Ever since the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl had started World War Three in April 1986, things had been changing. Pretty much all of humanity and most of the larger animals had been wiped out by the nuclear war. But the insects however, were thriving. The effects of the new weapons had made the insects stronger, and more intelligent, even human-like. They could speak, make buildings, and even create beautiful art. In Macedonia it was the bees who were the dominant insect, with huge bee hives all over the Balkan nation, and new ones popping up daily.
Tonight was the night of Skopje Fest. One of the biggest musical events in Macedonia. And this time there was an extra prize for the winner. The winner would not only get prize money, they would get to represent Macedonia in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. Ever since insects had become dominant across Europe they had been holding the contest, a celebration of European insect music. Many in Macedonia wanted to go and represent their country at the grand event. Skopje Fest would decide who got that honour.
The bees sat on the bench, eagerly awaiting the start of the festival.
"I hope everyone here is ready!" Vlatko Ilievski grinned, "We'll be starting soon. Good luck everyone!"
Vlatko had won Skopje Fest before, back in 2011, and had gone to Eurovision then. He already knew what the contest was like. Tonight he was performing the song 'Sever-Jug" with his friend Risto Samardžiev. That this time it was a duet was certainly interesting, all of Vlatko's past Eurovision attempts had been solo efforts.
"I think everyone is ready here," Risto said, "I can't wait for it to start already!"
"No pressure, ok?" Daniel Kajmakoski said, "What is important is that a good song and performance is sent to represent Macedonia, that is all that matters."
"Well you would say that, wouldn't you?" Tamara said, "You are the favourite to win the whole event."
Daniel was indeed the favourite to win the contest. He was a new arrival to the hive, no one was quite sure what hive he came from originally, where that hive had been or even what happened there, only that his old hive didn't exist anymore. Still, he had been welcomed into this hive with open arms and was now quite at home there. He had already won another competition, the X Factor Adria in Serbia, and his coach had been Zeljko Joksimovic, one of the most famous singers in the entire Balkans. It seemed that it very likely that Daniel would win the contest. Still, it wouldn't be a certainty until the results came in at the end of the show.
It was a little while later, and the bees were still waiting. Daniel had expected the show to have started by now, but they were still waiting in the green room for the festival to start. Kaliopi, the interval act, was sitting with them now and singing to keep everyone entertained. At that moment, they heard a lot of shouting outside. Kaliopi stopped singing and flew over to the window to see what it was.
"What's going on out there?" Kaliopi asked.
It was then that Kaliopi saw that they were holding signs. Signs against Skopje Fest.
"Uh oh," Kaliopi said, "It's the protesters."
"Well that's not good," Dimitar said.
There were protesters outside again. Protesting against Skopje Fest. It was the older bees of the hive who were doing it, as usual. They had expected this, but still, it was annoying.
"What, again?" Vlatko asked, as the protesters started to shout louder, "This is every year now!"
"Hey!" Risto yelled, turning to look through the window at the protesters, "Keep it down! This is just a music show, that's all! It's harmless!"
Risto was an older bee too, but he was an exception. Risto enjoyed the Macedonian music scene and he enjoyed making music, but the other older bees did not typically enjoy musical activities, they preferred to pollinate flowers. They were concerned that the younger bees would stop pollinating flowers entirely in favour of music shows like Skopje Fest and the Eurovision Song Contest. This was a real concern throughout some sections of the Macedonian bee society. Every year, the protests against Skopje Fest were getting worse.
"No to Skopje Fest!" shouted one of the protesters, "Yes to pollination!"
"Please stop it!" Daniel said. But the protests outside just got louder. At that moment, the host of the show, Vasil Zafircev, flew into the room.
"Guys," Vasil said, "I'm not sure we can start the show just yet. The protesters are trying to break into the arena."
That had only happened once before, during Skopje Fest 2009. But the security had been good back then, and they had stopped the protesters from breaking in. Risto, Vlatko and Kaliopi had all been there during the 2009 event when the protesters were stopped from breaking into the arena.
"Oh, that nearly happened before," Vlatko said, thinking back to the 2009 event.
"Yeah," Risto said, "I remember that. But still, they were stopped back then, they'll be stopped now."
"I'm not so sure," Kaliopi said, "The protests were smaller back then. Every year they are getting bigger and bigger."
"Hey," Vasil said to the Skopje Fest contestants, "Try not to worry about it, ok? This isn't your problem. It's ours. We will fix this, and we will stop anything bad from happening to the festival tonight, understand?"
"Yeah," Risto said, "Thanks, Vasil."
"Now then, I've got to go and get the security team so we can fix this," Vasil said, and with that, he flew off.
"You guys think he can really stop it?" Daniel asked.
"Sure," Vlatko said, "After all, they've been stopped before."
"But..." Daniel said, "As Kaliopi said, the protests are bigger now."
Suddenly, their conversation was interrupted again by banging coming from outside, banging against the walls and windows.
"So, um..." Dimitar said, "They can't break through the windows, right?"
"I don't think so?" Risto said, "I sure hope not."
At that moment they saw the security bees flying around, taking the protesters away from the arena.
"Phew," Kaliopi said, "Well that's good at least."
The protest had stopped, but it was very late now. Vasil flew back into the room.
"Guys," Vasil said, "We've stopped the protests but... unfortunately we have to postpone Skopje Fest until tomorrow. I guess that's ok with everyone here?"
All the bees nodded.
"Yeah," Daniel said, "That's fine. It's just a shame that some bees are trying to ruin the festival."
"True," Vasil said, "But don't worry, we'll make sure tomorrow is fine. In fact, it'll be the best Skopje Fest ever!"
They sure hoped it would be. And with that, Vasil flew off.
The Skopje Fest contestants continued sitting in the green room for a while, while Vasil and the security team made sure that the protesters were actually gone.
While they were waiting, Tamara looked down at her phone, looking for any news about Skopje Fest. All the news was about the protests there. She knew the protesters would hate that she had a phone, but most bees in Macedonia had phones now. That was just the reality of life in the hive. Technology made things so much easier. She continued scrolling through the news. There were news articles talking about tonight's event and the odds for the festival had come in too. It seemed that Daniel would win the contest for sure. Miyatta had been looking at Tamara's phone, and saw the odds. Miyatta looked a little annoyed at that, and flew off to collect something. It was only a few minutes before Miyatta flew back into the room, clutching a piece of paper.
"Just wait a minute!" Miyatta yelled, holding out the piece of paper to the other bees. That was the other thing that the older bees were against, using paper and technology like humans would, but there was no time to think of that now.
"What is it?" Tamara asked.
"Daniel Kajmakoski is not who you think he is!" Miyatta said, "The reason that his old hive is gone is that... he... he... he ran away from his hive! His hive was attacked by hornets and he ran away! Instead of fighting, he ran away!"
Gasps of shock came from the other bees. They had not expected that. In Macedonia, for a bee to do that was unacceptable. If something ever happened to the hive, the expectation was that every bee would stand and fight to protect their hive and defend their queen. Daniel Kajmakoski had broken the number one rule of Macedonian bee society. He had ran away from his hive. He had abandoned his fellow bees. He had abandoned his queen.
The others bees couldn't believe it. All thoughts of the protests against Skopje Fest went out of their minds. Now all they were thinking about was this. Kaliopi flew over to where Daniel was.
"That's not true, is it Daniel?" Kaliopi asked, "Daniel, tell us that's not true!"
Daniel didn't say anything. He just looked down at the floor, mostly feeling ashamed, but also feeling shocked that someone could have dug up his secret past like that. How did Miyatta know? How did she find out? He guessed that Miyatta had been planning on revealing the information if he won the event, but now that it was postponed she had decided to reveal it anyway.
"Daniel?" Kaliopi asked again, "Daniel? Talk to us, please."
"I... I..." Daniel looked down at the floor, his wings drooped low, "I'm sorry."
Tamara nearly dropped her phone.
"So it's true..." Tamara said.
"I... I'm sorry," Daniel repeated, not making eye contact with any of the bees, still looking down at the floor.
The queen bee, Elena Risteska, sat up in her chair. She had been called to a meeting and that was a rare thing indeed. And of course, it was about Daniel. Daniel Kajmakoski was a big star throughout Macedonia, but this new information was unacceptable.
At that moment, the door opened, and Daniel himself flew into the room.
"You... you asked to see me, Queen Elena?" Daniel asked.
"Yes," Elena replied sternly, "And you already know what it's about. Everyone in Macedonia is talking about it."
"I know..." came the reply.
Elena looked down. She was sad that she had to do this, but she had been left with no choice.
"Daniel Kajmakoski," Elena said, "You are hereby kicked out of this hive forever. You are banished as of now. That is the queen's decree."
"What!" Daniel said, shocked, "But! Wait! No! Please!"
Daniel hadn't expected that. He didn't know what the punishment was going to be, but he hadn't expected banishment.
"My decision is final," Elena said.
"But wait! Don't!" Daniel yelled, but the queen bee ignored his pleas.
The guards came and dragged him out of the room, they flew with him for a while before coming to a wall. The hive wall. The guards opened a window and tossed him out of the hive. Daniel tumbled onto the soft grass below before flying up, looking at the hive he had just been banished from. He wasn't sure where he would go now, but he would have to find somewhere.
It was the day of Skopje Fest 2014. All of the contestants were there, except of course, for Daniel Kajmakoski, who had been banished from the hive. The conversation between the bees quickly turned to Daniel's banishment.
"Is it really fair to judge him though?" Risto asked, "No one here has ever been in his position, our hive has never been attacked by outside forces like that, ever."
"Risto, listen to what you're saying!" Tamara said, "What Daniel did is terrible, Queen Elena had to banish him. She didn't want to. But she had to."
"Well, she didn't have to do that though, did she?" Risto said, "She could have chosen not to banish him."
"Not with what the public are saying," Tamara said, "If Elena allowed Daniel to stay here they would have been very angry indeed."
Suddenly, they heard a noise from outside.
"Oh no," Vlatko said, "Not the protests again. I thought Vasil was going to stop this from happening?"
But as the bees went over to the window, they saw that it wasn't the protests. It was...
"Hornets!" Kaliopi yelled, "Hornets! Hornets are in the hive!"
At that moment, Vasil flew into the green room, looking very worried indeed.
"It's hornets!" Vasil yelled, "Hornets are here! Skopje Fest is cancelled! Run! All of you!"
Most of the contestants flew out of the green room when they heard that, but Vasil stayed where he was. Technically, if there was ever an attack on the hive during Skopje Fest, Vasil was supposed to force the Skopje Fest entrants to fight alongside him, but he couldn't bring himself do that. He was going to let them leave, but he wanted to stay and fight the hornets himself.
"Vasil..." Kaliopi said, "Aren't you coming? You'll be safer if you come with us. There's safety in numbers, after all."
"No," Vasil said, "Me and the security team are going to try and stop this."
"Vasil no," Kaliopi said.
"I have to do this," Vasil said, "I have to protect the hive. You guys, go, find safety someplace. I'll be fine, I promise. But I have to do this."
Kaliopi didn't want to leave Vasil behind. The other bees had to drag Kaliopi out of the green room. The bees flew away, away from the arena, not knowing where to go, just knowing that wherever they went, it had to be far away from those hornets. As they were flying away, Risto spoke up.
"Well... you do all realise that we're doing the exact same thing that Daniel got banished for, right?" Risto said.
"Be quiet Risto," Tamara said as the bees continued flying on their path.
"We are not soldiers," Dimitar said, "It's not our job. It's fine."
"Actually," Kaliopi said, "Technically every bee is a soldier. Every bee must defend the hive... every... no. I can't fly away while Vasil fights them with only a few others. You guys go on ahead, I'll go back to Vasil."
"No," Vlatko said, "Don't do that! Kaliopi!"
But it was too late, Kaliopi had already flown off.
"We should go after her, she can't go and fight the hornets," Risto said.
"It's her choice," Tamara said, "It's what every bee is expected to do, automatically."
"Yeah," Dimitar said, "So why aren't you doing it?"
Tamara just looked down.
"Be quiet," Tamara said, "Keep flying."
And so they all kept flying. Some might think it was hypocritical, that Daniel had been banished from the hive from fleeing hornets and yet, when faced with a hornet attack themselves, many were choosing to do the same thing. But Macedonian bee society was contradictory at its core. All the Skopje Fest entrants were worried about now was avoiding those hornets.
The hornets were coming closer to the arena. Vasil flew out and stood directly in their path, security bees on each side of him.
"Hornets!" Vasil yelled, trying not to sound scared, "Don't you take another step closer! Don't you dare!"
The hornets just laughed and flew even closer to him.
"I mean it!" Vasil yelled, "You are not welcome in this hive! Do you want a war with us? Leave now at once or you'll regret it!"
The hornets just laughed again. Vasil was starting to regret his decision to stay and fight. Suddenly, Kaliopi flew over to Vasil.
"Kaliopi!" Vasil yelled, "No! I told you to run!"
"No way," Kaliopi said, "If you're going to fight, then I want to fight too! I couldn't just leave you back here, it's not right!"
"No..." Vasil said, "No no no, you can't do this."
"I want to do this," Kaliopi said, "I have to do this."
The hornets were laughing even louder now. They came closer and closer to the bees. One tried to swipe at Kaliopi, but she dodged the hornet. They realised know just what a bad situation they were in. They were just little bees, and the hornets, they were much stronger.
Suddenly, something fell down from the sky. A net. It covered all of the hornets, trapping them underneath. No matter how hard the hornets tried to flap their wings, the net held them firmly in place. There was no escaping for them now. Vasil and Kaliopi were shocked.
"What... is that?" Kaliopi asked.
"It's a net," Vasil said, "A huge one, like the kind the humans used. But... where did it come from?"
"It's a miracle," Kaliopi said.
"Not quite," said a voice as a bee flew down towards them. Daniel Kajmakoski.
"Daniel?" Kaliopi said, "You're back? But... how? I thought you were banished!"
"Um, well," Daniel said, "Technically I'm still banished. But when I saw those hornets flying into the hive, I just couldn't stay away. I had to do something."
"Oh, but it is good news though," Kaliopi said, "I've been worried about you. And Elena will surely let you stay when she hears about what you've done for us tonight!"
"Well, that's the thing," Daniel said, "There are two groups of hornets who have come into this hive. But don't worry, I know where the other group are, and I have another net. So I'll go and get them. Kaliopi, Vasil, you two stay here, ok?"
"Alright," Vasil said, "Good luck Daniel!"
Meanwhile the Skopje Fest entrants were still flying. Now they had come to the wall. The wall of the hive.
"So, what should we do?" Vlatko asked, "Do we leave the hive or what?"
"Are you guys sure there are no guards there?" Dimitar asked, "If there are guards there and we get caught then they will definitely make us stay and fight the hornets."
"Is the hornet attack even well known about yet?" Risto asked.
"It probably will be now," Vlatko said.
"But, if we left," Joce Panov said, "Where would we even go?"
"That's a good question," Dimitar replied, "I have no idea."
They all hovered in the air, trying to decide whether they should leave the hive or not. There was safety in being part of a hive, but right now the hornet attack meant that the hive wasn't so safe.
Meanwhile, Queen Elena was sitting reading a book, her guards all around her, when the door to the palace burst open. Hornets flew inside, and looked down upon the bee queen.
"Oh no!" Elena yelled, "Hornets!"
Elena turned to her guards, but was horrified to see that her guard bees were flying out of the palace windows and out of the door, leaving her all along with the hornets.
"What!" Elena said, "Where are you going? Stay here and fight! Fight for your queen! Fight for your hive! Protect your queen! Protect me!"
The hornets were laughing even louder now, as more of the guards fled for their lives.
"No!" Elena yelled, "Come back! Defend your queen! Come back! Please! Protect me! Help!"
There were no guard bees left now. Just Elena and the hornets. The hornets just laughed again.
"We are going to destroy you, take over this hive and then take over Macedonia," one of the hornets said, "We want hornets to be the dominant insect in Macedonia, not you puny bees!"
The hornets surrounded the queen.
"Wait, no!" Elena yelled, "Don't! Please!"
Suddenly, a net flew down from the ceiling. The net trapped all of the hornets underneath it, but missed Queen Elena. Whoever threw that certainly had very good aim. A bee flew down from the palace ceiling. Elena was very surprised to find that it was Daniel.
"Daniel?" Elena said, "You came back?"
"I did," Daniel said, looking down at the hornets trapped underneath the net.
"I... I can't believe it," Elena said.
Elena flew out of the palace and flew outside with Daniel, when they came across the Skopje Fest entrants who were still trying to decide whether or not they should leave the hive. The hive wall was right next to the palace, after all.
"Guys!" Elena said, "Good news! The hornets have been defeated! You guys must have been trying to fight the hornets too, right?"
"Yeah," Risto lied, "We were doing that!"
"Sure you were," Daniel laughed.
"So, the hornets are gone now," Elena said, "And it's all thanks to Daniel. I certainly made a huge mistake when I banished him from the hive."
Queen Elena stepped forward, holding a medal towards Daniel, who took it and hung it around his neck.
"Daniel Kajmakoski," Elena said, "We owe you a lot for saving our hive from the hornets. You are no longer banished from the hive. Obviously, you have learned a lot since whatever happened at your old hive, and we are proud to have you here in our hive."
"Thank you, my queen," Daniel said, bowing to the queen bee.
Elena just laughed at that.
"Please," Elena grinned, "Call me Elena."
"Thank you, Elena."
Elena looked down at the hornet prisoners at her feet. They were in a cage now. They had nearly destroyed the hive, they had nearly took over. Once, they had threatened her, now, they were no threat at all.
"Well, I am feeling generous, so I won't kill you," Elena said.
Some of the hornets looked relieved at that, but that look would disappear when they heard what the queen had to say next.
"But it'll be close to it. Your wings will be ripped off and you will be thrown out of the hive onto the field outside," Elena continued, "That's right, you will have your stings removed and your wings removed. You will never hurt anyone ever again! You will never fly again! And the few birds that remain will probably eat you."
The hornets yelled as they were dragged away for their punishment. It was harsh justice, but it was bee justice. The insect world wasn't all rainbows and butterflies.
Skopje Fest had already been postponed twice. Now it was finally the day for Skopje Fest 2014 to actually happen.
"Sorry Daniel," Miyatta said as they all waiting in the green room, "I misunderstood you."
"Hey, that's ok," Daniel said, "A lot of people did, so don't worry about it."
At that moment, Vasil flew into the room.
"Are you guys all ready?" Vasil said, "We're going to be starting the show soon."
"We're all ready," Vlatko grinned.
The show began and everything went by perfectly. All the songs went by and now it was time for the insects of Macedonia to vote for who they wanted to represent the country at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015. After Daniel saved the bee hive from the hornets, it was clear who the winner would be. Daniel had already been the favourite because he had won X Factor, and now, he was an even bigger favourite. The Macedonian public had forgiven Daniel for abandoning his old hive, since it was clear that he was loyal to his new one.
"And the winner..." Vasil said, looking down at the card in his hands, "Of Skopje Fest 2014, is... Daniel Kajmakoski and his song 'Lisja Esenski.' Congratulations Daniel! You're going to Eurovision!"
Daniel flew onto the stage where Vasil was.
"Wow," Daniel said, turning to face the audience, "Thank you. Thank you all so much."
And so, Daniel won the festival, and won the right to represent Macedonia at Eurovision.
Everyone in the bee hive was happy. And it was all thanks to Daniel Kajmakoski for saving the bee hive from the hornets. Daniel was celebrated, not only in that bee hive, but throughout Macedonia. The protests against Skopje Fest never happened again. The older bees even started to accept technology and modern things. And the hornets never attacked again. It looked like the bee hive would have a real and lasting peace.