Queenie wakes amidst a nest of drones. Their body heat radiates through the hoard of thick comforters that she nestles herself into each night. The warmth is comforting, and the addition of several space heaters makes stirring from her cozy slumber all the easier.
The house feels especially toasty this morning. The way a ski lodge might provide a quaint and cozy ambiance despite the thick blanket of white frost beyond its large gleaming windows.
She can hear the HVAC humming with an added intensity as if it’s been working overtime throughout the night. A strange thought considering how hot and muggy it has been across the entirety of this past week.
Queenie doesn’t often leave the basement, but this morning, she is tempted by an unconscious desire to see the landscape beyond her domain.
She had a dream last night.
This is a rarity for Queenie. However, when her unconscious being does manage to distract her mind, she knows the images playing out before her are not of her own design. They are from the assimilation of her life into an already growing amalgamation.
She recalls visions from the long sleep permeating her dreams in the past. Where muddled visions ran like a spotty film reel, generating mosaics from the echoes beyond the cramped cocoon.
Experiences lived — not by her own conscious — always come to Queenie as if she were only a patron at the show, not the actor.
This dream had been different, though.
For the first time in the space of this existence, she had been the actor. From her chrysalis, she listened as her founder, her mother spoke with someone about a phoenix, and avoiding the long sleep. They had made plans. Queenie had listened.
But were those plans ever explicitly shared with Queenie herself?
Reliving the fleeting memory, her mind sinks around her. Swallowing her consciousness into the dark void of her mind. There’s a memory that plays out before her like a movie within this black abyss.
The name comes to her despite being incapable of picturing his face at the moment. Even though this is playing out inside her own mind, Queenie doesn’t feel like this reverie belongs to her. Instinctively, her body tingles with excitement. But, who is the someone else that rightfully owns this memory?
The wise drone had taught her many things in the short time they shared. More souvenirs of her life are lodged in her long dream-like memories, but they tangle like the wires of headphones left unattended in a pocket for far too long.
Queenie cannot be sure what to make of this newest reverie from her most recent metamorphosis months. Irrespective, she is certain this is a problem. One she must solve before the air cools and her daughters begin to dwindle.
Those incapable of adapting, at least.
Atop the cellar stairs, she turns for the front sitting room. Her attention is drawn out beyond the large bay window overlooking the sprawling backyard, which inevitably drops off into the valley below. From her high vantage in the hills, she watches the puffs of steam slink skyward from the thin sprawling cowboy town below, signaling the start of another day.
Not a single pockmark of a cloud blemishes the entire horizon. Yet, there is a coldness about the world beyond the glass pane. As if a layer of ice subdues the cerulean sky overhead, making it a blanched version of its former self.
Opposite the window is the thermostat. Its ‘smart’ display reads that the temperature indoors is 85, but outside, it’s less than half that — 41 degrees.
The thought of such cold elicits a primal anxiety within her chest. She pivots her attention back to the view. The quiet bustle of life goes on despite the dwindling temperatures.
From this Godly vantage, Queenie feels worthy of her name. A feeling not always present year in and year out.
Her omnipotence looms over the kingdom. This silent haven her children can thrive in, subject to Queenie’s rule, of course.
Except for the one.
Many of her children have done exactly what is required of them. They have grown her family, rescuing multitudes of young and innocent women from the lives they’ve been persecuted to live. But more than that, they have subjugated so many indolent men. To this, Queenie sees her own benevolent grace. She has given them purpose in her new order. Entire families have become her offspring, and this thrills her to no end.
As her family has grown, so too has her body; and in rather unexpected ways.
The endless supply of sustenance that her daughters procure has led to some startling physical changes that Queenie has never known before. It’s now at the point that she may have to begin worrying about ducking through the occasional doorway. A catch-twenty-two of her daughters’ devoutness toward catering to all her needs.
The sun’s rays peer through the window and caress her ebony cheeks in a gentle warmth. A strength wells up inside her as if the rays were fueling her with concentrated caffeine in anticipation for the day. Beneath her layers of clothing, her muscles flex with a mounting strength fortified through the warm glow.
The surge in energy amplifies an already waxing hunger, which becomes more ravenous with each passing day. Her body is well-aware and well-trained regarding its need to consume an abundance during this time of the year. Preparation for her next long sleep. Only now, the insatiable hunger returns soon after each meal with a searing pang unlike any she’s known before.
But she has a solution for this. She cannot afford to waste precious entrees on her children. Her solution had been an ingenious one. It provided a practically endless supply of food for her children, which meant the most delectable courses would be reserved for Queenie alone.
Abandoning the window, in favor of navigating her way through the home and into the garage, she stalls. Inside the two-car concrete cube, her breath leaves her lungs in a ghastly vapor. This ignites a fiery anger within Queenie.
The cool air pierces through the lingering warmth that the motherly sun had embraced her with. Its sharp presence needles the comfort and pleasure she had just known. The discomfort spreads like a plague to her limbs. She is well aware of her slowing gait. The stiffness in Queenie’s joints infects her mind with a virus that seems to beleaguer her thinking.
The multitude of animals yap, bark, and squawk at her from behind the locks of their cramped cages. There, however, is no reason to pay them any mind. Queenie’s curiosity lay with their keeper, who likely did not survived the night.
The daughter with the unfortunate task sits limply against an ancient folding chair, her head lolled forward. Queenie thinks the woman must have surely passed in the night, despite her puffy parka with its fur-lined hood. Yet, she stirs when she grabs the woman’s upper arm with enough force to pierce through the woman’s jacket into the warm flesh beneath. A set of gentle hazel eyes look up at Queenie in bewilderment.
“Mother?” The woman inquires with concern. “You shouldn’t be out here.” The girl’s pale complexion is natural, but the flush in her cheeks speaks to surprise and worry upon seeing her mother in this cool and confined space.
“I can go wherever I please,” Queenie is harsher with her tone than intended, but she doesn’t realize it. Her thinking has become crowded by a beastly rage.
“O-o-of course. I jus—“
The woman never gets the chance to finish uttering her sentiment. Queenie’s hands fly to the woman’s head. Her long and slender fingers claw around the woman’s skull, which feels delicate and brittle in her hands. Queenie does not register the brutish howl emanating from her lungs as her hands violently snap at the woman’s head with uncaged fury.
As Queenie’s adrenaline settles, the gratification of a successful hunter greets her. She stares down into a gaze permanently twisted 180 degrees in the wrong direction.
Looks like breakfast will be more filling than anticipated.
The thought brings a toothy grin to her cheeks. It proceeds to broaden the more she senses the distress this causes the girl trapped within her consciousness. Though, she is certain the dregs of the girl do no more than feigned despair for the limp corpse that she now begins to tow at her side.
She enters the home with the body dragging behind her, the way a child might drag their doll behind them while in search of their parents following a bad dream. Queenie detests that her meal will be so fresh, but this is one she is certain should be enjoyed as soon as possible. She is, after all, expecting some visitors from out of town, and she must be able to keep up as the weather turns for the season.