ALL THE BEES IN CALIFORNIA ARE DEAD by Piper Gourley

All the bees in California are dead. Their little bodies flung out like confetti on every sidewalk. I walk through Newport, and they’re everywhere, crushed against the powder of the grout. I imagine insect snipers in every window, firing salt into their striped flesh, turning the bees to stones. Sodium bullets. I imagine bee-sized daggers in their bee-sized hearts.

The Doors sang a song about this, once. I’m a King Bee. Maybe it was a song about love. Or creation, a protest of sorts. Every inch of this ground is a funeral.

California is a state of bee killers. Wide-scale insect homicide. I’ve told all my friends this, locals that have spent their lives stepping over bee bodies. One of them replies, I thought bees died young. Like bee-hood is uniquely terminal. As if all the bees get together once-monthly and joust or carry out suicide-pacts or inhale a bunch of amphetamines and induce heart attacks and die, mid-flight, like interrupted laughter.

(When I was hospitalized for delusions, a fellow patientthis twitching kid with bleached teeth—said, I think some people are made to die. I wonder if this is what they meant.)

I am from Texas, where stages of death coat the cities like snowflakes: guns on loose belts, electric scrapes of hot rubber on roadways, hospitals holding hands over linked breezeways. A state of violent anticipation—where every foul stranger carries risk, where hurricane surges and hail holes function as exit wounds, places where the rubble departs and returns to infect. Where bees find quiet, dark places to perish.

I’m in California now, where bees die in the light. Where everybody dies first, then lives forever. The bees are alive. Their flattened bodies tattoo the pavement, stain the places pressed flat with a concrete leveler. My ward friends are alive in the stories I write, alive in the emerald hills of Anaheim where I pen this down. Jim Morrison is alive. He’s drinking in downtown LA, where he lifts a beer behind a pane of glass, forever toasting to a scrawled Sharpie signature.

Los Angeles: how fitting. Angels all over the place. Maybe it’s the Second Coming, whatever is taking these bees. Maybe they’re little disciples, with all that honey in their bellies. Maybe that’s why they keep flying into the ocean, thinking they can walk on it.

I’m sad about it. How quick they go. The California bees get shot and stabbed and sung at. They fly into the ocean and swallow bellies full of saltwater and pass away vomiting onto the sand. I used to fish them from the currents, like I could withdraw the source of the dying. The bullet or the blade or the salt. No point: you can’t strain out fate. But with every earthquake, every low buzz that rattles my feet, I know it’s the ghosts of the bees departing the Pacific. Emerging from the dirt, crying for their mothers, asking to drink with the King.


Piper Gourley is a ghostwriter from Houston, Texas. They are published in Glassworks Magazine, Etched Onyx, Michigan Quarterly Review: Mixtape, and more. They are the EIC of The Institutionalized Review. They own an axolotl, Huxley, who loves worms.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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