Black Petals Issue #89 Autumn, 2019

Mars-Chris Friend
BP Artists and Illustrators
A Tale of the Dark Web-Fiction by Blair Frison
Drop, Pt. 2: Help Thy Neighbor-Fiction by Michael Mulvihill
Gas Stop-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Grandad's Legacy-Fiction by Jan Cronos
Hive-Fiction by Dan Cardoza
My Nighttime Parents-Fiction by Malik Mandeville
Orphans at the Dark Door-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The News that Night-Fiction by June Driver
The Raft-Fiction by Stephen Caesar
The Voice from the Dark-Fiction by Scott Kimak
Dear Pneumonia-Two poems by Michael Mulvihill
The Well-Poem by Jason Rice

Art by Hillary Lyon 2019



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 black overtones.

In reality, his dreams shared more DNA with nightmares, an empirical fact that had yet to enter his consciousness.

He confessed, “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.”

They’d discussed 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.

Patient 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.

One particular 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 accomplishments.

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.

Devin’s nightmares 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 about egos.

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.


The Session: 

“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?”

“Dr. Forsythe,” 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 you.”

Sitting straight up from the sofa, Devin stared at the huge pill in Dr. Forsythe’s hand.

“What the hell is that, Doc?”

Dr. Forsythe 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.

Dr. Forsythe 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.”

The highly 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 office door.

“Devin, wait, you have to take one per day for at least two weeks.” 

Devin waited impatiently at the door and gulped down his first pill.

Dr. Forsythe 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 in green.


A week passes: 

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 weeks pass:

Devin is 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.


Devin’s iPhone 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.

Dr. Forsythe 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.”

 “Really, Devin?” Dr. Forsythe said with his unabashed growing sneer. “Tell me more.”

 “Well, then, 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.”

Dr. Forsythe 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.

Dr. Forsythe’s 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 street. 

“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 marvelous.”  


The End


Dan A. Cardoza,, 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, Poached Hare, Rabid Oak, Riggwelter, Spelk, Tulpa, and the White Wall Review.

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