This year for our reading at AWP, I decided to read an old, old story that I wrote when I was an undergrad. It is, as the title says, an interactive sci-fi erotica, which means it’s written in the style of those books you’d get as a kid that allow you to decide what your character does based on which page you turn to. (The actual name of this book series is copyrighted.) When I turned this in for class, my teacher said: “This sex scene makes it seem like you’ve never had sex.” At that point in my life, I basically had not. Anyway, because I was kind of a dick, instead of revising the story I kept doing things like making it into a book or making it into an illustrated website. The website is probably 10 years old and at this point I have no idea what the login info is so it will probably live forever on WordPress. Because during the reading I was only able to read one path through the story, I’ve decided to share the rest with you, starting with the intro here. Pro-tip: this first part includes a lot of explanation of how bees see and if it feels too long to you, just suck it up and keep going. I think you’ll be glad you did. Hold on to your butts people.
All of this takes place on another planet:
The Bee-Eyed Girl was lonely. She was lonely because it seemed to her like the whole entire planet was gray. Gray and ash and asphalt and charcoal. Everywhere she looked was a gray person, darker gray, lighter gray, striped gray, but gray everywhere. People would sit next to her in the lunchroom at school and she would barely notice them because they blended so well with the table and the bench. And when they talked to her, their voices sounded like a low drone or a middle drone or a high drone but always a drone. So she would stare at her plate of middle gray food and eat it slowly and apathetically and wonder why everything was so dull all the time.
The Bee-Eyed Girl’s mother didn’t know what to do. She herself had not been a Bee-Eyed Girl and was not a Bee-Eyed Woman. To her, people were people: peachy and brown and tan and all the variations that people come in. She could see their purple shirts and their green shorts and their pink cowboy boots. She could see their blue eyes and their brown eyes and their hazel eyes and their yellow eyes. When she looked at the Bee-Eyed girl she could see these things, too: brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin, purple shirt, green shorts and pink cowboy boots. The Bee-Eyed Girl’s mother thought her baby might be color blind with such an outfit. She didn’t know what to do.
So the Bee-Eyed Girl’s mother took her to the doctor’s office. The doctor examined the Bee-Eyed Girl and found nothing too wrong (when he hit her knee caps, her legs kicked forward; when he lifted up her shirt and listened with his stethoscope, her heart was beating) so he referred her to the optometrist. This seemed to be an eye problem. The optometrist gave her a thorough eye test. She could see all the E’s and e’s facing in all the directions. He dilated her eyes and there were no bumps or abnormalities behind her corneas. He referred her to the apiologist.
The apiologist’s office was a laboratory. He held up some cards for the Bee-Eyed Girl to look at. They had different swirling colors. He asked her what she saw. She mumbled, “gray.” He played some sounds and tested her response with buttons and flashing lights.
Then he told her and her mother to sit down.
“It’s the ‘Bee-Eye,’” he told the Bee-Eyed Girl’s mother.
“A rare condition affecting practically no one,” said the apiologist, “In fact,” he said, “your daughter is the first case I have ever seen.”
“But what is it?” asked the mother.
The Bee-Eyed Girl sat silently in the gray laboratory, looking at fuzzy gray bees floating in vials.
“Your daughter seems to have a peculiar seeing ability akin to that of certain types of bees. Many bees are very sensitive to ultraviolet patterns on the inner petals of the flowers from which they collect pollen. An evolutionary relationship has evolved between bees and specific flowers in which the flowers that need the bees for pollination have become equipped with what appears as a landing pad to the bees they are trying to attract. In this way, pollination becomes a three or more party endeavor with the bees becoming uncontrollably attracted to flowers with certain patterns that we as humans cannot see with our naked eyes. These bees will fly into these flowers, retrieve pollen and become satisfied. Then they will leave and continue on their journey, until they see another flower with the pattern that they desire, at which point they will once again be drawn into the flower and while they collect more pollen, some of the pollen grains from the stamen of the original flower will rub off on the stigma of the second, thus fertilizing this second flower. It is the amazing act of sexual reproduction, between plant and bee.”
The Bee-Eyed Girl’s mother was, reasonably, a little confused. “What does this have to do with my daughter?” she asked.
“Well,” said the apiologist, “Bees do not see any interesting color in anything except for the flowers which attract them. The rest of the flowers are basically gray to bees. This appears to be the way your daughter’s brain views the world. At some point she may see color. However, because she does not actually respond to ultraviolet, there is no way of knowing which spectrum or which colors she can see.”
“Is there a cure?” asked the mother.
“Unfortunately, we are unsure of what causes this condition. At this point there is no therapy I can recommend,” said the apiologist.
The Bee-Eyed Girl and her mother left the apiologist silently and drove home and didn’t talk of the Bee-Eye anymore. There is no cure, thought the mother, so there is no point in dwelling on it.
So the Bee-Eyed Girl went to school everyday, picking her way through gray sidewalks and gray houses and gray people, bored of what her eyes saw and bored of what her ears heard and sometimes even bored of what her brain thought. She would sit in class and try to focus on some gray man in front of some gray board drone about some gray thing that had nothing to do with her. She drew pictures on her gray desk and was not surprised when they disappeared into the background, too gray to see.
Days passed, as they do on every planet, not just ours, and so did a lot of time. But the Bee-Eyed Girl was still the Bee-Eyed Girl, in class or at home or on the city bus. One day, as she sat at her desk, pushing her pencil hard into its wood to see if she could make a mark, there was a knock at the classroom door. She didn’t look up because she was pretty sure it would be a waste of effort but as she pushed down hard on her pencil, the lead broke and shot towards the gray neck in front of her and her eyes hit the front of the room.
Standing next to her gray teacher was the most amazing thing she could remember seeing. It was a tall boy with big shoulders and his face was pink and smiling and streaked with red. His arms were too long for his gray sweatshirt and they stuck out of his sleeves revealing purple and blue polka dotted skin. What the Bee-Eyed Girl could see was beautiful and somehow familiar and then he spoke! His voice was up and down and melodic and gorgeous and all at once the Bee-Eyed Girl stood up and yelled, “PLEASE COME HERE!”
Now it’s your turn to choose!
If the Flower-Faced Boy says, “Sure,” this is next.
If the Flower-Faced Boy says, “Sure sweet thing, and what’s your name?” go here.
If the Flower-Faced Boy says nothing but sits down next to the Bee-Eyed Girl anyway, go to this page.
If the Flower-Faced Boy refuses to sit with the Bee-Eyed Girl, I think you know what to do.