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Digital Subscriptions > Boston Review > Allies (Fall 2019) > ALL WE REMEMBER WILL BE FORGOTTEN


“It will be the most wonderful sound I could ever imagine, a sound that makes me feel like a fountain, or a wellspring.”

—Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life”

THE EARLIEST sighting was in Reykjavík, beyond the Hallgrímskirkja at the head of Skólavörðustígur, three hives having been introduced to Iceland in the nineteenth century by missionaries who wished to bring God’s bounty to a cold and sparsely peopled land. In chisel-hollowed stumps and backyard boxes, the bees had lived and gathered pollen and spun food and refused to reproduce, their ranks augmented by foreign stocks. In the first of the appearances, the swarms gathered in dark clouds beyond the steam hills, first a smudge on the landscape and then, approaching, taking on shapes— hundred-foot women, their arms reeling wheels in the sky, lurching toward human habitation.

After this they were seen in other locations: near a collection of huts in Mongolia, tenant farmers circled around a fire sharing cups of milk, the creature whirling up out of the darkness of the plain like a dust storm sweeping across the grassland. Appearances were reported outside a village near Fukushima and in the refugee camps of South Sudan, aid workers scrambling to replace the tents whose roofs had been ripped by the great wind of the giant’s passing into empty, stargazing holes.

At times they seemed unaware of the presence of humans, as if they could not see the waves of screamers scattering at their feet. At other times they seemed to wish to communicate. There was, for instance, the rented accommodation in Joshua Tree, vacationers standing at the edge of the fenced yard beside a churning, empty hot tub to peer in the direction of a nighttime sound over the hill, the motion sensor light of the neighbor’s house switching on, the giant head appearing above the cacti under the pale disc of the moon, rising and rising into a female shape that held her arms before her in what struck the people on the ground below as some strange, choked signature of grief.

Their name emerged as a result of what each one left behind her. Amid the rubble of Eibingen Abbey, on top of and between the strewn and chewed-up concrete blocks of the pylons for the funicular to the Genting Highlands above Kuala Lumpur, beside the esplanade along the Brahmaputra River where it flowed past Guwahati’s newly beautified shore—there would be, after her going, small flecks of darkness, iridescent wings and dismembered thoracic sections, spiderwebs of legs too infinitesimal to be seen, in a powdery dust that seemed as though it had been strewn by a careless hand in a collection of rustling, empty carapace parts over the ground, and here and there could be found, too, whole specimens lying on their backs with their legs curled to their stomachs, multi-sectioned eyes blind and upward-looking: the remnants and scattered bodies of bees.

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About Boston Review

Allies is the first publication of Boston Review's newly inaugurated Arts in Society department. A radical revisioning of the magazine's poetry and fiction, the department unites them—along with cultural criticism and belles lettres—under a project that explores how the arts can speak directly to the most pressing political and civic concerns of our age, from growing inequality to racial and gender regimes, a disempowered electorate, and a collapsing natural world.