We are all extremities grasping, pushing, pulling on the same insect. We are all one body. We are all one mind. We must unify and change the world by coordinating our motions so that we move together, as one.”

The stark revulsion of this deliberation was shattered with the resounding click of a heel. In particular, one that stomped down, with a twist of the pouty lips of the person adorning the black heels that were now a murder weapon, upon the proud bee that I was watching walk down Buckner Avenue just moments ago. I pushed myself up from the mistlike sphere from where I watched all that I had brought into my own little world. This did it. Tears stung, punching fists, against my eyelashes. My mouth opened. I felt the veins in my neck bulge and a scream lodge itself in my throat.

My mind exhibited its ultimate deception upon me at this time. It allowed me to hear the earth-splitting scream I was trying to elucidate. It cracked the concrete, split trees in half, and made the windows in the buses that had long stood idle on the side of Buckner Avenue shatter. Most importantly, it made people, some Frankenhaired as if awoken from a long slumber, arch their heads up, puff their chests out, and scream as loudly as I did.

They were feeling and fully aware again.

The stories that I had never told had stopped their endless cycle upon their lips. That was okay. It wasn’t important. What was pivotal, far more so than the vanity of me preserving the name I was never able to make for myself, was that passion had been restored to the masses.

Those who were still living could forget my ego and how it had been forced upon all of them. They could now find their own voice. They could craft their own stories. They could drop the veil of being solely my worker bee and allow their own sensibilities to mold them into whatever animal they wanted.

A genuine voice in a world of painful silence and sound is the greatest of all gifts,” my psyche told me. It’s sad that so much of your life was spent seeking quiet from this increasingly loud, boisterous world, for it is one of the most herculean siren songs of being alive. It’s just as sad that you didn’t realize this until life had long passed you by and your chance to utilize this revelation was just as vanquished.”

As if the loveliest vision had transformed into reality in front of my eyes, the bees of my untold tales simultaneously split their shells in half. Tiny insect arms became fleshy, human, and fully formed. It was like watching an adult being born from something the size of a fingertip. I was astonished as humans grew wings, became Pegasuses, and flew towards the heavens. Kids had become adults and adults had become kids. Even inanimate objects, such as the aforementioned broken down bus, became free to personify their dreams.

This moment, as all fleeting instances of genuine beauty, was shortly lived. This was as an oddly familiar yet foreign buzzing, a strange whisper of words nestled with a soft, sweet yet menacing voice in my eardrum. A pinch, which my brain didn’t realize as such until the words had begun, preempted this string of initially nonsensical sentiments. Soon, I saw hallways filled with blood, a body, someone’s sister, a woman in a mirror that I realized was me, and a butcher knife dripping with gore in the mirror, like a surreal image in a funhouse, twisting in the distance.

You killed her,” a voice from the hallway uttered in a child-like, almost playful tone. Now, you must do the same to yourself.”

Before I could cry out, I did as instructed. From out of my chest came a single bee, another story, that floated from out of what could be a tale a bee from the mental honeycomb of someone else was telling me or from an entirely different plane of existence. There was no way to tell. All I knew now was that I was involved in some type of love story. From the slave plantations that surrounded and the general attire of the people around me, especially the one holding my hand, I knew it was a historical tale.

But, would it end in horror? Was I to kill again? A quick vision of two dead bodies, like an electronic blip on a monitor, overtook my sight. From what I could make out the bodies looked like they belonged to two young girls. Twins. Crumpled roses fluttered in their hands in the spring-like air.

I’m not a murderer,” something within me cried out.

The red of the rose petals morphed into bees. They attacked me. Their stingers simultaneously hit my neck, my arms, my face, and my eyes. With every jab of their knife-like tails and the stories the singular bees contained within them unfolded in my brain— not word-by-word, but all at once.

My spiritual frame was going into shock from the endless barrage of stabbings. I tried to scream, but only a bzzz sound pressed on my lips. Instinctively, I tried to push my body up from all the words, sentiments, emotions rushing over me. It was then that I realized that I had no body. I was dead and immobile. I could only suffer through the oncoming onslaught of stingers, tales, and jabs.

As if summoned by my most recent realization, I saw a shadowy shape a few feet beyond my shoulder in the distance. It was a honeycomb that was cracked open. I glared at the honeycomb incomprehensibly, though its symbolism of me losing my mind and my ability to craft my own art and destiny immediately resonated in a pain that would’ve been my chest if I was still in my physical form, and a sickening feeling, like a punch, overcame me. This was as I saw a gory blade, an ax, with a decapitated hand still attached. From this sight, I flashed back to my body, which I saw one final time as my spirit was leaving my frame after my head hit my bedroom laptop, and from the corner of my recollection I saw my own missing right hand.

I did this to myself,” something taunted, a ghastly revelation that made me see a mental sight of someone wide-eyed, within me.”

But, why? I was happy. I had a family. I had a dream. That’s all one needs in life, right?” I asked both internally and aloud.

Fame,” the monster within me retorted with a tinge of sadistic pleasure in its voice.

No, I wouldn’t take my own life to be known. There are people waiting for me at home. There are people who need me,” I tried to rationalize.

You’ve destroyed thousands of lives. You’ve manipulated the world to do your bidding. You’ve caused obsession and murder. You’ve lied, even to yourself, to make a name for yourself. You’re selfish. Please tell me how it isn’t logical that you would kill yourself to make of thee a name.”

But, why? How?”

Only you know the answer.”

But, I don’t have it.”

Fame makes people crazy.”

….And people will do crazy things for fame.”

But, why?”

Again, only you have the answer.”

I stopped my inquiry. A shiver, a familiar nausea crept with rail-thin arms up my spine. It was that now all too familiar buzzing. I wanted to scream out No!”, but I was paralyzed. The corners of my vision seemed to twist and I saw an outline I’ve never seen before. It was just out of reach of the honeycomb, my brain, which was still eerily motionless and empty.

What I saw in the contour within the perimeter of the broken, busted open honeycomb brain were rivers of nerve banks running to and from the mental beehive. As my vision stretched and my overall vista became that as if I was standing behind my own spiritual shoulders and seeing what I couldn’t from where I was still suffering the stinger attack from the narrative bees, I saw that the nerves created a skeleton formation. It aligned perfectly with where the honeycomb lay smashed in the dirt. From where my eyes continued to linger, even after I mentally screamed at them to look away, I saw a fleshless body, the nerves acting like picked clean bones, that were lying face down in the ground. I instantly knew that it was me.

I’m being rebuilt. I’m being reborn,” my own voice swirled up to me with more enthusiasm than terror.

No,” the grisly inflection of the taunter rose in what would be my ear if I was still in my physical form. You are being buried.”

I tried to close my eyes. I tried to move my head. Still, I felt a vice-like force keeping my internal vision locked in on the body. Whoever the taunter was, it was making me look. All I could think was that I hated him.

You don’t hate me,” it began without changing its tone. You hate yourself. All of this is the direct effect of your own selfishness. Now watch. Watch what the bees of your stories, your dreams will do to you after you are gone.”

As if on cue, the bees ceased stinging me. Their stories also stopped. So did the memory of their narrative contents in my psyche. The welcome, refreshing silence brought forth by this occurrence died after a mere moment. This was as I heard all the gossip, negative rumors, and comments that emanated from these bees as they hovered over my nerves and my psychological honeycomb and began consuming these areas, their tiny proboscises moving animatedly in delight, until nothing of my body remained.

Andrew Buckner is a hack,” the voice of one bee exploded in my brain. He has to be the most overrated writer, if you can even call him that, of all time.”

Yeah, he has so much writing and it is all garbage,” another nameless worker bee intoned. Do we even need to mention all the misspellings and grammatical mistakes in his self-published early work? An infant could do a better job in that department.”

Mentally, he must be one,” another nameless drone chimed into the conversation.

If I could give his so-called writing’, for lack of a better word, zero stars I would,” another nameless drone added.

I was working nearly seventy hours a week,” I shot back, even though I knew it was pointless to defend myself against such naysayers as these, the type of people who will never stop to listen to the opinion of someone else. And I was raising a newborn who wouldn’t let me sleep at night. I was exhausted. Yet, I was writing all my own stuff as well as editing and publishing it. These early stages were a learning process. I got better. That’s what should count. I was exhausted. I was, as they say, burning the candle at both ends’. But, I was doing my best to juggle both my dreams and my obligations to society. That’s admirable, right?”

Only you know the answer,” the infernal inflection of the taunter, another in the endless catalog of naysayers now verbally stinging me to death, again repeated.

As I suffered an eternity, a purgatory of listening to these endless taunts, these baseless, unfair accusations, I remembered my severed hand and the ax to my skull. I knew why I had taken my own life. I wanted to make those who would never appreciate me when I was alive grow to appreciate, even admire, me through my passing. It was the case with other creatives in similar situations. It made sense to do this, especially when others who had no idea of my personal struggles and achievements, spoke so openly as the hive of bees before me were now doing.

The taunter was right. I didn’t have any answers. Answers don’t come easy. You can’t force others to think a certain way. The best you can do is do what is right for you and be the best you that you can be.

As the last morsels of my nerves were consumed and only the faintest fragments of my mind remained, I knew one thing: I had to search the honeycomb once more.

Andrew Buckner

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