[SCENE I. A large field of raspberries. The thorny bushes seem to stretch on forever and in all directions. Then, someone–a child, no more than 13–comes crashing through the bushes. His clothes are torn, he is scratched up from the thorns, and he looks panicked.]
CHILD: No, no, not me, please!
[The child is covered by a MYSTERIOUS SHADOW. The child screams. Scene.]
[SCENE II. The offices of the Portland Examiner. SOPHIE is standing at the desk of the editor-in-chief, MICHAEL CLAY. It is a messy desk, though not in the way that implies that a lot of things get done.]
MICHAEL: That’s the third child who’s vanished at Johnson’s raspberry fields this month, Sophie. I didn’t put you on the grisly murder beat so you could go slacking off on vacation!
SOPHIE: But Michael, I’ve never had a vacation.
MICHAEL: And this is no time to start! I’ve got kids being murdered brutally in a field. Or at least disappearing without a trace, but that just means they haven’t found the bodies yet! You’re our star reporter, Sophie. It’s time you started acting like it!
SOPHIE: I already do act like it!
MICHAEL: Then why are you trying to pawn this story off on someone else? Do you want me to put Connell in charge of grisly murders?
SOPHIE: No, I just–
MICHAEL: I have to meet with the board of directors this afternoon, Sophie. Do you want me to tell them that their newspaper doesn’t have the best grisly murder coverage in the nation?
SOPHIE: No, you don’t have to–
MICHAEL: Good! I expect your story on the Raspberry Murders by next weekend. Take young Connell with you. He needs to learn that reporting is more than just getting abandoned buildings destroyed.
SOPHIE: I–yes, Michael. I’ll have it to you as soon as I can.
MICHAEL: That’s the spirit!
[SCENE III. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. SARAH is drawing in a sketchbook; MELISSA is lying on the couch staring at the ceiling in the universal posture of someone very bored. SARAH has adopted a bowler hat.]
MELISSA: I’m bored, Sarah.
SARAH: I know.
MELISSA (sitting up lazily): What are you drawing?
SARAH: I’m trying to draw the ghosts Sophie killed.
MELISSA: Is that where you got the hat?
SARAH: Yes. I think it’s what they would have wanted.
MELISSA: It looks good on you. (Beat.) You’re still upset about that, huh?
SARAH: It’s very sad, Melissa. They just wanted to sing. (Beat.) And play music, I guess, whatever the word for that is.
(MELISSA looks around for a way to change the topic. Her eyes light on a newspaper advertisement.)
MELISSA: We should go out! There’s a raspberry festival at Johnson’s farm.
SARAH: I feel like you aren’t being very sensitive to my mourning.
MELISSA: I just want you to be happy! Also, I want to not be bored. Come on, I’m sure your ghosts liked a good time as much as the next ghost.
SARAH: I guess. They were happy ghosts.
MELISSA: That’s the spirit. And we may be scraping the bottom of the barrel by calling a raspberry festival fun, but I’m a firm believer in desperation.
SARAH: You’re not very good at being the enthusiastic one, Melissa.
MELISSA: What can I say? You’re a tough act to follow.
[SCENE IV. JOHNSON’s house. Despite it being a bright, sunny day outside (establishing shot!) the curtains are drawn and JOHNSON is inside, looking very much a wreck. There is a large, monstrous shape in the shadows.]
JOHNSON: I can’t do this anymore! All these . . . disappearances, people will get suspicious.
MONSTER: Don’t worry, Mr. Johnson. After this weekend your services will no longer be required.
JOHNSON: And after that?
MONSTER: After that I will be gone.
JOHNSON: This doesn’t feel right.
MONSTER: There is a festival going on even as we speak, is there not? I think I am doing you a service.
JOHNSON: Y-yes, I suppose so. I guess I’d better go back to work.
(JOHNSON collects himself, puts on a brave face, and departs. He still looks a little frayed around the edges but he has adopted a good-natured expression. It’s easy to imagine that he is simply worn out from the stresses of running a raspberry festival. Scene.)
[SCENE V. The Jaded Old Crone. Eric and Sophie are eating lunch.]
ERIC: I thought you were going on vacation.
SOPHIE: So did I! But it looks like it’s the raspberry festival for us.
ERIC: At least there’s those missing kids. That could be a good story.
SOPHIE: Yeah. We’d better find something there. I’m not cancelling my vacation just so I can report that there weren’t any grisly murders at the raspberry festival.
ERIC: Don’t worry, Sophie. I’m sure we’ll find a pile of bloody, mutilated remains. The whole town will be talking about it. (Scene.)
[SCENE VI. The Raspberry Festival. It is sort of like a fairground, except everything is raspberry-themed. There are numerous tables filled with raspberry-related swag: jam, jelly, candies, raspberry-fiber cloth, raspberry-themed clothing, et cetera.
SARAH and MELISSA have arrived. SARAH is still wearing her bowler hat, and MELISSA has opted for a yellow and black striped shirt, black skirt, and large sunglasses. She looks vaguely bee-like in her ensemble. They look like most people just arriving at a festival of dubious value do: a little lost, but determined to find something interesting to do, for a given value of interesting.]
SARAH: I keep thinking you are going to sting me.
MELISSA: Well, someone’s feisty today. Are you feeling better?
SARAH: (Adjusts her hat.) Yes.
MELISSA: Well, good. I’d hate for you to be sad when we witness, er. (Reads a sign on a table.) The best raspberry jam this side of the Cascades.
SARAH: That’s . . . not a very large area.
MELISSA: So you can understand why I want you to be prepared for this explosion of taste.
SARAH: Yeah, sure.
(In the distance, SOPHIE and ERIC can be seen arriving. MELISSA is about to say something, but stops on seeing them; SARAH, taking a cue, turns to see what her friend is looking at. There is a beat’s pause before MELISSA restrains SARAH, who has simultaneously begun approaching SOPHIE with hostile intent.)
SARAH (struggling to break free from MELISSA’s grasp): Ghost-killer!
MELISSA: Violence is not the solution, small friend! At least, not when they see you coming!
(SOPHIE shoots a disdainful look in their direction and keeps walking. SARAH calms down.)
SARAH: What’s she doing here? Did she run out of things to ruin?
MELISSA: I told you, this jam is intense. We’d best try some before she takes all of it for herself.
SARAH: Your attempts to calm me are touching, if misguided. Very well. Show me these delicious jams.
(They depart for the jam table. Cut to JOHNSON, now talking to SOPHIE. He looks nervous and frazzled, but in good spirits.)
JOHNSON: Children? What children?
SOPHIE: According to these reports, three children have gone missing here in the past month. Surely you’ve heard something?
JOHNSON: This is the first I’ve heard of it! I’d thank you to do some research before you start making these libellous accusations!
ERIC: Actually, I think it would be slander, since it’s spoken.
SOPHIE: I can see why he’d make the mistake, though, since we’re a newspaper and will eventually be printing it. If it’s a good story, I mean.
ERIC: Well, sure, but this is just a spoken conversation. You don’t even have a tape recorder, which you probably should. Just because we might eventually write it down doesn’t make spoken accusations libel.
SOPHIE: It’s not like it even matters! They’re both defamation. You’re just being pedantic, and there’s a story to be had here. We’re just asking questions, Mr. Johnson–Mr. Johnson?
(In the argument, JOHNSON has escaped the conversation. SOPHIE throws up her hands in frustration.)
SOPHIE: That child-murderer is getting away with murder! Go find him. I’m going to have a look around.
ERIC: I get the feeling he’s going to be hard to find.
SOPHIE: Just do it. You’ve got your cell phone, right?
ERIC: Yes, I thought it might come in handy. These cell phones, it’s amazing how useful they can be in unexpected situations, if you just remember to–
SOPHIE: Good. I’ll call you if I find anything. You do the same.
(She cuts into the crowd. ERIC sighs and makes his way to a table offering books about raspberry growing. Cut to MELISSA and SARAH, leaving the jam table. MELISSA has apparently spilled some jam on her shirt, and is picking at it with some irritation.)
MELISSA: It’s going to be nothing but bees trying to eat my shirt for the rest of the day. I knew jam was a bad idea.
SARAH: Maybe they’ll think you’re one of them and leave you alone?
MELISSA: I don’t think that’s how bees work.
SARAH: Seriously though, where are all the bees?
MELISSA: That’s actually a good point. I haven’t seen a single one all day.
SARAH: Maybe they’re frightened of the crowds?
MELISSA: That seems implausible.
SARAH: Yeah. (Beat. She notices a raspberry lemonade stand in the distance.) Oh man, raspberry lemonade! I’m going to go get some. Do you want any?
MELISSA: Yeah, sure. I’m going to check out this raspberry paper over here.
(SARAH departs to acquire lemonade. SOPHIE arrives, looking critically at a hat made of raspberry leaves. She bumps into MELISSA. They exchange icy stares.)
MELISSA: Oh, Swanson. I didn’t see you there.
SOPHIE: No, I didn’t see YOU there, Xenakis. (She is aware this is kind of weak.) Thanks for keeping your friend from attacking me earlier. I’d hate to see her get hurt.
MELISSA: Why did you do it, Sophie? Why’d you kill those ghosts?
SOPHIE: The fake ghosts you made up to make money off the people of Portland, you mean?
MELISSA: You know what, forget it. I have better things to do than talking to someone who made the sweetest girl in Portland cry. (She walks off into the raspberry patch.)
(SARAH returns, glares at SOPHIE.)
SARAH: What did you do to Melissa, you ghost-killer?
SOPHIE: Who? (Beat.) Oh, Melissa! She wandered off. Something about not wanting to get in my way while I’m on an important investigation into grisly child murder.
SARAH: If something’s happened to her . . . .
SOPHIE: Ha. Don’t bother, she’s probably just found the raspberry liquor.
(Departs, leaving SARAH alone. SARAH calls out MELISSA’s name a few times, looking worried, then approaches the RASPBERRY PAPER VENDOR.)
SARAH: Have you seen a girl with long curly hair who’s dressed like she thinks bees are the best thing in the world?
VENDOR: Ha. Yeah, I know who you’re talking about. Headed into the raspberry patch. She looked angry.
SARAH: Do you think I should go after her?
VENDOR: Your best bet’s probably to stay here, darling. There’s a lot of raspberries out there.
(Cut to MELISSA, walking through the raspberry bushes. She has some small scratches on her arms already, but it doesn’t appear to be bothering her. She stops eventually to pick a few ripe berries, and stands, eating them contemplatively. As she does, a LARGE, MONSTROUS SHAPE emerges behind her. She turns at the noise.)
MELISSA: You have got to be fucking kidding me.
(The MONSTER emerges in the light. It is some sort of SPACE ALIEN, slimy and green, with, for some reason, a very large net. It stops to look MELISSA over briefly before swinging its net and capturing her. She begins to scream, but it is cut off as soon as the net touches her, and she goes limp.)
(Cut to JOHNSON, at a table selling his home-made jellies. At the sound of the scream he goes pale.)
JOHNSON: Excuse me, I should see what that was.
(Cut to SARAH, still at the paper vendor’s.)
SARAH: That was Melissa! I have to help her! (She runs into the raspberry patch.)
(Cut to SOPHIE, drinking a glass of raspberry wine.)
SOPHIE (producing her cell phone): Eric! That was our story! Meet me at the liquor table!
[SCENE VII. The interior of a spaceship of some variety. It is filled with beehives, though the bees do not appear to be buzzing. MELISSA is sprawled uncomfortably on the floor, and is just waking up. The SPACE ALIEN (nee MONSTER) is at a table, looking at some sci-fi looking displays. MELISSA sits up and groans, looking around with obvious confusion.]
ALIEN: You are a very strange bee.
MELISSA: What? I’m–Christ, I got this shirt at a thrift store. I didn’t know everyone would think I had a bee fetish!
ALIEN: Then, you are not a bee?
MELISSA: No! My name is Melissa Xenakis. I’m a writer!
ALIEN (as if pronouncing a word that is familiar, but whose meaning escapes him): Melissa . . . . (He consults one of his screens.) Ah, yes! Greek human for “honeybee!” You will not deceive me, bee queen!
MELISSA: (Rolls her eyes.) Is it too much to ask for an intelligent abductor?
[SCENE VIII. The raspberry fields. SARAH is running, but as we join her slows to a halt and looks around, perhaps realizing that running in one direction isn’t a very good way to do anything but get lost.]
VOICE: What have ye to do with the beezz, human? (The voice is strangely buzzy.)
SARAH: What? Nothing! I just want to find my friend.
VOICE: Your friend? Ah, aye, the bee-woman. I can help ye, friend. But first, ye must trust me.
SARAH: Who are you?
(There is a large MYSTERIOUS SHADOW. It is followed by a small FAIRY MAN with wings, a stinger, and black and yellow bee stripes.)
FAIRY: I be the keeper of the beezz. Come, the time drawzz short.
(SARAH follows the FAIRY MAN into an alcove. SOPHIE emerges shortly after, and follows at a distance. Scene.)
[SCENE IX. The spaceship. MELISSA is seated at a table, where the SPACE ALIEN is attempting to feed her honey.]
ALIEN: Surely a bee of your size must be constantly hungry! Why do you not eat?
MELISSA: Oh, thanks for that. That’s great. Listen, I told you, this is just a shirt I got at a thrift store. It’s just dyed cotton. I’m not a bee.
ALIEN: That is mine to judge, bee-queen.
MELISSA: I don’t have a stinger, or wings. I only have two legs. I’m not even an insect.
ALIEN: Ah-ha! You have four! I have seen through your tricks, bee-devil. You are mine now.
MELISSA: I suppose I’m using bee magic to make you think I’m human?
ALIEN: So you admit it!
(MELISSA sighs, and dips a finger in some of the honey and eats some. She makes a face.)
MELISSA: Honey is really not meant to be eaten alone.
[SCENE X. Fairy Glen. This looks mostly like the rest of the raspberry patch, but the sky is a worrying shade of green and everything seems more colorful, and the dimensions seem slightly off. The thorns on the raspberries are also a lot bigger and more intimidating.
There are three CHILDREN in the background, wearing beesuits. Something about their expression (probably the traditional spiral-hypno-eyes) suggests that they are not themselves.]
FAIRY: There be a monster taking all the beezz. It seemzzz he planzz to leave with them today. Now be the time for action.
SARAH: Yes, okay, but I don’t see what– (A thought occurs to her, in the form of an image of yellow-and-black clad MELISSA. She gasps.) So this monster–is really, really stupid!
FAIRY: Aye. And it hazz the bee-woman. Now, I muszzt ask ye to help me.
SARAH: Will it help me get Melissa back?
FAIRY: Aye, ye could say that. Look thiszz way.
(She looks; the FAIRY turns his hypno-eyes on her. After a moment, she wears the same hypno-eyed expression as the CHILDREN.)
FAIRY: Aye, ye’re bigger than t’otherzz, but ye’re yet small. Now put thiszz on.
(SARAH obediently begins to struggle into a bee-suit. Scene.)
[SCENE XI. The raspberry patch. ERIC and SOPHIE are exploring; or rather, SOPHIE is looking for something desperately and a little unsteadily. ERIC looks bored.]
SOPHIE: They were right here! They were–
ERIC: I think maybe we should head back. I heard there’s a raspberry woodcarving competition.
SOPHIE: No! We’re so close! (Beat.) Raspberry woodcarving?
ERIC: Sure, they carve wood to look like a raspberry. Or maybe a raspberry bush. I don’t really know the specifics.
(An uncomfortable silence follows. Just as SOPHIE looks about to relent to going back, there is a sudden flurry of activity in the form of the THREE CHILDREN flying forth from one of the raspberry bushes that looks suspiciously gate-like, each wearing bee suits. SARAH flies after them, with the FAIRY MAN on her back.)
FAIRY: Hyah! Onward, children! The monszzter muszzt not eszzcape!
(The fairy and his flying thralls are gone as quickly as they came, leaving SOPHIE and ERIC standing, looking dazed.)
ERIC: So I suppose–
SOPHIE: Shut up and get after them! This is our story!
(They run off into the bushes. Scene.)
[SCENE XII. The alien spaceship. MELISSA is still ignoring a ridiculous amount of various honey treats on the table.]
MELISSA: So what are you doing with all these bees?
ALIEN: All the bees in my garden have left! Now there are none to pollinate my plants.
MELISSA: You know you can just buy bees to start your own colony, right? It’s a thing urban hippies do to feel more in touch with–
(Just then, the bees in the spaceship begin to wake and buzz angrily.)
ALIEN: You! What have you done?
(The door to the spaceship bursts open, and the THREE CHILDREN and SARAH enter. The FAIRY MAN is still riding on SARAH’s back. The actual bees swarm out the door; the four hypnotized bee-suited humans begin to swarm the SPACE ALIEN. This is not very useful as they do not actually have stings.)
ALIEN (weirdly unfazed): Such magnificent bees! Why didn’t you tell me about them?
MELISSA (weakly): I just wanted to see the look on your face.
(The human-bees discover the honey treats on the table and begin to devour them.)
FAIRY: No! No, children! Attack the monszzter! He izz trying to deszztroy your kind!
MELISSA: Wait. Is that Sarah?
FAIRY: No! Stop eating! Attack!
MELISSA: What are you doing with my friend?
FAIRY: Er, I wazz borrowing her.
(MELISSA produces a cell phone and snaps a picture, then, with a wicked grin, punches the FAIRY MAN in the face. The CHILDREN and SARAH suddenly stop and look around, confused and then a little embarrassed. With a shapeless cry of fury, the FAIRY MAN begins stinging the SPACE ALIEN.)
MELISSA: And you were making fun of my shirt.
SARAH: What? (Looks at herself.) Oh god.
MELISSA: Don’t worry, I got a picture.
(The SPACE ALIEN gives a cry of agony and curls up on the floor.)
MELISSA: Come on, let’s get out of here. You too, kids. Hurry!
(They leave the alien spaceship. SOPHIE and ERIC are standing outside. ERIC is snapping pictures excitedly, while SOPHIE is trying to see what’s going on. On seeing the camera, SARAH instinctively hides, leaving MELISSA with three bee-suited children standing around her as if she is their mother.)
SOPHIE: What just happened?
FIRST CHILD: She saved us from the space alien and the evil fairy man!
SOPHIE: You expect me to believe that–
ERIC: They’re kids, Sophie.
SOPHIE: She must have bribed them! With sweets! Look at their faces, all dripping with honey! Did she hurt you? Did she bribe you with candy? Did the candy make you feel funny and see space aliens?
MELISSA: I’m just naturally good with kids, I guess. Especially kids that have been kidnapped and hypnotized by fairies. Come on, kids. Let’s get you home.
(She walks off, followed by the kids, and SARAH, who has removed the bee suit in the meanwhile.)
SOPHIE: Wait! I’m sorry! Just tell me what happened!
(The alien spaceship begins taking off. After it’s reached about twenty feet, the FAIRY MAN leaps from the open door shouting a victorious battlecry, and vanishes into the bushes.)
SOPHIE: You haven’t told me anything! None of this makes sense!
(The spaceship is long gone now, leaving SOPHIE and ERIC standing alone.)
SOPHIE: I didn’t even get my grisly murder!
ERIC: I don’t think you will, Sophie.
SOPHIE: (Sags, dejected.) I know. We were so close though! What am I supposed to write now? ‘Inexplicable spaceship escapes without comment, reporter’s hated enemy is hero to adorable children?’
ERIC: Tell me about it.
SOPHIE: I need a vacation.