Last night I was viciously tortured and tormented.
It began with a piercing howl that shattered the barren calm of night. When I awoke, I fervently prayed that whoever was making the godawful noise would just shut up.
Then I realized that it was I making that horrific sound.
My tormentors lurked in the shadows. I watched with eyes bulging as they approached, their droning conversation mesmerizing me. I screamed, terrified, as they descended upon me. They covered my body, their hairy fingers reaching, grasping, pinching me…
Waking abruptly from my nightmarish sleep, I struggled desperately to steady my erratic breathing. Inhaling a breath of air, I pried open my sleep-glued eyes. Confused and disoriented, I sensed that something was very, very wrong.
A void of darkness surrounded me―a heavy blanket of fear.
Every night for the past three days I have been haunted by the same harrowing nightmare. Strangers pursued me. Hundreds of them swarmed around me. I could feel them torturing my body with exquisite anguish―those faceless creatures of the night.
I hate dreaming!
I heard strangled sobs―an infant dying to be held, dying to be loved.
Struggling against the smooth coolness of satin sheets, I sighed heavily with frustration. Will I ever get a full night's sleep?
Nothingness enveloped me like a leather glove―slick and cool against my skin. I reached a tentative hand to my forehead. Massaging its icy surface, I could feel faint electrical impulses course along my temple. How cold I felt!
The baby's cries grew more persistent.
I must get up and feed him. Perhaps then he'll go back to sleep.
My hand groped forward, reaching for the lamp on my bedside table. Then it paused in mid-air―paralyzed. Inexplicably I yanked my hand back, frightened of touching something hideous…something other than the lamp.
"Waa!" the baby screamed.
Why doesn't Joseph go get him?
Opening my eyes cautiously, I peered into the pitch-black obscurity of night. Not even a sliver of moonlight shone through the opaque blinds of our bedroom.
How could Joseph sleep through this ruckus?
I peered into the void yet could not discern one solitary object. In fact, the room seemed devoid of anything substantial. Empty.
I must feed the baby.
A vaguely familiar buzzing sound interrupted my thoughts. As the irritating noise hummed closer, my hands clenched the satin sheets.
Then I heard voices, muffled and droning. I stretched tiredly, my aching muscles rebelling against the sudden movement.
Without warning, a narrow crack of light appeared along the ceiling.
A car passing by on the street outside?
My baby wailed again―his ragged sobs undulating like whitecaps on a raging sea.
I must get up.
Rolling reluctantly to one side, my forehead cracked against something unyielding.
Damn! What the hell?
I apprehensively stretched upwards, clawing at the air around me. My fingers grazed along a wall―a wall that should not be there.
When did Joseph move the bed against the wall? We've always had it in the middle of our bedroom.
Panic constricted my dehydrated throat and I edged closer to the left side, only to come up against another solid mass. A convulsive chill swept through me as I noticed that the droning buzz was just outside these walls. My fingers groped blindly above my head, encountering an unimaginable punishment―the nightmare of all nightmares. There was something peculiar above my head―a ceiling.
Oh my God! I am trapped in a box!
I blinked unblinkingly in disbelief as vague comprehension trickled through my oxygen-deprived brain and light teasingly flickered through the cracks above me. My blue-tinged lips whispered a silent plea. My ragged fingernails bit into my palms. All this, yet I felt nothing.
Suddenly, an intense light shot daggers into my eyes. I saw faces―too many to count. They were all staring sorrowfully at me, tearfully whispering my name.
"Good-bye, Maddy," their collective voices murmur.
Good-bye? Am I going somewhere?
Then my husband's face appeared. He raised one hand and lashed out at something in the air.
Joseph? What's going on?
He ignored me. Darling, irritating Joseph was sobbing.
There's no reason to cry, Joseph, my love.
My gaze traveled across the strange box that encompassed me and I realized that I was dead wrong. There was a reason to cry…and scream.
I was in a coffin.
Is this some practical joke? I'm not dead.
"Goodbye, Maddy," Joseph moaned.
Listen to me, Joseph. I'M NOT DEAD!
"At least now you'll be with our son," Joseph whispered in my ear.
He caressed my frigid cheek, leaned down and kissed my lips.
Wait, Joseph! What happened to the baby?
Somewhere a wailing baby drifted into oblivion.
Then I remembered…
Our baby was dead!
I remembered finding his unconscious body in the crib. He had reacted violently to a single bee sting. It had triggered a deadly allergic reaction with the devastating force of a nuclear weapon. His tiny, frail body could not defend itself against the lethal invasion. The bee's poison had attacked each cell, replicating its infection and swarming into his lungs.
Sobbing and wailing incessantly, I had rocked him in my arms, watching helplessly as my poor baby's head swelled grotesquely. Ten minutes before the paramedics arrived, his respiration had ceased with a final droning hiss of breath. My beloved baby who had only breathed our polluted air for three days had died from the bee's venom.
I always believed that payback was the sweetest form of revenge.
Mad with grief, I hunted down the buzzing sound that dared me to destroy its malignancy. Its owner―a plump Queen bee. I chased that bee-atch all over the house with a fly swatter. Yet, she escaped, laughing and droning triumphantly.
"Go ahead, you murderous bitch. Make my day!" I had screamed at her.
Cackling hysterically, I finally crushed that stupid bitch, her guts splattering all over my kitchen window. One minute she had been buzzing defiantly―the next, I had silenced her forever.
Then a weird thing happened.
While I was cleaning her remains from the glass, I noticed another bee outside. It hovered furtively, witnessing every move I made. I knew then that it was one of the Queen's loyal workers. A shiver of trepidation slithered up my back as I locked eyes with that bee. Then it flew off and I released a titanic sigh of relief.
A sympathetic voice jostled me back to the present, followed closely by the sibilant sound of doom.
"I'll miss you, Madeleine," my mother wept, choking on my name. Her lips kissed my cosmetic-coated face. "What a terrible way to die."
"Yes," Joseph agreed, his handsome face wavering before me.
Then he shook his head in disbelief. "It was horrifying. Who would ever have thought that a swarm of bees would attack a human being like that? Maddy was completely covered―only her eyes were left untouched. It was almost as if they wanted her to watch, to see what they were doing to her."
Memories of burning pain sliced through my mind. I remembered the heat of their bodies engulfing me in a jacket of gold and black fuzz. I had staggered with arms flailing, trying to dislodge the ungodly hoard attached to my already bloating body. I could still hear their deafening roar. It was like standing at the edge of a railroad while a locomotive endlessly whizzed by.
"The bastards!" Joseph muttered. "I'd like to kill the whole bloody hive."
"At least Maddy is not suffering anymore," my mother rasped.
I screamed silently as Joseph's hand caressed the coffin lid. Panic gripped my mindless body and my stomach rebelled, churning bloodlessly. I fought against a tide of nausea, although my body was physically empty.
But I'm still alive! Aren't I? How could I see or hear any of you if I wasn't?
Comprehension dawned and I realized that my soul still lingered. Too many things had been left undone―unsaid. I could no longer move anything but my soul's eyes. I was hearing through my soul's ears.
But I, Madeleine Anne Decker, was dead.
What the hell is that godawful noise?
I gasped airlessly when a diminishing ray of light grazed across a sinister specter.
The worker bee was inside my coffin―its feathery legs whispering closer to my face.
Get it out! Don't close the lid!
I cursed my motionless lips.
As the coffin lid firmly closed, I was trapped with the endless buzzing of vengeance. I could feel the bee's microscopic legs tickling my cheek, tormenting me as he made his way furtively across my face. When he reached my nose, his droning hum vibrated forcefully, shattering the cartilage under my skin.
I sensed his thoughts, his desire for revenge…for justice. I had irreverently murdered his Queen―his mother. I had, in essence, ripped her asunder and torn her from her family. And he had returned the favor.
The coffin rocked slightly.
I was being lowered into the decaying, musty earth, and soon I heard the muffled sound of dirt being packed on top, surrounding and severing me from all that I loved…separating me from Life.
Separation from those you love is torture. There is no worse torment than to be ripped apart from those you hold most dear. It is a terror of the soul. Nothing can compare to the pounding of your heart, extreme breathlessness and the endless aching that you feel.
The worker bee flew into my left nostril and Death swarmed into my icy corpse, claiming my unrepentant soul for all eternity.
I should have asked for the strength to forgive and for forgiveness for my own sin. I realized that now. Instead, I hungered for revenge and feasted on the annihilation of a Queen. Together, we had created a vicious circle of death, and all because I had thirsted for payback.
I had always believed that payback was the sweetest form of revenge.
I realize now…I was wrong―dead wrong.
Payback can also bee…murder!