I have been playing with flash fiction again. It is intriguing to see how a story morphs when words are removed. ‘Flashing’ is a good way to subvert writing habits, teasing out unconscious tics and tendencies, like cobwebs in the corners. It also highlights slips of logic, motivation and narrative placement. More importantly, I find it helps me feel what it is that intrigued me about the original idea. This started differently, but I chopped out the beginning, to get closer to the unconscious idea.
The New Queen
From spring into summer, she had heard the humming of the nest through the bedroom ceiling as she lay down to sleep. The sound had followed her into her dreams, warm and deep. Only when wasps came into the house had she thought of removing them. ‘Big nest,’ the wasp man said. ‘But they’ll not bother you further.’ He had smiled at her in a strange way, and told her not to touch the treated area. The wasps had peeled wood from the roof trusses to make the large papery orb that fills a corner of the small roof space. The orb is now a wasp sarcophagus.
The noise that had thrummed above her bed has now ceased. It is deathly quiet in the bedroom. Two nights. Peace. No dreams. She is sad for them, despite the stings. It was not personal – they had seen her as a threat. Her arms still bear the red wheals of wasp stings. She couldn’t have wasps in her house. But the silence is disturbing. She is uneasy in her stomach about it. The wasp man said that the nest would disintegrate, they last only the season, but new queens would fly out to establish new nests in the spring, after hibernating the winter. Only, now, the queens will all be dead. She hopes that one has escaped. She places flowers from the garden outside the silent nest. In autumn, she leaves juicy pears on the rafters, next to the desiccated flowers.
Winter arrives early, with the high probability of snow before Christmas. People are advised to stock up their larders. The snow comes as promised, and cloaks her house in white.
She sleeps fitfully, cold nights into cold days, the white sheets binding her like a cocoon. She has no appetite. Her flesh falls away, she becomes quite thin. Winter passes in a dream of cold dark spaces.
Spring. Light breaks through gaps in her curtains, and she begins to wake. Her appetite returns, but there is little left in her larder that appeals to her, bar the dried remains of fruit. But she is consumed by the notion of transformation; her new lightness enthralls her, she has work to do.
The varnish on her kitchen cupboards has peeled, and it is easy to work the surface into a soft, white pulp. The doors yield to her rough tongue, and, soon, she has help. The house is filled with soft buzzing.