This was an interesting experiment: The “story”, or should I say THE story I have been working on for the past goodness knows how many years. Please have a look and comment on readability and voice (and anything else that comes to mind).
“It’s true. It’s totally, totally true. I swear it”
Before this all happened my cheeks would have burning as I heard the quiet snickers of my classmates turning to outright howls of laughter.
Miss Atherton-Norton rose like a menacing, anorexic sea monster, quivering with rage, and the sounds of “oooooo” swelled throughout the room like a brewing storm.
“Victoria Penrose! You are a willful child. You . . . . . You . . . . “
I just knew what was coming next.
“Your mother would never have told such dreadful lies. You are a disgrace to the Penrose name.”
“Look, shweetheart” I said staring straight into those moist little rat eyes of hers, and silencing the class. “I know a heck of a lot more about my mother than you do, than any of you do, and I can tell you one thing for sure – she would be so proud of me. You might not believe what I’m about to tell you but it’s true, and it’s a story worth telling so just sit back and enjoy the ride.”
I looked out over the sea of stunned faces.
“Girls, I am late today, and my dress is torn and my hair a mess, because as I was was coming to school a giant vortex opened up in front of me and a swarm of giant bees wooshed out and swept me away with them”
A solitary laugh echoed through the room.
“I don’t know how it happened either, but after what I’ve been through and what I’ve seen, that is the least surprising thing.
“Pinned between the great bristly bodies of two bees I was half blinded by the roaring wind and could barely breath with all the fuzz in my mouth and up my nose. I could feel myself being thrown up and down, this way and that way in a mad dance which brought us through the fields, over the shops and cafes, under the bridge in the centre of town, up the hill and right through the corridors of this very school – you must have seen us!”
The open-mouthed, wide-eyed girls shook their heads.
“I thought they’d drop me here and I’d be early for a change, but no. They turned round and flew back the way we came and zipped back inside the vortex just as it shut.”
I looked over at Miss Atherton-Norton, still flapping her gums about “disgrace” and “how . . . how. . . how very dare you . . .”
“Miss Atherton-Norton, you’re lucky I’m here at all after what happened next. Those bees are fast, man, fast. And strong. In barely an hour we flew over mountains, jungles, deserts, cities and villages, and all the while I could hear this whooping sound over the wind pounding my ears. I looked around, but like I said, I was half blind already.
“All of a sudden there was this bump. I nearly wet my pants cause I was just holding on for dear life, hoping not to slip down from between these two bees. But, y’know, I kind of got the feeling that they’d caught me up on purpose cause they had me squeezed real tight and they seemed to know where they were going. I stretched up to find out what caused the bump when I felt this hand on my shoulder – little, but strong. My arms were dead weights from hanging on to the two round bodies of the bees and being frozen by the blasting air for so long, but I could feel his little fingers grip my arm and he was trying to pull me up to sit in front of him on the bee.
“I thought ‘This kid’s crazy’, he couldn’t have been more than four or five years old but here he was, sitting on the back of a giant frigging flying bee tryna haul me up next to him as if it’s no big thing. Well, now I know you think I’m crazy but something in his smile made me trust him, so I clambered up there and, actually it was much more comfortable this way.
“The kid just leaned against me and gave me the tightest hug like he’d really missed me or something then he yelled against the wind.
I think he said ‘I’m so glad we finally found you’.
“There wasn’t much I could say to that and I was so exhausted by the pounding wind and holding on so tight that I kinda fell into a half sleep-daze for a while.
“When I woke up, the wind had died down and the swarm of bees were almost gliding down to this clearing in the middle of a jungle covered island. As we got closer I could make out huts and tree houses throughout the giant leaves and vines, and a clear blue stream flowing though the clearing. We landed gently on the grass and unpeeled ourselves from our ride.
“‘Where are we?’ I asked the kid but he just smiled at me like I was being deliberately thick.
“‘Come on’, he said, ‘we have to let the Insect Princess know you’re here’ and he ran off. I was going to follow him, but you know running’s never been my thing. The bees wandered off to graze on the flowers dotted throughout the field and looked like a heard of black and orange striped cows.
“I lay on the grass, shaking my my legs and arms for the circulation to return. I was sure I was about to wake up from this crazy dream any moment when I heard the kid calling out to me. I looked up to see him bounding across the field and she was flying, following him. It was her, Zara . It was the Insect Princess.”
The whole class turned to look at Zara, my best friend.
“It was her, the one I was dreaming about”
Zara shook her head in denial.
“Zara, tell them,” I frowned.
Her eyes pleaded: “Keep me out of this”
Ok, so maybe my best friend had sold me out, in front of the whole class, but I’d started and I wasn’t going to stop now.
“She was beautiful, Zar . . . She was beautiful, just like in my dreams.”
“I sat up and just stared as she glided over to me on gossamer wings. The air hummed and glistened around her shimmering vibrant green body as she hovered just a couple of feet from me. I wanted to reach out and touch her just to see if she was real but I was sure my hand would pass through her like a puff of smoke. She seemed so delicate and strong at the same time, barely as tall as I am, but with obvious power pulsing within her, and a tiny silver crown on her beautiful bald head.
“‘Rise, Victoria’ she said and my mind was filled with the music of her voice”
I glanced over at Zara – nothing.
“I got up and she draped one of those long slender, creepy but cool exoskeleton arms over my shoulder.
“‘Victoria’ she said, ‘you must find the three jewels.’ And, Zara, you know I didn’t need to ask her to repeat it cause she’s told me that so many times in my dreams over the past couple of months.”
But Zara still wouldn’t look at me.
“‘Yoo-hoo, bees’, she called, ‘bee-ees, I have another important job for you’.
“The bees beat their wings furiously but only a couple managed to even get off the ground.
“‘Oh, no. No, no, no, my dears you mustn’t strain yourselves. I didn’t realise what the flight had cost you.’ Her big, bug eyes filled with tears as she rushed over to the bees. The kid grabbed my hand and I jumped ’cause I’d forgotten about him.
“‘The bees are tired.’ His big brown eyes were sad
“I felt a lump in my throat too, though I wasn’t sure why.
“‘They flew for weeks looking for you, Victoria, and now they’re too tired to take us any further'”
“The dreams were always so unclear. It was just the Insect Princess and her words, “Victoria, you must find the three jewels”
This time I didn’t even look at Zara.
“We walked amongst the bees and stroked their backs trying to reassure them that they’d done their best and there was nothing to be ashamed of. I whispered in their ears that it would be alright, but I got the feeling I was the only one who thought it could be.
“‘I know, Temperance, I of all know how important this is. But without the bees there is no way off this island.’ I could hear the Insect Princess discussing our situation with the kid, and I hovered in the background trying to make myself less useless.
“That night the stars looked down with pity upon us and I fed twigs to the fire just for something to do. The largest hut in the clearing was filled with the comforts of home including soft beds that called to us, but with the worried Insect Princess up all night reassuring her beloved bees we could not bring ourselves to go inside.
“As the cool crisp dawn crept over us I could see the Insect Princess deep in conversation with the bees and her soft voice drifted across the clearning.
“‘Mrs Bumble,’ she said, ‘you are the oldest of all. How can you have the strength to carry Victoria and Temperance all that way? I cannot allow it. I can’t let you put yourself under the strain.’
“If she’d had soft skin the Insect Princess would have had a furrowed brow as she walked over to us. ‘Temperance, Victoria, it seems as if all is not lost. Mrs Bumble has begged me to let her take you on your journey’
‘Mrs Bumble?’ Temperance looked puzzled. He looked over to the bees and then back to the Insect Princess. ‘Are you sure?’
“‘No, I’m not sure, but what else can we do? We have no other choice, and we have no time to waste. You must leave immediately.
“And so onto the back of the bee we climbed and away we were, up into the clouds and high above the sea in no time. Before long we were over land again and I could see a thick dark road cut through the patchwork fields and scattered villages.
“‘The Friendship Highway,’ Temperance shouted in my ear. “‘It joined the three major cities of the land, though it’s not much used in these times.
“I held him a little closer, feeling him shudder as he thought about “these times”.
“‘Don’t worry, kid, we can handle it’ I shouted back, but the wind whipped my words away.
“‘And that’s Grimwood forest. We’re lucky to be flying right over that’
But as if his words were an omen, no sooner had he said this than the strength in Mrs Bumble’s wings began to fail and we started falling. Twisting and turning in turbulent spirals we hurtled towards the slither of road that peeked through the tall trees.
“Down, down, down we plummeted into the heart of an ancient pine forest thick with must and moss. The last thing I heard was “JUUUMP!” before I slammed into the ground with a bone shuddering thud.
The blood beat through my pounding brain as I lay where I landed and watched the sky and trees spin around me.
“‘Aaaargh’ I moaned and rolled myself into sitting. The whole left side of my body ached from the impact”.
I turned my face so the class could see the yellow bruises and purple scars where the side of my head had ricocheted off the overgrown Friendship Highway. A sharp gasp showed that my face had had the intended reaction.
“What happened to Temperance?” Zara covered her mouth, pretending she hadn’t shown interest.
“He was fine. I couldn’t believe it. The little bugger’d had years of practise jumping from the backs of giant bees, so he managed to leap off just before we crashed. Might have been nice if he’d told me this could happen, but I guess I never would have come along if I’d known.