A brisk cool evening wind snatches the day’s warmth. Gathering it up from the Earth, the wind tosses it to the sky. Trees on the Île de la Cité wave green-crowned heads to the clear Spring firmament along the banks of the Seine.

Vivienne darts among leaves hauling her load, a kaleidoscope of colors hitting her eyes as shafts of evening sun break through the verdant cover. The longer days are dedicated to working, to gathering, to hauling along with her sisters.

She sets course for the familiar rose window of Notre-Dame just above the sacristy. She pulls into a steep climb when a giant shadow passes overhead. Vivienne falters and stops, hovering as she watches. The shadow recedes into the sky. A piercing kestrel’s cry knifes through the air.

“Wooooo! Where are my tasty meats, treats, and eats? Where, oh where?”

Louis loves to call out to his fellows when he hunts.

Vivienne resumes her ascent, homing in on the Gothic hulk’s intricate stained-glass window. She flies up and past a titanic gallery of gargoyles and ornate spires.

Surmounting the crest of the sacristy’s roof, Vivienne makes for the furthest of three box hives. Buzzing about when she arrives are three of her sisters: Marie, Violet, and Colette. Vivienne lands on Collete to get their attention.

Then Vivienne shakes, saying, “Hey! Listen up.”
Colette, Violet, and Marie form up a circle to see. Vivienne dancing, waggles, then makes a figure eight saying, “I found some flowers full of sweet nectar a hundred yards west in Jean-XXIII’s square.”

Other workers pause their buzzing and take note.

Colette, irritated, says, “Seriously, Vivienne, why do you always pick me to jump on?”
Vivienne giggles, “Because you hate it so much.”

Marie pipes up, “Better you than me, Colette.”

The three wind up their wings in a hum and take off for the pickings.

“Thanks, Vivienne.”

“See you later.”

More join in following the three sisters, making a beeline across the roof and diving down over the edge.

“See you guys in a bit.”

Vivienne enters the hive; tier upon tier of honeycombs swarming with 60,000 of her sisters greets her view.

She bumps into this and that sister with her load of nectar processing.

“Excuse me.”

“Coming through.”


An endless litany from the workers as Vivienne looks for an empty cell in the honeycomb.

Here and there are workers sealing gaps, tending to brood cells, and feeding larvae, as well as drones regulating the internal temperature of the hive. Among them, the Queen moves, laying eggs and releasing pheromone signals.

Vivienne finds an empty cell and regurgitates her load of nectar as honey.

Relieved, she says, “Now for more.”

Outside in the sun, Vivienne crawls to the edge of the box, shivering her wings before dropping off the edge and sailing in a hover down the cathedral to a bright patch of flowers in the square below.


Vivienne and her sisters make many trips as the sun begins to go down into evening’s bosom.

“Almost done, Vivienne; the night comes,” Colette says as she and Vivienne comb over a patch of snowy clover buds.

“So it does, Colette. I’m almost full. Ready to go back?” Vivienne says.

“Sure thing.”

On the ascent, Vivienne sees something. “Colette! What is that shimmering atop the Cathedral?”

“I don’t know. Something in the air?”

The two sisters pause on one of the spires on the way up puzzling at a growing haze building between the two great towers at the base of the spire. Other workers returning stop on the gargoyles and spires.

Marie and Violet join Vivienne and Colette.

“What is it?”

“Why are we stopping?”

“Do you smell that?”

“Yes, something familiar.”

Dozens of bees are gathering now as white billows pours forth from the roof.

That’s when it hits them like a wailing siren. Three queens send out pheromone warnings, “Return! Danger to the hive! Return!”

A furious buzz ripples among the workers who push their wings to full speed. In a swarm, they tear through the air soaring towards the growing masses of smoke. To the square below, the message spreads, “Home, now!”

They abandon their collection duties and return to the hives.

Yellow demon spleen rises roaring from below the flowing piles of smoke now blocking out the sun.

Far above Vivienne sees Louis and Mathilda, the kestrels, wheeling in the air crying out, “Our babies! Our babies!”

Songbirds flee screaming and fluttering to the square below, making for the trees.

The day grows dark as the swarm closes in the hives; the sun is blocked. Forest devouring fire’s bile blocks the sun, casting instead his fearful light over the bees’ homes.

“We are almost there,” Violet exclaims.

The sisters press forward, daring the gusts thrown out by the inferno.

Clumps of the swarm are thrown into spiraling confusion. They fight to right themselves and return to the course.

Workers pour into their hives. More signals are put out from the queen.

“Seal the gaps, eat all the honey you can.”

Inside, Vivienne and her sisters find the hive at the brink of panic as hundreds of workers pack inside.

Here, three hundred bees are sealing the upper levels with resin.

There, hundreds upon hundreds are gorging themselves with as much honey as possible.

The queen signals the whole hive, “Be ready to move on my command.”

Confusion gives way to purposeful movement.

Vivienne and Colette set to work gathering resin to block out the gray wisps clawing their way in. An evil glow penetrates all the cracks in the hive. Fire cracks and snaps his teeth.

From far below come the sounds of singing:

“Sainte Marie, mère de Dieu, priez pour nous pauvre pécheurs, maintenant et à l’heure de notre mort. Amen, Amen, Alléluia.”

The queen stands above all calling out orders when waves of smoke crash into the hive. Everything goes dark, the air choking as the hive falls into stillness.

All of Vivienne’s and the hive’s senses are failing.

Everything drops away except sound. The singing gets through: “…maintenant et à l’heure de notre mort…maintenant et à l’heure de notre mort…”

Then a deluge of water falling.


Fresh air blows through the hive as morning light dances through the cracks. Groggy Vivienne comes to; the rest of the hive is coming out of their deep slumber. Stumbling, she makes her way to open air.

“Look, the spire and roof are gone.”

Rising above the sacristy, the rose windows are intact. Other bees come into the light; a trickle, then a flood.

In droves, the workers fly to survey the damage to their home.

Perching on a gargoyle, Vivienne and the others look on.

She says, “Our Lady’s Cathedral, she still stands.”

All around, the bees buzz, continuing the work of the hive amid the ashes.

The sun climbs into the sky.

The wind blows.

And the Seine flows.