Written for the SCREAMS! contest
|Robert packed his bags with excitement, the letter laid carelessly aside. The Academy of Twisted Topiaries wanted him as a student!
He caught the morning flight, and soon the rambling estate stood before him. The headmaster greeted him and showed him to his room.
Robert attended his first class with so much excitement, he couldn’t keep his hands still, and his pruning shears shook. He learned ancient techniques of shaping bushes into pleasing shapes.
He left mid-lecture to use the bathroom and headed down the quiet hall. Strange voices came from one of the rooms. It sounded like some sort of spell. Magic? Robert wasn’t sure he believed in magic, but he was confused as to why they would use it here, of all places?
Robert peeked inside. The class practiced incantations that would turn a live rabbit into a rabbit shaped topiary. The likeness was extraordinary. The shrub held so much detail and life. Robert wondered if the transformation killed the rabbit, or if it lived under all that greenery.
Horrified and excited at the promise of learning this sorcery, Robert snuck away to finish his classes.
The next day, he picked up a local newspaper from the wastebasket in the teacher’s lounge--a forbidden place for students--and noticed an alarming trend in the stories.
Missing pet notices. It seemed every family in the village mourned the loss of some sort of animal or another. Even a few fish had disappeared from their bowls.
In the days that followed, more animals went missing. And then children and a few old people from the retirement home. Robert suspected the academy’s involvement and wondered what to do. Part of him wanted to do the right thing, but his fingers itched to learn spells that could make any piece of shrubbery yield to him.
During his fourth time in the teacher’s lounge to pilfer a newspaper, three professors and the headmaster ambushed him.
“You’ve been misbehaving, Robert. Time to come with us.” The professors led him down a dark corridor, then a steep flight of stairs, and through a series of identical hallways. They came to an auditorium filled with advanced level students, eager for the day’s lesson.
A strange professor, wearing a cloak and fedora, waved a gnarled stick at him, and he lost control of his body. Robert’s bones seemed to turn to rubber, pliable and bendy, like those poseable toys he had as a child.
The students worked together to form Robert’s limbs how they wanted until he was a statuesque figure of masculine elegance and poise.
The class waved their sticks at him. He felt leaves sprout from his skin, his bones turned to branches, and his skin melted away. Soon he was a human topiary, his body perfectly shaped. A masterpiece of greenery greatness.
Robert stood sentinel from his post outside the school for the next two hundred years. He watched new students arrive, and some graduate. A few became his friends, a leafy army of silent soldiers.
Contests Entered ▼