Dear diary. It’s Laura. I’m sorry I swore.
I wasn’t yelling at you, I was just a little… stressed. It’s been a stressful month as you know, and I’m getting a little tired of being surrounded by all these phonies and cowards and stressful people. It’s like nobody even knows what principles are anymore.
I’m probably still going to murder Tony – I can’t believe he broke up with me – but don’t worry, I’m calmer now. I went for a nice walk in the park, got a little sun, enjoyed the fresh air. Tossed his stupid “unopened mint condition” Star Wars toys into the duck pond. Then I bought a donut, glazed with sprinkles. It was nice. Probably the last donut I can afford, but it was nice.
I’ve realized my priorities have changed somewhat. Been changed for me. I got evicted from the apartment this morning and moved pretty much everything into the hatchback. I was worried it wouldn’t all fit, but it turns out I don’t have that much stuff. I guess I’m homeless now? Officially? I don’t know, it doesn’t feel any different. Maybe I’m in shock.
So on the one hand, I’m totally screwed. I think I might have completely ruined my career last month – but I still stand by what I did. But on the other hand… I got to thinking on my walk, and it occurs to me I didn’t do anything wrong. This is on everybody else. How backwards is the world when the people who do the right things get punished for it? Everyone’s just corrupt and dumb and in it for themselves, and nobody cares about the real issues.
Well, I think I have a plan. I’ll show them all, and they’ll regret the day they screwed with me. Mark me, diary.
* * *
Dear Diary. Jackpot!
I found a new home! It’s a luxurious derelict warehouse near the docks, and it smells perpetually of decaying fish and class warfare. I have a lot of roommates – rats, roaches, et cetera – but we’ve set up a chore wheel and agreed to keep the music down after 9 PM, so I think we’ll get along.
The rent can’t be beat, and utilities are free because there’s no electricity or running water. I even get my own parking space – anywhere I want in the giant overgrown lot, surrounded by dead boats and tetanus.
Ooh! I also got a job! Yes, that’s right, go-getter me! There’s a coffee shop about a block away, with comfy leather couches and adorable security bars on the windows. I’ve traded in my crummy old PhD and upgraded to barista! Reliving the undergrad glory days. The pay is technically non-zero, there’s a bathroom with a flushing toilet, and I get an employee discount on food we were going to throw out anyway.
What’s that, Diary? It all sounds dreadful? Nonsense, my dear, you’re just spoiled. The fact is, this warehouse is actually perfect for my plan. Probably. I’m still working out the details, but it probably all fits together. And you know what I found while I was wandering around the grounds? That overgrown lot I mentioned has a great view of the bay, and now it’s full of grasses and weeds and shattered glass and flowers. And bees!
That’s right, Diary. Despite humanity’s best efforts, the little troopers are thriving here. It’s got to be a sign.
* * *
Dear Diary. I’m a bad person. I know, but I just can’t resist my dark urges.
I might have fiddled with some wires and reconnected my trusty old warehouse to the city’s grid. I guess that might technically maybe be called stealing possibly. I blame all those years of pirating music.
* * *
Dear Diary. My manager – a teenager – gave me a lecture today.
He’s now on my list.
* * *
Dear Diary. I love watching the bees frolic. It boggles my mind how much they give us, without even knowing it. So it’s all the more heinous how we treat them. I’ve been taking notes on my little colony.
I’m addicted to my phone, I know that. But I need that constant stream of news, that delicious digital cortisol wrapped up in colourful clickbait. Wouldn’t want to accidentally feel good about anything, would we?
Anyway. I got a text from Janelle and she tipped me off, big news of the day is Henderson AgroChem announced their new line of products. The whole line. So it looks like my little rebellion amounted to jack squat, other than getting me fired. Never did get a call back from that reporter.
What’s the point of whistleblowing if nobody listens?
Janelle said they already had lots of big contracts, so they’re going to be rolling that poison crap out all over the world. I wonder how long before bee populations completely collapse? Oh, I guess it doesn’t really matter, since some rich assholes will have made a bunch of short term profit. Can you tell I’m bitter?
But the whole thing reminded me, I got some shares as a signing bonus. Share prices jumped after today’s announcement. I’m… well, I’m not rich, but if I cash out now I’ll have enough I could get a place – like, a normal person place – and maybe rebuild my career. My life.
But on the other hand… I think the last bits of my plan have come together. Hmm. Living the dream vs. bloody revenge, that’s a hard one. I’ll let you know tomorrow.
* * *
Dear Diary. I went shopping!
One of my co-workers clued me in that there’s some real community spirit in this part of town. They have something that I’m going to call a farmers’ market. A bunch of enterprising locals gather here, every now and then, and do some brisk cash-only business, selling things they freshly produced.
For example, one fine gentleman sold me a nice industrial cutting torch. I liked it so much I didn’t even ask where it came from. And another upstanding citizen had a selection of drills at very fair prices. I wanted a saw too, but nobody had one. But wouldn’t you know it, the friendly folk there said they could hook me up.
Completely unrelated, but I’ve taken to parking the hatchback inside the warehouse, and covering it in an old tarp.
* * *
Dear Diary. You can’t tell because you don’t have ears, but I’m giggling uncontrollably like a ridiculous little school girl.
I’ve started work on the first prototype! I’m so happy to be doing something, not even the rude customers at work can get me down.
There are some big advantages to living in a ship graveyard. I can gut the old corpses and repurpose their parts, and they have so many interesting bits. I mean, ideally I’d have access to a lot of aluminium instead of this rusted whatever, but well, beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, my farmers’ market friends said they can get me supplies, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
I expect the prototype to be done by the end of the week. Well, the chassis, and the moving bits anyway. Maybe I’ll spring for champagne to celebrate! Or at least a carton of OJ.
* * *
Dear Diary. Oh, wow, looks like it’s been over a month. Sorry for being absent. Things have been… busy.
So I ran into some complications. It turns out that the junk metal is more junk than metal. I also had a plan to repurpose some of the old ship mechanical bits but they’re all pretty much garbage and too big anyway. Not a major problem, since I still can’t secure a reliable source of biodiesel. Then some of my community friends ran into some unfortunate legal issues – nothing to do with the farmers’ market, of course – so I’ve had to lay low for a while. And then to top it off, all week we’ve been running this stupid banana smoothie promotion, only our stupid ice machine keeps breaking and customers don’t want to drink warm banana mush.
Well, maybe it keeps breaking because someone removed the motor. Wink wink nudge nudge say-no-more.
But it was all worth it, Diary Dearest. My prototype is complete! Behold!
What’s that, Diary? Oh, that’s rude. It is most certainly not a six-foot tall pile of rusty scrap. Can’t you tell it looks like a bee? Vaguely, anyway? If you squint?
Why yes, the neighbourhood would look much nicer if we made scrapmetal bee statues out of all these old ship carcasses, but there’s more to the picture. See, this is no simple statue. A statue merely makes a point, a gesture. You need more if you want to humble all the idiots that are ruining our world and actually effect change.
So, my Dear Diary, this is the first prototype of a giant autonomous robotic bee! And I shall craft an invincible army of them, and lay waste to all the small minded stupidity keeping us from greatness! And make them all pay!
And now, for the critical test. Time to turn the prototype on.
* * *
Dear Diary. My bee blew up.
There must have been a short or something, I don’t know. Probably shouldn’t have filled the fuel tank to full. My ears are ringing and I think I can still smell something burning, and I don’t remember sitting down so maybe I’m in shock. More later.
* * *
Dear Diary. Progress is steady.
Which is a diplomatic way of saying slow. But oh well, it’s progress all the same. It turns out my initial design is sound but my materials were inferior. It wiped out most of my savings but I managed to expand my workshop and get a better stockpile.
Prototype 7 can walk. Pretty damn fast too, considering the bee is about as tall as I am. I think that success warrants a name, so I’ve named this bee “Wesley.”
Wesley likes going for long walks on the beach, and that’s about all he likes because he doesn’t have a brain yet. That part is next. Well, next-next. Actual-next is flying. Now, in principle my design should work. I’ve spent a long time watching the real bees and basically just copied them, but on a bigger scale. My simulations all indicate good results, so I’m optimistic.
Okay, time to test this out! Wish me luck.
* * *
* * *
Dear Diary. I’m sorry I tore pages out of you.
I understand and accept that only I am responsible for my actions, and that you in all likelihood did not sabotage Wesley out of a fit of jealously. I’m sorry.
Nevertheless… well, the good news is my flying design works. The bad news is my RC controller doesn’t, and since Wesley didn’t have a brain of his own the charming little idiot flew out of the warehouse and right into the bay, where he presumably drowned and took my heart with him. And most of my savings.
I think I’m going to have to sell the hatchback.
* * *
Dear Diary. Time flies.
It occurred to me this morning that I’ve been living in this warehouse for nearly a year. That for nearly a year I’ve been washing myself with a sponge in a coffee shop bathroom, I’ve been subsisting on little more than stale muffins and bananas, I’ve been associating with gentlemen of questionable legal status – and in all probability, have committed a number of crimes myself – and that I hatched and started implementing a plan to build giant autonomous robotic bees to get back at the people who were mean to me.
When I doomscroll my former friends, I see they lead somewhat different lives. They have families, jobs. Well, jobs with immoral anti-future death corporations, but steady pay anyway. Stability. And hygiene.
I couldn’t help but wonder, did I take a wrong turn somewhere? Am I sabotaging my own life for the sake of some lofty ideal? Have I missed the boat? Diary, I’m afraid. I need guidance. If you think I misstepped, if you think I should change course, then please let me know. You know me better than anyone – I’m an open book to you. So, please. If I’m on the wrong path, now’s the time to tell me.
I’ll take your silence as approval.
* * *
Dear Diary. Another win for laziness!
Building these bees takes a lot of really hard work. It’s very precise and very repetitive. Indeed, exactly the kind of work a machine could do. So that’s what I built!
Behold, a giant autonomous giant-autonomous-robotic-bee building robot! Eat your heart out, von Neumann!
This will free up my time to work on the brain. I’m going to model the AI on real bees. It’s the perfect fit. They’re very efficient. Simple, but to the point.
* * *
Dear Diary. I can barely write my hand’s shaking so hard.
It’s working. It’s actually working! All of it, coming together!
I have three bees running on a limited AI right now. Only at night, so nobody sees them. So nobody knows. All they know how to do is go out there and find raw materials, which they bring back to the bee builder. The beauty is they only collect and repurpose garbage, so nobody is any the wiser. Even as I write, the fourth bee is nearing completion.
A few more nights like this, and I’ll have a small army. Maybe enough to build another bee builder. Oh! Or maybe I can build a bee-builder builder? I’m putting that on my todo list.
On a parallel track, I’m nearing completion of the next iteration of the AI. This will be a full AI, and it should enable the bees to finally enact my revenge. I’m going to take down Henderson AgroChem and everyone who works there! Well, maybe not Janelle. Definitely the others though!
And I’m going murder Tony! Or at least see what he’s up to. And then I’ll wipe out my student debts! Ha!
You can’t tell, Diary, but I’m laughing maniacally.
And then I’ll go global, and we’ll wipe out all the stupidity, all the greed, all the small-minded pettiness, and we’ll usher in a new age of enlightenment. And nobody will ever doubt me again. I’ll be a hero. No, I’ll be recognized as the hero I already am.
And finally, the real bees – nature’s perfect little workers – will be safe.
* * *
Dear Diary. Moment of truth.
This is it. Tonight’s the night. I got a second bee builder online, and I got thirty one bees running. The whole warehouse is buzzing.
I uploaded the new AI a moment ago, and so far… well, it seems to be working a little better than I thought, since a bee grabbed my laptop and shoved it into the bee builder. Oh well. Pretty sure I backed it up. Anyway, I’ll take that as a good sign.
Now, they’re all milling about, figuring out their next steps, and… yes. The sun is rising, and the first bees are flying out of the warehouse. It begins, Diary! A new, glorious dawn for a better world!
* * *
Dear Diary. I’m not a very good friend, am I?
I am so sorry for my absence. I wanted to write sooner, ever since I found you about a month ago, but it took a very long time to track down a pen that still runs on physical ink. I must have re-read you a thousand times.
Has it really been thirty years since I last wrote?
Well, I hope you haven’t been waiting all these years, and I certainly hope you haven’t been pulling for me. They do call me a hero now, but what kind of a hero has failed in her life’s greatest ambition?
Yes, my dear. I failed. Abjectly. And worse, I’m a sellout.
I remember those heady days in the warehouse, and the turbulent times afterward. How full of hope and spite I was. I miscalculated though, and by then it was too late. The bees were loose.
At first, people didn’t know what to make of them. I think there were panics, riots, but it didn’t last. Other than being six feet tall and robotic, they were still basically just bees. They went around tirelessly pollinating plants, and they cleaned up whole swaths of old garbage to get more materials to replicate with.
Well, they were more efficient than real bees and you can’t poison a robot, so everyone decided to double down on the harmful chemicals Henderson AgroChem produced. And so the real bees were wiped out. I guess I took a real dump in my own cereal there.
Then we started running out of garbage and everyone grew afraid we’d run out of new bee materials. So the governments rolled back their eco regulations and industry really cut loose. I was terrified, but wouldn’t you know it, the bees kept pace. Hoisted by my own petard.
Now, don’t get mad at me, Diary, but… I put my life into those damn bees. Everything I had. Which meant I had nothing left. So when Henderson AgroChem approached me and offered me a position on their board, I couldn’t refuse. Sure, at the beginning I told myself I’d fight the beast from the inside, but even then, I was honestly just tired of being poor.
Oh, I guess I did hire Tony once as a landscaper, just to turn around and fire him right away. After all, the bees did a better job of that too. But then I felt bad and found another job for him, so I guess I couldn’t even revenge properly.
At least he makes a decent coffee.
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Wowzers, this was a fun read! The voice and disposition of the narrator really shone through here. The epistolary style was the best narrative choice you could've made for a piece like this, and you used it effectively, to the point that it even felt like the diary itself was a character. (I was seriously imagining the diary rolling its non-existent eyes and giving the narrator skeptical glances.) Nothing to say in the way of criticism here: This was an excellent story, told and written very well. I especially liked the part about the pages ...
Thank you so much for the kind words! I'm ecstatic you liked the story -- it was a fun one to write. The bees are a product of a number of things. Chief among them, probably watching too many cartoons as a kid. The over-the-top "Saturday morning cartoon villains" kind of stuck with me. Then one day I had a not-entirely-serious plan to build a giant autonomous robotic scorpion myself. It never materialized but it did influence this story. Couple all of that with actual bee populations declining, and the rest seemed to write itself. I think ...
I really enjoy your narrative style. You definitely have a talent for capturing a character's voice. The piece was funny, well-paced, and not at all trapped in its epistolary style (I love the nod to Frankenstein). I found myself rooting for the unraveling narrator--I was fully immersed in the project. My only complaint is I wish there was more, which, of course, is just a testament to your writing.
Thank you very much! That's high praise. I'm glad the style worked, as I don't normally take this approach, and I'm thrilled it was enjoyable. Thanks for reading!
I was just scrolling through your page and this story stood out to me the most... This is really nice and has a bit of comedy in some spots? Favourite lines: 'Yes, my dear. I failed.' 'Dear Diary. I’m a bad person.' 'My manager – a teenager – gave me a lecture today.' 'I’ll take your silence as approval.' Love it, excited to read more!
Thanks, Kate! Yeah, this one was fun to write :) I think Laura used humour as a coping device, and I'm glad parts of it came across as funny. I appreciate the feedback!
“smells perpetually of decaying fish and class warfare” made me laugh out loud. This was a great read that kept me giggling. And such a unique style and perspective. I wanted to bring your poor narrative a pan of brownies and some lemonade the whole time haha.
Hah, I'm glad you enjoyed it! It was a fun one to write, for sure. Thanks for reading!
I smiled from the start and almost to the end. The issue of the dangers we face if the bees did die out has been badly unstated. Sadly that is the one bit the story loses in the end. No bees = no food and no garbage for the metal replacements but it is an important subject and you have taken a delightfully funny touch - a really good finish might have had a final entry of "there's been nothing to eat now for weeks. This may be final entry. Sorry." But that's only my thought.
Thank you for reading! I'm glad you found it funny. You're right, of course, bee loss is a much more complex and serious issue. There's definitely a bit of science-fantasy here, in addition to any science-fiction. If I had taken a more realistic approach, then yeah, this likely would have ended on a darker note. Bees aside, but self replicating machines -- machines that do nothing but consume and reproduce -- are themselves the stuff of nightmares too. I appreciate the feedback!
Great chatter I enjoyed it
I'm glad it was enjoyable. Thanks for reading!
Michael: You deserve a like, some positive comments, and a lot of chuckles. Now I understand why you read my story...we share a snide, cynical sense of humor. I used my childhood humor to write an entire novel a la Frank McCort, remember him in "Angela's Ashes""? My sad drama doesn't begin to measure up to his. Truly, I loved your story, I like the part where we can be sassy and disrespectful and not get soap in our mouth or locked in time out for inappropriate speech. You definitely have a POV and a clear voice and a unique way of exp...
Wow, thank you so much for the kind words! You've made my day. I'm very glad you enjoyed it, and yeah, sass and cynicism can make for fun writing. I'll keep an eye out for your other work too!