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B MOVIE

By Leigh V Twersky

Content Warnings: Bees, body horror, forced medical procedures, violence.

Hello? Is that Anthony Houghton? Thomas Ifield here… Fine, thanks, and you? Good. Look, I’ll get straight to the point. I liked your audition piece very much and would love you to play Tom… Oh! Fantastic! I’m so pleased… The next step? I’ll send you a contract, and then you can come up here for the shoot.


*


It’s easy, Anthony. Take the Weymouth train from Waterloo as far as Poole and get one of the frequent ferries from the harbour. Dunmere Island is only twenty minutes away. Just let me know when, and I’ll be ready for you.


*


Great to see you again! You know, the minute you walked in the door at the Actors’ Space, I knew you were the one I wanted for Tom. Funny, isn’t it, how one develops a gut instinct for these things? But you’re right in every sense: not too tall, so more of the antihero, easy on the eye, London accent… people’ll identify with you. 

Pleasant trip? Yes, we are close to the mainland but also cut off, so hopefully, there’ll be no interruptions, and we’ll be able to get on with the filming undisturbed. 

I’ll show you to your accommodation. Just one thing – please go outside if you want to smoke. There’s ample space on the grounds and even a covered porch if it rains… Here’s your room. Nice view of the sea through the pine trees. Very different from London.


Sure you can stay for the duration of the shoot?… Good. I want to finish so I can get on with editing. Any other commitments at the moment?… No family? I vaguely recall an interview you gave some time ago… Girlfriends?… Just split up?… Oh dear, that’s a shame. It is for her? Well, if you’re unattached and not hung up over it, that’s fantastic.


*


Thank you. Marks and Spencer. Wanted to make your first meal a bit special. 

Erm, before I go through the script, I think it’s only fair I should tell you something about myself and why I’m not eating with you, so you’ll understand if I suddenly need to go and lie down or rush away for no apparent reason. Several years ago, I had cancer… of the colon… Mm, it’s always a dreadful shock… Well, I had the lot: surgery – famous surgeon – chemo and radiotherapy and a colostomy bag… I like to be open about it as soon as I meet people. It’s best to be honest about such things, don’t you agree? Saves a lot of problems and awkwardness later. However, it does mean I get tired every so often, and the blasted thing gurgles a fair bit occasionally, but hey! Shouldn’t knock it – it’s keeping me alive!


*


Relax, I’ll pour you a nice coffee. Been up for hours. Always rise with the sun, me. So I’ve already had my breakfast.


You’ve read the script? Not all of it. I suppose some of it is tough going, but it’ll be worth it.

Jam? Honey? I recommend the latter, locally produced, organic… Good, I thought you’d like it… Sure. Help yourself.  

The other actors are coming later. I wanted to do your scenes first. Oops! Hear that? That’s my bag. Doesn’t put you off, does it? Sure? Glad to hear it. I know it’s not really a proper script yet per se, more a collection of ideas, so I can’t expect you to understand straightaway what the film’ll be about. I’ll run through the plot with you over lunch.


*


More salad?... Okay, I’ll keep it for tonight. 

As I promised earlier, the plot. Tom, your character, is a bit of a recluse. You’re a surgeon at the local hospital and very successful too, but the work’s been getting to you for some time. You quit and move to a big old house, not unlike this one, on the edge of town. You’ve got a huge garden, with a pale green beehive hidden in some bushes. You don’t remember seeing it when you first viewed the property but are instantly drawn to it. 

As time passes, you acquire more hives and take up apiculture with a passion. Your beloved bees are all you have in the world besides your home. Your honey gets sold in a little grocery store down the road, the neighbours are tolerant, life is good. But when the old boy next door dies, his widow sells to a widower, who takes an instant dislike to you and the bees and starts complaining. His two sons, about eighteen or nineteen, run amok in your garden, disturb the bees and get stung. There’s uproar. You, however, stand your ground and refuse to get rid of your bees. The new neighbours say the hives are dangerous and try for an injunction, but it’s turned down. More cake? Yes, I imagine it is nice. Anyway, they’re livid and one night break into your garden and poison all your hives except your original one, which they don’t see. Next day, you’re devastated to find most of your bees dead. You have a terrible row with the neighbours, who taunt you and gloat at your misfortune. Just put your plate in the sink. Thanks. And because you haven’t got so much money, you can’t afford to replace them and have to sell the now-empty hives. 

Time passes, and you keep very quiet about the remaining hive. You tend to these bees in secret and allow them to keep their honey, for you’re afraid that the neighbours’ll guess what’s going on if you sell any more in the corner shop. Heartbroken, you fall ill…

You’ll find out later. Today I merely wish to set the scene for the story. I’m not going to divulge the whole plot until you’ve got used to acting with the bees. That’s one of the reasons I got you here earlier.

So you could meet your fellow stars.


*


Don’t worry, Anthony, they won’t sting you. They’ve been lightly tranquillised with an alcohol spray… Just try and stay calm when they swarm round your face… Yes, I know it’d be safer if you had protective gear. You will have in some of the early scenes in the garden, but I have to show you bonding with the bees to the point where you allow them to buzz round your unprotected head… That comes later on in the film… 

It’s a company that specialises in hiring out swarms of bees for movies… Their name? Rent-A-Swarm… Just outside Bournemouth, not far… No, of course they don’t count them, but they expect a hefty number to be returned safely… Yes, the queen is with them… They’re well accommodated here… 

You see, they’re quite docile, they’ve been in your hair for about five minutes now, and you haven’t flinched… Anthony! You’re a natural! I’m very impressed… Oh, there’s one on your neck… Don’t touch it… Well done! See? It’s flown off… I’ll carry on with the plot this evening… Great work! You’ll be able to act unhindered by the bees humming around you. My instincts were spot on. What’s that? I can’t hear you, they’re buzzing so loudly… 

No, you’re all right, go off now and leave me to clear up. I must ask you always to let me sort everything out at the end, please. It’s easier for me to do than to explain where it all goes.


*


What I love about the end of September, Anthony, is the gentleness of the heat. The fierceness you get in August is over, and everything is slowing down and transforming into the autumn explosion of colour. And here on Dunmere, I’m privileged to be all alone in this gorgeous Victorian villa with the wisteria – so lovely in spring over the porch – and this delightful patio. Sunshine gives the wine something extra, don’t you agree? Oh, go on! Another glass won’t hurt! And your cigarette smoke wafts harmlessly away. I even like the smell of it here. No thanks. Just look at those trees! No, the deciduous ones, the reds, yellows, golds and browns. Apparently, the heatwave produced extra sugars in the leaves or something, and that’s why the colours are so intense. Heard it on the telly. 

Oh, sorry about that. Tummy rumble! I do hope you’re not embarrassed. I’m not, and I think that’s the important thing. If I’d been coy about my colostomy, you’d have found it buttock-clenching, but my frankness has made it easier for you. You see, it’s not such a terrible thing. Okay, it can pong a bit from time to time, I know, and that’s why you turned away just then, isn’t it, to spare me that little wince, but don’t worry. Over the years, you develop a thick skin and grow so accustomed to the smell that, eventually, you stop noticing it altogether. Anyway, if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’d better go and… Help yourself to more wine in the meantime… Shan’t be long!


*


Where were we? Oh, yes! The plot. The actual scenes where you’re interacting with other characters still have to be scripted. Don’t worry, ideas are constantly buzzing – oops, sorry, forgive the pun – around in my head, and it’s just a matter of writing them down. 

So, you’ve fallen ill. Bad stomach pains. Flashback to a series of unpleasant colonoscopies. They find bowel cancer. Unusual for someone in their late twenties, but anyway, this is exactly what I went through. You wake up in the ward, drips and catheters in every orifice in your body, and the consultant explains you’ve had a colostomy and will have to learn how to use a bag. 

Of course, your trials aren’t over. You have to undergo chemotherapy, which makes your hair fall out and gives you the worst nausea you’ve ever had, followed by exhausting radiotherapy. 

Eventually, you’re given the all-clear and can return to some sort of life, but a lot of shit happens... You’ll find out later. 

Anyway, you go home, walking slowly in your garden, taking it easy, wearing loose-fitting clothes to accommodate your bag. You check your clandestine hive of bees. They’re fine. But as you hobble towards your house, you see your neighbours glaring at you from their kitchen window, intent on rekindling the vendetta. You nod at them, but there’s no friendly response. Then their back door opens, and out storm the dad and the two sons. Confrontational… and I’m getting very tired, Anthony. I’m afraid I’m going to have to lie down… Oh, that’s very kind of you. Normally I’d say leave it for the morning, but it would be so lovely if I could get up without having to deal with dirty crockery first thing. I’m really worn out. See you tomorrow. Have a nice evening.


*


Breakfast in the garden’s one of life’s special treats, I always think. Thanks so much for doing the dishes. I hate having to clear the sink before I can make coffee in the morning. One of the joys of solitude. Nobody else’s mess cramping your style. 

I can see you really like that honey! Heard you go out last night. Yes, Poole’s a smashing town, especially along the waterfront, so lively… Bit rowdy sometimes, I worry I might get knocked or jostled, so I rarely go there. You got the last ferry okay? Have to be careful. They leave at eleven-fifteen sharp. Heaven help you if you’re a minute late. And of course, high season, all the hotels are fully booked.

Why would you want to check out Rent-A-Swarm? I told you, didn’t I? Oh, Anthony, you’ve upset me now. Don’t you trust me? Well, why else would you look them up? I thought we had a good thing going here… They’re moving premises as far as I know, that’s why they’re not listed at the moment. But you saw for yourself yesterday how safe the bees were… Look, I promise you’ll be okay with them. I’ll take care of you.

I suppose it’s best to get this out in the open now rather than later… Anthony! I think you’re fantastic, and I’d be very sorry to lose your collaboration on this film. No, you’re overreacting, I’ve been perfectly honest with you. Check with your bank, you’ll see I’ve already made the first payment… If you had an agent, it’d still be the same. Equity rate, but you’d be losing commission and waiting ages to receive the money. Don’t complain, this is a good deal. Trust me… Do you really need another cigarette? I’m worried about your smoking, that’s all. All right, this is what I suggest. Take the morning off, go into Poole, potter around, have a think, and if you want, return for lunch. You’ll realise I’m being reasonable. Then we can start over again… give each other a second chance. 

And before you go, clean your teeth. Get the smell of stale ash out of your mouth.


*


So glad you came back, Anthony. Sort of knew you would, somehow. After all, whatever else has happened, this is still a job. I don’t blame you for having second thoughts or cold feet. My working methods are unconventional, to say the least. But they’ll be rewarding. Believe me.

Now, today, I’d like to film you with the bees and carry on with the plot after dinner. So, this is the action. That cupboard over there’ll represent your neighbours. They’ve just threatened to burn your sole remaining beehive. You’re defiant and yell, ‘Over my dead body!’ while the bees are clustering around your head. You add, ‘You’ll never kill my bees!’ and with that, lift your hands up… No, like this, in front of your face, yes, that’s it, and the bees’ll rise and hover, right there above your head… Amazed? Well, I told you, they’re specially trained. And they seem to like you, which is the main thing. So, remember the lines, camera rolling, and action!

…And cut! 

Not bad, for a rehearsal. It’s my bees, not the bees… Yes, very important. The script has to be exact. And I’m sure you were comfortable – you looked most relaxed. I’m relieved we had that little contretemps this morning. It’s just what we needed to clear the air. 

The next bit of this scene has to be done with the other cast members, so we’ll call it a day. Thank you, Anthony. A good afternoon’s work. No, and I can’t repeat this too often, please allow me to do all the clearing up. The equipment has to go in that room opposite, and I’ve got the only key. Thanks anyway.


*


I thought we’d eat inside tonight, as it’s a bit cooler now. Afraid it’s just a ready-made chill-cook meal again. Don’t worry about me, I ate earlier. I have my special times, you see, but there’s plenty of wine. Here’s to us! And the success of the film!

Title?… I’ve decided to call it B – no e’s – Movie… Yes, I think it is rather witty. 


At least with this supermarket stuff, there’s no washing up. 

Right! Now, we already looked at the next bit of plot. Your neighbours have leapt over the fence and are going to set fire to your hive. You defy them and shoo the bees into the boughs of your surrounding fruit trees, but the neighbours beat you up. Three on one, and you’ve only just got over major surgery, so you’re pretty weak, but you chase them off with a stick. However, the father runs behind you and torches the hive. You scream as the lads pull you to the ground. As they do, they rip your shirt open and see your colostomy bag. They are disgusted and go, ‘Ugh!’ and call you a shitbag. The father kicks you in the side. They leave you lying there.

When you get up, you struggle over to the hive, but it’s a smouldering write-off. With tears in your eyes, you search frantically for your bees and are overjoyed to find them in a dense huddle in a tree far from the smoke. You apologize to them: ‘I’m sorry. I couldn’t protect you or save your home. Please forgive me. I’ll do anything you want.’

Their buzzing gets louder and louder, deafening you. You put your hands to your ears as if they are telling you something unbearable. You say, ‘No, you mustn’t thank me. I didn’t save your lives or your hive! I am unworthy!’ You collapse to your knees. The bees are still hovering round your head without harming you. ‘Thank you!’ you say. ‘Whatever you wish.’

You get up and slowly stagger back to your house, the bees following you inside. You check none have been left behind in the twilight and then close the door… Yes, we’ll film that outside, in my garden, with the trained bees, exactly as I’ve described. The fight with the neighbours will be shot separately. It gets a lot darker, Anthony, just you wait… But right now, I’m ready for bed. Knackered, as I’m sure you are. It’s been a very tiring day. See you at breakfast. Night night.


*


I wonder if that’s the end of the fine weather, Anthony. More toast and honey? It’s no bother at all… 

Finished already? I suppose in a minute, you’ll need to go and make use of those bowels you’re still blessed with… Oh, am I embarrassing you? Sorry, don’t mean to, it’s just I can barely remember what it’s like to sit down and have a good old shit. Not that I miss it… Of course not, I agree, it’s not really an appropriate conversation topic for the breakfast table, but then you know all about the workings of my inner self, so it’s only fair… No way, Anthony, I’m not bitter or jealous, just admiring the sturdiness of your digestive tract. You should thank God for your good health, it’s the most valuable thing you have… Well, as I’m not hung up about all this and just speak my mind, I don’t expect others to be… Okay, call that naïve, but you know the score here… And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think my bag’s full.


*


Fucking brilliant, Anthony! You really had me thinking you were in a trance then as the bees spoke to you. I’ve always been in awe of actors – the mystery of your talent is spellbinding.

I’m hoping to get it distributed with another British film as a double bill, but if that doesn’t work out, there’s always television. Plus, of course, all the independent festivals. Anthony, one way or another, I’m going to make you a star.

You don’t have to apologise. Put it down to artistic temperament. A great actor’s allowed to throw a little tantrum every now and then, isn’t he? And you see, I’m not obsessed with your bodily functions. I’m obsessed – if that’s the right word; I prefer preoccupied – with bodily functions per se. And you can’t blame me for that… 

No, you must be patient. The other actors won’t be here for some time. I haven’t cast all the parts yet. Remember, I’ve still to finish the script. I’ve been thinking we’ll complete your solo scenes now, and there’ll be a gap before we do the rest of the film, during which you can either go back to London or – and there’s absolutely no pressure at all – stay here with me. Keep me company. Have a little holiday. Or help me with the screenplay. It’s up to you. Don’t mind either way… 

Anyway, see you later. It’s okay. I’ll tidy up if you don’t mind. No, please. I prefer to do it myself. I don’t want you tripping over stuff in there and being unable to work.


*


Mm, they are quite good, aren’t they, even if I say so myself! Tasted them earlier. Not supposed to, really. Bit too rich… Couldn’t resist, though. Always been good at making pastry, and there’s nothing like homemade sausage rolls. The secret’s in keeping everything as cold as possible. Go on, finish them, Anthony, they can’t be reheated, and you’re eyeing the last one… 

Thank you for the praise. And in return, I like to think I’m stuffing quality grub into your strong stomach… There’s no need to bang your cutlery down like that, I’m merely paying you a compliment, visualising the passage of my cooking through your gut. Oh, Anthony! I didn’t realise you were so touchy. Thought you were over that. Look, it doesn’t matter about the plate, I’ve got plenty more.


*


Are we going to sulk all night? I simply said… Is that what you think, what all this is about? You stupid, fucking wanker, Anthony! If I fancied you, I’d have made my move by now, believe me! You’re young, not even thirty, and think you know it all, but you don’t. What have you seen of life, eh? You reckon I envy you your robust innards and am obsessing over fucking you up the arse to steal a bit of my lost health back? You do! I’ve seen it in the way you look at me, Anthony. No, you’re afraid, uneasy with me, scared by my brutal tongue… 

How many times do I have to tell you, I DON’T FANCY YOU, ANTHONY, AT ALL. I’m not that way inclined, and even if I were, you’re not, so… Come back and help me clear up this mess – your mess, I hasten to add. There’s a good fellow. Then we’ll have a drink. I sure could use one.


*

You get what you pay for, Anthony. This brandy’s good but costs enough to make you break into a sweat in the off-licence. Bloody worth it, though! Let’s drink to the bees! 

LONG LIVE THE BEES! CHEERS! 

Mm, this is certainly the bevvy for the long winter evenings… Another? Sorry, must be the stress of fighting, what’s left of my insides is making one hell of a racket. Whining, gurgling, rumbling… Get a lot of wind. Uncomfortable rather than painful, that’s why my face is a perpetual grimace… Sure! Help yourself. You’re welcome! It’s there to be drunk.

What happens after you let the bees in and close the door? Ah, Anthony, that’s something you have to deduce from later events in the story. I’m not planning to show that on film, but you’ll find out soon enough. Do you have to have a smoke? It’s just I want to tell you the subsequent plot developments… No, if you must, then I insist you go out.


*


No more interruptions, please. I loathe the smell of tobacco in closed spaces. The mucous membranes in my nose and throat react immediately. Most unpleasant. Now, where was I? Oh yes! The mystery of what goes on behind the closed door. Well, forget about that for a moment, Anthony, and think forward a few days.

Your vile neighbours have got it in for you still. They’ve seen the bees swarming in your garden, despite thinking they’d killed them all off, and put two and two together. Now they’re after your blood. But they won’t come for you during the daytime because the bees are hovering around your door, and they’re cowards. They’ve been watching your house and seen the bees take up their position every day as if they’re guarding you. But after dark, the bees disappear. They don’t know where they go because they burnt the last hive and think they must sleep in one of your pear trees. So they plan their attack accordingly.

They come for you one moonlit night.

The three of them steal into your garden. Silent, like beasts of prey. They scurry past the back of your house to the kitchen door. It’s bolted, but the sons kick it down and, with blood-curdling cries, invade your home.

Cut to your living room. You’re watching telly, but the noise disturbs you. You get to your feet, ready for the onslaught.

‘Who’s there?’ you call out, the fear in your trembling voice obvious, but there’s no need to ask. You know who your assailants are. When they appear at the door, you realise you’re trapped.

The sons scream at you, ‘Hey! Shitbag!’ and smack your face and pull your shirt out of your trousers. The houses are detached in this street, so nobody can hear. You beg them to leave you alone. ‘Please,’ you say, ‘I’ve done nothing to you. I’ve been ill.’ 

But they won’t listen.

‘We told you to get rid of those fucking bees,’ yells the dad, ‘but you defied us, Shitbag!’ 

The sons take up the echo, ‘Shitbag! Shitbag!’ They hit your colostomy bag till it bursts and the contents are sprayed over your clothes and spill onto your threadbare carpet. They groan in disgust and hold their noses. The father punches you right on your jaw, so you fall backwards. 

‘You’re pathetic,’ he says, and the three intruders burst out laughing and kick you, but carefully so as not to get your half-digested excrement on their shoes. 

You are crying from shame and pain. ‘Please, leave me alone. I don’t want any trouble.’

‘Well,’ says the father, ‘you should’ve thought of that before you allowed those fucking things to rampage round our neighbourhood and sting my boys.’

‘They were provoked!’ you protest.

‘A fucking danger, that’s what they are. We were right to burn the fuckers. We tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t listen, and now you’re gonna pay.’

You open your eyes wide and scream. ‘What are you going to do?’

‘Hold Shitbag,’ he orders his lads. ‘Make sure the cunt stays still. What we done to your bees, we’re gonna do to you too. Gonna make sure you never get in anyone’s face ever again. Let’s go, Shitbag!’

You struggle to free yourself from the sons’ strong arm-lock but in vain. ‘Where are you taking me?’

‘For a ride,’ answers the father. ‘One-way trip!’ They burst out laughing and frog-march you out your back door into their white transit van. The dad drives while the boys sit on you. It’s a bumpy journey, and you don’t stop yelling – you’re in great pain from the beating you’ve sustained, and you’re embarrassed to have your stoma exposed. Plus, it’s highly unpleasant being soiled. Eventually, the van stops, and they drag you out, pushing and hitting you all the time. 

You’re on the brow of a hill on a nearby deserted heath. The father clears his throat and mumbles, ‘It’s all over, Shitbag. This is as far as it goes. Say your prayers.’ 

The boys are holding you as you tremble at the sight of the dad drawing a long knife, the blade glinting in the glare of the headlights. 

‘No!’ you scream. ‘Don’t!’ 

‘Shut it!’ 

The older son leaves you in his brother’s grip and punches you in the mouth, splitting your lip. You start sobbing, pleading for mercy, but suddenly feel sharp metal on your throat.’ 

‘No, Dad!’ says the younger son, all excited. ‘Rip his belly open. Let’s see his guts fall out!’ 

‘He ain’t got no guts!’ retorts the father, and all three of them guffaw again. 

You look up and say, ‘Please, God!’

Suddenly, there is a strange noise, a whining hum, getting louder and louder, like the revving of an approaching chapter of motorbikes. 

‘What’s that fucking racket?’ asks the father. 

‘Never mind that, Dad!’ says the older son, ‘Cut him!’ 

‘Wait!’ interrupts the younger boy. ‘I think it’s old Shitbag himself! 

They look at you and push you violently to the ground, trapping you under their feet. 

‘Fucking hell!’ remarks the older son. ‘Sounds like it’s coming from his belly.’


‘Ugh!’ replies his brother. ‘That’s disgusting! I bet it’s all the shit inside him about to explode ’cos of his nerves!’ 

The three of them snigger and start pulling your trousers and underpants down to have a look.

Then you hear them shriek and watch them stagger back. 

As you lay on the ground, supine, legs in the air, knees bent up to your chest in an attempt to cover your leaking stoma, you notice them staring at where your arse once was, a huge gaping hole that stretches right round to your scrotum. You’re feeling terribly ashamed now, and exposed, and try to cover yourself up, but the noise crescendos. Your enemies have their hands on their ears, desperate to drown out that infernal sound, their eyes popping in disbelief at what they see coming out of your hole without warning. 

Bees. Hundreds of them, angry, buzzing with hate.

Your foes freeze, but they wouldn’t have stood a chance had they legged it. Within seconds they’re carpeted by dozens of the insects, stinging away at their hands, eyes and noses, blinding them and rendering them incapable of fending off the attack. Some block their nasal airways, forcing them to open their mouths and gasp for air, then in fly others, going for their throats, which swell up. And so, the victims suffer a slow, agonising death by suffocation, spread out on the grass, faces swollen and puffy from the bee venom, dark blue tongues hanging out of gaping mouths. 

Satisfied you are out of danger, you get to your feet and salute those that died to save your life and their home. The surviving bees – and there are still a few score – swarm back through your anus into your hollow abdominal cavity. ‘Thank you!’ you say and pull your trousers up. You nod in contentment, knowing that the police will get most of the story right. Forensic science will identify the little killers but no more than that. 

It’s about three miles back to your house, and although you are in a frightful state, you have to walk. You’ve no money for a bus, let alone a cab, and besides, you don’t want witnesses to spot you near the scene of the attack.

Safely home, you clean yourself up and dress your wounds. 

Next morning, a bright, sunny one, you crouch down by your open kitchen door and drop your pyjama trousers to allow the bees out. You smile and wave to them as they fly into your garden for nectar. From that day on, you know they’ll always protect you. Then the camera zooms out to an aerial shot of the town, and that’s the end.

Anthony? What are you thinking? Please, say something! Do you like it? I suppose it is a little far-fetched, but that appeals to me. It probably is my reaction – my rationalising of what happened to me, to make it positive, the sweetness that shall come forth from the strong, haha… You’ll still do it, won’t you? Oh! Thank God for that! I know it’s a bit creepy, but I want that sort of shuddery twist at the denouement… No, don’t try and persuade me to change any of it. As long as you’re cool with it, Anthony, I’m happy… Don’t worry about special effects, all under control… Fine, have another cigarette, but not indoors.


*


You have a wonderful way of conveying emotion with the tiniest flicker of your eyes. Do you know that, Anthony? I’m your number one fan. I really believed your glee at your enemies’ demise… No, honestly, and I hope you can recreate that when we come to shoot the scene with the other actors. But what has really gladdened me is how the bees seem to like you and follow you around on set and – this is really weird – go to you when you beckon them. I think your relationship with them is going to make this film a classic. You see, now they’re hovering by you as though something within you attracts them… Plus, I’m also chuffed because some of the close-ups from the rehearsal footage are more than usable. 

I’ve made a start on the dialogues. As you must have realised last night, I’ve got a pretty good idea what the precise words will be and the action. We’ll make a great team, you and me.

Okay, you go and have a rest, you’ve worked hard all afternoon… No, really, I can clear up myself. It’s good exercise. Plus, I have to gather up the bees for the night… I’m positive. Please, Anthony. See you at dinner… Goodbye!


*


ANTHONY! 

WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE PLAYING AT? DIDN’T I ASK YOU NOT TO? 

OH MY GOD! SO NOW YOU’VE SEEN!


*


Don’t fucking moan, Anthony, you asked for that punch! Yes, I can see your nose is bleeding. Couldn’t give a toss if it is broken.

What did you have to come back in here for?

YOUR CIGARETTES?

You mean you disobeyed me for a lousy smoke?

Here, take the fucking things! Oops! Wasn’t meant to hit you in the eye. Sorry. Smoking really does damage your health, haha… I told you not to come back in here. You know my secret now. Before you were meant to… Well, you had to find out sooner or later. Just didn’t want it to happen like this… Anthony! Where are you going? Don’t run away. Come back… PLEASE, ANTHONY, I BEG YOU, DON’T LEAVE ME!

You won’t get far. They’ll make sure of that. They’ll protect me, like they always have, ever since that day…


*


How’s the patient? Shan’t stay too long. Mustn’t wear you out. Don’t worry, you’re being well looked after. You’ve been out for a long time.

You’re in the equipment room, opposite where we rehearse. No, you’ve never been inside. I suppose you’ve wondered what’s in here. Now you know.  

Bet you feel nauseous. It’s only natural. Don’t be alarmed at all the tubes. You’ll be grateful for them soon enough. 

Oh dear, Anthony! You do look drowsy. Okay, mate, get some sleep. I’ll come back later.


*


Well, that’s better, isn’t it! No solids, I’m afraid, but you are allowed a drink of water. Just a couple of sips to quench your thirst… There! How does that feel? 

The swelling’s gone down, but then, they didn’t sting you that much. Because they like you. Didn’t want to kill you, just make sure you didn’t do anything stupid, like run away. Not now you’ve forged such a great rapport. 

Anyway, they’re sorry they went for you and wish you better. I’m sure you forgive them. They’d be so happy to know you’ve put it all behind you, yes? I know it’s hard for you to talk right now, but a gentle nod would suffice… Oh, thank you. They’ll be so relieved, delighted in fact. I suppose you’re concerned about your job… Thought you might be. Well, don’t worry, I still want you in the lead role and have postponed casting the other parts indefinitely until you’re back on your feet again. So there’s no need for any actory tantrums. Stay put – not that you’ve got much option – and concentrate on the film, and you’ll be fine.

Meanwhile, I’ve been paying a regular salary into your account. You’re incapacitated but still earning, so being laid up is not all bad… Don’t try and struggle, mate, you’ll disconnect the drips and catheters… 

Hey! Don’t cry! Everything’s going to be all right! Yes, I’m sure it’s sore, rather painful, in fact, but believe me, it does get better, I know… And when you’re up and about again, I’ll make you your favourite. That’s a promise.


*


Calm down, Anthony! I can’t speak to you while you’re like this. Unless you shut the fuck up this very instant, I’m walking out that door.

Temper! Temper! 

Right. Suit yourself.


*


Have we cooled down? We need to talk, but not when you’re on the verge of hysteria.

This has all happened because, quite simply, my dear boy, you were chosen.


Before we met.

I’d known you were right ever since I saw you on telly and read that interview. How my heart went out to you, young kid growing up with no dad. When I found out you were an actor, between agents, as they say, whose career needed a bit of a boost, Anthony, my – our – destiny was spelled out before me. The casting requirements were tailor-made to lure you here. So easy, but then, you were perfect. At the audition, my choice was approved. By them. The bees. From inside. They could tell you were the one. Agreeable. Unfazed. 

But you wanted to leave us, run away, like we always knew you would. You’d have blabbed, and we couldn’t have that, could we?

You see, Anthony, once they’d picked you and bonded, there was no way they’d let you escape. That’s why they pursued you. You’d never have got away. They’d always have found you.

No, you fool! Don’t you see? They didn’t want to kill you, just sting you enough to knock you out, so you wouldn’t abandon them. They want you to be together. 

Forever. 

They’re getting ready for you even as we speak. Better get used to it, mate. And now, I’d say it was time for a nap.

We’ll chat again. Later.


*


Nice little sleep, Anthony? You look agitated. I hope to remove all the tubes and drips as soon as possible. You’re doing very well; you were an exceptionally strong, healthy patient. But it was a major operation… No, stupid, not the bee stings, they were nothing. I’m talking about the surgery, why you’ve got all those catheters… You mean you haven’t noticed anything? Well, I suppose in all fairness, you have been very poorly, but now you’re a bit more alert, put your hand on your stomach… That’s it, there on your left, lower down… Feel that? Don’t look so surprised, it’s your stoma… Stop shaking and fidgeting, if you dislodge those drips, it’ll be much more unpleasant fitting them back while you’re conscious… Oh, come on, Anthony, give us a smile! It’s not that bad, is it? You’re still alive… Yes, I did, I removed it – the final touch to prepare you for your new role. I still remember it all, like I gave it up only yesterday… No, it can’t be reversed… It is rather funny, isn’t it? 

You don’t appreciate the joke.

Just think of it as method acting. We’re identical now, we’ll be able to share the same experiences, and both have bags… Hmm, it was a tiny bit naughty, not getting your consent first. No, there was nothing wrong with you, quite the reverse… but there was no option. It was urgent.

They were getting impatient.

Rest now, mate. I’ll explain when you wake up.


*


How are we feeling? I’ve brought you some mineral water… Oh, Anthony! You’re not mad at me, are you? After all I’ve done for you. Okay, I haven’t been entirely honest. You see, there is some more plot background I’ve so far omitted, and yes, I lied about Rent-A-Swarm, but hey! I can explain, and then you’ll understand… You see, you’ve already started to…

I am Tom, or rather, Tom was me many years ago. You saw, Anthony, with your own eyes when you barged back into the film room for your miserable packet of fags, me, Thomas Ifield, collecting up the bees into my own arse. Every word I told you about Tom is true. Even the bit about having once been a surgeon. And very handy that has been too. 

I saved the bees from those bastards, and they thanked me by building their home inside me, where I have a… vacancy. They bit open the scar tissue – it didn’t hurt too much – and flew in, promising to look out for me, which they did and still do. We protect each other. They punished those assholes and have made sure you won’t desert me without first doing something in return… I’m coming to that.

You see, what I failed to tell you before – and this is the really hilarious part – is that my notes got mixed up with someone else’s. I had that operation for nothing. My condition was not life-threatening. Found out later. Colleagues, eh? What’s the world coming to when you can’t even trust a renowned surgeon with a knighthood to get it right? Sir Julian… Damn! Surname’s on the tip of my tongue… Strange! I can remember his FRCS, but not… 

Anyway, he was so apologetic, abject really, offered me a fortune in hush money. Only I wasn’t going to keep quiet. Should’ve settled out of court, but I wanted to destroy him. He was so powerful, and I’d left the profession. He must’ve bribed the top brass… They closed ranks. I lost everything. 

I could do nothing. Bad enough having my life ruined by an unnecessary op, but it didn’t stop there. I was left infertile. That’s why I so wanted to kill him.

However, even that was denied me. Fate beat me to it. He died in a car crash one year later, leaving a widow and baby boy. Divine retribution. I was incandescent. That accident wasn’t sufficient revenge for me.

But there is a God. A just one who brought the bees into my life and helped me succeed as a director. And an evil one with a cruel sense of humour. Now I really do have cancer.

I haven’t got long, Anthony. That’s why I’m making this film. While I still can. A few more summers in this idyll and my three-score years and ten will be up. Besides, I’m getting weaker – even though I managed to land a decent punch on your nose!

The bees need a new home. They’ve got used to my abdominal cavity, but they aren’t stupid. They know when I die, they’ll be up for eviction but could never go back to a hive. And that’s where you come in. Because they love you, and you’re still young and strong, they’ll have a secure roof over their heads for many years, and I can die happy knowing I’ve provided for them. Of course, I can’t write that in my will, but I have left this island estate to you on the condition that you house the bees, as agreed between us verbally.

You must admit, it’s a fantastic deal for you: financial security, and I’m still well enough to nurse you through your convalescence and teach you to get used to your colostomy bags.

You’re very quiet… Thinking it over?… Suing makes no sense. They’ll track you down and kill you. I know because they’re part of me, and we understand each other… as I’m sure you’ll find out in due course. And simply turning me down is pointless – after all, you’ve already undergone surgery.

Have a sleep on it. We’ll pick up where we left off in the morning.


*


So glad you agree, Anthony. Saves such a lot of bother. Look! I’ve brought you the treat I promised… No, dumbfuck, these aren’t sausages. They’re pieces of your bowel I removed, thought you might like to see… In the freezer… Oh, if you really want me to, I was going to keep them… Never mind, then. Don’t know why I bother sometimes.

It will soon be time to prepare you for your tenants. They’re getting restless and impatient. Can you hear me over their buzzing? They’re simply letting you know they’re not far.

I removed sufficient loops of your gut to leave enough room for their combs. Don’t be alarmed if they sting you a few times at first. You get used to it. Honestly. Like the biting. That itches more than anything, but resist the urge to scratch.

That’ll be the last bit of filming, which you’re still contractually obliged to complete. The other actors won’t be needed now, after all! Surprise change to the script I thought you’d like. Your op’s all in the can – Director’s Cut – and, hope you don’t mind, I took the liberty of inserting a tiny camera in you during the surgery, so we should get some great footage of the actual homemaking… Oh, and you’ll love this. I’m thinking of a close-up of bees clustering round your bare buttocks. Could call that section ‘Honeymoon.’ Geddit? You’re right, it is rather coarse… Hey, was that rumble you or me? You’ll have to keep tremendously still while they nibble their way through your scar tissue, but you’re a man of considerable self-control. You can view it all later on the widescreen monitor when you’re able to sit up.

If I’ve inadvertently severed certain vital nerves, I’m afraid you’ll have to kiss your sex life goodbye… Oh, it wouldn’t have been deliberate. Shaky hands, you know, at my age. Happens with this op sometimes… You won’t know for definite till some beautiful girl grabs your interest. For what it’s worth, I find the bees always keep quiet whenever I masturbate now, and I no longer risk getting stung if I fancy a wank. But that takes time. Like any relationship, learning to cohabit needs work.

Just one thing. You’ll have a restricted diet… Well, what do you think I’ve been living on? Every dawn, I wait for them to fly off and then scoop it out. You won’t be able to at first because of the nausea, but you go off solids, and starvation forces you. It’s like wiping your backside without paper, only instead of shit, you’ve got a handful of honey. All the nourishment you require.

The cravings are the hardest part. I call it the ‘sucking chips’ phase. Eventually, you won’t want to swallow anything else. Give it time. Remember how much you liked it on your breakfast toast. So you won’t need groceries. Only drinks.

Oh, do make an effort to quit smoking. The smell bothers them. Nicotine affects their productivity, and we don’t want to die of malnutrition now, do we?

You know what’s been bugging me all day? That bloody surgeon’s name. Howard? Sure it begins with H, though. 


*


It’s strange, but you’ll know when it’s time to move them on. They’ll inform you somehow, and you’ll make the sequel. B Movie 2?

Joking aside, Anthony, I know you’ll accept your fate. As I did. You’re not dumb. You know damn well what awaits you back in London. Loneliness and poverty. Your career’s over now. Okay, you’ve got me to thank for that… so it makes sense to claim your inheritance… which comes with a couple of tiny strings. 

Yeah… It’s all yours, as long as you let me adopt you, be the father you were so cruelly deprived of, and you the son I wanted so desperately, who’ll carry on his dad’s legacy and provide the bees with a home. It’s the least they deserve. 

A human hive.

Let them in, and you won’t have to worry about anything. They’ll manage everything for you… 

Tut tut! Banish all such thoughts! Don’t try and end it all, like I did in the beginning. They’re always one step ahead. They get inside your mind and sting you often enough you won’t even be able to think about topping yourself. But why would you want to? Everything you need is here: never-ending food supply, drinks delivered on standing order, your own built-in minders… The greater good of the hive subsumes the individual will.

Aha! That confounded name’s come back to me at last, you’ll be glad to hear.

The man who got away with fucking up my life.

Sir Julian… HOUGHTON! 

Mean anything? 

Escaped my wrath getting killed in that stupid accident. But I haven’t been left entirely empty-handed…

Leigh V Twersky

Leigh V Twersky lives in London, where he was born. Short stories of his can be found in the anthology A Boxful of Ideas from Paradise Press and, under the name Micky Silver, in Chroma. He is currently finishing a novel set in a dystopian Britain, which could be described as gay insect body horror. Leigh is delighted his work is being published in A Coup Of Owls.

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