A storm plagued much of eastern most part of Kentucky as the Wagners sped down the interstate that dissected this portion of the state. Adeline and Darius Wagner had been on a road trip with their teenage daughter, Aylssa, and her two friends, Susan and Mariah.
As their SUV continued down the road, the corn and wheat fields suddenly turned to fields of bright yellow flowers.
“Huh, that’s weird. Pretty, though.” Aylssa commented, snapping a few photos to post to her Instagram and Snapchat.
“That is weird. Easter Lillies don’t really bloom this late in the summer.” Darius commented.
“Maybe a local tradition? We could always stop at the next town and see what the deal is. Ain’t like we’re in a rush.” Adeline suggested. She wasn’t wrong, as it was only Friday and they weren’t due back to South Carolina till Sunday night.
“Sure, why the hell not. Girls, you wanna stop by this town up ahead, see what the deal with all these flowers are?” Darius asked, looking back in the rearview mirror.
Aylssa looked at her friends and shrugged. “I mean, we can at least get some gorgeous pictures out of it.”
“Oh, and maybe meet some of those hot farmer boys!” Susan added and the three girls giggled. Darius scowled slightly.
“Listen girls, you don’t want to get tangled up with any of these rednecks. I promised your families that I would get you home safe and treat you like my own. I intend to keep that promise.” Darius informed them, and Adeline slapped him on the arm.
“Darius! They’re just being girls.” Adeline looked over into the back seat, grinning. “Darius won’t tell you this, but he was one of them country folk, back when we were teens.”
Her husband blushed. “I was NOT!” He objected.
“Were too! You lived on a farm with chickens, goats, you name it!” Adeline leaned in and whispered, “He even had to wash vegetables every day and wore overalls.”
“That’s because Meemaw and Peepaw needed help in their old age, God rest their souls.”
“I think it’s cute, Dad. Maybe I’ll find me a man like you, one who’s kind enough to help ole Meemaw wash her taters.” Alyssa replied in a country accent, making kissy faces.
Darius just scowled even more and ignored his laughing daughter and wife, and hunched over the wheel of the vehicle, focusing on driving.
It wasn’t long till they arrived at the closest exit, which led them to a little town called Cedar. Sure enough, flowers bloomed everywhere in Cedar their bright colors contrasting against the darkness of the stormy sky.. They practically flooded the streets of the quaint little downtown area, and one could see the endless sea of yellow that was the Easter Lily fields that surround the area. The storm had settled, and the fresh scent of rain filled the air, mixing well with the numerous floral aromas. For a small town, it did seem quite lively, as people bustled about, going in and out of the many shops. Darius finally was able to find a parking spot, and the group all hopped out of the SUV, thankful for the opportunity to stretch their legs.
“This place is so beautiful!” Adeline exclaimed, snapping numerous pictures on her phone.
“I know, right? I though all Midwest towns were supposed to be drab and boring” Aylssa replied, astounded by the expert gardening it would have taken to get this level of beauty.
“I just want to know how the hell they pull this off.” Darius uttered, with even his more masculine tastes and sensibilities in awe of the botanical spectacle. “Excuse me, sir!” He called out to an old man. The older gentleman turned to them, greeting them with a warm smile. He was a shorter man, with a balding head underneath a green trucker’s hat that displayed the words “Darcy’s 3-Way Gas Station.” His face was leathery from a life time of working in the sun, and his kind brown eyes were sunken into his skull. He was a bit on the skinny side, and he wore a simple white T-shirt and worn blue jeans. His forearms were covered in thick white hair. The man walked up to Darius and his family, and extended a hand.
“How’re y’all doing this fine afternoon?” He asked in a deep southern drawl.
Darius instantly recoiled a bit once he heard the man’s voice, and immediately felt bad when he saw that the man noticed.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I hope I didn’t offend!” He exclaimed.
“Oh no no no! My husband just has had some bad experience in the past is all. Seems we all stereotype from time to time!” Adeline interjected, softly elbowing her husband in the stomach.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, sir. It’s just, where I’m from, when people sound like you, they don’t tend to like people like me.” Darius explained.
The man chuckled and held up a hand. “ Don’t need to apologize for anything, my friend. I understand all too well. But all that unpleasantness aside, what is y’alls name? Every one round here just calls me Mr. Jay.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Jay. My name is Adeline, and this is my husband, Darius. Behind us are my daughter Aylssa, and her two best friends Susan and Mariah.” Adeline introduced them, pulling the girls away from the window of a local café where they had been drooling over both the menu options, and the hot young cashier.
“So, Mr. Jay, do you know what’s the deal with all of these flowers?” Darius asked bluntly, earning him another slight elbowing from his wife.
Mr. Jay laughed. “ Yes sir I do. I’m not a native from Cedar, you see, I’m native to the eastern foothills of Appalachia, but I go on hunting trips to Colorado every few years. I stop by here on my way back to get beekeeping supplies, since this town is a hotspot for apiarists, myself included.”
“Apiarist? What is that?” Mariah asked, with everyone but Darius also looking confused.
“It’s another word for beekeeping.” The father explained to his children and 39-year-old wife.
“Oh, does that mean this town sells a lot of honey?” Adeline asked excitedly.
Mr. Jay chuckled. “Indeed they do, all sorts of different kinds too. They have honey from all kinds of flowers and trees here, candied honey, even spicy honey!”
Aylssa and her friends all made a face. “Spicy honey? No thanks.” She commented, turning to look down the other side of the street. There, amongst the brilliant display of flowers, was a decrepit old flower shop hidden away between two colorful stores. The rustic sign dangled above the entrance, and it was clear no one had visited the store in years.
“What’s the deal with that store?” Susan asked when she noticed her friend staring. Mr. Jay’s face darkened a bit. “Ah, that’s a sad story, from what I’ve heard. The local people don’t talk about it much, it’s quite the shameful story what happened to that feller.”
“Something bad happened?” Darius inquired, growing a bit uneasy.
Mr. Jay nodded. “Back in the 70s, this place was apparently home to a fast growing, and very dangerous, cult. Many people who didn’t join the group fled Cedar, but some stayed. One man was Zacharias Valentine. Mr. Valentine was a florist and beekeeper who only cared about providing flowers for his customers and taking care of his bees. Well, eventually, he was the only non-cult member left in town, and the cult’s leader, a woman by the name of Colleen McBride, was infuriated by his refusal to join or leave. Some say she tried to court him and he refused, others simply say she was tired of dealing with him. So one spring night, after Valentine had spent the day tending to his bees, the cult dragged him from his bed while he slept, and strung him up in one of the nearby fields. There, they laughed as they smeared honey on his body, and decorated him with flowers. Then, they released the very same bees he loved so much onto his body, and left him to die.”
The entire family had became so engrossed with the story that they did not notice they were taking up a substantial side of the sidewalk until a larger man in a business suit huffed impatiently. They all quickly stepped aside as Darius apologized profusely, but then turned back to Mr. Jay with expectant eyes.
“So did he die? Did they actually kill that poor man?” Mariah asked, all three of the girls enthralled by the story.
“That’s the thing; Zacharias Valentine was able to escape. He broke free from his confines and drug himself back to his shop, where he called the police from the next town over. But get this, by the time they arrived, Zacharias, McBride, and the rest of the cult were gone. The town had instead been infested with honeybees, and had to be tore down. All except for that building down there. Not a single bee on it. Folks around here are mighty suspicious as it is, so they simply left the building alone and rebuilt Cedar around it. Most people just ignore it, but no one has forgotten Valentine. He’s turned into a sort of local ghost story or boogeyman, depending on who you ask. They say his spirit still lives on, either protecting the town or waiting for the right time to curse it.” Mr. Jay finished, adding an eerie tone to his voice that was betrayed by the growing smirk on his face.
Darius rolled his eyes but couldn’t help but share in a smile with the old man as he noticed that his wife had also become engrossed with the ghost story.
“What does his spirit do? Do people still see it?” Adeline inquired, her inner child desiring a good scare.
“Oh, I suppose they still see him wondering here and there. I don’t pay too much mind to it, not one for ghost stories. However,” Mr. Jay’s smirk grew wider, “I’ve heard he does not like his picture taken. Apparently the cult had mocked him when they left him to die, and took quite a few pictures that are still locked up in police evidence to this day. So if you do see him, leave him be.”
Darius laughed. “You’re quite the storyteller, old man.”
A clap of thunder caused the group to jump, except for Mr. Jay. Darius looked up at the sky and noticed the wall of rain barreling down the interstate towards Cedar, the flowers swaying back and forth as if dancing in celebration that water was near.
“Well, I best be off, got to make it home by tomorrow before supper or the missus will be upset with me. You folks have good day, now.” Mr. Jay said with a tip of his hat, and with that the old man sauntered off. Darius looked back at his family and shrugged, and looked down the street as many of Cedar’s resident hurriedly rushed inside, bringing in any essentials that could get damaged in the storm. He then noticed that they all seemed to be hiding, hastily putting up closed signs in their business windows as they looked back fearfully to the fields of Easter Lilies.
“I guess we got two options, either leave and try to beat the storm, or find a place to hunker down for the night.” Darius informed the girls.
They all glanced back at the storm quickly approaching, taking note of the fear the local populace seemed to have of it.
“Let’s stay here for the night.” Adeline decided.
It did not take them long to get absolutely soaked in the storm as they rushed their belongings up the stairs of the hotel they decided to stay at. It was a cozy little spot, with a nice atmosphere and kind staff, but Darius was a bit uneasy. After all, it was built on top of that abandoned little flower shop that a murdered beekeeper used to own. Darius didn’t lend any real credence to Mr. Jay’s story, but he could tell that the flower shop was not in the best shape, despite the reassurances of the hotel staff.
They actually got two conjoined rooms for the night, a single solid oak door separating Darius and Adeline from the girls. This only added to his uneasiness; he did not want to share a room with four women, three of which were teenagers, but he also feared leaving them by themselves.
“Awww, you worry too much, darling.” Adeline said as she exited the bathroom in a thin towel, draping her arms around her husband as he sat on the edge of the bed, so lost in thought one might assume he was a living version of The Thinker statue. “Loosen up, babe. Let the girls have their fun, and let Mommy have hers.” She purred in his ear, pulling him into bed as he grinned.
In the other room, Aylssa waited her turn while Mariah and Susan hogged the bathroom and mirror. She laid back on her bed, sighing as she scrolled through her phone, revisiting the pictures she had taken for the day. It did not take her long to reach the many photos she took of the gorgeous flower fields that surrounded Cedar. However, she soon noticed something odd. A figure appeared in one of the pictures, and then as she swiped to the left to the next photo, it grew closer. The teenager was stumped, as all these pictures were taken while she was in a moving vehicle, and yet in each one, the figure appeared. Soon it got close enough for her to make out some more details. It appeared to be a person, dressed in all white. They were holding something in their hands, and at first, Aylssa thought it was an astronaut, despite how ridiculous that seemed.
Then she realized it was no spaceman, but a beekeeper. This did not shake her confusion, though, as there were no beehives in those fields that she could tell, and the beekeeper was facing directly at her, as if they could see her taking pictures. It also did not explain how this person kept seemingly appearing in her photos, growing ever closer.
Suddenly, there was a loud snap, and the lights cut out. Susan and Mariah screamed at the surprise blackout, and Aylssa could hear her father’s muffled cursing from the other room.
The door swung open, and Darius stepped in, quickly zipping up his pants.
“You girls okay?” He asked, trying to adjust his clothing.
“Yeah, Mr. Wagner, just spooked is all.” Susan replied, sopping wet from the shower.
“Good. Hopefully the power will cut back on soon, or I’m demanding a refund.” Darius grumbled, but his daughter caught him by the hand.
“Dad, I think something else is happening here. I want to leave.” She murmured so her friends would not hear. Darius looked down at her in shock.
“But you wanted to stay! Plus, this storm is clearly bad, so I’m not too inclined to try to brave it.” He replied, turning to leave.
“Dad! I found something in my pictures. Something you and mom should both see.” Aylssa pleaded, and Darius sighed as he finally relented, allowing her into the other room.
Adeline had wrapped the towel back around her body as she coughed awkwardly.
“What is it you want to show us, sweetie?” She asked sincerely, and her daughter sat on the bed beside her, showing both her and Darius the pictures.
“What the hell?” Darius muttered as he watched the beekeeper edge ever closer. Aylssa became even more scared when the beekeeper appeared in more photos than before, until it was right up at the car’s window.
At that moment Aylssa’s phone cut off, and Mariah screamed from the other room, a bloodcurdling cry for help.
Darius burst through the door, only to watch in horror as the beekeeper from the photos forced thousands of live bees down Susan’s throat as Mariah cowered in the corner. The bees seemed to be coming from within the suit itself, from slits in the palms of the gloves.
Susan twitched and thrashed violently as her mouth was filled with the insects. These bees were clearly not regular honeybees, but large, almost wasp-like black and orange critters. They bit and chewed through Susan’s flesh until they were pouring out of her throat, finally killing the girl.
Mariah scrambled over to Darius and Aylssa, who were both frozen with fear at the sight before them. The beekeeper turned to face them, unlatching his smoker from his belt, and brandishing a bee-knife, a tool used by apiarists crack open beehives. It had been broken and sharpened to a point like a blade and was covered in dried blood. The beekeeper then squeezed his smoker, and the canister emitted a fountain of searing hot flames, burning both Darius and Aylssa.
The father and daughter both fell back into the other hotel room as Mariah rushed to shut the door, screaming at Adeline to help her barricade.
At first, all the mother could do was watch in shock as her husband and only child writhed in pain from the burns, but another shout from Mariah shook her back into focus, and together they pushed the entertainment center in front of the door as the beekeeper slammed against the other side.
Darius groaned as he slowly stood up, helping Aylssa up as well. Thankfully neither of them got burned too bad, though Darius’s ear and left shoulder were burnt all to hell. Aylssa was hit on the right side of her face, but she could still see out of her right eye.
“What the fuck was that?” Mariah sobbed, pushing against the entertainment center with all of her might.
“It’s the fucking beekeeper those cultist’s killed! Zacharias Valentine!” Aylssa sobbed out a reply, touching the side of her burnt face gingerly.
“But that was just a local ghost story!” Her mother shouted back before getting knocked to the ground by the beekeeper’s incessant banging on the door. Her towel fell off, leaving her in her birthday suit as she got back up to help Mariah hold up the barricade.
“Clearly it fucking wasn’t! We need to get out of here, and now!” Darius shouted, tossing one of his shirts over to Adeline for her to wear. She stopped for just a moment to put the shirt on, and then Aylssa thought of something.
“Wait a minute. If he could move between my phone to the real world, why is he banging on the door?” She wondered aloud, and as if to answer her question, the banging stopped.
Suddenly the door exploded open, knocking both Adeline and Mariah on their backs.
However, it was not the beekeeper who stood there, but Susan’s bee covered corpse. She movements were twitchy, and clumps of bees fell off her nude form as she stepped forward, only for more to take their place. She gurgled a horrific scream as thousands of bees began spewing from all of her orifices. The survivors scrambled for the front door, but the beekeeper appeared from the swarm of insects, grabbing Adeline by her blonde hair. He yanked her head back, exposing her neck as she was stung repeatedly by the bees.
“RUN!” She screamed to her husband and child as they watch the beekeeper slide the sharpened end of his bee-knife across her throat, causing a waterfall of red to soak her shirt and chest. Alyssa screamed as Darius practically threw her over his shoulder as they ran out of room.
“HELP, GOD HELP US! WHERE IS EVERYONE?” Mariah screamed , slamming her fists on every door they passed down the stairs, but no one ever answered. Eventually they made it to the bottom floor and burst out into the empty main street of downtown Cedar. Rain was constantly being dumped from the heavens, soaking them in a matter of seconds. All of the beautiful flowers that they had seen when they arrived now hung their heads from the weight of the water, as if they were hiding from the horrid sight about to occur.
Darius spotted their SUV, and grabbed the girls as he ran for it. Behind them the glass of the windows exploded, and the corpses of Susan and Adeline landed on the pavement, cracking their bones back into place as the bees swarmed all over their bodies. They both growled and gurgled, with the beekeeper appearing behind them, again emerging from the swarm.
Darius glanced back at his daughter and Mariah, and knew what he needed to do.
“Get to car, and get the fuck out of here, Aylssa!” He shouted as the abomination that was once his wife crawled on all fours towards him. “I love you, girlie.” He whispered, before yelling as he rushed forward, knocking Adeline’s corpse back and kicking Susan’s square in the stomach. The bees began swarming him, stinging repeatedly, but his drive was enough to push him forward.
Aylssa screamed for her daddy, but Mariah was able to drag her to the car. They both hopped in, swatting at the stray bees stinging them, and Aylssa watched from the passenger’s seat her father make his last stand.
“Come at me mother fucker! You want some? I’ll fucking finish what McBride started, fucker!” Darius shouted, throwing a wide haymaker. The beekeeper didn’t bother to dodge, and when Darius’s fist connected, it cause the apiarist to stumble, and actually tore the netting around his face, as well as knocking the bees inside out to reveal his face, or lack thereof. The beekeeper himself was a walking corpse, with little more than rotten meat on a skeleton beneath all of those bees.
“What the fuck?” Darius groaned, the poison in his system finally getting to him. The beekeeper then nodded to both of the reanimated corpses that flanked Darius, and they both grabbed him by his arms. He tried to fight back, but he was so weak at this point that he could hardly keep his head up. Darius rolled his head over to get one final look at his bee-covered wife, staring into her empty eyes.
“I love you, Addy.” He sobbed quietly.
Darius was then ripped in half as the two corpses pulled in opposite directions, spraying his blood and guts all over the pavement. Aylssa screamed for her father, but Mariah had enough, slamming the car in reverse and then back into drive as they sped out of town. It did not take long for them to reach the interstate, but Aylssa hardly noticed. She lost one of her best friends and both of her parents.
All she could do was sob.
Mariah looked over at her friend worriedly. “ Don’t worry Ally, I’ll get us to safety and we can get the cops to kill that fucke-“
Before she could finish her sentence, the car suddenly slammed into a wall of bees. The swarm was so thick they could hardly see, and the driver’s side window began to crack. The window then burst open, and the swarm engulfed Mariah, dragging her out of the car as she kicked and screamed. Aylssa tried to grab her, but foot slipped from her grasp. Mariah was sucked out into the open, the vicious little insects eviscerating her body, skinning her alive as they feasted on her flesh.
The car began to swerve violently, and then finally flipped as Aylssa tried to wrestle control from the passenger seat. She groaned as she came to, noticing her arm was bent the wrong way with bone sticking out. At that point she didn’t care, as she knew she needed to get out and away before the beekeeper came. Aylssa grunted in pain as she crawled out of the wreckage, and began limping through the field of Easter lilies the car had landed in.
The beekeeper soon appeared not far behind her, followed by the bee infested corpses of her parents and friends. Mariah was now covered in bees, with spots revealing her skinless state. Darius’s two halves had swarms of bees from the other half of his bisected body. And of course, and twister of bees surrounded them.
Alyssa sobbed as she ran, pushing herself as hard as she could, before she inevitably collapsed in the sea of yellow.
“Just fucking end it already! Just, before you do, tell me why you are doing this! I think I deserve that much! Is it because I took your fucking picture? Here, look!” Aylssa shouted, waving her phone around as she slammed on a nearby rock. The beekeeper stopped moving, and held up his hand to command his abominations to do the same.
“Well? TELL ME!” Aylssa screamed, staring directly at the beekeeper.
He stood there quietly, and began to twitch a bit, as he were fighting something. Then dropped to his knees and emitted a scream that could not be described, and left Aylssa’s ears bleeding and ringing. The swarm then disintegrated, the corpses fell back to ground, and the rain stopped. Sunlight poured down on the field, matched in turn by the yellow of the lilies that surrounded them. The beekeeper then stood up, and took off his netting and hood.
He was no longer a corpse, but the man once known as Zacharias Valentine. He was slightly skinny with dark hair and piercing green eyes. He also looked very tired.
“I have done this for no reason other than I must, Aylssa Wagner. I have been cursed; one last damnation from that accursed cult. I did not want any of this. I just wanted to my bees and flowers.” He spoke softly as a small, normal honeybee landed on his outstretched finger. He then reached down and picked an Easter lily, and handed it to Aylssa. “This is all I ever wanted. To give flowers to the world. All I ever wanted.” He repeated sadly, before placing his hood back on his head.
“Wait- Maybe I can help?” Aylssa offered, surprising herself. This thing had just killed her parents and friends, and yet, all she felt was pity for him. All he was meant to be was a force of nature forced to destroy, when preferred to create.
Valentine shook his head gently. “I do not deserve redemption, Ms. Wagner. Rest now, help will come. May our paths never cross again.” He replied, and the little honeybee landed on her neck, stinging her. Aylssa yelped, and then felt dizzy, falling back into the field of flowers as she passed out. The apiarist stood over her, watching until he heard the sounds of sirens in the distance.
Zacharias Valentine then began to disintegrate into a swarm of honey bees, with his final words echoing across the fields, carried by the wind.
“All I ever wanted.”
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