The head of your pickaxe has been reinforced with depleted uranium. You swing its leather-bound neck with weary arms, and the honeycomb comes loose in thick ingots of iron-beeswax alloy. Throughout nine years of tunneling through the world’s guts alone, it has often served as your only friend.
You had the misfortune of being born on a planet without a surface. Its core serves as something of a thermodynamic north star in a universe with only two meaningful directions: inward and outward. Near the center, humanity has built a sphere of steel cities at a temperate distance, encircled by nebulous aquifers and nevergreen forests; beyond these is the chaos of swirling tectonics through which you wander.
This was once a drillbee hive, but its brittle shell indicates that it has been abandoned for decades. You are glad for their absence; such insects make no distinction between stone and flesh as they burrow about with their rotary stingers. As you hammer your way further into the structure, your fireless torch reveals an intricate weave of black hexagons all around you. Some of them are no larger than your fingernails, whereas others are wide enough for a child to crawl through.
You breach the inner sanctum. The former queen’s inner and outer skeletons remain present on her throne as an anthropomorphic tangle of chitin and bone. This suggests that she may have begun her life as a human, but if so, it is clear that she was almost entirely insect by the end. At her feet is a pool of obsidian honey- once a bubbling fountain, now a saccharine glaze. At first it is almost entirely crystallized, but after a few quick blows from your faithful implement, it returns to the soft consistency that it has not known for decades.
You take it into your cupped hands and drink deeply. The sweet flavor lingers on into your dreams, where you find yourself sprawled against the edge of the world, gazing outward into a void that cannot be.