This nasty little tale is my contribution to the ME4 writers short and nasties collection, which can be downloaded at: http://roysmith.podbean.com/
He throws open the shutters that have kept out the past few days and wicked light invades our hidden world. I had watched you drift into endless sleep, as your tiny nails cut into the palm of my hand, waiting whilst your breath whispered to pathetic silence. A man of straight lines, dressed in black with a coachman’s hat and cane; his servant carrying assorted boxes, as he stands stiff at the centre of my room. Through thin wire glasses his yellow eyes flit from my chair to the bed where you sleep no more.
I heard you cry that night; a choking fit then nothing. Left alone in silence with your porcelain skin and gentle face, hoping for one more sign of life, but knowing it would never come. Your father sent this shade to solve his guilt, to grab one last glimpse of his fading creation and free himself of the obligations his family would never allow. He never met you, but I saw him looking back at me every time you laughed or smiled and even when you lied. They kept us well, or so they had me suppose. A terraced house upon a hill overlooking the banks; a small house, but clean, surrounded by boat builders, dockers and their whining wives. The family sent us money, just enough, but not so much, yet we were happy and I loved you dearly. They will send no more, after today I am worthless, and despite this I know your father cared for us, though was far to weak to show it.
The straight line man and his bulky assistant pull wood and metal apparatus from their weathered boxes, building a scaffold to hold the heavy machine they move with such care. They bolt and screw and tighten each part, so the thing stands firm in the centre of the room, pointing down at where you lay. He powders your face and ruffles your hair, not happy with your sweat stuck curls, twisting them around his fingers and pulling to spring. You lay too straight my beautiful boy. He turns you to the wall and puts his knee behind yours, forcing a bend with a crack, before flipping you back to face his lens, propped up on a tear soaked pillow. My nails scratch at the arms of the chair and I feel my blood racing as I watch him manipulate your fragile limbs. You mustn’t fear my child, you have no more need of this broken body.
I met your father whilst I was working at his mother’s house. She rarely spoke, but everyone obeyed; her few words were bitter-cold and empty of kindness. He was the life in that house, as you were in mine. When he was away the days dragged on in mechanic isolation, unchanging and grey. That long summer he left a trail of smiles behind him, I ached for the relief of his presence, the lightness brought by his casual words. We loved one night, time caught and kept and there you were, a secret in my belly. Her screeched orders sent me packing, hidden behind these prison walls; to birth you here and raise you, in silence away from him and her.
He hides beneath a darkened cape that flows from atop the metal box. The cloth of his pristine suit stretches over his hunched back, close to ripping and I swear the daggers of his shoulder blades protrude in the way of severed waxen wings. I cannot watch and bury my head within my hands, he twists and turns the dials of his vicious lens, clicking and snapping into some ghastly configuration. I look up at your peaceful face and feel your love beaming back at me from your unnatural pose, your painted eyes staring into nothing, but somehow pleading.
Click. I scream, as searing white floods the room, blinding it hangs and fades in a permanent instant. I find myself caught between light and dark, your image burning into my mind. You glow, outlined with streaks of colour and wherever I look you follow, inescapably staring into my soul, accusing, reaching out to cling to earthly things.
I am alone now in the fading day; the room is empty, cleansed of any memory of you. Upon the bed lies a husk. There is no sign of who you were, all that is left is a featureless form, dried of emotion, there is nothing inside. It is not you. He has taken any part that remained, stolen away the only thing that kept me. And as he walked away, I swear those boxes seemed to sit heavy in his servants arms then in the sunset glow I caught a sideways glimpse of unfolding leather wings.
Under the sofa there lived a bee. He made his home amongst the dog hair and dust and ate bits of crumb and such like. He had run away from the hive in search of excitement, and found only boredom and scary noises. He missed the bossy queen, his friends and most of all the honey, but had no idea how to get home. When the lights were out and the dog asleep, the bee would crawl out from under the sofa in search of food. He didn’t dare fly for fear of someone hearing his buzz, so tiptoed to the kitchen and found some beans, some jam and a few grains of sugar. The jam tasted delicious and for a while he felt content dreaming of the hive.
His thoughts were interrupted by a ‘psst’ sound from up above. The bee couldn’t see anything, but crept into the shadows to be safe. ‘Psst’ came the noise again, ‘up here’ he heard. Slowly his sense of adventure got the better of him and he started to climb the cupboards to get a better look, all the while he hearing ‘psst’ and ‘hurry up!’ But the bee knew better than to fly, not sure who was calling or what they wanted. When he got to the sink he looked around and saw nothing but unwashed dishes and tea stains. He was about to go back down when the ‘psst’ noise made him look up at a beautiful bunch of yellow and red roses in a crystal glass. They looked like some of the flowers back at the hive, they grew in the bushes near the fence and were by far the most beautiful in the garden. Only the most trusted and and loyal of the queens soldiers were allowed to talk to them and he had never been allowed near.
‘Hello there little one’ came a delicate voice. ‘Why don’t you come a little closer?’
He looked up at the flowers in wonder. They glowed bright in the moonlight, their reflections shimmering in the window and on the oily water of the washing up bowl.
‘H-h-h-hello…sir.’ He edged closer and gazed up in awe; the bee had never spoken to such a flower before and had to concentrate to stop his wings from fluttering.
‘ I must say you look awfully dusty this evening. Where have you been hiding yourself?’
‘er…sorry sir, I’m a long way from the hive and have to sleep under the sofa in the dust.’
‘Ahhh…it seems we’re both a long way from home tonight. How did you come to be so far from the hive?’
The bee folded a wing over his face and quivered.
‘What’s up my son?’
‘I…was trying to impress the queen and it kind of went a bit wrong.’
‘I told everyone I could find the most beautiful flowers in the world, just over the fence at the bottom of the garden. The other bees were all too scared go, but got excited and told me to prove it. So I set out early one morning and everyone came out to see me go. I flew high over the fence feeling free and proud, but as I climbed the wind got rough and blew me all around, it was all I could do to keep flying. When I landed I had no idea where I was or how to get back to the garden. I got so worried about the wind that I flew close to a house and ended up stuck in here.’
‘That is a very sad story young man. This is no place for a bee and you must be terribly lonely. Its far too warm in here. This is no place for a flower either and I will soon be gone.’
‘But you’re b-beautiful.’ Even as he spoke he noticed brown flecks at the edge of the flower’s petals and a how it leaned softly against the glass.
‘You’re very kind. I’m afraid I don’t have long, but maybe just long enough to help you.’
‘You could help me?’
‘Maybe. Did you know that every flower has a little magic?’
‘Really?’ The bee had never heard this before, but had often been told that flowers were prone to exaggeration.
‘Oh yes, I am weak, but if you help me then I will grant you one wish.’
The bee hopped closer still and flicked his wings.
‘I am old now, but in the garden I was king of the flowers. I was waiting for the bees to come and pass my pollen between wives, so they could be make more flowers like me. Sadly, the bees never came and I was picked before my time. If you take my pollen to the garden and pass it to my wives I will grant you any wish your heart desires.’
‘Can you do that?’
‘Most certainly I can.’ He said. ‘All you need to do is fly up here and take my pollen then I will tell you how to find their garden.’
‘I don’t know…’ The bee turned around and looked away from the flower.
‘Are you ok?’
‘It’s just…it’s been a long time since I flew and I’m…I’m scared I’ll fall.’
‘Whoever heard of a bee who was scared to fly? All you need to do is flap your wings.’
‘I know, but…’ That second a loud thump echoed through the house and a light glowed down from the stairs.
‘Quickly, if he catches you you’ll be squished.’
Without a further thought the bee span around, took a short run and began to flap his wings. He buzzed up and off the surface, feeling that wonderful freedom again, but when he got close to the flower, he remembered the terrible wind. His wings froze and the bee plummeted towards the sink, but as he fell he caught a glimpse of the flower and thought about the garden and the hive and just in time his wings spluttered back into motion, pulling him away from the water; his feet popping a bubble as he rose. The bee spiralled up around the flower and landed gracefully on a red petal.
‘You made it then, but you must be quick. Take this pollen and hold it close, it’s as precious as life itself, when you give it to my wives it will grant your every wish.’
The bee picked up the pollen and tied it closely to his legs, it felt warm and for the first time in his life the bee felt truly important.
‘Now listen. You must fly fast and straight from the window up above me, across the garden and over two fences and two more gardens to find my wives.’
‘B-b-but I can’t fly that far and what if I blow off course again?’
‘It is night and the wind is still. If you are brave and your luck is good you will find them.’
The bee shuddered thinking about the dust under the sofa and the monstrous dog and then the footsteps grew louder and the kitchen light clicked on. He buzzed before he could say another word and flew up to the window. Hovering at the skylight he looked back at the flower and watched as its head wilted down towards the sink. The man picked up the vase and tossed the beautiful flowers into the bin before pouring himself a glass of water. The bee didn’t look back and dived out the window into the garden.
The night was cool and the moon shone bright. He zipped over the dark grass, gripping the pollen tight to his legs and dreaming of the hive, a smooth wind lifting and pushing him onward. The fence rose far into the sky blocking his way, but the bee knew he had to go on if he wanted to get his wish. Up he circled, higher and higher, until he sat atop the fence gripping it tight with his feet and feeling the wind blow hard. He took a deep breath and leapt from the fence, his wings buzzing faster than ever before, carrying him up high into the night in over the gardens. The wind knocked and buffeted the bee as he flew, but the weight of the pollen held him straight and he soared over both gardens and both fences until he reached the most amazing sight he had ever seen. Below a field stretched out to the horizon and as far as he could see, and by a path he saw a bush of roses so pretty he almost fell. The morning glow warmed his wings and he heard the roses singing out to him as he made his descent. The bee spent all morning spreading the pollen between the roses and was so tired at the end that he could barely flap his wings. When he was done he looked up at the sun and cried for the old rose.
‘I wish I could make it home.’ He said to himself, but knew the old rose had no real magic and was happy to see the field and the roses and to have escaped the dust under the sofa. He settled on a deep, red petal and rested his tired wings.
‘Do you know where my hive is?’ He asked the young rose.
‘Sadly, no.’ She whispered. ‘But we thank you for bringing the pollen and helping us grow.’
He sighed and sank onto the petal, staring back at the fence and the gardens and the house behind him. The wind blew and the rose shook, its leaves quivering and stem swaying, but he sat still on the petal and dreamed of the hive. The wind roared around him and gradually settled into a low flutter. Then the flutter rose to a hum and the hum became a buzz. The bee looked round and couldn’t believe what he saw. Another bee sat on the flower next to him and another to his right. Three more hovered around and about and they were all looking at him.
‘We’ve finally found you.’ One of the bees said. ‘We followed you through a hole in the fence when you didn’t come back, but we couldn’t see you. You were right though, these are the most beautiful flowers we have ever seen. We have been coming here every day to find you and to hear the roses sing. I think the queen might want a word with you!’
The bee cried with joy at the news and his wings buzzed in the morning sun. They flew together to the fence by the path and though the hole back the hive, where the queen greeted the bee and promised he could lead the flight from that day on.