“The queens,” said the elderly man dressed in a black tuxedo, balancing a pen on a single finger with ease.
“Out of the question. You don’t know what you are asking. Absolutely not,” I said. I couldn’t hide all of my annoyance in the last few words. I had to stop to regain my facade of politeness. “I told you. It’s not about money so I won’t be bought. I mean it’s the fate of our species and the planet that we are talking about here.”
“Unlike the methods of my brethren, I have been chosen to use less dramatic methods, although no less damning.”
“You’ve said that already and I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“I will offer this once since you have already accepted the gift. You will be spared the trials that are ahead,” the man said slowly, carefully choosing his words.
I wanted to rebuke him right then and there. The way he said it felt like a slap in the face. But as much as I wanted to, he also emitted a presense that demanded respect. A calmness in his words and actions, but the words themselves seemed more unfiltered than intentionally spiteful or full of pride.
My thoughts regrouped from retort to regard once again. “And what would happen to my bees if I accept?”
“They would no longer be your concern.”
“Would it be you that would take care of them? They are more critical to the ecosystem than ever.”
The answer didn’t reassure me. There was something familiar about him that I couldn’t place and it was mixing up my train of thought.
“I’m one of the last beekeepers. I travel all over the continent, bringing my bees to help the farmers pollinate their crops. Who will–“
“The last,” the man interrupted coldly.
I stared back, brow furrowed, for a good ten seconds. “O’Mallory’s hive is on the west coast. Charbonneau still has a healthy colony in Europe.”
He gazed through me, sending a chill down my spine like he could read my soul. At that moment, he shook his head ever so slowly, and my stomach filled with dread.
“Who are you?” I didn’t want an answer, even though deep down, I already knew.
“There are four of us. That is all I will say. Do you accept?”
“If I accept, I can’t bring anyone with me, can I?” I managed to choke out.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about those I would not see again.