's 2013 Horror Write-off:

"To Have or to Keep"

Submitted by Evan Macneil

Hugh and Diane loved the summer; it was a time of beautiful gardens and the shining sun. But for a couple rather down on their luck – and more importantly, their money – this particular summer was going to be spent selling their large and very expensive house. The neighbours hadn't been outside or showing up lately, for whatever reason – summer vacation, probably -- so they were going through the ordeal of selling their home alone.

Everything was prepared. The paint was spotless. The hedge was trimmed. The lawn was green. They had contacted a real estate agent. They were a very realistic and business-like husband and wife, taking notes and doing calculations constantly. The time for relaxation would come once they had a new home.

"Hang on, Hugh," Diane said.

"Yeah?” Hugh replied. He was calculating how much they had to pay the roofers.

"Should we get rid of the hives?"

Hugh grimaced. He tried to put bees out of his mind, at all times. All around their home, in the trees on the boulevard, were dozens of huge hives. They had never been successful in getting rid of the endlessly droning, growing beehives that clustered the branches overhead. They both tried to ignore them no matter how many stings the swarms dealt. But now it was occurring to both that most buyers were not exactly partial to the looming hives around the house, something had to be done about the bees. "Uh, yeah...I guess so. Are we going to try and do this the old-fashioned way, or should we call an exterminator?"

"You should grab a ladder and take a look at them. I'll call the exterminator and if he has questions you should be able to get the answers."

"Fair enough. Should I take a look at them right now or after you call or what?"

"Right now's fine," Diane said, reaching for her phone.

Hugh got up from his seat, walked off the porch into the backyard garage, and looked around for the ladder – a large, grey metal one. The bees, as always, were everywhere, particularly in the summer when they really started to thrive. He could see the little black and yellow shapes buzzing and bumbling in the dark, dusty corners of the garage, occasionally complete with tiny hives.

Hugh grabbed the ladder, as well as a pair of gloves, then set off to the boulevard and selected a tree with a reasonably small sized hive – but it seemed as if they were all of near-identical size, the bigger ones simply smaller ones so close together they had conglomerated into a single hive. Hugh, having lived in a house plagued non-stop with bee infestations, had become insensitive to droning and stings. So he had, recklessly, not worn any protection besides his gloves. It was, after all, just a quick look.

He ascended the ladder, quickly identifying the disgusting stench of rotten meat. Wild honey, he guessed. The bees were crawling all over the egg-shaped hives, their drone seemed a bit strange to him. Maybe, their wings were moving differently when near the hive, but Hugh couldn't shake hearing a very familiar noise.


Hugh came close to the hive, squinting, this hive – or as much as he could see, with its covering of bees – looked nothing like a hive. It was the greyish-green of a decayed, rancid substance, not the light waxy brown of a honeycomb.


He couldn't deny it. It was saying his name. A few of the bees shifted, and he froze in the gaze of an eye – a human eye, white and bloodshot, with a green iris. Suddenly, almost every bee alighted and began to swarm and buzz in a cloud around Hugh's head, but none tried to sting – and he was locked eye to eye with the “hive” before him.

This hive was a head. A human head, dead quite some time ago, judging from the rotting, odorous flesh which hung, drooping limply, even sloughed off in places. The mouth fell limply open, dripping, and the head's hair was all that held it to the branch above, knotted and twined tightly to the wood. It had been decapitated at the neck, which still oozed deep red blood and had a few strands of muscle and flesh, even vertebrae, hanging from where it had been messily chopped off. The few bees that remained on the hive were burrowing holes through the soft, dead skin and clustering within the one empty eye socket – the other eye seemed alive, wandering and blinking slowly in agony. His mouth began to move again, and with it a fresh stream of blood poured down his chin.

With that Hugh was broken out of his trance-like horror and he half-fell, half-jumped off the ladder, slamming his head into the concrete sidewalk below, feeling sharp pain in his neck. The swarm of bees followed him down shortly after, and as his eyes slowly closed, letting him drift into unconsciousness, he could feel the bees buzzing around his head, the ticklish little legs crawling around his throat .

It was sometime later when he awoke, and could feel nothing below his neck – first he could see nothing, a mass of bees crowded his entire face. A moment later, a few bees shifted and one eye got a glimpse downward. His wife was climbing the metal ladder, and the sidewalk was empty.