Wednesday, 14 February 2018


The sun shone. The greens, yellows and purples intensified, warped by the greenhouse glass. The plants inside coiled thick, although the cunning order of it was plain to him – a complex weaving of species from across the globe, flowers blooming from the wrong plant to the untrained eye. A riot of plant life, exotic species flourishing in the controlled environment. He moved amongst them, pruning and binding where needed, at peace. This finished, he set about watering, carefully controlling his distribution, ensuring all received what they required. This done, he slid open the door, closing it behind him, shutting away his precious flowers. The warmth outside was drier, more comfortable. He set about caring for to his outdoor plants, tending to them with a practiced hand. Finally finished, he turned to survey his work.

There was an intruder in paradise. He approached, no small amount of discomfort present. Crouched, he examined the outsider. A thorned, sickly-green plant in the middle of the empty bed. Dead centre. A small, tight bud resided at the top of the squat growth. He was sure he had weeded, and this was nothing he grew. Nothing he'd seen. Cruel thorns twisting together into fractals repeating into impossible spirals, too fine for his eye to follow. His frown intensified. There'd been nothing there the day before, he tended the patch daily for such weeds. He swallowed his misgivings and elected to leave it until he'd researched it - a new species could be interesting. He levered himself up, and breathed, filling his lungs with the morning air. His serenity returned as the sun washed over him, over the garden. After a few more minutes enjoying his craft, he wandered back inside to dig up his botanical guides.

The many tomes lay open around him, like fat alchemical treatises, cut-away diagrams and illustrations staring upwards. Nothing. His searches online had been fruitless. He sipped his drink, considering the ugly invader. The idea of something new, something novel was uncharacteristically appealing to him. Something unique - something for the show next year. He grinned, took up his camera, and snapped several pictures of the intriguing growth before measuring it with his ruler. The stem was leafless, only bearing those still-unnerving fractal thorns and a single, unopened bud. Perhaps an import? Most of his guides, whilst comprehensive, focused on the more popular exotics or the local flora. That could explain the lack of search results online, his normal avenues of information similarly inclined. He examined the pictures over his simple dinner, chewing without tasting.

There were more now. Four of them, creeping above ground almost reluctantly. The term 'Invasive Species' burned across his mind. He spied on them from inside the greenhouse, almost afraid to go outside. His garden was being tainted. Defiled. He shook his head, attempting to clear the mounting panic. He'd dig them up, burn them. Just like any weed. Why they worried him so much was beyond him. Mindful of the thorns, he retrieved the thick gardening gloves and trowel from their place of pride in the greenhouse. Equipped for battle, he strode out to face the invader. The trowel bit, shifting the well-tended earth away from the outermost stalk. Worry grew to confusion to dread as he kept digging, no end in sight. Two feet down, he stopped. The stem continued downwards, beyond the extent of his excavation. The bed scarred by the hole. He resolved to pull out the plant, and grabbed the stem, frustration seeing the course. Pain ripped up his arm, and he fought to swallow a scream. What remained of the inside of the glove was stained red, the rest of it still stuck to the stem, pierced a thousand times over. His hand was a mess of thorns and torn skin. He whimpered and beat a retreat from the plants, abandoning his trowel. Rivulets of blood slid down the stem, gripping the thorns as they went.

Removing the thorns was no less painful, and he fought the urge to vomit several times. Irrespective of his twistings and manoeuvres, they tore indiscriminately at the flesh upon attempted removal. Several excruciating hours were spent whimpering, thumping the desk and gritting his teeth, the time stretching far beyond its hours. Seconds crawled like crippled ants. By the time he had cleaned and bandaged the ruined hand he was exhausted, and slept. The painkillers guided sleep to him swiftly, and he dreamt of beaked rabbits with the voices of old women. They spoke Spanish fluently, and it meant nothing to him.

He awoke with the throbbing still present, although receding. His hand had bled in the night, seeping through the bandages and staining the sheets. He acknowledged this blearily, his usual morning-clarity missing. Something to deal with later. He stumbled across the house, made himself his morning coffee. Only luck saved him from grabbing the mug with his wounded hand. He sipped it clumsily with his off-hand as he moved to the greenhouse, operating on auto-pilot, planning his normal routine, forgetful of or unwilling to address yesterday. He glanced through the glass to check the sun, and was near-floored by the ruin. The garden was over-run with the plant. Those thorn instilled a new fear within him, and the sunflower sized stems were impossible. Nothing grew that quickly. They pressed eagerly against the glass, seeking an entrance. He shook. The fear blossomed into true terror. The rug was pulled from underneath him and he was left floating over a void. Dazed, he stumbled around the greenhouse, clumsily sloshing water over his beloved exotics. He over-watered the succulents. He did not see. Routine complete, he floated back across the house, and slept atop his bloodstained sheets.

The greenhouse was dark, and smelt of rot. The glass was entirely covered in endless waves of the loathsome plant. He stumbled unseeingly through the tangle of shelves and beds, throwing water over himself as much as the dead plants. The bandages were a blend of dark, crusted red and pus-yellow stains, unchanged since the injury. His face was unshaven, eyes wild. The animal stink of fear rose from him. The greenhouse was a grave, a mausoleum, a testament to organic rot. He hummed a broken tune.

A pane had broken, and the monstrous fractals hung in hideous tangles. This he did not see. He knelt before the only living thing in that dark glass cage, plant matter pressing in from every direction. A thorned, sickly-green plant in the middle of the only upright bed. The bud was large, heavy with sap, angled towards him. He stared, his face slack. The flower bloomed.