He has no name and no past. This is not a cheap device to build unearned narrative tension, but a literal and genuine truth. Intoxicated by the beckoning brightness of ceanothus and daylilies he has drifted from his fellows and their afternoon ritual and is now irremediably lost. He may experience a vague unease or he may not notice it at all.
The world is a honeycomb, the hivemind tells him, and from the moment he first opened his five eyes to life he has seen the truth of this. The womb-comb is heavy with citrus secretions and hums with occult purpose. The pattern of his own life is imprinted in his very being and he discharges it with faithful attention: flying with his fellows, each day when the sun slants just so in the sky, into the world-comb toward a place of prearranged meeting. And there they wait. For what? The hivemind does not say, but it nurtures and feeds them until the moment of fulfillment. He wishes neither for the moment’s coming nor for its delay. He flies into the world-comb and waits, and when the time of waiting is over flies back to the womb-comb again.
The fixed mosaic of the world lies flat as a theater scrim and perhaps this is why he does not notice that he has left the drone congregation. He passes a solitary hummingbird sipping a nothingness. It registers only as a confused impression on his mind for there are no structures for solitude in his brain. He does not see the color red.
The thrumming of bees ripples across his abdomen. Perhaps because community drones behind and before and beside him he feels no reluctance as he drifts out of the sheltering oaks. He crosses hard hot cobblestones and cools himself among circles of daylilies and ceanothus, society garlic and purple robe where sisters drink deep within the orange trumpets or tread lightly across dusty purple carpets.
He hungers and approaches a lily, a sister within, to dance. But even as he nears a false rhythm hums within him and by the time an angry black stranger lumbers out of the trumpet he has already flitted away. He flies from flower to flower and finds no sisters and no respite, only threatening dark foes with the will and the mind to hurt him if he lingers.
Hot and hollow-bellied he alights on an uncontested blossom, pale and slender for its scent. Antennae and an atavistic instinct tell him nourishment lies within, but circle the mottled grooves as he might the tight-lipped flower will not yield its honey kiss. He tries another with the same result, and then another. Perhaps he does not realize that even if the blossom opened to his touch only a sister could extract the nutrient he requires.
He twitches at a certain buzz, antennae quiver at a certain smell. He feels the hum, smells the pheromones. A queen! Fulfillment’s moment is arrived and he, today of all days, has wandered.
Honey appetite abandoned for a more carnal need, he flies with purpose back to the congregation. She is there, the liege-lady, and the drones throb about her in a trembling golden cloud while the sisters keep their guard. She is finished before he reaches her. Fifteen times she takes a brother in mid-air, absorbs the burr of the next generation within her and then lets him fall.
The sisters who accompanied her escort her back to the womb-comb. Weary and forgotten he sinks among his dying brothers. Cold comes with the night to claim his defenseless husk. Some duty, he feels in his final spasms, has been left undone. The moment came, and passed. It is finished.