The Birds and the Bees by Michael Van Den Broecke

      Some might liken Japanese Kamikaze fighter planes to bees. After all, they both zoom in out of nowhere, probably kill something, and then die themselves. Planes are just a little bigger is all. However, it is actually the Japanese that took the idea from the bees. A life for a life. They both share the same principle, but the bees came up with it first. Kind of. Not on their own.

      Long ago, in a seemingly endless grassy plain, there was a young oak tree. In the tree lived a small family of birds: a husband, a wife, and two identical kids. They weren’t twins, they just look alike because they’re birds. They all loved to play games with one another around the tree, hopping around on the branches, and playing tag. It was a simple life for the four of them – five if you count the tree.

      One night, a swift gust of wind and a mighty buzzing sound startled the birds as they were sleeping. A large swarm of tiny insects, unlike any the family had seen before, descended. The father bird drunkenly hopped out of the nest and made his way towards that convulsing ball of buzzing. A small bulb of hexagons was growing rapidly from the center of the swarm. It was almost as big as one of his children!

      The father leaned forward, wobbling back and forth from exhaustion, and asked the strange insects what they were doing. “We are bees!” They replied in unison, “We are building our new home here!” Tired, the father simply nodded his head, told the rest of the birds to go back to bed, and quickly fell back asleep.

     As the sun rose again, and the birds awoke from their interrupted slumber. Their beaks dropped when they saw the size of the beehive. It was now twice as large as the birds’ nest, and began bending the thin tree limb they had attached it to. The four birds all praised the bees, admiring the beautiful architecture and how fast they were able to make it. “Thank you!” the bees responded, and they continued to work.

     Once again, the birds went about their daily lives, playing around the tree branches, flying around the tree, doing stunt dives and pulling up right before they hit the ground, but they all made sure to steer clear of the bees, as to not bother them, and as the father had pointed out, the sharp end of their butts looked dangerous.

      As the sun’s edge reached the horizon, the mother and father flew off to find some food. The mother came back first, feeding one of the children. Then the father came back, and fed the same one, oblivious that the mother had also fed that one child. When the unfed child confronted the parents about this, the father apologized, and promised he would bring back extra food for breakfast the next morning.

      While his father’s promise certainly did make him happy, it did not fill his stomach. He spent the first hour in bed uncontrollably hungry, almost drooling all over the nest thinking about food. He could no longer stand it. He hopped out of the nest and over towards the beehive. Earlier that day, he saw a shiny yellow liquid oozing from the holes in the hive, and the bees feasting from it throughout the day, while also refilling it with whatever they brought back from the flowers in the field. That was what he was after.

      The majority of the bees remained motionless on the other side of the hive, and he quietly tightrope walked his way over towards the hive. He dipped his beak into the honey, and withdrew immediately, throwing his head back. It was the sweetest thing he’s ever had! He quickly gouged through the few rows of holes he could reach from his perch. Finally feeling full, he turned to go back to his nest, finding himself face to face with one of the night shift pollinators. The bee, assuming the bird was attacking the hive quickly stung him and flew away. “Ow!” The bird shook his head, leapt into the nest, and shook the stinger from his neck. Suddenly feeling very tired, he set his head down and fell asleep.

       The following morning, when all the birds got up to play before breakfast, the mother realized that her son was still asleep.

        “Come quickly dear!” the mother said, calling the father. When the mother checked for a breath, there was none. When the father checked for a pulse, there was none. There was only a tiny bee butt lying beside the dead bird. Furious, the father rushed over to the bees.

       “What have you done to my son?!” he squawked. The bees fluttered nervously, and the one bee from the night before spoke up, this time alone.

      “Your son stole honey from our hive, and I thought he was attacking it so I stung him.”

        “Blasphemy!” the father roared. “He is a child and knows no better but to eat what he sees! He had nothing to eat last night…” the father trailed off, now realizing why his son had eaten the honey. He broke down into tears, now knowing that it was his fault that his son was dead. However, he was still angry. A thousand ideas twisted in his mind, and he searched for the appropriate revenge.

       Using the son’s body as a sacrifice, the father cast an evil spell, passed down from his ancestors who were banished from their home for using the dark magic. Now aware of the true cost of the spell, the father incited the enchantment with no mercy:

       [The grieving one who seeks punishment for their loss must give up the one they love. The doomed one who must be punished will receive payback in full.]

       The child vanished with a faint purple glow, leaving behind a single feather. The bee who had stung the child simply fell from his perch, and floated to the ground, unmoving. The father’s eyes drew in the light of the sun, dimming the bright morning that it should’ve been. The bees shook with fear, and the father gathered his wife and remaining child. It was time for the birds to leave.

      “A life for a life,” the father muttered, and flew away to find a new home.

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