The Journal | #Fortnums

Stories from the Chocolate Bar Library | #8

Each bar in our new library of chocolate bars has a story to tell. Read 'The Peculiar Bees of Salt Bay' below.

It was always quiet but only ever deserted at night. People came to Salt Bay for the peace, the famous local honey, the views over the bay and the restaurants by the water but for the most part, because they had always been coming. First as children, then as parents, for as long as anyone could say.

And to those families, Salt Bay was less a holiday destination than another month of the year, one that arrived in the middle of July and left in the middle of August.

It was the start of July when the first incident took place. One of the cooks at the little Italian restaurant up on the cliff overlooking the shallowest part of the bay keeled over. Two waitresses found him on the kitchen floor, knife still in hand, a dozen or more bees buzzing in slow, uneven circles about his head. Two days later, the same thing happened to a man everyone knew as Gus, who worked the boats in the harbour and fixed anything that needed fixing. When they found him, there were bees buzzing in a lazy loop around the top of his sunburned head too.

Coroner’s reports said both died of natural causes.

A week after Gus, the families full of familiar jawlines and cheekbones and slowly-hyphenating old names began to arrive. As they pulled up to their holiday homes, there was talk of drinks at sundown and down-wind mid-morning runs to the market and light-hearted threats that shop talk and work stress would not be tolerated here. Two men snuck away from their unpacking families to shake hands and stand around. One stopped, mid-conversation, at a far-away sound.

'What's that?' asked a man in a polo shirt, embroidered at the left breast.

'It's a sort of buzzing, isn't it?' replied another man in a polo shirt, also embroidered at the left breast.

'Someone mowing, I think. Shearing something, maybe.'

'Or a rib. On the water.'


'Thank goodness it's July again, Harry. I am beyond glad to be out of the city.'

The buzzing noise grew a little louder, and both men scanned the horizon but saw no boats. They looked around for a lawn or a hedge or a bush being tended but saw nothing. And crucially, neither noticed the small swarm drawing a woozy 'O' about a dozen feet above them. Within minutes, both men were dead. Three more men in polo shirts followed suit in the next 48 hours.

And then the bees descended.

At about 1pm on a quiet Sunday hundreds of thousands of bees, maybe millions, flew in huge and messy formation across the sky over Salt Bay, turning the blue sky a moving shade of black. The noise was deafening.

People ran from their homes, ran from their restaurant tables, ran from the beach and the sea and scrambled to their cars and raced out of town carrying little or nothing of the things they had brought with them from the city, nor any of the famous honey they were intending to take back with them.

In the hours and days after, mobile phones rang unanswered on kitchen tables until the batteries gave out. Candles on restaurant tables burned down to nothing. The only sounds were of the sea sighing back and forth in the bay and the low hum of the still-circling bees overhead, their ranks now arranged more loosely, so rays of weak light broke through here and there. No trace of humanity remained.

By now, word of the strange happenings at Salt Bay was spreading. A succession of news crews armed with cameras arrived to film but none stayed longer than the few minutes it took to get the shots they needed. When the dull and persistent drone of the bees began to swell into a louder buzz, their nerves gave way.

And then quite suddenly, the bees dispersed. The sky overhead cleared to reveal Salt Bay still standing but completely deserted.

In the summers following, the families have not returned. Nobody has. The businesses have shut their doors. Salt Bay honey – the few jars already in circulation at the time of the strange goings-on – is now considered one of the world’s rarest and most sought-after varieties. The deaths of the men and the bees' odd behaviour remain officially unexplained.
Time for another?

Time for another?

Read the first story from the Library, inspired by our White Chocolate bar, The Icebreaker.

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