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Bedtime Kids Fantasy

Among the expanse of land stood a landfill of discarded books, some split open, flat at the back of the spine, others clamped shut. Their pages were not dogeared or smudged with spaghetti sauce or weatherbeaten by the sun on a beach. Copies of 1984 and The Lord of the Flies kept company with  duplicate versions of The Color Purple and The Hate U Give.  Between the spirals and cascades of books, a paper nest dangled from within. 


The books came every year like clockwork along with sustenance to keep the insect colonies alive. Mounds of caterpillars and aphids would squirm about the  plants rich with nectar and tulips bursting with pollen. If they were lucky, these delicacies of nature would sit  beautifully atop rotten carcasses of animals. The books piled higher and higher than the season before, allowing the queen a place to construct her homes.


“What does the color purple look like?” One of the queen's many daughters inquired.

The mother’s dark eyes focused on her offspring. There was always one daughter like her in every colony, inquisitive and demanding of answers, yet, since it was spring, the queen decided she’d humor the girl. The other daughters would busy themselves in the reconstruction of the ancient forest, minding their own work as they shaped their conical tapered homes from the pages of the disposed books. 


“Why do you ask about the color purple, my child? There are no colors here. It’s been many springs since we’ve seen such a color or living thing aside from us.”


In the past it was easy enough to know when spring cycled through. Now there were no running brooks of water that melted in the late winter or tall trees to fly among when the leaves turned colors.  The change in the weather and the man in the veiled hat with  his truck full of books were the only  semaphores of the vernal season. 


The big-eyed offspring flitted near her mother as the vibration of her wings caused parts of the nest around them to flutter. 


“It’s just a word I read while working with the others. What is purple?”


The mother’s antennae moved about as if in thought. She was a queen, afterall, and had spent most of her days producing eggs for the year. It was not within her to mull about and dwell too long on what the color purple was and why there were humans that wrote words like, “Resist much, obey little,” when there would invariably be a daughter that would challenge her.


It was no matter though in the queen’s eyes, as this daughter along with all of the others would succumb to death when the elements chilled the air leaving only her to survive. She’d entertain the girl if only for the day—because what was one day in the grand scheme of things?


The mother’s stout black body with white markings on the front of her head hovered from her duties. She’d often been mistaken for a bee, for why else would  the man in the truck wear a veiled hat and suit that covered the expanse of his skin? She’d only ever injected him with the venomous fluid from her smooth salient stinger once, and it was because he’d come too close to her colony. One must always protect the nest.


“Daughter. There was a time when the land that surrounded us was thick with roots anchored into the soil beneath us in the same way that the ink upon these pages is permanent. Our paper nests had the privilege of hanging from the heights of the grand old oak trees where we constructed them to a sizable den where you and your sisters would work among one another.”


The daughter listened as if her mother were reading to her from the very pages that made up the honeycombed cells that inundated the inside of the nest by the thousands. It was one thing to have read the words herself, but it was another to hear them from the queen who knew their true meaning.

She’d thought about what it might be like to be among her sisters and not split apart in various nests burrowed inside of the written word. 


“Your sisters before you would harvest wood fibers from the abundance of nature—trees, bark, and mulch. They’d work tirelessly mixing these items with their saliva until it formed into the very paper before you. These words and the books that they come from are your home.”


The daughter’s antennae lifted in awe as she’d never mixed her saliva with anything, not tree fibers nor leaves. It was the pages of the books that she and the others now used to sculpt the layers of honeycomb compartments they resided in. 


“But mother, what will happen if the man in the veil continues to bring more books? We can’t possibly build nests in all of them can we?”

The mother thought about how  there would always be more books and how there would most certainly always be a man in a veiled hat. For men would always protect themselves with their faces covered. She’d watched as they had destroyed her home and made the land around her so uninhabitable no one would dare broach the pile of books as hornets now made the pages their home.


“It’s all full circle really. We might not have the trees anymore, but in some way they’ve made their way back to us in the form of decorated paper fibers with prose upon them. These stories are our foundations aren’t they, mother?” 


The mother led her daughter to the opening of the paper nest where they both took flight perching themselves atop a battered copy of, Of Mice and Men


“I only ever saw purple once. It was a field of lupine. The richness of the hue was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Of course I’ve read that there were other purple flowers, like the lilac and the dahlia. Those were before my time here.” 


Some pages of opened books flipped open with the force of the casual breeze. The daughter’s wings pulled in the direction of chapter five of the book below her. 

“Mother, purple sounds lovely.”


The young daughter bristled her legs together anxious at being exposed to the elements that risked her safety. 


“But why does he bring these books? What’s so terrible about them?”


The queen’s wings flapped their way into flight. She levitated above the mountain of books feeling ashamed of herself for lumping this daughter of hers into the other offspring. This daughter’s questions were thoughtful and filled with wonder, yet the queen was sad that the girl wouldn’t be around to see what may come next. This was the way of nature, things came and went and some survived where others did not.


“Men have found venom in the books that suspend our homes. The things that might poison one, might be worthy of safekeeping to another, and so that’s what we have done here. We’ve taken their ideas and their words and we’ve cataloged them, wrapped them tight so that you and your sisters that come after you will read them.”


The daughter drifted behind her mother allowing the tailwinds to guide her. 


“Mother, are we the keepers of these books?” 


The queen circled the books filled with words. Words that had been turned into ideas, and ideas that landed them all here. The ecosystem that once laid claim to the vibrant soil filled with worms, and flowers congested with saffron colored pollen was no longer. Nature maintained many secrets that allowed for the balance of the birds and the bees for centuries, but there was no preparation for what might thrive once the thicket of brittle branches and withered leaves were cleared, leaving nothing but the paper nests and piles of abandoned books filled with ideas that were kept by the hornets themselves. 


“Look mother, it’s the man in the veil. He’s brought more books.”


“Come, let us get home to our paper nest of prose and wonderment.”


The queen saw her daughter back to the confines of the book lined nest where she would be protected by the words of Atwood and Morrison. 


The rumbling of the truck came to a stop outside when the queen made her way past the paper opening of her vespidae library. Normally she would wait for the veiled man to dispose of all of the books and the scraps of plant food, but after her conversation with her daughter she thought today was the day she’d teach a lesson. The queen readied her stinger even though the man was nowhere near her colony. She thought that if man could ban books filled with curiosities intended to make others think and feel joy, then she could show him what true banishment felt like. The queen wasn’t one to sting repeatedly unless provoked, but today she felt otherwise. Man or animal, it did not matter. 


If you go looking for venom you’ll find it. 










April 23, 2022 00:11

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44 comments

Michał Przywara
20:41 Apr 25, 2022

Fascinating! It's like… post-apocalyptic dystopian YA hornet fiction. A creative look at how our garbage and consumption affects the world. I like the cyclical nature the queen observes, and the parallels between venom – hers and what's in the books. It's also so very unusual to have hornets as the protagonists, but I find myself rooting for the wise queen and her hive. Then there's the idea of wisdom. The queen seems wise, as she's well read and quite aware of the world. On the other hand, there's the humans who apparently wiped out a l...

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Shea West
20:59 Apr 25, 2022

Thanks for your comments and takeaways. I wanted these banned books to be coupled with these giant wasps nests because it would for sure keep people away from them. Like the lengths that people go to in order to ban books is asinine if you ask me. This was a representation of that.

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Michał Przywara
04:54 Apr 26, 2022

Yes, very asinine! And counter productive, isn't it? Seems like the best way to drum up interest in something is to tell people it's dangerous and they can't have it. Streisand effect, I guess. I suspect there has to be money in the bans, but I'm not sure where.

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K. Antonio
02:45 Apr 24, 2022

Sup, Shea. I'm commenting as I read once again! First off, right of the back, the title is super interesting. - I think the first paragraph was a good way to touch on the prompt, but the second paragraph was so weird (in a good way). I didn't expect it to start off with something so out of left field. - "The mother’s dark compound eyes focused on her offspring. " OH SH*T I just got the POV. - I adored this entire paragraph: "The mother’s antennae moved about as if in thought. She was a queen afterall and spent most of her days produc...

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Shea West
03:42 Apr 24, 2022

So the Bald-faced Hornet is known for making what are called paper nests, they're massive in size. Like we had one on our tree in our front yard and it's safe to say that it was easily the size of a giant watermelon, if not bigger! Also, I'm a big fan of calling a thing what it is but with a better word... Synonym or whatever the eff ya know! But I liked how bookish Athenaeum sounded. It's just a library after all! Hornets, especially this kind thrive off of animal proteins, plants, pollen, itty bitty bugs etc. A hornet's POV not too shabb...

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K. Antonio
19:59 Apr 26, 2022

Looks like someone's story was just recommended this week. 😊😜

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Shea West
20:07 Apr 26, 2022

weird times are afoot!

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Zack Powell
04:49 Apr 23, 2022

Don't mind me - I'm just passing through here before you get your third Reedsy accolade in a row. 🤣 I read the prompt you responded to first, read the story second, then went back and double checked the prompt. Everything checks out. That was a really creative take, both in terms of the librarian and the library. Like, Moonjars-levels of creative. I don't think anyone could've spawned this idea but you. Great language usage in this. Right off the bat, you get a gold star for the word "semaphores." Other words/phrases that caught my eye: "b...

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Shea West
06:07 Apr 23, 2022

Your comments make me feel like the best writer in the whole world. PLEASE DON'T EVER STOP. I couldn't help but imagine what hornets that make paper nests would do if their world were wiped out with no trees or plant life to think of... That got me thinking about banned books and how pairing them with hornets that need paper to make their nests might go hand and hand. I'm not really sure how it all came to me, but when it finally did I saw these hornets as staunch librarian guardians of the books. I hope other people see what I was attempt...

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Rachel Smith
09:20 Apr 28, 2022

Hey! Loved this. Very cool, imaginative take on the prompt. How dare they throw away books! Sting them all! Hahaha Well written and very clever. Well done on another great story. Critique wise, I got nothing.

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Shea West
19:50 Apr 28, 2022

Thanks friend! Your story is on my TBR... Yes, how dare they?!

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Rachel Smith
20:03 Apr 28, 2022

I am currently rearranging it so it would be great to see your thoughts if you find time to read it before the cut off :)

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Daniel R. Hayes
05:37 Apr 28, 2022

Wow, Shea! Another great piece, and I do believe you're setting yourself up for a big win this week! Keep up the great work! :)

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Shea West
19:50 Apr 28, 2022

Thanks so much Daniel! I will take that if it is meant to be mine :)

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Thom Brodkin
01:02 Apr 28, 2022

Shea you are so very creative. You take prompts and somehow both respond to them and turn them on their heads. This story is so timely and reminds me of the stories written during the red scare. They are vague enough to pass by the censors but so deep for those who really read them. I see recognition in your future again.

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Shea West
01:06 Apr 28, 2022

Thom, That means more than you know my friend, thank you for your precise words right when I needed them.

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Mike Panasitti
19:44 Apr 27, 2022

Shea, a library of forbidden and discarded books from which literate hornets make nests...what an imagination! There's no venom here, only an antidote to laborious writing such as mine. A pleasure to read, and equally a pleasure to make your Reedsy acquaintance.

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Shea West
19:52 Apr 27, 2022

Hey thanks for dropping by and giving my stuff a read! Glad you enjoyed it.

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18:23 Apr 27, 2022

So....you don't have a process...but you do have an incredible imagination and a way with words. This is such a life lesson, disguised as a story. I love the idea. I love the literary references. I love it being wrapped up as a children's story. What an excellent take on the prompt. A hornet librarian with a sting in her tale (pun intended). In some way she does fit the stereotype, she's something of a guardian of literature, and that's very clever too. I've avoided reading many of the library stories because I am an ex librarian mysel...

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Shea West
19:41 Apr 27, 2022

Thanks for humoring me in my "process".. I guess I haven't been writing long enough to have one in place. I'm working on it, if I'm being completely honest. With 3 kids and being an owner of my own business doesn't always warrant a clear schedule/process. If I enjoyed the morning more, I'd get up and write then... But the night likes me more LOL

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Laura Jarosz
03:36 Apr 27, 2022

I'm not normally one for dystopian settings, but if I must, I'll take mine with anthropomorphic insects. I was blown away by the premise here, especially coupled with the timely social commentary. This is the cleverest thing I've read on Reedsy in a while!

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Shea West
03:43 Apr 27, 2022

Curtsies.... Why thank you! It was a bit of a stretch for my brain if I'm being totally honest. But when one is showering thinking about Reedsy prompts and hornets that make paper nests come to mind... well this is where we all land. We had one of these nests in our tree once, it was huge! I'm glad you stopped by Laura thanks for reading!

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Jacob Gauthier
18:04 Apr 26, 2022

Your use of language was beautiful! The story was truly enjoyable to read, and the unique concept worked wonderfully. I think I'm going to have to read through it again so that I can fully appreciate the beautiful language. Great work!

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Shea West
18:11 Apr 26, 2022

Jacob, Thank you very much! If it's any consolation I had to reread it myself even though I'm the one who wrote it LOL. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed it.

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Kelsey H
09:56 Apr 25, 2022

It took me a little bit to get into this, probably because I didn't know who's/what's POV I was in, but once the dialogue started I was intrigued and then I read a bit more and found myself completely hooked on it, you write with such a great style, all the descriptions are really beautiful. The idea of writing from a hornets POV is so creative and it really works, she has meaningful and relatable thoughts yet is also clearly not human, ie the lack of attachment to 'daughter'. I really love the symbolism of them making their home in books ...

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Shea West
16:30 Apr 25, 2022

Hey Kelsey! Much love for giving my little story a read. I'm glad to hear that you found your way and the story finally got the hooks into you. I've been pushing myself to try to write stuff that feels out of my comfort zone. This was my attempt at that. It brings me joy that you saw the lack of attachment there between the mom and daughter. The Queen has hundreds of babies a year, and then they die so I wanted to demonstrate that coldness..because the daughters won't stay. Thanks for reading this!

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Murray Burns
00:08 Apr 25, 2022

Hey! I was looking for laughs here. What the heck? Seriously, that was interesting, VERY imaginative, and well written. ( Maybe next time have the queen tell her daughter a couple of jokes...funny ones.)

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Shea West
00:21 Apr 25, 2022

So sorry to have disappointed hahahahah! I'll do more funny in the future I promise.

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J.C. Lovero
13:13 Apr 24, 2022

Hi Shea! Not only are we prompt partners this week, but we both used "Athenaeum"! We are jiving this week and I'm into it. Anyway, on with the story. I always enjoy when writers use a non-human POV. It just adds that extra element of the fantastical, and the hornet was a clever one in this piece. Once I oriented myself to what was actually going on in the story, I was totally invested! Your prose is just exquisite - you're one of the people on here I strive to eventually write more like someday 😍 🥰 Imagery is definitely a strength of your...

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Shea West
14:58 Apr 24, 2022

I know it! I had liked your story earlier this week when you'd posted but hadn't had a chance to read it (because life, kids, job, my own procrastination of writing a story at the last minute). When I saw we used the same word I was like WOOOO! This was my first go at using a non-human POV, and it was something I had been afraid to try for a long time. Apologies for the disorientation, I hope it was the good kind... ya know when you eat the wrong brownie at a party and you're like UH-OHHHH... JK. Get outta here, you don't want to write lik...

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Jay Mc Kenzie
10:21 Apr 24, 2022

I LOVE this! Such a creative take on the prompt and, my god, so beautifully delivered. Your imagery is magical - there's a real fairy tale quality here. I love the use of banned books: the outcasting of something we fear, much like the hornets themselves. I particularly enjoyed the discussion about the colour purple: how can we describe a colour to someone who has no concept of colour? Your closing line is particularly strong. Great job, as always. I love reading your stories.

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Shea West
12:24 Apr 24, 2022

Thanks a bunch Jay🤩 I never realized that imagery was my strong suit, but if y'all keep saying So-- Well then, I'll take the compliment!

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L. Maddison
08:02 Apr 24, 2022

What an ingenious pairing, with the venom in the hornets resonating with the perceived venom in the banned books. A magical perspective.

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Shea West
12:28 Apr 24, 2022

I'm so happy to see that folks are catching that vibe! My intention was for these scary hornets to be the guardians of the books that are also perceived as scary/banned. It's almost as if someone were to attempt to retrieve one of these said books and then they couldn't due to hornets? Kind of twisted.. I just loved the idea of a hornet turning them into something beautiful. Thank you for your comment, L.

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Riel Rosehill
06:11 Apr 23, 2022

Hi Shea! That last line made me grin. Yes, queen! This was another lovely story... Love the hornet POV! So unexpected. And just what a creative take on this prompt..!! I'm all for it. Love the stories you come up with, they are so imaginative - this one was super cool AND beautifully written. Maybe another one for the winning circle? Fingers crossed!

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Shea West
15:41 Apr 23, 2022

Riel! Always a pleasure. Your stories are on my reading list for the weekend. I have a massive training I'm doing so I'll make sure to come back. I have always admired other writers on this platform that write from the point of view of an inanimate object or vegetable etc. As of late I've been pushing myself to write outside of my comfort zone. My kids don't think I'm nearly as imaginative as y'all do on Reedsy!!! HAHAHAH Thanks for the love and stopping by.

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Riel Rosehill
16:01 Apr 23, 2022

Oh, hope your training is going well & you are having fun! I suppose kids win the imagination game (wait, this feels weird to type since it is a movie. Oh well! It's a good one.) but there are so many stories, if yours weren't good & imaginative we wouldn't be reading them every week, right? And I for sure like coming back to them! PS: Thanks for putting my scribbles onto your reading list - I had a lot of fun with the library prompt :D

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Riel Rosehill
21:28 Apr 26, 2022

Recommended!!! It'd be three in a row in the winner circles!✨✨

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Shea West
21:29 Apr 26, 2022

A girl can dream... I'm not sure how or why, but I'll take it all the same😂😍

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Dustin Gillham
02:36 Apr 23, 2022

Creshea, this is so lovely! 😊❤️ In a way, it read like a children’s story, but on so many others, I saw a look of Margaret Atwood! Dang, great follow-up to the books you referenced in pararagraph 1. Just yummy. ❤️, D

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Shea West
03:11 Apr 23, 2022

Dustin, Thank you! This one felt like a bit of a gamble for me, but I felt like librarian in the form of the bald-faced hornet that had paper nests out of banned books might be interesting. I've had one of these nests in my yard before, they're massive!

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Dustin Gillham
04:38 Apr 23, 2022

Beautiful and true imagery! It rang home to me as well. I did some landscaping for my mom last year. Those nests are massive! Great read, Shea.

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Ron Davidson
12:58 Apr 29, 2022

Shea! Once again, soooooo creative. I don’t know if the alliteration was on purpose, but it gives your writing such a poetic feel at times “smooth salient stinger once, and it was because he’d come too close to her colony.” Great work! -Ron

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Shea West
13:27 Apr 29, 2022

It was on purpose! This one was great to write, it was a recommended story up until yesterday... I was so close! Thanks for reading!

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