By Dan A. Cardoza
There is no great
genius without some touch of madness––Aristotle
Dr. Benjamin B.
Forsythe was quite an odd sort of man, but a very successful psychiatrist. In
past sessions, he had shared with his mentor, Dr. Mars, the famed
psychoanalyst, that his dreams were colorized in varying shades of green, like
money. But lately, the hues had changed, turned more sepia, with yellow and
In reality, his
dreams shared more DNA with nightmares, an empirical fact that had yet to enter
“They seem to be evolving, Dr. Mars; they’re much less banal and hackneyed.”
“Not to worry,
Ben,” said Jungian Mars, “It’s only your mind passing gas.”
the symbolism in minutia. To fight boredom, Dr. Mars scribbled cartoon faces of
his long- term patient, as he excavated buried nuggets of delusion and feelings
of omnipotence, as well as other gems and Machiavellian nonsense.
Being a genius has
its ups and downs, but as a matter of science, it may be a blessing. For
example, evidence supports the premise that intelligent people live longer, and
that the highly intelligent among us also earn more in their lifetimes. This
phenomenon was first published in the International
Journal of Epidemiology, one of Dr. Forsythe’s favorites. By analyzing the
data from twin research, the researchers found a 95 percent link among
intelligence, lifespan, and income. A high IQ was about the only thing in
common between Dr. Forsythe and Devin.
Crandall was born into a family of privilege, growing up on the upper east side
of Manhattan, where he greatly benefited from a superior education, followed by
exceptional employment opportunities and financial success. He fancied himself
America’s boy wonder. And so it was no surprise to find him, at the relatively
young age of 25, a senior partner at Kramer and Dahl Finance, the third largest
financial advising firm in Manhattan. Devin was a mover, headed for stardom. But
he would have given anything for just one good night’s sleep.
night was no exception. He woke in a cold sweat. In a panic, he sat on the
edge of his bed and stared into an envelope of blackness at nothing in
particular. Devin’s alarm clock pulsed 3:00 A.M. He wondered why someone was using
a jackhammer so early in the day, and then realized the staccato pounding was
in his head.
Once again, he
could feel the vibration in his extraordinarily thin, papier-mache-like
stomach. The sensation was that of an active beehive—made, he knew, of crepe
paper, saliva, and mud. At first Devin thought the sensation and fear was
something he could acclimate to. He’d reached a point, though, where it was
untenable, a life and death situation.
Since the age of
about seven, Devin’s colony had grown. His delusional bees had evolved,
become restless and agitated. He’d come to believe that the benign hive had
been overtaken by Africanized killer bees.
Gone were the
fields of clover. This night the hive reverberated and rattled much louder than
he remembered while a student at Harvard, where he could at least imagine the
bees’ content, their honeycomb blending all that sweetness into academic
However, in the
chill November, Devin imagined the nest a manic guiro, with the ever-present
clicking and clacking of gossamer wings and bloody stingers. With all his might
and willpower, Devin managed not to fly straight out of his condo window, even
if for just a brief slice of silence in the darkness. Just one second
without the bees would be heaven before death.
were his best-kept secret, but he was fearful that he could not restrain the
madness much longer.
Dr. Forsythe was
frustrated with this patient, more than any other he had known. And failure
with any patient was not an option in his mad world. He knew nothing but
success, and, for that, he charged $550.00 per hour. Upper East Side New
Yorkers waited for years to transfer to him. His patients included a list of
the well-known elite, including one United States Senator, whose career Dr.
Forsythe had helped advance.
Devin Crandall had
been his singular unsolved Rubik’s Cube for nearly five years, a psychological
cluster-bang yet to be uncluttered. Ben Forsythe was at his wit’s end with this
bee delusion. He so prided himself in curing a file cabinet full of high-end
patients with his Jungian therapy and illegal pharmaceuticals. Although Dr.
Forsythe was usually all about the money, in Devin’s case, it had become more
So, at today’s
therapy session, Dr. Forsythe was about to walk the high wire between efficacy
and malpractice yet again. Having no fear of heights, he had decided to
prescribe a placebo in his session with Devin Crandall, whose illness, up until
now, had proven refractory.
“Well, Devin, we
are about done for the day, our one-hundred-and-twenty-second session to be
exact. Tell me, how much do you think you’ve improved under my care?”
said Devin. “I’m very grateful, but to be honest, my symptoms have gotten worse. In
fact, I am now convinced that Africanized bees have taken over the hive––I mean
my stomach. I now dream of flying in the dark, anything for relief.”
“Well,” said the
esteemed psychiatrist, “that should give you a little peace of mind...I mean,
if these thoughts are only associated with your dreams and all. In any event,
Devin, I want to break protocol with you today, and ask that you favor me? If
you answer yes, this may improve your
life beyond your wildest imagination. Long story short, I have amalgamated
a tincture from the most idiosyncratic and complex compounds that may benefit
up from the sofa, Devin stared at the huge pill in Dr. Forsythe’s hand.
“What the hell is
slowly palmed the sizeable yellow capsule closer for inspection. Devin’s eyes
widened in skepticism and bulged with the curiosity of a baby viewing a yellow
caterpillar for the first time. For what seemed like a full minute, both Devin
and the distinguished psychiatrist admired the opulent gem, now yummy and shiny
in the special lighting Dr. Forsythe had installed. He’d said he designed
these lights to reduce anxiety (and sold them for a bargain price of $525.00).
“Devin, this may
work. You trust me, don’t you? On this occasion, to obtain any breakthrough,
you have to set aside any of your preconceived thoughts and expand your
consciousness. Imagine a tomorrow free of bees? Visualize a new and wonderful
future, where you will be able to excel and accomplish so much more than you
already have. For the first time since you were a small boy, you’ll be able to
unburden yourself of your unquenched horror. This pill, Devin, will kill all
the bees, even Africanize bees, and wasps.”
After Devin caught
his breath, he looked in the eyes of Dr. Forsythe, and then darted them back
again in the direction of the yellow pill.
continued, “The tablet, Devin, is made from a selection of organic compounds
that have taken me years to design. I once cured a woman with brain earwigs. I
am almost certain, by your next session, in two weeks, you will be bee free.”
intelligent Devin sensed a scam. At first blush, he was skeptical. But, in the
dark buzzing swarm of his life, he craved peace and quiet as much as the heady
air of a potential cure he was inhaling.
“Dr. Forsythe, I
will trust you…because I am desperate.” Rarely socially inappropriate, he snatched
the yellow capsule out of the psychiatrist’s hand and headed straight for the
“Devin, wait, you
have to take one per day for at least two weeks.”
impatiently at the door and gulped down his first pill.
hurried, stretched for the pill container in the open top drawer of his
Imperial Prussian desk, and then quickly marched back over to Devin, who
grabbed the offered container and promptly departed.
His back to his
closed office door, the brilliant, soon to be infamous, Dr. Forsythe, seemed to
levitate in his own personal glory, not unlike a Middle East ruler, or czar.
After all, he’d designed an illicit pharmaceutical farrago exclusively
contrived for the cure of a highly resistant mental illness. Fame and an
endless supply of riches seemed inevitable. He smiled widely and began to dream
Early in darkness,
Devin awoke to a sound so alien, he swore he was on another planet. The noise
was electrical, yet mechanical. He was so horrified, he lay as still as a
cadaver in a morgue. After the initial positive results of the past week, the
feeling of doom had made its presence known again, this time deep in his
bloated, acidic stomach. Somehow outside his body, he watched himself stand and
walk toward the bedroom window. He approached it, recognizing the familiar hiss
and buzz—thousands of hyaline wings in a maddening whir of anarchy and mayhem.
In the hum of
darkness, he realized he’d left the window slightly ajar, allowing a tempest of
imagined wings to fizzle through the horizontal sliver of space between window
and frame. He slammed it shut as if to forestall death, his head throbbing with
a feeling of hammered-in pins and needles.
One and one-half
enjoying a pleasant recurring dream. He is with a special someone in a spring
meadow picnicking. He visualizes himself sharing a glass of Robert Mondovi
Cabernet Sauvignon with a beautiful woman. He feels the warmth of the sun on
his face and enjoys the melody of songbirds as if heard for the very first
time. He actually feels himself smile. Then he is stung.
rang—it was Alice, his office secretary. In an alarmed screech, she queried,
“Mr. Crandall, are you ok, it’s 9:00 A.M., and your first appointment is here?”
“Alice, Alice, I
am so sorry. I overslept. Please reschedule my morning appointments for next
Tuesday. I will be in shortly after lunch.”
Devin never slept
in. But songbirds, great wine, a love interest—well, all things are possible
with the right yellow pill.
Two weeks later,
at the beginning of Devin’s therapy session:
“So, Devin, what
is the verdict?”
“Things were going
great, better than I could ever imagine,” Devin quipped.
showed off his Cheshire teeth.
“Or…I should say,
until earlier this morning. I woke once again, from a very deep sleep. There
was this fantastic fluttering sound. I was hoping it was from some sort of
noise outside in the street. I was desperate to believe it was from something
other than the bees.”
Devin?” Dr. Forsythe said with his unabashed growing sneer. “Tell me more.”
this thought raced into my mind. What if the bees didn’t all die? Or
worse, what if the medication killed all the bees,
but before their death, the queen laid more eggs?”
“What are you
saying?” yelled Dr. Forsythe.
“At that moment,
my stomach began to vibrate with the appetite of newly hatched bees. They began
rippling under the skin of my abdomen in waves of bumps and gyrations. My
stomach is hiving anew, with vengeful bees.”
smirked and said, “Really, Devin? I think we have reached an impasse, the
point in time when I’m going to request a 72-hour hold on you, for the purpose
of a full psychiatric evaluation. I am going to certify you as clinically
insane. Have you ever been committed?”
With that, Devin
began to laugh uncontrollably. In hysterics, he felt his mouth unhinge. From
that foreboding cave, in a cyclone blast, an undulating writhe of killer bees
exploded from deep inside him, as he convulsed back and forth against the back
of the leather sofa.
eyeballs seemed to nearly pop out of his head, as the aroused bees stung them.
His face quickly bloated and his mouth contorted, not unlike the central figure
in the Edvard Munch painting, The Scream.
But not a word escaped, as his mouth tore at the corners and blood streamed
down his starched white shirt.
The blizzard of
bees entered his throat, a tortured ectoplasm of wings and stingers, past his puffy
lips, choking off his esophagus, before compressing into his raw stomach. Next,
Dr. Forsythe stood erect as a cross and lurched toward the large office window,
where he clawed at the latches, finally thrusting it open. And then,
effortlessly, in slow motion, he flew into the perfect blue of the sky. In an
instant, in a buzz, sixty stories below, a car alarm blared.
Shortly after, as
reported by eyewitnesses, a rush of bees exited his body, shoaling in the
direction of Central Park…
“Honestly, I would
like to pay my invoice in full today and leave Dr. Forsythe a large tip. He has
truly helped me most incredibly,” said the delighted Devin.
“But your invoice,
including today, Mr. Crandall is only $2,500.00,” pleaded the office manager.
Just behind her,
the admin and bookkeeper stared down at the beehive of commotion on the
“My final check is
for $20,000.00, no arguing,” said Devin. Treat the office to a Sunday
brunch at the Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Be sure to try the delicious
English scones with lots of butter. Top it all with the Tavern’s honey; it’s
Dan A. Cardoza, firstname.lastname@example.org,
of Carmichael, CA, wrote BP #89’s
“Hive.” He has an MS Degree in Education from UC, California, is
internationally published, the author of four poetry Chapbooks, and an eclectic
flash fiction collection, Second Stories.
Partial credits include: Abstract Magazine ~Contemporary
Expressions, Airgonaut, Cabinet of
Heed, Chiron Review, Cleaver,
Dime Show Review, Entropy, Esthetic Apostle,
Gravel, New Flash Fiction Review,
Hare, Rabid Oak, Riggwelter, Spelk, Tulpa,
and the White Wall