Henry Vaughan placed his two cents on the subject of childhood and penned a wistful melody of the loss of heavenly innocence and the burning desire to regain it once more. He took comfort in the presence of the celestial. Even when the poet himself lay long dead and gone – surely at peace after returning to that cradle of dust if his words had been any indication – in some way, fragments of him lived through the work of his hands. That’s always been the crux of the point, hasn’t it?

The matter of legacy.

(To live vicariously through the breath of another.)

“Jonna,” My supervisor tells me the first day I show up at my work, wound up brittle and sharp all at once like the angles of a blade fixed the wrong way, “You can’t hold everything. So don’t even try.” It seemed more a life philosophy than what it really was – a reprimand. I saw the resignation as it warred across his features, but there was the flash of something else as well. An even more human expression of envy. 

“Scientific knowledge is a vast human pool.” The next one says after the first has resigned due to… well, let’s just put it this way – very unfortunate circumstances. The newer one is weathered. Burnt once by fire and forever fearing the embers. Criss-crossed by the hatches of scar tissue even if it is only the spectre of a nightmare. It should have been healed over by now. It would not make sense otherwise. “Learn to swim, then only attempt to master the dive. Don’t try to take it all in. You’ll only drown.”

I was never terrified of the water. Not of the vast, unending chasm that proved to be so much more if only I could get my hands on the many gemstones it concealed – the brilliant, shining facets that elucidated all that did not make sense in this world.

I wonder what will be my legacy. 

I’ve kept the cardstock letters in a large plywood box beneath my bed. The words were threatening to fade, the dark blue ink smeared and blotted at places. I was careful in the preservation, however – acid-free tissues pressed between the pages, laid flat and upright in archival folders. A digital PDF of the transcription through scans, just in case. Cool, low humidity, away from direct sunlight. Hence, under the bed.

It occurs to me that I can’t go back to the apartment to retrieve the physical manuscript. Not too great a loss, though.

(Hallelujah for the wonders of modern technology and the download button)

I’m possibly too old for inane comforts but… god help me, it works. In some strange way. I keep a mental inventory of the things I have on me at the moment.

– A packet of facial tissue paper

– The Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard

– A bottle of disinfectant

– A backdoor key

– Staff clearance card

– Bug spray

– Limestone rock

– Forty-five pounds 

– Gerber Shard

– A faded receipt

– One blacklight keychain, purchased online

– My phone (obviously)

I think they can track the last one through the SIM card? Anyway, I ditched the card half a mile back but ended up scratching the polycarbonate grey casing something awful. I won’t be able to call or make texts without WiFi, but I’ve decided against popping into the small cafe down the road from the lab. There are cameras, and I worry that the police might have an eye on that place. I used to make my rounds every Saturday evening before my termination and the arrest warrant were released.

I find what I’m looking for in the abandoned grounds of my old family home. The wrought-iron gates have corroded through the passage of time: they stick out like rotted, sore teeth around the perimeter of the property. The fabric of my pant leg catches against the bristles and thorns from the angry rash of wilted rose bushes below. The smell is so strong though. Thick and cloying, and I can’t escape the accusations of my childhood as it carves a perch within my wheezing lungs. 

At first, all I can do is understand my surroundings and how they relate to me. The clouds are milky and unspooling like fibres, off a spindle, and the colours of the late evening sunset erupt the sky into a bleeding mass of sallow pink and yellow. The path to the main house is well-trodden but overgrown by weeds and dandelions, swallowed by the tide of loose soil and viscous mud that treats the whole garden as its personal pool. I feel the ripples cold and wet through my socks as it seeps uncomfortably through my shoes.

But I can’t stop. 

I have little time for regret. I don’t falter to reflect and mourn the simplicity of life when all it knows is the rhythm of childhood.

Because it is what lies within these grounds that has the entirety of my attention. 

Inside, is the full culmination of my work. 

Lab Report of the Vespula bacchae and the Effect of the Killing Frequency

(Mem., TO REMOVE LATER – discreetly dispose of shipment of Pyrethroid and Malathion. Previous frequency counters have encountered some… difficulties in measurement. Replacement should be arriving soon. Efforts to track down have been successful. Swiped Jason’s clearance card earlier – a higher level than mine. Report edit – still in progress. Unsubmitted, but being finalised and I am confident that a publication will be very soon in the cards.)


There is a particular strain of wasps that I believe exists scarcely in certain suburban areas. Little documentation can be found, but I have managed to obtain retellings from word-of-mouth and odd reports from pest removal services on occasion that seem to corroborate my findings. Herein lies the other point – the unusual nature of these creatures is not unknown to me. Not since I was maybe- seven, eight? I will elaborate further on this later in these passages.

Do excuse the informality that I have taken in my writings. 

Factors are often isolated to define the accuracy of the effects that it may have on the scenario. But I feel it prudent to mention that, as much as my fascination has been trained on these creatures from childhood, there is another element that plays a crucial role.

It has been kept safe within the walls of this house – the space between the floorboards where I have pried loose the corner. The item in question is a flute that spans the length of around 8-10 inches, with a circumference of around an inch and three-quarters. There is a slight tilt carved around the embouchure hole. The sound produced can be described as caustic and burning, with a distinctly bitter aftertaste. So, on the scale of pain, akin to the sensation of spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a cut from the moment the player’s lips touch the pale instrument. 

It is a bone flute that has been carved by hand. Similar in form to its Palaeolithic ancestors, but this particular specimen is made of the human tibia from the right leg.

The effect of this bone flute and its potency has been tested on the Vespula bacchae found in the nest of my old childhood home. The reason for this is simple – I feel the environment may be more conducive as it is one that both the wasps and I are familiar with. There is a unique relationship between this hive and the flute (now mine through inheritance). I have not been able to replicate the results anywhere since. 


i. Grandfather

My memories of my grandfather are the only ones that I have of my family that are not lacking. I remember his face so vividly in my mind – an angular face, sharp features, and a mop of unruly grey hair that curled around the frame of his hazel-dark eyes. The skin sagged, bulging in certain places, especially down the trail of his neck where the sinuses had formed bulbous lumps beneath his skin. He used crutches exclusively – the reason for that was that he was missing a leg from the knee down. 

My mum raised us – my brother and I – strictly to never ask, and so we didn’t. 

Like clockwork, he used to go for walks out in the evening. I’d hear him buckle on his boots from the living room and then the crack of the crutches against wood would reverberate the spaces between the house, and everyone would know it was that time of the day once more.

ii. Hive

There is the scar of an angry red mark across the back of my elbow. The skin around is raised and puckered, and it stings to the touch. When the stray wasp had- bitten, all I could remember from that encounter through the haze of shock was that it had been an odd, distressing pain. It had felt like tiny blowtorches kissing up the arms and legs of my child self. It was a particular section of the garden I had inadvertently disturbed – past the small pond of brackish water where the rain often pooled, but through the copse of Alder trees in the east side. A vast majority of the wood was dead and rotting, but there were a few thriving individuals.

The hive was papery, hidden beneath the shadow umbrella of the largest bark. It seemed to be spun, the yellow-silvery strands coiled around each other, twisting and smooth, but mangled in certain spots where the branches had speared through. It gave the illusion of a carved mound of rock at times, but it also seemed like it would fall apart at the seams at the hint of an intrusion. The entrance was barely larger than the size of a dime. Only the cavity was visible through this tear in the nest.

I suspect now that this was the place where my grandfather would inevitably conclude his walk each day. He’d gone out with a purpose, and he’d carried it out for as long as he had lived. 

iii. Flute

The wasps would go silent around that same time in the afternoon. The strobing drone of the creatures – rather audible in the distance – would cease. I had earlier believed that perhaps it was due to the cycle of its daily activity, much like birds would find a perch before night dropped. However, the rustling sounds of the workers moving about, the squirm of the larvae within the folds… it did not feel right when that subtle song was interrupted. It was more like the connection had been severed. 

I could never hear the flute. I know now it was tuned to a frequency that humans were not capable of registering. 

But I do know it had been played, because the next day, I would find the bodies of the creatures littered around its nest, peaceful in death as in sleep.

iv. Frequency

The dead wasps were piled in a mound, some crushed underfoot against the ground. Parts of those flimsy wings had been dragged away by ants and other scavengers, and the main body was curled at a small angle as it stared sightlessly into the canvas of the open sky. That really should have been the end of it, but I soon realised another thing – the dead did not rest easily.

It seemed to draw more of itself into the space of the nest – hordes of fresher fodder to fill in the empty gaps. I do not understand where the vast majority continued to pour in from, but I suspect that it still originates from within the garden. I have given up any attempt to stop the overflow, and have instead contented myself in allowing the insect’s song to unfurl long into the night like the warmth of a loving caress.

When I inherited the house, I made it my mission to clear the attic. That was when I found the box – pulling it open unearthed the bone flute, and beneath that, wrapped in a large plastic bag and elastic rubber, was a twined bundle of failed prototypes that had come before it – bones of varying shapes and sizes, drilled with misshapen holes, and I suspect, all human in origin.

I still do not know what it was that possessed me, but-

I put the bone flute to my lips and played.

And right in front of my eyes, the lone wasp that had followed me in and was currently scuttling at the corner of the fogged window, twitched and then keeled over, dead. 


What was the direct correlation between the instrument and the ability to instantaneously strip another of life?

Could the effect be replicated through any other instrument?

What caused this peculiar phenomenon?

What were the consequences?

Was there a limit on the range of frequency that could be played?

What were the implications?

What else could be done?


The theory of ‘the killing frequency’ – the flutes are capable of producing musical notes that don’t sit comfortably on the scale of the human measure of frequency and pitch. Certain melodies greatly antagonise and ‘decay’ the optimal resonant frequency of the living specimen, resulting in quick and seemingly painless death.

(More exasperatingly, this discovery appears to have been used to save money on pest removal, prior to my intervention.)

Experimental Factors:


  • Test subject 1A (Larvae) 
  • Test subject 1B (Larvae)
  • Test subject 1C (Larvae)
  • Test subject 1D (Larvae)
  • Test subject 2A (Pupa)
  • Test subject 2B (Pupa)
  • Test subject 2C (Pupa)
  • Test subject 2D (Pupa)
  • Test subject 3A (Male, Drone – one month)
  • Test subject 3B (Male, Drone – three months)
  • Test subject 3C (Male, Drone – five months)
  • Test subject 3D (Male, Drone – seven months)
  • Test subject 4A (Female, Worker – one month)
  • Test subject 4B (Female, Worker – three months)
  • Test subject 4C (Female, Worker – five months)
  • Test subject 4D (Female, Worker – seven months)
  • Test subject 5A (Queen wasp – six months)
  • Test subject 5B (Queen wasp – one year)
  • Test subject 6 (Male adult – 38 years old)

Note on instruments: 

A total of seven discarded flutes, each of varying length and thickness is used. Three have been cleaned thoroughly beforehand, but the remaining four contain shavings of marrow and dead skin cells and other epithelial tissues inside of the length of flute. A noticeable difference in the quality of sound when played.


The wasps were isolated into plastic tubes with miniature holes for air. The soundproofing of the basement was adequate to provide a suitably silent backdrop as the experiment was carried out. The frequency counter was laid on the table – the closest approximate measure I could discover to note the overlap of transverse and longitudinal waves. The bone flute is then played, and the results recorded in the chart below. 

The experiment went off on a tangent here and was repeated with different sorts of common garden insects and pests. The fresh earth after rain provided more than enough earthworms as well as centipedes and spiders. Three cockroaches were conveniently caught in the basement as well. 

Curiously, none of the later specimens survived the frequency either, but only after two or three notes were played in tandem. The type of musical note as well as the time span of sound were further factors that affected this outcome. More detailed data and specifications are kept in a secondary notebook. But… I do wonder if they are truly dead. I cannot measure heartbeats. They are far too small. Every tiny limb is cracked and distorted and they appear to be lifeless on all accounts.

(I cannot shake the feeling that they are still screaming.)

This line of experimentation is brilliant as it afforded a new, escalating venture of possibility. Earlier, an opportunity fell right into my lap, thankfully metaphorical in this case – I have added a rat to the inventory. I found it scuttling through the old ventilation shafts in the wet kitchen, and when a small segment gave way, it crashed to the ground, stunned, before my feet. 

It took multiple notes of a song for the rat to finally go still. 

Side note:

I have conducted further research into the origin of the flutes. I have put together the pieces of the puzzle, and I do believe that the bone flute I now hold in my hands must have once been attached to the knee joint of my grandfather. He has taken the answer I so desperately seek to the confines of his grave. Furthermore, I have also discovered that the other flutes belong to various other parts of the human body – proximal phalanx, femur, humerus, radius, sternum, rib, and a hollowed segment of the vertebral column.

I think this is why Grandfather had a closed-casket funeral.


I retract the ‘harmless’ part of my hypothesis.

Test Subject 6 was… more difficult. I had underestimated that man’s suspicions, and it was truly unfortunate that he had caught me in the restricted area of the lab before I had time to finish wrapping up all the loose ends. At that time, I had been rather preoccupied in attempting to finalise my report on this experimentation. My former supervisor had little family ties and I knew nobody cared for him outside of the cordial demeanour he wore so readily at work, so I was forced to accommodate an extra passenger while deciding to make the trip to this place. 

Within the span of the two months it took me to prepare, Jason’s disappearance had raised alarms. I’m still not sure what exactly tipped the police off, but I suppose I can’t undo my own carelessness. 

It is what it is.

It’s alright though. I’ve had plenty of time since then to perfect my work.

It was truly fascinating – the melody that had stopped his heart. I composed it from a mixture of the readings from his hooked ECG, and the rattle of his breath as he stared in terror and hatred from where I’d zip-tied him to the bar of the radiator. His song was an amalgamation of a bittersweet crescendo drowned within the quiet and unsteady footsteps of a light cantabile. My own breath was limitless, exalted, as it soared free as an unbound bird, darting and twisting through the many cloistered, calcite holes in the instrument – the honeycomb trill of a wasp’s silken nest.

He died, screaming the entire way. 

Therefore and on record, I will now retract this part of my previous hypothesis.


I do believe that this experimentation has proved fruitful. The data that I have collected goes far beyond human understanding and instead treads the imprinted footsteps of those things unknown and vast and transient in the sense of eternity. I have found that not only is there a direct correlation between the two – instrument and audience – but furthermore there is a way to accurately map out these rhythms to get a desired outcome. I do not wish to overstay my welcome in this place, however. My songs have become marred on increasingly frequent occasions by the reedy wail of sirens in the distance. But it doesn’t matter.

The wasps are amenable to guiding me to a new nest anyway.

Written by: Trishta

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