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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2117215
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2117215
What Evil Lurks Beneath Gerald Thomson's Garden?
Gerald Thomson was running late for work, again. He closed the front door to his shabby basement apartment and took the stairs two at a time toward daylight, checking to make sure he’d remembered his keys as he climbed…

He froze, keys in-hand and hand in pocket. There, stretched across his path, was a long, thin tendril of vine. The errant growth had broken the boundaries of the small garden he’d planted, had crept its way out along the concrete walkway. It was five feet long, easily. Yesterday it had been the size of all the other seedlings he’d planted- seven inches tall, at best.

What the…?

Gerald didn’t finish his thought. He stared instead, disbelieving, at the seeming miracle of botany that had taken place in his backyard. All the other bean plants looked much the same as they had the previous evening, when last he’d watered. From the middle of the small patch of shrubs, though, sprang this comparatively monstrous tentacle.

The thought that’s not possible swirled and coalesced in his mind. He pushed it aside.

Work. He was late for work. Tending to this curiosity would have to wait until he got home.

************************************************

It had been a busy day and, occupied as he was, Gerald had forgotten all about the anomaly in his garden. Tired and needing to pee, he paused nonetheless when he opened the gate into the backyard and saw the offending plant. The vine had grown another seven or eight inches, it appeared- though of course he had no way of being certain. The creeper lay across his path; he took a giant step over the vine, located his keys as he took the stairs two at a time.

*************************************************

Refreshed, Gerald walked back outside. He went to the rubbermaid tub that served him as a toolbox. From within, he selected a pair of gloves, and a pair of gardening shears. He stood, pulled the gloves on.

Gerald and the Beanstalk… he thought.

He walked to the edge of the garden and, using far more care than he would ever admit to, squatted and lifted the ridiculous vine in one gloved hand. The thick metal scissors made easy work of the errant growth, moved through it without so much as a “snick.” Gerald gathered the five or so feet of cut vine and wound it into a coil. This he dropped into the garbage can on the concrete porch. Satisfied, he went about watering his vegetables.

************************************************

Gerald spoke aloud, to no one. “You can’t be serious…”
It was the following morning and, for a change, he was running late for work. He’d just stepped outside, had taken the first few stairs, when he saw it...

The plant. The vine. The creeper.

The green, fibrous tendril had crept its way from the garden (presumably, Gerald couldn’t see from his vantage point at the bottom of the concrete stairwell) across six feet of patio, and down the first step toward his apartment.

This is crazy. This can’t be happening…

Gerald made his way up the remaining steps, giving the growth a wide berth as he took the last stair. It was indeed the same plant. The vine had to have grown six-plus feet, overnight

You know that’s impossible, right?

...and if he wasn’t mistaken, it had grown thicker as well. Yes, now that he looked closer, the vine had definitely grown in diameter. It was close to three-sixteenths of an inch around. Unbelievable…

Impossible

Gerald eyed the vine as he would a poisonous serpent.

Take it out, now. Right now. Pull it out, root and all, right now…

He knew that he should, too. But he was late for work. Again.

Fine, he thought at the vine, but you and I have a date the minute I get home…

*******************************************

Have you ever walked in on somebody who’s standing still, but quite obviously was not standing still until the moment you entered the room? You aren’t sure how, exactly, you know that they were moving before you walked in, but you know it with as much certainty as you do your own name? Well, that’s how Gerald felt that evening as he walked into the backyard. The vine, which had nearly doubled in size (both in length and girth,) lay across the concrete, drawing a line from the garden and down the steps to Gerald’s front door. It lay motionless, of course, only Gerald could swear that he’d seen the green tentacle throb just as he’d opened the gate...

A strange notion took him, then. Gerald had the distinct impression, insane as it sounded, that the vine was playing possum- hiding out in the weeds, as it were, for a chance at a vicious sneak-attack.

That, of course, was even more ridiculous than the notion that the overgrown plant had been throbbing. Nonetheless, a shiver of gooseflesh raked his shoulders, neck and arms.

Gerald walked to the stairwell and looked down. The creeper had descended all the way to the second-to-last step. He shivered, in spite of the heat. The vine gave him the creeps. It wasn’t natural, that a plant should grow so quickly...that anything should grow so quickly. It was simply wrong. What’s more, the fact that the damned thing seemed to have fixated on his apartment gave him a severe case of the heebie-jeebies.

Once again brandishing his work gloves and shears, Gerald walked to the garden and took the vine in one hand. He positioned the oversized scissors so that only six or so inches of vine would remain, which he would then use for leverage as he pulled up the roots. He squeezed…

...and swore as the shear’s hard-plastic handles dug hard into the palm of his hand. Even through the work glove it smarted. He stared down, disbelieving, at the creeper. Again he squeezed, deliberately adding pressure. The blades didn’t move; the fibrous knot of vine refused to yield.

He placed both hands on the shears, squeezed until the handles bent. Exasperated, and more than a little unnerved, Gerald stared, dumbstruck, at the now useless tool.

Okay, relax. There’s got to be a logical explanation for this…

Maybe somebody was having him on, making a joke at his expense... but how? And why? Why would someone go to the trouble?

A wave of nausea rippled his insides. None of this made sense. It was all so surreal, and the idea occurred to him that maybe he was dreaming. If this was a dream, though, it was the longest one Gerald could ever remember having experienced…

Again he thought of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack had been saddled with his beanstalk after having made a lousy business deal. Gerald wondered what it was he had done to deserve his.

“Break my shears, will you.” He walked to the shed at the far end of the yard, where his landlord let him store a few of his larger gardening tools. Gerald didn’t think they would mind if he borrowed the ax.

Gerald Thomson had never been more than a C+ student. Nonetheless, he’d learned enough about people (and himself) in his forty-five years to understand that the waves of fear and animosity he could feel radiating off of the creeper, probably had more to do with himself than the plant.

Probably.

He walked to the edge of the garden, tested the weight of the ax in his grip. It felt satisfying. He hoisted the tool (weapon?) over his head.

Fee-fi-fo-fum he thought, and wished immediately that he hadn’t. It sounded stupid, even in his head...

The ax came down right on its mark and, unlike the shears before it, had some impact on the creeper. The fibrous mass of chlorophyll and cell-walls broke under the impact of the blade, but it was not cut all the way through. Again, Gerald lifted and dropped the ax. This time the vine was severed, and an audible hiss escaped the creeper.

Gerald stood, drew a deep breath and exhaled. He turned, meaning to return the ax to the shed, and stopped still. The vine, all the way down the apartment stairs, had withered. Only that wasn’t quite right. It had spoiled. The entire length of the thing not still attached to the root had blackened and shrunken in diameter, as though it had collapsed in on itself.

“What the…” Gerald couldn't think of a word that would even begin to come close to indicating his level of bewilderment, and so he stopped trying. Instead, he went to work with a fervor born of revulsion and fear. He gathered the severed vine (which, he noted with distaste, smelled already of decay) and deposited it in the trash with the other. That done, he walked into the garden and took hold of what was left of the creeper, just above the root.

It felt warm to the touch, even through the gloves.

He squatted down and tugged. Nothing happened. He leaned back, putting his weight as well as his muscle into it, and still nothing. Again he tried, until his legs were splayed to either side of the trimmed-down creeper, his back almost parallel to the garden floor. Just as he was about to give up, the plant gave about five inches. It pulled up a narrow furrow in the garden, perilously close to his other bean plants.

“Shit,” Gerald said. He hadn’t remembered, until just then, that a plant’s roots extend as deeply into the earth as its stems and leaves do above the ground. What throbbing, tentacled beast, he wondered, lay hidden beneath his garden?

A terrible thought, then. You left more than half of it alive…

And a worse one. And now it’s angry…

Suddenly Gerald had had his fill of plant-life for the evening. There were other things in his life that needed his attention. He was allowing this strange, but altogether harmless phenomenon in his garden to make him crazy.

He’d go downstairs and watch some television. Maybe he’d even crack open a beer.

*******************************************

Awake on time for the first time in he couldn’t remember how long, Gerald walked into his kitchen and loaded up the coffee machine. He lifted his finger to press the button marked “brew” and paused. Something wasn’t right. Something was...out of place.

He turned, and felt his heart leap into his throat. There, on the floor just inside the front door, was a quarter-inch thick, foot-long tendril of vine. It had broken clean through the door...

For some reason, the sight of the creeper, intruding as it was on his private space, bothered Gerald at a primal level. Gooseflesh raked his arms and shoulders, his neck. He thought he might throw up; went into the bathroom and did. When his vomit-induced sweats subsided, he returned to the kitchen, went to the butcher’s block, and chose the largest knife he owned.

*********************************************

Even with the large butcher’s knife, cutting through the creeper proved a job. It both disgusted and fascinated Gerald (but mostly disgusted,) the way the vine had broken through the door. Of course plants are strong, and roots upset sidewalks all the time, but that takes years. His apartment door, which was poorly constructed of sheets of flimsy metal around a thin aluminum framework (but metal, nonetheless) had simply buckled inward until it broke open. The force had to have been staggering…

Gerald left for work that morning, once again late thanks to his unwanted (and revolting) visitor. He resolved to shop for some powerful weed killer on his way home from work.

**********************************************

I’m not sure I can stay here.

This was the thought that came into Gerald’s mind as he walked into the backyard that evening. Again, he was certain that the vine- which was now regrown and once again larger than its previous incarnation- had been throbbing, and had stopped only the instant he’d opened the gate.

What, in the name of all that is Holy, is growing in my garden? And what does it want with me?

*************************************************

He’d sprayed the contents of the weed-killer he’d purchased, whose label clearly read DO NOT SPRAY NEAR HEALTHY FLOWERS OR VEGETABLES, directly at the base of the creeper, right on top of its roots. He wasn’t happy about it, either. He’d put a lot of work into his little garden, and had been looking forward to enjoying its modest yields.

Half expecting (and more than half hoping) to find the creeper and everything else in his poor garden dead as glam-rock, Gerald opened his apartment’s beleaguered door and stepped outside. There was no sign of the creeper on the stairs, and that in itself was more relief than he’d expected. He ascended the steps and braced himself…

...for nothing, apparently. His garden was exactly as it had appeared the day before. The creeper was no longer or thicker than it had been when he’d last given it the blade.

Gerald’s chest heaved; tears stung and then pooled in his eyes. They broke and coursed down his face, leaving glistening trails in their wake. He hadn’t realized just how deeply this had affected him. He took a deep breath, hitched on it once, and exhaled.

He looked at the garden, at the creeper in particular, and thought: Gotcha!

************************************************

Gerald was in the desert. It wasn’t as hot as he’d always expected a desert would be, but there was sand in every direction for as far as he could see. Sand...and snakes.

Snakes like the one with whom he was presently engaged in a suicidal staring contest.

Living on Long Island, Gerald Thomson had only ever seen garter snakes, and only ever two of those. His experience with the larger variety had, until just now, been restricted to television and photographs. He’d always heard that rattle-snakes lived in the desert. This snake had no rattle.

It was only a matter of time, he knew, before it struck…

He felt a fleshy band of steel encircle his calf. It squeezed hard enough that the tips of Gerald’s toes actually burst, sending out mini-jets of blood and gore. He screamed in agony…

...and awoke with a start.

*************************************************

The terrible pain was Gerald’s sole focus now, his entire existence. There was no mental energy left over for generating thoughts, random or otherwise. The excruciating pressure was all-consuming.

Without mental direction or conscious thought, Gerald looked to the source of his suffering. Only then did his mind formulate a thought with enough weight to pierce the heady maelstrom of his over-stimulated pain-receptors.

Oh, my God…

Gerald had been able- just barely- to deal with the agony that was being visited upon him. The sight of what was causing his suffering was simply too much for his mind to bear.

He experienced a shift in consciousness then. It was both instantaneous and profound, both a relief and an added anxiety. The pain was the biggest difference. It had gone from insistent and all-consuming, to a muted appreciation for the fact that his body was in distress. A thousand queued thoughts rushed into his mind, but it didn’t feel as though he was actually thinking them. He felt more like an onlooker in his own existence.

Again he studied the source of his distress, this time with an almost clinical detachment.

The monstrous roots of the creeper had broken through his bedroom wall (which was adjacent to the foundation of the house) and encircled his lower leg. It applied so much pressure that only the very top of it was still visible. The rest was hidden by skin- red and swollen above the organic tourniquet, white and lifeless below, where his toes had ruptured, allowing his lifeblood to rush out.

The root throbbed. With each pulse Gerald could feel a sickly heat radiate out into his upper calf.

You’re going to lose your leg. If you don’t act fast, you’ll lose your life as well…

This thought came to him fully articulated; it brooked no argument. After all, Gerald conceded in a partially conscious way, it was right.

He looked to his right and his left, as though his bedroom had just this instant materialized around him. His eyes were frantic, seeking out anything that might be used to cut or even tear through the sinewy tentacle that held him.

His alarm clock. A paperback, Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz. A small, empty box of tissues. A glass of water that had been poured three nights ago, at least…

Glass!

Would glass cut through the root, though? He doubted it...

There’s only one way to find out...and it isn’t as though you have any choice…

A thought occurred to Gerald then, the sort that makes you want to slap your forehead. Scream, he admonished himself, scream for help, you fool…

It seemed like a good thought, too; A potentially life-saving thought. Only he realized, with equal measures of disappointment and alarm, that he already was screaming- shrieking, actually- and likely had been since he’d come awake.

And no one had come to help him yet.

The half-empty (half-full?) glass of water felt cool in his palm. He drew his arm back and broke it against the corner of his bedside table. He selected a largish piece that had come to rest on the table’s top, and went to work.

*********************************************

It took Gerald fully half and hour to accept that he was going about this the wrong way. All he’d managed to do was cut his palm and the insides of his fingers to ribbons. There was so much blood that it was almost impossible to get a decent hold on the slippery makeshift tool.

And all the while, the root continued to pulse, sending malignant heat ever farther up Gerald’s calf.

The root had suffered barely a scratch.

He knew what he had to do, if only he could find the strength to do it.

It wasn’t the root he had to cut...it was his leg.

Revulsion and fear penetrated the detached calm with which Gerald had been assessing his situation (while his terrified body screamed, of its own volition, all the while.) He lifted his hand. It was shaking…

***********************************************

The human body, for all its frailties, is an incredibly resilient piece of machinery. Gerald reflected on this as he psyched himself up for yet another attack on his own person.

Because that was the only thing that was working. Using anything approaching deliberateness or care had only resulted in even more intense, and more prolonged, pain. He’d decided to have at it in several fits of self-directed bloodlust. Anyway, working himself into such a state helped him focus on not passing out. If he passed out, he knew, he was dead.

He’d savaged the skin just below his kneecap, and had even managed (he thought) to sever a number of tendons. He was about to have at the muscle again. The pain of hacking at muscle tissue with a slippery and jagged shard of glass is indescribable, Gerald learned quickly enough, and he considered the possibility that perhaps it wasn’t worth it. Maybe it would be better to submit to the pull of unconsciousness, which he felt like a physical tug at his mind.

But no. He’d come this far, and he had years left to live. He loved his life, frustrating as it could be a good part of the time, and wasn’t ready to give up on it just yet.

His eyes wide and alight with a madness born of self-preservation through self-mutilation, Gerald raised his blood-soaked arm once again. He screamed inside his own head, loud enough to drown out the actual physical screaming his body was still doing.

He went back to work.

********************************************

Fee-fi-fo-fum, cutting parts off, ain’t it fun!

Gerald could no longer be sure whether he was thinking things, or saying them outloud. The disconnect between himself and his physical person had widened.

Jack and Jill went up the hill, followed by the creeper…

This struck Gerald as particularly funny. He laughed, and this time he was certain that his physical person did as well. The manic, animal sound terrified him. He registered this bit of insight and filed it away. He wasn’t about feeling things, not these past few hours…

He looked at the root that bound him, throbbing and pumping its malignancy into his leg. Again, and still laughing wildly, he raised his crimson arm.

Fee-fi-fo-fum, at least it isn’t my scro-tum!

He laughed, and the madman that had taken control of his body did too. He went back to work.

*******************************************

Gerald, or rather what remained of him, was just starting to believe that his efforts might, in fact, save his life. He’d managed to hack through most of the muscle around the knee. Greyish hints of bone were visible now, from the front and back…

The room spun. The lights dimmed and brightened again. Gerald used the hand not brandishing the gory shard of glass to smack himself across the mouth, hard. Nonetheless the room darkened once again.

This time the lights did not come back on.

*********************************************

Gerald found himself, once again, in the desert. The serpent that had entwined itself about his calf held fast, it’s venomous fangs buried in the flesh. Heaven knew what horrific toxins it delivered into his bloodstream.

His focus entirely upon the most immediate threat to his life, Gerald didn’t see the second snake until it, too, had encircled him, constrictor style. This one had him by the throat- and a mercy, that.

A mercy, that.

It was a shame, he thought, that he’d destroyed his entire garden in his attempt kill the creeper. He’d been looking forward to fresh vegetables this season. Vegetables that he’d grown with his own two hands.


J. Robert Kane
East Northport NY
3/29/2017






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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2117215