“Leave me alone!” cried Alex.
“Or else what? Will you run to mommy and complain? Boo-hoo!” sneered Alex’s brothers. The bullying would have continued had not their mother made an appearance. She looked irritated.
“You two! Stop tormenting your little brother! Go to your rooms and study.”
Alex was the youngest of three children, and the puniest. While his brothers loved to play sports and were popular at school, he preferred to stay at home and read books. That earned him the title of nerd, for which he was constantly ridiculed.
Alex’s mother was his biggest cheerleader.
“Hey baby, I have a surprise for you. I was cleaning the attic and found a box of books. These belonged to your grandpa.”
He hugged his mother and hauled the box to his room. As he made his way up the stairs, he could hear daddy’s voice. It was heavy with worry.
“The experiments to create synthetic bees have failed. We will try something else now.”
Alex knew what daddy was talking about.
Mother told him that once upon a time, Greenvale, their hometown, had been abounding with green plants and flowers. Those were the times when bees still existed. Bees were so important because they pollinated flowers and ensured that new plants grew.
A new teleporting technology had been introduced, and the bees vanished overnight. Some people said it was the radiation. Others blamed it on the pesticides. Over the past many years, Greenvale had turned arid, and its name, a mere shadow of its past.
Alex’s father worked as a scientist on a project to restore Greenvale’s flora. They had attempted different methods to pollinate flowers on a mass scale, but nothing had worked. It was predicted that in another ten years they would have to migrate elsewhere if no solution were found. There would be no more food for plants and animals, and people would die.
It was way past Alex’s bedtime. He snuggled under his bedsheet with a torch and a book from Grandpa’s box. It was a thick, leather-bound diary chronicling Grandpa’s adventures.
Grandpa had been a pioneer of the dragon conservation program. He had built a sanctuary in Greenvale to protect the species from extinction. This diary described his adventures as he travelled far and wide, in the pursuit of dragons.
Alex’s eyes widened as he perused the diary. Too bad Grandpa died before any of his grandchildren were born or before the bees went extinct. He might have known what to do to solve the bee problem.
Alex yawned. He had finished five chapters. It was time for bed. That’s when a paragraph caught his eye.
I trekked through the wildlands looking to save dragons before the lands were seized in the name of development. I lost my way and ambled aimlessly. That’s when I sauntered into a hidden valley. Nestled between giant trees and cocooned from the rest of the world, the valley was home to giant flowers and bees. I was astounded. The bees weren’t very hospitable, so I had to leave. I will return there someday. The nearest known coordinates of this place are 41.405.
Grandpa had never gone back. He had died of a heart attack, two years after this diary was completed. Else he would have returned to the valley of the bees. Wait, what? Alex’s sleep vanished in a jiffy. He grabbed the journal and bounded down the stairs.
“Daddy! Look at what I found. We can bring back the bees.”
Daddy was not in a good mood. He didn’t listen.
“Alex. Go to bed. It’s way past your bedtime. I have a lot of work to do.”
Alex sighed. He couldn’t sleep all night. Greenvale needed bees. Grandpa knew of a secret valley with bees. He had to bring them back. That would make him a hero. And then perhaps, his brothers would stop making fun of him.
An idea was beginning to germinate in Alex’s brain. “What if I teleported myself into the location that Grandpa specified. I could convince the bees to return with me!” He was scared, but the idea of accolades and a hero’s reception was enticing.
It was the weekend. Alex’s brothers were playing in a basketball match today and his parents had gone to watch. He had faked sickness and stayed behind. He packed a few snacks, a penknife, a torch, and other essentials into his rucksack.
He sneaked up to his father’s study to steal the teleporter. The teleporter was a device, like a computer. You had to be above eighteen to use it. One wore a safety helmet and entered destination coordinates into it. The device would then transmit them through an electromagnetic teleportation channel and deliver them to their destination.
Alex unlocked the device with his father’s identity card.
“Welcome! Key in destination coordinates.”
Alex typed in 41.405, the numbers he had seen in Grandpa’s diary.
The device beeped.
“Error. Location out of range!”
Alex tapped furiously again. Same error.
In his anger, he flung the teleporter on the ground. Suddenly, a purple light flashed. It engulfed him. He wobbled about, like jelly and was hurled through a tunnel of purple light. He landed with a thud.
He opened his eyes and gasped in astonishment. He had been transported to a new place. It was dense with trees and lush foliage. He had never seen so much green in his life. Where was he? Had the device teleported him successfully?
The teleporter had accompanied him to this destination. But it was emitting smoke. He sincerely hoped it was still under warranty. He could picture his mother screaming at him.
What a gloomy start to what was supposed to be the adventure of his life.
Alex trudged on wearily. He had been walking for two hours and there was not a creature in sight. Only leafy plants. But that was still good news. If there was green, there would likely be bees. If he found the bees, he would be one step closer to completing his mission.
He stilled in his tracks. Why did he feel that something or someone was watching him?
He could have sworn that there was a movement in the bushes. He pretended to walk ahead and turned sharply. He caught sight of a pair of green glinting eyes. Alex shrieked. He grabbed a twig from the ground and aimed it at the bushes to scare it away. The creature let out a high-pitched yelp. Alex ran for his life. He dashed ten meters ahead, when he bumped into something. He untangled himself to see what it was.
In front of him, was a girl his age, with red hair, and glaring eyes.
“Can’t you see where you are going, Mister?”
“Hi! I’m Alex. Nice to …”
The girl ignored him and started calling out.
“Dru? Where are you?” she headed to the bushes. A high-pitched grunt was heard, followed by squeaky noises.
The girl returned, hands on hips.
“How dare you scare Dru! You are mean, throwing twigs at defenceless creatures!”
Alex turned to apologize to the defenceless animal in question. To his surprise, out of the bushes emerged a little dragon, only the size of a fully-grown lion. He was a glimmering purple, complete with spikes and wings. He looked scared as he stared at Alex with his green eyes.
“A dragon! I thought all of you were at the sanctuary!”
He inched closer to the dragon and stroked him.
The dragon replied, “there are a few free dragon tribes as well, but we prefer to stay hidden.”
“You can speak? For a dragon, you are different!” commented Alex.
“Dru is sensitive and shy. Don’t make fun of him!” snapped the girl.
“What’s your name? “
“I’m Lola. Dru is my pet dragon. State your business here, Alex!”
“I’m searching for bees. I need to take them back to Greenvale.”
“Never heard of Greenvale. You can find bees at Beesville. But for that, you need to cross the sea.”
“Where do you live? What about your parents?” asked Alex.
“Don’t have any. They died when I was young. I have been pretty much on my own. I found Dru and we have been inseparable since,” replied Lola defiantly.
“What about Dru’s family?”
Lola shot Alex a warning look, but the damage was already done. Dru started bawling.
“They abandoned me because I was different; I was small and had a squeaky voice.”
Alex’s heart went out to Dru.
“I understand. My brothers make fun of me all the time. That’s why I left them behind.”
“Wait, you had a loving family and you left them? Dru and I would kill for one!” thundered Lola.
“Hey, all I need to do is to find the bees and return home to my family. Help me, please! I will even share my snacks with you.”
Upon hearing the word ‘snack’, Dru perked up. They bonded over potato chips, lollipops, and chocolate cake from Alex’s rucksack. The food won over Lola.
“Fine. We will help, but I’m going to be captain,” she declared.
“Hola, Lola,” cried Alex.
“Captain’s first order. Stop cracking pathetic jokes.”
The three of them trudged along, following the breeze, until it turned salty. They reached the edge of the mighty blue sea. The waves pounded against the rocks and broke into white foam.
They spotted three girls, swimming out in the sea. One of them jumped out of the waves and did a backflip, revealing her glimmering fishtail. The sunbeams bounced off it, rendering the greenish tail a rainbow hue.
“Oh my God, are those Mer-girls?” gasped Alex.
He had only heard of them. It was his first time seeing them. Lola waved to the Mer-girls, and they swam towards them. The Mer-girls perched themselves on the edge of a rock.
“Hi. We are Shirley, Merly, and Pearly. Who are you?”
“We are explorers who need to go to Beesville. Can you help us get there?”
“Yes, but it will cost you. Is that a dragon? How cute!”
Dru enjoyed the adulation, as Lola clicked her tongue impatiently.
Alex seemed to be smitten too.
“Fair maidens, name your price!” he announced gallantly, as Lola shook her head in disgust.
“We love to sing! We wanted to participate in the Fantasmo Idol contest, but the organizers couldn’t arrange for an aquatic stage, and we had to withdraw. Without water, Mer-girls can’t survive. Duh! Talk about inclusivity!”
Merly chipped in.
“Let’s organize a sing-off! If you win, we will take you across the sea for free. If you lose, you need to clean up the beach.”
“Deal!” Alex and Dru replied at the same time.
Lola held a hand to her head. “Boys!”
The Mer-girls went first. Shirley crooned ‘Part of your world.’*
Her voice was mellifluous and held them enraptured. Dolphins jumped out of the water, and seagulls circled. At the end of her rendition, everyone clapped and applauded.
Lola looked at Alex nervously.
“Can you sing?”
“I can’t. Only my mother can.”
“What were you thinking? We might as well grab brooms!” sighed Lola.
Dru interrupted them.
“Stop bickering. I will sing.”
“You can sing? Okay.”
Dru cleared his voice and began singing….
‘Kiss me goodbye…. I am defying gravity.’*
He flapped his wings around and flew in circles around them, further accentuating his performance. His voice hit all the high notes. Lola’s eyes grew as wide as saucers. Dru hadn’t been kidding when he said he could sing.
When he finished his performance, everyone was stunned. There was thunderous applause and demand for encores. It was obvious who the winner was. Shirley was good, no doubt. But Dru? He was something else altogether.
“Dru, you are the champion!” declared the Mer-girls unanimously.
Lola hugged Dru.
“We are so proud of your talent, Dru!”
Dru’s face fell.
“My family used to be ashamed of me. Dragons don’t sing, they said.”
Alex rubbed Dru’s nose to comfort him. The Mer-triplets kept their side of the bargain. They handed everyone scuba diving equipment.
“Follow us, as we guide you across the sea.”
Dru looked comical. A dragon wearing diving equipment, wading through the depths of the sea. Alex was astonished to see underwater life-schools of bright coloured fish, turtles, and seahorses. Lola marvelled at the beautiful multi-hued coral reefs. She held her head too close to a clam. Alex pulled her away before it clammed up with a thud. The Mer-girls swam about and did little somersaults. At last, they reached the shore and clambered out of the water.
“Beesville is up that hill. Good luck!”
The Mer-triplets waved them goodbye.
Alex, Dru, and Lola began trekking up the hill. The sun had dried their clothes. The vegetation had turned dense. The flowers were getting bigger. Alex hoped that they were going in the right direction. Dru flapped his wings and circled over the thick vegetation. He squeaked.
“I see it. That’s Beesville. It is protected by hedges on one end, and by dense forest on the other.”
Alex was relieved. He fist-bumped Lola. The forest gave way to a lush valley full of giant flowers of every shade- azure, lilac, jade, and amber. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
They had just advanced when a heavy fishing net was thrust upon them.
“Help!” screamed Lola.
Dru tried to push the net away, but he got further entangled.
“Shh…. listen. Do you hear that? I hear the buzzing of bees…….”
The buzzing grew louder as a swarm of giant bees descended. Each bee was the size of a dog.
“Yay! Bees!” exclaimed Alex.
“You are the first person in history to look at death in the face and go yay!” muttered Lola. Dru curled himself into a dragon-egg position.
A bee donning a military cap appeared.
“Trespassers, you will be taken to her majesty, Queen Beatrice, for trial.”
They found themselves surrounded by hundreds of giant bees. They were asked to march ahead. Ahead of them, loomed a giant, golden hive-shaped palace, surrounded by melliferous flowers.
“That is the abode of Queen Beatrice, her royal worshipfulness, Mother of all bees, the first of her name,” buzzed the commander bee reverentially.
Lola felt uneasy as they walked into the hive. Alex seemed optimistic, and Dru terrified. They passed hundreds of worker bees, hard at work, shaping honey into hexagonal honeycombs, that dotted the hive.
They were escorted to the centre of the hive, the throne room. On the throne, sat a sombre and majestic bee. She wore a crown on her head.
“I’m Queen Beatrice. Who are you? Why have you encroached on my land?”
“We are Alex, Lola, and Dru. We seek your help.”
Alex explained about Greenvale and his quest. Beatrice’s face hardened. She hovered over her throne.
“Several years ago, my subjects worked tirelessly for the humans of Greenvale. We pollinated flowers and made honey. We toiled relentlessly in the apiaries. The English language is testimony to that- haven’t you heard of the expression, ‘As busy as a bee?’
What did we get in return? Nothing! Men stole our honey, killed, and plundered us. Introduced radiation to blow out our brains. Poisoned our air with pesticides.
My ancestors fled to seek asylum with our kin in Beesville. We established a Queendom here. Years of good life made us evolve and grow bigger. Why should we go back?”
“Plants are dying. Soon, people will die. Greenvale needs you! Please!” implored Alex.
“My wings are tied. Since you are children, I will let you go. I have been less kind to other trespassers. Remember, bee-sting can be fatal. Buzz off, before I change my mind. And tell that dragon to stop making cute faces. It isn’t working!”
Alex hung his head. He had failed.
Their conversation was interrupted, when the commander bee barged in, in a state of panic.
“Your highness, the hive is under attack from giant birds!”
“We must safeguard the hive.”
Queen Beatrice made a beeline for the exit.
The drones got ready into battle formation, atop the hive. They readied their bee-sting tipped arrows. The sky was clouded with evil-looking birds, flapping their wings hungrily. The queen glanced down from the hive’s towers. What she saw, made her gasp.
Prince Wasper and Princess Bumble, her youngest children, were out of the hive, exploring. They stood at the edge of the perimeter, directly in the birds’ field of vision.
“Save them!” she shrieked.
Lola jumped atop Dru.
“Queen Beatrice, you take care of the birds. We will save the baby bees!” she yelled.
“We will?” inquired an anxious Dru.
Alex climbed behind Lola, as Dru took off unsteadily. They hovered close to the young bees, who were trembling.
A big bird, the leader of the pack, was headed towards them.
“Dru, breathe fire and scare them off!” yelled Lola.
Dru kept blowing smoke.
“I’m trying. I can’t when I am nervous!”
The nasty bird was approaching them fast. Lola stood in front of the little bees protectively. Alex stood next to her, mirroring her stance.
Lola closed her eyes as the bird raised its beak to strike at them, but precisely at that moment, Dru released a burst of high-quality dragon-fire. This startled the bird. Its wing got partly singed, and it flapped away for dear life. Alarmed at their leader’s plight, the other birds made a hasty retreat.
Queen Beatrice made her way down and nuzzled her children.
“Wasper! Bumble! Haven’t I told you not to buzz off on your own? You are grounded for two weeks.”
She turned to the trio and said,
“I am indebted to you. Ask for whatever you want.”
Alex’s eyes shone.
They spent the night at the hive, in honeycomb-shaped beds. They woke up to a delicious breakfast of pollen-paste cake with generous dollops of honey, washed down with ambrosia. After breakfast, they met the Queen.
“Here is a contract I have drafted. I will loan a hundred of my worker bees to Greenvale. They will be given off-days on Sunday and all public holidays. They should be compensated fairly and issued veterinary insurance. Workplace safety is a must; workplaces must be pesticide and radiation-free. Violation of these terms will result in forfeiture of contract.”
“That is amazing! Thank you!” exclaimed Alex.
Lola, the sensible one, chipped in.
“How do we get to Greenvale?”
“We have a special craft designed for travel. Our drone bees are the best pilots in the world. They will fly you and the workers to Greenvale. It’s the least I can do in return for what you did for us.
Dru- you are very brave. Here is some special honey for you. If you have two sips of it every day, your voice will regain its dragonesque quality.”
Lola exclaimed, “that’s awesome Dru! You can regain your voice and return to your family!”
Dru stared at the honey bottle.
“I love my voice. If my family can’t accept me for who I am, then I’m better off without them. I don’t want the honey.”
“Well chosen,” commented Queen Beatrice.
“Lola! Dru! Accompany me to Greenvale. You are heroes too!” insisted Alex.
“Will there be more candy? I’m in!” cried Dru, rubbing his claws in delight. After much persuasion, Lola relented and agreed to join in.
They got onto the craft with the worker bees and zoomed into the sky, as Queen Beatrice and her subjects bid adieu to them.
They were given a hero’s welcome!
The Mayor of Greenvale signed the contract, and the worker bees got to business. It would take a few months for Greenvale to flourish again. The bees were back. Hope was restored.
Alex watched his elder brothers go green with jealousy. They wouldn’t admit it, but they had missed him. Daddy was on cloud nine. Mother was elated to see him. Once she had gotten over the initial relief and tears, the punishment came through.
” Young man, what were you thinking, stealing the teleportation device? You could have gotten hurt! You are grounded for three weeks.”
Lola felt envious. Alex was lucky to have such an awesome family, she thought.
“Come on Dru. It’s time to go,” she said sadly.
“Young lady! Wait!”
Alex’s mother walked up to her.
“I have always wanted a little girl. Would you like to live with us, as our daughter?”
Lola’s eyes filled with tears.
“Yes…a million times! Wait, I can’t leave Dru.”
“Dru can stay too. I teach music. Perhaps I can train him for Fantasmo Idol!”
She couldn’t finish speaking because she was smothered by one happy dragon.
“We are brother and sister now? That’s awesome!” grinned Alex.
He squeezed Lola’s hand affectionately. Together, they would be invincible. His brothers wouldn’t know what hit them. Lola felt a warmth flooding through her, as she realized that the best adventures were those that took you home.
- Bees are not only extremely important for humans, but also for entire ecosystems to function. A study published in Nature Communications found that just two percent of wild bee species contributes to 80 percent of the crop pollination visits observed globally. Bees are at risk due to habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides. (Source: OneGreenPlant)
- *Part of your world: The Little Mermaid
- *Defying Gravity: Wicked, The Musical
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