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Beekeeper

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Click. Click. Click. Cli—

“Connor!” a voice snaps. “Stop it with the pen!”

Connor sighs, reluctantly pocketing it and leaning forward on his hands. The words are swimming on the screen in front of him. They don’t make sense. He groans, running a hand through his hair and pulling at it.

Why? Why did he take up a job as an editor of all things? Because he has a tiny bit of experience in it already because of the internship his foster mother forced him to take? Because of the unfinished manuscript sitting buried in his computer at home? Because it’s so much easier to focus on other people’s mistakes than his own? Because it’s a job and it pays the bills?

He exhales, long and slow. It’s fine. It’s fine.

Well, it’s not really fine, but it is what it is.

“I said to stop with the pen!”

Connor looks down. Sure enough, his thumb is on the opaque plastic latch, pressing it halfway. He didn’t even notice he took it back out.

“Sorry,” he mumbles. He sets it on the desk and glances at the clock.

5:28 PM.

Only two minutes left, and then he can go home and bury himself in words that actually click in his head, like—

“Connor! Do you have a death wish?”

Actually, yes. Well, maybe. I’m not really sure anymore.

He mumbles an apology to a man he can’t remember the name of because it’s what’s expected. He sits at a desk and reads over other people’s accounts of what the world is like because it’s what’s expected. He runs his whole world by what is “expected” by society, even if it frustrates him to no end. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Truthfully, what makes sense anymore, though?

He kind of wishes he’d gotten a copy of whatever little “social handbook” everyone else seems to have memorised, but he’ll just have to make do for the time being. Perhaps someone will take pity on him and give him a copy. Even if it’s an outdated version, surely it’s better than what he’s got right now.

That is to say… nothing at all.

He manages to sit still for the next couple of minutes, and as the clock changes to 5:30, he stands. He pulls his coat on, doing the buttons one at a time—top to bottom—before tying his scarf around his neck. The loop always sits on the right side, the ends even, and he always exits the building through the leftmost door with his bag slung over the matching shoulder.

Outside, the Detroit streets are slightly iced over, with the scent of beginning lake effect snow tainting the air in the best kind of way. Connor can’t help the small smile that crosses his lips at the sight of a small flake drifting by his face. He follows it with his eyes until he loses track of it. He hails a cab and gives his address before looking down at his phone.

5:32 PM.

He never really leaves work “on time.” He’s always at least a handful of seconds late at best. There is no such thing as “on time.” It’s either late or early.

How incredibly irritating.

***

Connor blinks at the screen in front of him, taking a sip of water. The glow of the screen in front of him is comforting even despite the howling wind roaring outside the window behind him. He glances outside, smiling a bit at the flakes of white snow whipping in the wind behind him.

Fragile flakes, drifting in a breeze that takes them wherever. Completely out of control, but that only serves to add, at least in part, to the element of beauty they hold.

If only it were the same for people.

But, he thinks idly, it’s not.

He sets the glass of water down on the coffee table in front of him. The sun has long since set, and the clock at the corner of his computer screen reads 11:42 PM. The living room is almost entirely dark, except for the glow of the screen—set exactly at forty per cent; no more, no less—and the lamp residing in the corner. If he’d bothered to actually make himself dinner, there might be the light of the kitchen, but as it is, that room hasn’t been in use at all today.

Nothing about this house ever changes, aside from the people in it. Perhaps “person” is more accurate than “people,” though. Connor can’t think of the last time there was more than just him.

He could change it. If he really wanted to, he could go out and buy curtains with some pattern and replace the plain dark grey ones that are currently pushed half open. He could go and make a friend or three and invite them over for a round of drinks every now and then. He can be sociable when he really wants to be; he has a couple of friends already. He probably could force himself to choke down a meal three times a day instead of three times a week, no matter how sickening or unpleasant it would be. He could actually leave his house outside of work and the other scheduled obligations he has.

Just the thought alone makes him want to cry, though.

Humanity is… a complicated creation, to say the least. One that Connor isn’t entirely sure he wants to be a part of but is forced to endure all the same. Sure, he could kill himself and end it all, but why would he? There’s no point in doing that, in wasting a life. There’s no purpose in destroying a complex being that was made entirely by accident. All those little mutations and mistakes that eventually led from the creation of the human race to… a bigger and arguably worse mistake—him.

A mistake no one could even think of a solution for. One bounced from home to home, family to family, until he eventually—through some miracle—made it to the age of majority, whereupon he promptly cut all ties with those people who had tolerated him only because it was expected.

It always comes full circle. Everything boils down not to what the people want, but to what the creature named “society” wants. The most perplexing thing to Connor, though, is not that society exists, but more that people just let it do as it will. That they never question it the way he does, and how they seem almost angry when he voices his confusion.

He sighs tiredly, rubbing his face. He can feel the knots developing in the muscles in his neck and shoulders from his awkward position, the occasional twitches starting in his strained eyes, the way his fingers tremble as they rest atop the keys of his laptop. They’re unable to keep steady, even when braced against something.

A cruel parallel.

Connor licks his lips, eyes flicking over the eleven-point font in front of him. Times New Roman, of course—almost all of the other fonts makes him want to throw the laptop across the room and claw his eyes out. There’s just something so horribly wrong with all the others. He can’t name it, of course. He only knows that they’re wrong. Should he have to explain why they are? The reason that they simply are should be enough, but every time he tries to explain, everyone always asks for a “legitimate reason.” Every single time, without fail.

It’s upsetting. That should be reason enough, but for whatever reason, it never is.

He types slowly, barely resisting the urge to close his eyes and just sleep until the alarm on his phone tells him it’s time to get up and get ready for work. He can’t, though. Not yet. Not until the clock reads 12:00 AM and the date flips over to a new day. He can’t get out of that, even if he wants to. He may tell himself that he’s choosing to sleep at midnight, choosing to get up and get ready at seven-thirty, but it’s never really his choice. Nothing is ever anyone’s choice. People are nothing if not creatures of habit, enslaved by their routines. Though most might break free momentarily, they always fall back. They don’t call things “bad habits” for nothing, but they never tell you where things stop being habits and fall into addictions.

Yes, all people are trapped, but some are more trapped than others. As for Connor, he is a prisoner of a cruel and vicious cycle he can’t stop. Even if he could, he probably wouldn’t. There’s something almost comforting about the predictability. The only issue that comes about is when something unforeseen and unpreventable is thrown at him, making a large wave in an otherwise perfectly calm sea. Ruining everything and shattering his stability.

He blinks quickly, trying to reorient himself as he types.

***

In the darkness, or in the light, it never mattered. I never saw. Not because I couldn’t, but perhaps because I never wanted to. I couldn’t tell. The difference had become so faded and blurred that it didn’t even exist anymore.

We knew only the taste of panic and fear and anxiety and sadness and… there must have been something more, but he and I couldn’t ever find it. As if it had slowly dissolved like sugar on our tongues until there was nothing left but the memories. It was a taste that we could recall faintly, even if we hadn’t tasted it in years, if not a decade.

It's dramatic, but it was the only way I can think of that will put it into words.

I always have to put everything into words. No one ever accepts anything in any other format, for some reason.

***

Connor sighs. He rubs his temples and sits up, stretching out his arms. The air is cool on his skin—the blanket he had wrapped around his shoulders has fallen off, leaving him exposed to the chilled winter air. He shivers and rubs his arms before casting one last glance at his document. The words are fuzzy, but he hopes they possess some semblance of sanity all the same. He saves it and closes the laptop before setting it on the coffee table and lying down across the worn couch.

It’s not a bad couch, per se, but it is incredibly uncomfortable after long periods of time. It’s as if the bones of his spine mould over time to match the worn fabric and filling of the furniture. Getting up is always a bit frustrating and sometimes painful.

He pushes himself to his feet and stretches, hearing the way his bones crack and pop and settle back into place. The frightening thought that he might have pulled a bone out of place or something similar is in the back of his head—it always is—but he ignores it. He turns back towards the couch and folds the blanket, setting it neatly atop the back of the couch before straightening his button-up shirt and turning off the lamp.

He walks in the darkened hallway to the bathroom and turns on the light. The bulbs here are more yellow than the softer white ones of the living room and kitchen. He keeps meaning to change them, to fix that, but he never does. He ought to, though.

With a sigh, Connor turns on the water and picks up his toothbrush. He wets it and squeezes a small glob of toothpaste onto the bristles before wetting it again and putting it in his mouth. He turns the water off and begins to brush. While he does, he lets his thoughts wander.

So, he thinks idly, what are we doing today?

The answer is always the same, though it may vary just slightly from day to day, but it gives him a great sense of satisfaction to remind himself all the same. A mental checklist of sorts.

It’s Saturday, so that means work from eight to two. Afterwards, I need to go pick up the dry cleaning from last week and drop off the new load. Groceries and other errands while I’m out, and then cleaning the house. That should all be done by six. If applicable, dinner will be made and eaten by seven-thirty. After that, I can sit down and write for a few hours.

Connor spits the toothpaste into the sink, being careful to rinse it all down the drain. He cups his hands and collects a handful of water; he brings it to his lips and swishes the water through his mouth before spitting it out. He dries his face and hands with a white hand towel hanging on the wall to the right of the counter. Avoiding his reflection, Connor turns off the water, sets his toothbrush back in the holder, and caps the toothpaste. He adjusts everything back into place and pulls the towel straight.

Perfect.

He turns out the light and walks down the corridor to his bedroom.

His room is fairly barren, with minimal decoration. The walls are the same shade of navy blue they were when he bought the house, and the comforter is a plain grey with white sheets beneath it. The desk is clean, and in the drawers, everything is organised. The same goes for the drawers of the dresser, with each article of clothing carefully folded and set against the wooden bottoms. His shirts and trousers all hang in neat rows in the small closet.

With a heavy sigh, Connor sits on the edge of his bed, brushing his hair from his forehead. There’s one piece that never lies with the rest. It always opts to lie across his forehead, no matter what he does to try to tame it. He’s tried gel, water, combing… No matter what he does, though, it always falls back over his forehead. Never quite in his eyes, but there all the same. “A cowlick,” Madeline used to call it when he lived with her. Connor always argued that he’d never been anywhere near a cow until Gavin finally explained that “It’s just a name for the style, stupid.”

He grits his teeth, unable to help the spark of something that the thought of his adoptive brother creates. He can’t name it. He’s never been able to, but there’s always been something just inexplicably irritating about Gavin that Connor never experiences with anyone else. Of course, no one ever understood when he did try to explain it.

Yet another reason he cut ties with the Reed family as soon as he could. Not to be rude, of course, but because he physically couldn’t take another day of pretending that everything was always all right when it was, in fact, not.

He unbuttons his shirt and pulls it off, dropping it in the basket of dirty clothes. He’ll sort the contents later—dry cleaning and normal wash—and deposit each article in its proper location. He pulls on a t-shirt and a pair of pyjama bottoms before yanking off his socks—left, then right—and tossing them into the basket.

And that’s the end… right?

Connor frowns. He feels like he’s forgotten something. There’s something off. What it is?

He stands and walks back down the hall, feet pattering softly on the wooden floor. The lights are all off. Did he forget to lock the front door? He walks over and turns the handle. It doesn’t budge—locked.

A huff of frustration escapes his lips as he turns on his heel. There is something horribly wrong, and he can’t name it.

The door was locked, right? He didn’t just imagine that because he expected it to be?

He twists the knob again. Nothing.

Good.

The living room is in perfect order. The porch light is off. The doors are all closed, except for his bedroom. All the lights are off aside from the one in the hallway. Everything seems in place.

With a groan that comes out a lot louder than he intended, Connor walks back to the bedroom and turns off the light. He slips beneath his blanket and stares at the ceiling with a frown, unable to relax. There’s something that just feels wrong. It’s like the air pressure is slightly off, indicating a storm in the distance.

He just hopes that when it hits, the consequences aren’t too devastating.