She is expecting blood—as she cups a palm between her legs and stands up from the sop of the sheets. She recognizes the warmth of loss, its expectant crimson bite.
Her husband, Adam, still sleeps in the bed, breathing loud and loose, unknowing. Good. This is for her alone.
But in the yellow hum of the bathroom light, something is new—this time—unfamiliar at her confluence, where legs and belly meet.
She turns to the mirror and: impossible. So she folds herself downward to see, spreading her legs, sucking in the hollow she keeps trying to fill.
Where her skin should be, is honeycomb, a delta no longer made of flesh, thick and dripping. She touches the soft wax carapace, traces this new pattern, tiny divots of beeswax, line after line, over and over, beautiful, precise. She looks at her hands. It is honey, not blood, that leaks down her legs towards the pull of the earth. It is honey that coats the bed sheets, sticky proof of some life.
Inside, she can feel them. The bees. Tiny flutters, like winking lights. Like little suns. She spreads her hand on the honeycomb and they kiss her palm. Is this what it feels like to make life? As if her heart had burst, and now beat its way out in one hundred points of quivering rhythm?
A bee exits her then, from an open comb, and rests on her shape, before burrowing back, hide and seek. Then another, this one darting to the glow of the light, before diving back down to wiggle inside.
Curious, she dips a fingertip into one of the hexagons, breaking a beeswax cap. She tastes the honey: She must, and the slick bursts on her tongue as she expected, clover, grass, sweet and she’s smiling, her body is dancing from inside out and
“Belle?” Adam calls from the bedroom, clicking on the light, the edge of irritation rough in his throat.
She peeks from the bathroom, hiding the honeycomb with her hands, careful to keep safe what’s behind them. She could get back into bed, cover it up. Wait until morning. Clean up the mess.
But he’s leaning over her side of the bed, eyes on the stain, eyes like disappointed black holes, pulling at the light that is left.
“Again, are you kidding me. Fuck’s sake.” His voice rises and her hands start to shake. She balls them to fists, as he punches the stain, coating his knuckles with Again. Again.
She swallows something down into the pit of her then, some bitter, fermented nectar and the center of her begins to roll. She can feel the bees shifting, feeding, as they unfurl their long proboscides drinking up what she has boiled.
“We can’t keep doing this, Honey,” Adam says, standing. His voice distorts to static. “We won’t,” he drones.
He pulls her into his arms, a command, and she can’t pull away. He squeezes her tight against him, and she gasps, as her fists dig into the soft wax, as the honeycomb cracks. Her spines stretches taut, a coil reverse, to a ripe and ripping release.
She squirms out of Adam’s embrace. No, no, no. They need her.
The air ignites with buzzing.
She needs them.
She crosses her legs, tries to hold the wiggling bodies back, but one by one, the bees begin to leave—bit by bit, beating still, the pieces of her escape.
They swarm to Adam’s face and in seconds, it is a writhing unrecognizable mass, tiny bee bodies pumping and stinging, over and over, moving, expanding, contracting, thrusting.
They will die now, she knows. Their stingers and sacs will be trapped in his skin, breaking off, splitting their bodies open. They will die like the rest, trying to grow something sweet, something good.
She watches Adam’s mouth open, and a wave of bees crawls inside. “Go get cleaned up,” the black hole mouth says, in radio wave, in shapes.
But Belle sits back down to the cool slip of the sheets, stares down at the bees still trickling from the living wound. “Belle!” the static roars in the air, and she lies back, pressing her face to the bed. It smells like wet soil, the slick of it already warming beneath her. The dark shape of the man looms over her, gesturing to the bathroom, crackling sounds.
She doesn’t recognize him. So, she closes her eyes, and lets her heart go, again.
Meagan Johanson is a writer from Oregon, where she lives with her family and one very good cat. She enjoys playing the piano, watching things grow, and sticking the landing on a new recipe. She is always seeking a new obsession, and has lived many exciting lives, at least in her imagination. You can find her on Twitter: @MeaganJohanson.