Science Fiction Contemporary Horror

This story contains sensitive content

Warning: the following story contains sensitive content, including brief violence, gore, body horror, substance abuse, and substance abuse. Reader discretion is advised.


“We’re running out of time,” I murmured, breaking our kiss. Magda’s full lips held the flavor of bittersweet fruit.She reached for my hand through the iron bars separating us. “I’m scared.”

“Don’t be.”

Diving in for another taste, I pushed my tongue inside her mouth, passing along the beeswax-coated pill Granny Annie had planted in my biscuit during yesterday’s afternoon tea. Magda gasped in surprise, but she kept the Honey in place, poised to swallow it.

“Enough!” A ponytail-wearing guard rapped her baton against her palm. “Step back.”

I looked into my girlfriend’s teal eyes and watched her throat constrict as she ingested the Honey. I imagined the pill sliding down her esophagus: a smooth, slow descent, like tubing on a lazy river.

“Now.” The guard clanged her baton against the bars.

Holding up my hands, I backed away, unable to resist winking at Magda. “Ilyah.”

She returned my wink. “Ilyah.”

As the guard led me away from my incarcerated girlfriend, my thoughts raced. Two hours before they notice something’s amiss … but Magda’s barely a hundred pounds. She could go under the influence sooner.

The guard stopped in front of a locked door that resembled a walk-in safe’s exterior. Turning around, she sized me up. “Why do you keep coming here? Your girlfriend’s due for the chopping block.”

“What’s it to you?” I sneered.

“Got a better offer for ya.” Leering, she added, “All-access pass.”

Oh. So it was like that.

She nudged my upper thigh with the tip of her baton. “Offer expires at midnight.”

“No, it doesn’t.” I skirted around her and pushed my forehead into the scanner. After a brief pause, the door creaked open.

“Oof!” I sucked in a curse as I ran smack into Godfrey.

“What the hell, Jase?” The officer glared at me, rubbing the place where my shoulder had collided with his late-night-takeout paunch. “You act like you ain’t got but one eye.”

“Sorry.” I gave him my best impression of a sheepish grin. “My mind was on my stomach.”

“Little early for chow.”

“I like to eat before five.” I made a beeline for the exit, calling over my shoulder, “Keeps me lean.”

Per usual, there were two cars waiting for me outside: one was rigged, and the other was clean. Moseying out of the prison with a faux-casual air, I glanced at my timepiece—three forty-six p.m. Ten-ish minutes had elapsed since I’d passed Magda the pill. If the guards suspected foul play, they’d soon sound the alarm. Wiping sweaty palms on my jeans, I squinted through the sun’s glare and descended the stone steps leading to the car-studded front parking lot. A bottle-green Jaguar and a Sharpie-red Civic, each marked with digital signs reading “Jason Teller”, idled driverless beyond Moorehead Penitentiary’s electrified fence. Time to choose which vehicle would safely bear me home.


I cupped my hands over my eyes. “Jesse.”

My curly-haired cab driver approached the fence with his trademark stiff gait. “The lady or the tiger?”

I rolled my eyes. “SSDD. Don’t you get tired of repeating yourself?” Interpreting his facial expression was a waste of effort; cyborgs were famous for their poker faces.

“I do not tire,” Jesse said.

“Of course you don’t.” Sighing, I said, “I need a moment to make my final decision.” I faked a cough. “One sec. The water fountain’s calling.”

“You have activated your two-minute grace period,” he intoned. “Your decision will be made for you if you do not announce your choice within that time frame.”

Shooting him the thumbs up, I scurried over to the water fountain near Moorehead’s gated exit and pulled out my dumbphone (a relic Granny had managed to squirrel away before The Regime’s coup d’état). I texted Traider, my lifeline. Her AI-powered bloodhound sensibility could determine whether I’d be blown into the next dimension, or live to die another day.

Green or red?

Salty sweat rained into my eyes, further obscuring my vision. C’mon, c’mon. Traider’s silence couldn’t come at a less convenient time. Finally, with twenty-nine seconds to spare, her reply arrived.


Frantic, I texted: Error! Red or green?

Yellow, she nonsensically affirmed. The color of a cartoon beehive.

Traider had never been wrong. Why today?

“You have reached the limit of your grace period,” Jesse called from his unchanged position halfway down the steps. “Please choose a car.”

Scrambling for spare seconds, I retorted, “Coming,” and gulped down the water I had earlier served myself.

“If you do not comply, I will personally escort you,” he warned, footsteps thudding closer. “A demonstration of force is a viable option under the threat of disobedience.”

Before he reached me, I pocketed my dumbphone. Which color’s closest to yellow on the color wheel?

“Red!” I barked as Jesse’s lifeless but steel-strong hand closed on my upper arm.

He dropped his hold. “Very good, Jason. It will be my pleasure to drive you home.”

Legs trembling, I jittered down the stairs. Every step I took brought me closer to the realization that my life could end, suddenly and violently, within the next three minutes. Martyr-bots like Jesse had no concern for their own well-being—they were programed to anticipate their demise with evangelical zealotry.

“You’re a pawn,” I muttered.

Jesse opened the Civic’s door and ushered me inside. Ignoring my insult, he advised, “Watch your head,” and nudged me into the potential hearse.

I didn’t bother to buckle my seat belt until he reminded me; I only complied because if I didn’t and somehow survived, this act of defiance would spawn another black mark on my discipline slate. It was already too full. Though I had dread-fantasized about this moment for months, I felt paralyzed by mundanities, wondering who’d let the doggo out if I was blown to smithereens, how long it would take the electric company to cut my power, and when Granny Annie’s next urologist appointment would take place.

Jesse pushed the start button. Clenching my jaw, I squeezed my toes together and shut my eyes. Fifty-fifty odds I’ll survive the next five seconds …

The engine thrummed, a pleasant sound. Not a death gargle, not an explosion. Jesse took the car out of park, checked the rearview, and prepared to perform a U-turn.

Right choice! Ecstatic, I broke into high-pitched, slaphappy giggles.

“What is funny?” my driver asked, pitching the Civic into outgoing traffic.

“Human humor.” I wiped my streaming eyes. “You wouldn’t understand.”

For a few minutes, we rode without speaking, the sights and sounds enhanced by my newfound appreciation of life-after-near-death.

“Why would you risk your freedom?” Jesse asked at the Tamsin-Trelkit intersection.

Frowning, I glanced at him. “What do you mean?”

“Jason.” I felt his emotionless gaze land on the side of my face. “I regret to inform you Annie Teller has succumbed to the injuries she sustained earlier this morning. Her expiration date has been reached.”

“Granny?” I gawped. “I just saw her yesterday.”

“She completed her life cycle thirty-one minutes ago.”


“Your girlfriend, she is pretty?”

In shock, I replied, “Sure.”

“Do you think she will still be pretty when she reaches Stage Five?”

Terror struck me like a backhanded blow.

Steadily, Jesse made a left turn into carefully controlled traffic. “My sources tell me she is already in Stage Three.”

“That’s impossible,” I whispered. “She doesn’t have access to Honey in prison.”

“The detectives mined your grandmother’s last memories moments before I picked you up.” His deft topic switching sent my threadbare composure into a tailspin. “How did you keep the Honey from dissolving before you gave it to Magda?”

Was there any point in lying? Still, I felt obligated to put up a fight. “You’re not making sense. Have you done your updates today?” Narrowing my eyes, I added, “I bet Granny isn’t even dead.”

An image flashed onto the dashboard’s central monitor. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth; I could’ve avoided the stomach-turning visual of Granny Annie’s obviously deceased state. She slumped to the side of her rocking chair, mouth agape, her remaining eye staring ahead at an unseen assassin. The other had disappeared beneath a mass of bloody tissue and bone chips.

“Blunt trauma,” Jesse stated in his unfeeling way. “Hemorrhage. Irreparable brain damage. Orbital—”

I snapped. Grabbing the wheel, I yanked it hard and across three lanes of traffic.

He didn’t try to stop me. We hit the median before spiraling harmlessly into a row of forsythias. Startled honks and squealing brakes didn’t mute my freight-train-paced heart.

Releasing the wheel, I grabbed Jesse’s shoulder. “Who murdered my granny?”

“You did.”

A memory of Granny came to mind: “You’ll be the death of me, child. Don’t ask for a taste.”

“But Granny,” my nine-year-old self whined. “Honey is so tempting!”

“You know what it can do?” She crouched next to me. Her flinty eyes were unblinking behind her bifocals. “It can kill you.”

I dropped my gaze. “I still want to try it.”

“Jason!” she snapped. “You don’t know what you’re asking for.”

Stubbornly, I kicked the floor. “I’ll keep asking until you let me have some.”

“Is that so?” Granny’s tone was icy. “Maybe I should give you some. You’re marked as it is. We all are. It’s just a matter of time.” She beckoned. “This way, child. We don’t want eyes on us while we break the law. Remember what happens to disobedient boys?”

“They get punished.”

I licked my lips, imagining Honey’s fabled taste: the stuff of playground legends. “If you taste it, you’ll taste God,” Charlie, a fifth grader, had said. “God tastes like Golden Grahams.”

Granny held out a spoonful of the amber liquid. “Open wide.”

I hesitated, suddenly fearful. “What will it do to me?”

“You’ll change.” She gazed at the flaking peony-patterned wallpaper. “You’ll fly.” A smirk spread across her lined cheeks. “Until it wears off, you’ll be a bee. But if you take too much, you won’t change back. You’ll die.”

Adrenalized, I widened my eyes. “Awesome.”

I’ll never the forget the first taste. Crystallized sugar-spit on my tongue … it sang to me. I hummed, I buzzed, blissfully lost in clover, in poppy and wildflowers, at one with the natural world. The horror of transformation was dimmed by the wonder of a novel experience. I started flying after that first drop. A decade later, I was an addict.

I started losing time, not knowing how long it had been since I was up or down. Granny Annie took care of me for a while, but she told me I was on my own after I pawned her PC to score Honey from her (competitively priced) rival. I wasn’t mad at her, but I needed my fix. I needed my girl, too: Magda was a Honey virgin, the ideal foil. No chance of us spiraling down the rabbit hole together. She kept me clean. Kept me sane, until she was arrested for attempted robbery—at least, that’s what the cops pinned on her; they’d been after Magda since the first night she slept over at my apartment. A beautiful Regime-raised choir girl turned rogue supplier … it was too good a story to resist. Given The Regime’s loathing of women, and her fallen-idol status, Magda made the perfect patsy.

I’d vowed to get her out, but neither Granny’s connections nor my charming personality made for game-changing tokens. Magda’s jury was rigged. They only took two hours to “deliberate”; doled out the death penalty with glee. Her execution date was set for a year after her sentencing. Desperate, I concocted a plan to bomb Moorehead so that Magda would have a chance to escape, but the cyber mole implanted in my phone tapped into my intentions before I could enact them and WHAM! The regiments hit me with the lady or the tiger. I couldn’t be formally charged since Granny was an “important person”; instead, the good ol’ boys went under the radar. Granny found out about my dead-man-walking-status through the PI she bought, then hooked me up with Traider, my savior-bot, and the rest is history.

I didn’t have the heart to tell Magda there is not antidote—not for her, at least, not with the dosage I’d given her today—but the sooner she reaches her expiration date, the sooner I’ll be free of The Regime’s attempts on my life … unless they figured out my play ahead of time. Unless they know about Traider.

“No.” Snapping out of my daze, I cringed at my contorted expression reflected in Jesse’s unblinking stare. “I couldn’t have killed Granny!” I slapped my chest in frustration. “It’s impossible.”

“An excess of Honey consumption can lead to psychosis,” Jesse said.

“BS.” Glancing in the rearview mirror, I yelped when I saw what must have been my grandmother’s murder weapon stretched across the back seat like an indolent sunbather. It still bore bloody hair clots and pale, clumpy ooze.

I goggled. “You didn’t even try to hide it.”

“You didn’t even try to look,” my driver retorted.

“Ding, Jesse.” An intrusive voice blasted through the speakers. “Complete your mission.”

Jesse depressed the ignition button. “Copy.”

Understanding flooded my senses. Without hesitating, I flung open the passenger door and threw myself onto the street. Milliseconds later, a deafening blast knocked me off my feet.

Wrong choice, I realized as I bounced off a bottle-green Jaguar—the same car I had seen outside the prison. The Regime knew all along.


Magda paced the floor of her six-by-six cell. The Honey was taking hold: itching, stinging, biting sensations assaulted her nerves like a tattoo artist’s needles, teeth-grindingly slow, pinpointing her pain receptors. A retching noise, like a cat coughing up a hairball, warped her voice box. The nearest guard was too busy checking herself out in the grimy mirror ball mounted on the ceiling like some sort of perverse nod to the disco era to notice Magda’s agitation.

She heard it then—the fabled droning buzz of hive-mind. Her moist eyeballs squelched inside her skull like muddy boots.

“Water,” she weakly cried. “Please.”

The guard swung her hip out as if balancing a toddler on it. “You already got your ration.” Peering into Magda’s cell, she did double-take, then screeched orders into her walkie-talkie. She backed away from Magda as if avoiding a particularly nasty bug. “Traitor.”

Magda couldn’t feel her tongue, and her teeth seemed to be shrinking back to baby size. Huddling in the corner, she shivered as her muscles first loosened, then shriveled like raisins. Her fingernails disintegrated and turned to powder, speckling the concrete floor with a snowfall of pulverized tissue. Next came a textbook case of striated discoloration: her black-and-yellow skin prickled as the tell-tall striped fuzz covered her largest organ. EpidermisI used to think that was a dirty word.

Transformation was not as agonizing as she’d imagined, but she’d only reached Stage Three. There were two more stages to go, and the last one was terminal. Jason promised to give me the antidote before it’s too late—this is happening so fast.

Her legs whittled away to thin black stubs. Last August, Jason had caught some bees and kept them in a jar on a shelf in his closet. There was a hole for air, but it wasn’t big enough and they died, one on top of the other like cars in a pileup.

As her feet disappeared, Magda thought maybe Jason had made the hole too small on purpose.

Stage Four arrived before the guard’s backup did. Though her brain had lost its ability to think in Human-ese, Magda nevertheless remembered her mission. She rubbed together her teensy antennae and suctioned her minuscule feet to the bars. The warden wielded his weapon. As he swung at her, she effortlessly flew over his head, her wings furiously beating, outpacing the arc of his baton.

The only way out was through the air conditioning vents. Inside the drafty shaft, crawling critters crept across a carpet of dust and mold. Magda saw a crack of sun and felt the fresh breeze as she burst into the outside world. Heading for The Capitol, she glanced down at the gridlocked traffic and noticed what she thought was a spotlight. The air, acrid with foul smoke, radiated heat. She ascended further up, away from the fumes. Though the Honey rendered her incapable of fear, her pulse fluttered faster as she surveilled the scene below. Firefighting bots mechanically poured doused the remnants of a wrecked Civic. People, some injured, some deceased, spilled from heaps of vehicles stacked at various skewed angles like children’s blocks suspended halfway between balancing and falling.

As Magda hovered close to the edge of The Capitol’s entry gate, she sighted Jason’s broken body splayed across the remnants of a stalled Jaguar’s hood. Gingerly, she coasted down to her boyfriend’s level. His one good eye—the one the fire hadn’t taken—lolled toward her, and she saw recognition on his half-shattered face. Antidote, the hive-mind droned. Take it.


Struggling to see, I rolled and slithered, hollering as the burning hair from my exposed legs melded with my singed body. I attempted to slide off the Jaguar’s hood, but my skin had welded to it. Flesh came off in big strips, like peelable beef jerky. A noise I’ve only heard in my nightmares freed itself from my throat.

Something flitted past my nose. A bug—no, a bee. Magda. I could leave this earth and take her with me … or I could take one last hit. Clumsily I swatted the air and hit Magda’s altered body. She fell onto my lap, stunned. Muscles straining from the effort of lifting my hand, I opened my mouth and dropped her on my tongue. She stung me; shuddered still.

Fading to black, I tasted Magda’s kiss, and entered Stage Five.

July 16, 2022 03:51

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Whitney Devor
03:02 Jul 22, 2022

Ok, wow, the imagination and creativity necessary to create a story like this is off the charts! You describe your scenes very well and I enjoyed the dual perspectives. I suppose my only criticism would be that I wanted more from Magda's perspective. I thought Jason's perspective was well developed and I thought the ending was well done. I don't typically gravitate towards this genre, but I certainly enjoyed your story!


R. N. Jayne
18:57 Jul 24, 2022

Thank you, Whitney. I appreciate your comments; also, I agree with you about Magda's perspective needing more development. Happy writing!


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