's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" Honey, This is It - Branch One "

Submitted by J I L

I grip Wes' arm tightly, "Go ahead Wes, I'll be right out." I watch as he nervously exits, and can see him through the gap at the base of the door, watching for me. "I can't accept that." I gesture towards the medal, before crouching and crawling through the hole myself. I can see her disappointed eyes, and hear faintly, 'We will be waiting'. Wes helps me to my feet, he's shaking in the light.

"What was that?"

I shrug, wandering away. I had honored my auntie's wish, there was nothing else to the matter. I looked around, noticing that statue that Wes had mentioned. "Do you want to catch a movie?"

It didn't take long for him to rig the projector, to play some goofy movie. I was totally enamored by the colors on the screen, ignoring Wes' questions about the aliens, diverting his attention to the movie. I saw him writing, and then the questions stopped. As another began to play, he relaxed. I smiled broadly at him and we left, the sun still high, the theatre still echoing excited music.

Wes grabs a can of gas, and on our trek back he finds a four-wheeler that was strapped to someone's truck. We whip down the road, bouncing past the still-life; I can hear him laughing as we slide to a stop in front of the farm and park. He doesn't pry again, and I can relax, watching him work on the radio, and the grass as the wind blows across it.

The next morning I find him downstairs with two large back packs, I pick one up and it sounds like it is full of cans, "Hey Wes. What's this?"

"I was thinking all night-" he's ecstatic, cramming the radio into one of the bags, "And we have that four-wheeler, right? So-"

"Wes, have you driven a four wheeler before?"

"No, well, yes, last night-"

"That's why it was so rocky. We'll get injured. Please practice first. It's not like you're going to be going anywhere." I pause, seeing his face dim, my mouth having run so much faster than my brain. "I just mean, it is safe here."

He puts down the radio and leans back, resting on only his feet. He stares ahead of himself, at the bag, puts the radio out of his line of view. "Wes?" I ask, feeling my voice fall, "I'm going to tend to the fields. Will you be okay?"

He gets up, leveraging the backpack on to the counter and emptying it, "I'll be fine, go on, food is more important than this idea." He smiles, but it's a small one. I leave, turning back to spot him when I reach the barn. I do this the entire time I work, catching glances of him through the windows.

I feel so protective of this person I barely know, he feels so clumsy in the real world, as if he's been transposed from a cartoon. I want to pick him up - there he is, cleaning the windows with a cloth - and set him back in the fantasy land he came from. He waves at me, opening the window wide, framed by the light. The stars framing him, reflecting off of the panes.

I smile wide, without him; I'd have no reason to be. And yet, he wants to call me an angel.

He's clicking through the television stations when I enter, the radio is buzzing in the corner. The backpacks are stowed away in the closet, and when I reach into the refrigerator, it is fully stocked. "Any news to report?" I ask, biting into a strawberry.

"No, not yet. All it plays are re-runs." He stops for a moment on a thick figure in a floral dress, a laugh track, and clicks away. "I never really thought about how these shows are. They're so rude."

I perch on the top of the couch "Go to channel forty," he clicks to this, and then grimaces at me. I pat his head, "Cartoons are the only respectful ones. They tryna build kids up, make them smart. Adults feel like they need to beat each other up to feel good."

"We don't have to worry about that anymore though." The television goes silent, and he tunes the radio. I climb away, feeling still wary of the tele. "After this harvest-" he calls after me, standing to follow, "after I practice on that four-wheeler, do you want to travel a bit? It's always been something I wanted to do."

"Let me think about it, the harvest will have us very busy." I close the bathroom door, turning on the water to shower. There are so many anxieties contained in that question - what if we become lost, run out of food or fuel? The electricity can't be left on across the nation and what will we do when it runs short here? Would Wes be willing to live without? And what do we do if there is no one else to help us?

What if there is someone else?

Wes doesn't look back when we leave the farm. I try not to. I remind myself that we will be returning, and that this is not the end of it. I find myself staring into that tiny, tiny grove, trying to catch a glimpse of a bloated shape.

Wes wants to go to the canyon, along the way we grab gear and - at my insistence - as many first aid kits as we can fit. We ride past still blinking stop lights until we're away from the plains, facing beautiful cliff walls with thousands of years of rose-colored history etched into them. We climb to a small plateau, the muscles in my arms straining from this new kind of work, Wes himself breathing heavily. Small beetles scurry away, allowing us to sit there.

We gaze out, we can see the thin road we traveled, and beyond that the thin stream of a river that I called mine. We can even see the edge to my woods, and Wes traces them to the city. His laughter stops and we gaze out over the world, watching the sun drift across the landscape. "I wanted to ask. Why haven't you told me your name?" I don't want to tell him that I didn't trust him, and I don't want to have him ask why I still haven't shared my name. "I'm just curious, I always refer to you as Angel in my writings."

"That's too sweet."

He blushes, "I mean, it's fair. I haven't told you my name either." He stammers a bit, hesitating, "It's Gary."

I laugh, "Gary? That's not you."

"I know." he fiddles with his hands; I can see his mouth forming words before he can speak again, "Not like Wes does. Wes is so easy to hide behind... I... I want to tell you something."

I hold my hand up, "Wes, I don't want to hear an 'I love you', you're a good man-" I stop, seeing him again, trying to form words, giving him that moment to respond.

"It's not an 'I love you'. It's an 'I trust you', and that's the thing. I don't want to be a good man, or a fine upstanding man..." he takes a deep breath and I can see a tear slowly move down his face, "I understand if you hate me, I understand if you feel uncomfortable around me... But it's that, we're the only people left... Who's going to judge?"

I reach my hand out, resting it on his shoulder while he tries to breathe.

"I'm not comfortable being a man, I don't want to be a man."

I can hear the static in my brain fire, trying to attach a way to console him and myself. The image from the television comes back, a tall man, with muscles on his arms, wearing a pink and yellow dress and posing. The laugh track plays. My grip tightens on his shoulder and I pull Wes into a hug, "It's still you. I don't mind. I have something to admit, too." I rest my head on his shoulder so I'm facing the wall, I feel him crying into my shoulder, "This world is empty and it frightens me, without you Wes, I'd be so alone." there's no response, "Do you still want me to call you Wes?"

"It's fine." he - she - mumbles, "If you say that name, it doesn't mean what it did. It's a new word from you."

I nod so she can feel that. We sit like this, holding on to each other.

"Do you smell that?" she asks, I sniff the air for a moment and nod. It's an overwhelmingly sweet smell. We decide to climb a bit higher before returning home, to find this. I'm at the top first, reaching over to grab Wes and drag her up. We look down, holding on to the edge like children. "The four-wheeler is so small from here."

"Be careful not to fall then." I unhook the belt, leaving it on the ground. Wes leads, following the smell, we could climb higher from here, but the cliff walls seem too sheer to do so. They curve a bit, layered from above. Wes holds out a hand, guiding me through them as I lag behind, watching the multi-legged insects the burrow through these stones. I walk into Wes' hand, out stretch to stop me.

Buzzing, like a swarm, vibrating the stones near enough to it.

We peek around the corner to see a field of honey, huge lumps of it in the distance. Thousands of bees fly back and forth, forming honey combs.

"Pure honey is the sweetest. No wonder we could smell it." Wes whispers, stooping down slowly and leaning forward, taking a bit up with her finger. She tries some, still whispering, "This would be great with bread, or cheese and crackers..."

I lean forward and try some. It tastes wonderful, but not too sweet, there is a stabilizing tint of copper to even it out. "I wonder if we could transport one of those lumps, and have some at the farm."

"Or even have a bee hive at the farm." she laughs, tittering. We follow the stones, just on the other side we can hear the bees, the noise ricochets through my hand as I brush the wall.

"Should be about here..." I turn the side of the stone wall, which had placed us dead at the center of the huge honey mass. The lumps were most prominent here, behind me Wes emptied out two first aid kits, handing me the empty box. I glared at her until she carefully stored the medical supplies. I closed the box inside the honey, holding it tightly. "This won't work well." I whispered.

"I know, I'm hoping it will work enough until we get back home."

I closed the second one, finding that it was getting caught on some rock. Wes wrapped up the first one in a cloth, and then met me by my side. "It's such a beautiful color." she commented, snacking on more.

"That's too sweet for you. You're already too sweet." I grimaced and pulled the box out, while it was still snagged on the rock.

We both stared at the "rock". It wasn't very "rock" shaped, it was more "human" shaped, but the marbling was much more rock colored so I told myself it was a very human shaped rock and dropped it in an instant.

And then dropped the box.

And then, with my honey coated hands, grabbed Wes and ran from that place. The bees hummed in response, choosing to ignore us as we fled.

Wes attempted to wipe off my hands while I was rushing to put together my gear, she'd wipe off a finger or two in between me clicking on the belts, tightening the knots.

Without waiting for her, I began my descent. I could hear her saying something, but my head was full of bees, full of that hum that reverberated through my bones. I saw the world change from the cliff wall to something strange, to a hand, floating freely, blue, with an encroaching pink rolling in from the setting sun, and then these deep, dark woods, I saw the woods snap, as my head felt the heavy, heavy dirt.

Wes was on top of me, holding me tenderly. My vision was blurred, and my head felt so distant - was that my back? All scarred up under the tank top I wore.


My vision shifted, to my shoulder.


Then to Wes' face, now a mix of horror and overwhelming joy.


I nodded my mouth dry, a copper taste. "Wes?"

She hugged me, propping up my neck as if it would break.

"Wes, did I slip?"


"Is anything broken?"

Silence. "I think something was."

"Can we get a splint on that?"

She later described it as my neck having been underneath me, snapping completely when I fell. She said it was one of the hardest things to write down, in her journals. But she had to describe it, she said, and read the journal out me, describing the backwards making my body had gone through. "As if in reverse, the blood that streamed from your nose flowed backwards, your head flipped about, snapping itself back into place."

I passed out on the couch, my brain still humming, still humming.

I woke up smelling pancakes.

I clambered up, sitting down in the kitchen. Wes had set out pancakes, jam and a honey jar from my auntie and uncle. I pinched my eyes together, staring down at that jar, waiting for it to explode with supernatural bees.

"Hey, I hope you like the pancakes. I just made them." Wes came down the stairs, her hair wrapped up in a towel, her chest bare. I looked away out of respect.

"Do you trust the honey?"

"What did you see in it? I think it was a rock or something." I nodded, drizzling some of it on my food. I took a bite and gagged, immediately retching over the sink. She held my hair back. "Yeah, that happened when I took a bite of the batter..."

We both looked at the plate. Pancakes and honey. I hesitantly dipped my finger in the jam and tried that - the taste was sour and too thick, like eating a solid candy. I spit it out.

"What is this honey?" She asked, staring into it.

"I don't know... Write it down though, in case this is food poisoning."

She nodded; I left to tend to the farm.

This small case of food poisoning lasted a week, days stretching into months. One day, while I restlessly tried to sleep - laying there, staring at the ceiling and pretending to awaken and tell Wes "I slept like a baby" - I realized a year had past.

A year without sleep, without food.

I got up and knocked on her door, finding her staring out the window, watching the leaves. "Can't sleep either?" she asked, trying to sound mirthful, but only sounding lost.

"No." She motioned for me to sit beside her, sat up.

"What should we do?"

I shrugged, "Not a lot to do this late."

She laughed, "Who is going to tell us not to?"

I watched the woods, lost in my thoughts about the absence of life. What was going to threaten us? What would harm us? She followed my gaze, breaking my reprieve when the world had turned golden under the afternoon sun.

"I wouldn't mind, just watching the world pass by." I looked upwards, "I could put a chair on the roof, and just watch."

She nodded, "Put two up there, I'll join you one day."

I dragged two of our wooden chairs up, placing them side-by-side. I watched the landscape, the trees as they grew, each individual sunset. There was snow, blanketing myself and the empty chair. Rain that rotted away the legs. The vines that crept along my body, even as the chair collapsed, lying flat on the roof, staring only at the sun and the clouds.

I could hear noises too, creaking and crooning, and Wes occasionally would hold a conversation. Even when the house collapsed and I lay among the rubble, and the trees nearly touched the clouds, Wes would come back, pulling shingles and bricks away from me to speak. She left tokens besides me, as if laying them inside a grave.

I could no longer talk, my mouth grown over with the vines and the world; my eyes could only look up as the trees grew, as the grass grew. Butterflies and beetles and millipedes and wasps decorated my landscape.

Wes could no longer find me, buried as I was beneath the earth, in a shallow grove. If she had, I would have wrenched my lips open, blowing away the seeds and roots that rested along my tongue and teeth.

I would have asked how she was, where she had been lately. There was silk besides me, and stones from continents a-ways. I would have asked if she found anyone else, if she still cared to. I would have asked about the honey, if she still ate it, or if she had returned to the hive to investigate.

I would have asked if she saw the same thing as I had, the same crooked nose as I pulled the head out of the honey, the same eyes, closed in a peaceful state. If she could trace the cheekbones the way I had, the full lips from my mother, the beautiful skin of my family, shimmering golden under the honey.

I would have asked if she came to the conclusion I had. That they looked just like me, that they all did.