Daniel and Paige are retired and Phoenix is too hot. Where they go may be even hotter.
Let's Escape the Heat
Sixty-eight year old Daniel Thompson didn't understand why the officer held such a firm grip on his arm as they removed him from the patrol car. With his hands cuffed, it's not like he could sprint away. All he wanted to know is what happened to his wife.
A second officer opened the glass door to the police station. From there, he was pulled into a small room near the rear of a desolate hall. He didn't under know why they were being so rough. He didn't do anything.
Inside the room were three chairs and a table. The officer forced him down in one of the chairs, and on the other side of the table, the officer took a seat while a third officer entered the room, closed the door, and stood by it. Daniel twisted his wrists trying to stop the handcuffs from biting into his skin.
"Look, buddy. We're not taking those cuffs off. Not until you tell us what really happened up there," said the officer seated in front of him.
Daniel sat forward. "Dammit! I already told you, but you assholes don't believe me."
"Come on, Daniel. That damn story is impossible. When we drove up, you were shooting at your house like a psycho. What's the hell's matter with you, boy?"
"I told you what happened, but you won't believe me!" Daniel wrestled from side to side but did not stand from the chair.
"Alright! Alright, calm down," the standing officer said. "You're not goin' nowhere, and neither are we, until you tell us, again, what happened." Daniel dropped his head, slowed his breathing, and shut his eyes. "Come on, man. Speak up!" the standing officer shouted.
Daniel sighed and shrugged his shoulders. He pondered why his retirement went so wrong. All those years of working, saving, and sacrificing gone in one night. Now a jail sentence hung over his head like a guillotine. But, with his wife gone, all he had to do was something stupid inside the police station. Then the officers could take him out with their bullets. But the fact remained that he hadn't done anything wrong, so he decided to tell them the truth one more time. What did he have to lose?
With an exhausted voice, Daniel said, "Okay, this is from the beginning."
"That's better," the seated officer interrupted.
"Look, I retired from teaching high school biology in Phoenix five years ago. My wife and I raised two kids, and scrimped and saved everything we could. All we wanted to do was have a place to escape the broiling Phoenix sun. That's when we decided to build our cabin up here in Prescott Valley."
"Yeah, yeah, we know that. Tell us what happened tonight," the standing officer said.
"Dammit, you wanted me to start from the beginning. Why don't you shut up and let me finish?" Daniel exclaimed. His voice was commanding and raised.
The standing officer bolted toward the table, slammed his hands down, and in a deep tone, said, "Don't you ever tell me to shut up or you'll never leave this room alive."
Daniel sat back, his nostrils open and eyes wide. All he wanted to do was tell his story, and all he's getting in return is threats. This isn't going well for him. He dropped his head and began again.
With a much softer voice, he continued, "The year we built the cabin, the drought throughout Arizona had been going on for at least a decade. When we drilled out well, we had to drill twice as deep. The water table had dropped to the lowest level in over one hundred years."
"When we finished the cabin, we celebrated and stayed a few days. Then we'd go back to Phoenix and return to the cabin. We did that on and off while we made sure the electricity and water worked. We had to furnish the place too. That first year was busy for us."
"When we arrived the second year, she noticed these small shrubs, no bigger than an inch or two, were growing around the base of the cabin. She thought they were cute. I didn't pay any attention to them. We spent the summer up there enjoying the cool weather and watching the news back in Phoenix as the town baked in triple-digit temperatures."
"Let's get to tonight, Daniel," the seated officer urged.
"I'm getting to it, but you'll have to hear everything. Where was I? Ahh...Oh, yeah. Well, three years ago, when we came up, those small shrubs around the base of the cabin had grown to almost two feet high! They sprouted small white flowers that were quite fragrant. Paige fell in love with them. Even I have to admit while doing yardwork, the aroma was very pleasing. But, I still didn't pay that much attention to them."
"That same summer, Paige kept complaining that she heard scratching beneath the floor. I thought she was just hearing things. You know, women have this hearing that makes men seem deaf." Daniel was hoping for a chuckle from either of the officers, but nothing. "Anyway, I didn't hear it, but she was definitely unsettled by it. She was glad when we returned to Phoenix that fall and winter."
"Year after year, when we returned to the cabin, the shrubs got taller and taller. When she complained about noised beneath the cabin, I went outside and checked with my shotgun and flashlight because I could hear them now. Each year, the scratching became more intense, but it was on and off. Not continuous. Sometimes it would wake us up at night, then it would stop."
"Come on with the story, Daniel," the seated officer said.
"Okay, okay. This year when we arrived, the plant were higher than the roofline. My wife was scared, but I wasn't gonna let a plant keep me out of my cabin. I got out and wrestled with the plant covering the front door. It didn't take too much before I had cleared a path. I pulled out the hedge trimmer and began making portholes where I door and windows stood."
"Now I told you I heard the scratching beneath the floor, right? Well tonight, the floorboards were creaking and there was scratching against the walls. Paige had pulled her legs up on the couch. I pulled out my shotgun and flashlight again and went outside to check."
"There was a full moon, no clouds or wind. In the moonlight, I could see the shrubs swaying back and forth. When I reached the back of the house, I heard Paige scream. I ran back around the house and went I stepped inside, I saw something horrible."
"Well, what was it?" the standing officer said with folded arms.
"A giant greenish-yellow stigma, probably six or eight feet tall, had broken through the floor! My wife screamed and I gazed to the left to see four stamen wrapped around my wife's body. She tried to wriggle free, but the more she wriggled, the tighter they became. They had lifted her off the floor!"
"Stop! Stop! Stop!" the seated officer demanded. "What the hell is a stigma and stamen?"
Daniel huffed, then said, 'It's biology. If you look at any flower, in the center you'll see a thick protrusion. That's the stigma, the female part of the flower. The stamens are the little filaments around the stigma, the male parts. Bees and the wind carry the pollen on the tip of the stamens and the sticky stigma catches it. It's called pollination, dumbass."
"Cut the shit! Finish the story." Daniel had hardened himself now. They wouldn't believe the rest of his story.
"The stamens forced my wife closer to the stigma. Once she touched it, she'd never get loose. The only thing I could do was shoot the stigma, so I did. The pellets went right through it. Then something wrapped around my right arm from the rear. I was in a cloud of pollen then it yanked me down. My shotgun discharged again. Paige screamed, and I fell to the floor. When I looked up..." Daniel started to weep. "When...When I looked up, Paige was bleeding. I'd shot her, but I didn't mean to do it! I swear! I started thrashing around trying to escape, but Paige's body was stuck on the stigma."
"The stamen let me go, and all of it descended back beneath the cabin leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the floor."
There was a knock on the door, and the standing officer opened it. Daniel dropped his head and listened.
"So, what did you find?"
"It was the craziest thing I've ever seen. There was a huge hole in the floor and yellow dust everywhere. We checked the hole with our strongest flashlight, but at the bottom, there was only water!"