I have to admit, I’m rather proud of this one. I wasn’t entirely certain where it was going but it ended up being rather good. If I do say so myself, and I do.
A Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit
“Your neighbor has taken in an unsual pet and it does something unpleasant to your house/yard. Confront your neighbor.”
I stand in my backyard, admiring my work. My garden has never looked as wonderful as it does this very moment. In the far corner, bathed in the shade of the two willows standing sentinel on either side, is my most prized flower. It is a rare corpse flower and very soon it will blossom. Many have told me how insane I am to plant one in my very backyard but they do not know it’s value. The site of it is rather entrancing but the stench I’m afraid, well, it isn’t called a corpse flower for nothing.
I had come by it in the strangest of fashions. I took a trip with my neighbor to Indonesia. He had some family members there and I didn’t want to travel alone. We had quite a lovely time. Our only souvenirs was an old book given to him by a strange man in some market, and mine was a snippet of the Tetrastigma vine, by which the corpse flower can grow and survive.
The grass makes a metallic sound, like a brillo pad on a pot, as I walk closer to my pet. It stands taller than me. Maybe even past it usual height of six feet.
My heart begins to pound in my chest. Very soon it will blossom and when it does I will be on the front page of the life and time section of the local paper. And certainly, everyone in town will want to come and see it, get a whiff of it’s wretched aroma. How many people can say that they have? None. That’s how many. And here I am, the one with it blossoming in his garden.
The next day I wake early in the morning and rush out to see if the petals have begun to spread. Sure enough, it has. I take out a measuring tape and mentally note the length. It has gotten a full foot further away from its pistil. For extra care I get some manure from the garage and sprinkle it around it’s base and water it once more. That done I busy myself with the other parts of my personal eden to keep my mind off of my prized possession.
Before I tuck in for the night I measure it once more. The petal has lowered another six inches. Excitement rushes through my limbs like electricity.
Even with the excitement I am still able to fall fast asleep.
In the early hours of dawn I rush outside and before I’ve taken a step over the threshold I can smell the rotting stench of the flower. My legs can barely move quick enough for me and I nearly stumble over them in my rush to see my blossoming beauty. Shrouded under the willows it has opened its crimson petals, that bleach into a pearly white as it reaches the base of the pistil.
“Fantastic” I say, as I pinch my nose.
I hurry back inside and dial the number for the paper. The journalist insisted I call the moment it flowered so that he could come out and inspect it for himself, before writing the article of course. I was happy to ablige.
“Gerald,” I say, my voice raising in pitch, “I’m sorry did I wake you? No matter I have some exciting news.”
It is in my eager awaiting for his dreary response when I hear the crash and screech of wood. Glancing through the lace curtains I see no site of anything and return to the phone call. He quickly agrees to rush over immediately.
I hang up the phone and rush into the backyard and that’s when I see them, my neighbors zombies have congregated around my flower and are tugging on its delicate petal.
My hand flies to my garden shovel and I rush out to them and beat them back into Anthony’s backyard. They growl with irritation, one of them gurgles and glares at me with the eye dangling out of its socket. I replace the boards over the fragmented hole they had made in the fence.
“Damn things,” I say. “Anthony!” I call through the fence. I follow my beckoning with another and another until I am almost hoarse. The man must sleep like the dead.
The zombies listfully paw at the fence and that’s when I feel it appropriate to get the garden hose. The noze seems to turn forever until it jerks to halt and I know that the pressure it high enough. Placing my thumb over the spout an press the water into a sharp spray and point it at the pests.
They moan again and shuffle across the yard to the other side.
“That should do it,” I say.
I promptly return to my bedroom where I dress in a flurry, picking only the best ensemble for the event. Properly attired I resign to the living room to wait for my visitor.
At eight o’clock, on the dot, he knocks on my door.
“Gerald!” I say, opening he door.
He obviously spent little to no time on his outfit. What should be a nicely pressed shirt, with tie, and slacks, he’s donned sweatpants and a knitted skull cap. The only thing worthy of his esteemed profession is a Canon camera, on a strap, hanging at the top of his pot-belly. I force a smile and welcome him in.
“I could smell it from the street,” he says, “I can only imagine what it must be like up close.”
“It’s certainly a treasure.”
“I wouldn’t say something like that,” he says quietly.
I usher him out to my prize. The noble queen of my garden.
His expression goes sour and he holds up his camera with one hand, while pinching his nose shut with the other.
“It’s pollen isn’t toxic is it?”
“No,” I assure him.
He snaps a couple of photos and my heart pounds in my chest.
“Would you like something to drink?” I ask, “Coffee perhaps?”
“Yes, please,” he says excitedly relieved, “Black.”
I bustle back into the house and buzz around the kitchen making a fresh pot.
Once again I hear the screech of twisting wood and the percussion of thin planks of wood falling into a pile.
In the back yard I see the zombies have forced their way back into my yard and have surrounded poor Gerald. I pick up the shovel and advance. The metal smashes against his face and one is momentarily stunned. The others continue on in their endless quest for flesh.
“Anthony!” I scream over my shoulder as I whack at another that has it’s rotting hands wrapped around Gerald’s wrist. The blade of the shovel severs the limbs from his torso and Geral goes stumbling backwards onto his rump.
I call again for my neighbor.
The most spry of the four, Sharon I think Anthony calls her, rushes upon the fallen journalist, but before she can realize she still has working knees I body check her to her side where she falls and lands on her back. Her limbs move continuously like a tortoise turned on its shell.
Before anoher one of the beasts could continue their attack I pull Gerald to his feet and escort him safely inside.
He is visibly frazzled.
“What the hell?” He screams, making his way into the living room. “I have to get the hell out of here.”
I Jump in front of him and barricade the door with my body.
“Please, no! I really need this article.”
“You’re insane. I’m not going back out there!”
The whites of his eyes are turning pink.
“I beg of you. Just sit tight. You are absolutely safe in here. I swear to you. I am just going to get my neighbor. They’re his zombies and I’m sure he can corral them.” I pause and study his features which have not softened in the slightest. “This is very important to me. You can’t leave just now.”
He jerks around, startled by some imaginary noise.
I Step forward and put my hands on his shoulders.
“You are far from danger in my house.” I step to the table by the door and open the drawer, retrieving the pistol within. “Here,” I hand him the automatic weapon, “take this just in case.”
With some reluctance he accepts it and I usher him into the recliner. Once the two meet he bounces once and he relaxes.
My heart leaps into my throat.
“Thank you,” I say.
I exits and storm across the front lawn to Anthony’s front door, whereupon I bang repeatedly upon it until he arrives to answer the door.
“Can I help you Shawn?” he says.
He is clearly just waking, for his glass eye is pointed in an odd angle. Dressed in only a pair of leopard bikini briefs. The hair ringing the crown of his baldhead is sticking out at odd angles.
“You need to contain those monsters,” I say pointing toward his backyard. “They very nearly at the man who has come to write the column on my prized corpse flower!”
He rolls his one good eye.
“I promised I would not tell anyone you had resurrected the dead with the tome, but here I stand regretting that decision. Should I alert the townspeople.” I make a fake shocked expression. “NO need the journalist has already seen them.”
Anthony growls like one of his pets.
“Fine,” he mumbles.
He shuts the door and I return to my guest, who is still very shaken. He very nearly shoots me as I come through the front door.
“It’s alright,” I say, holding up my hands, “it’s just me.”
Gerald gulps and lowers the gun.
“All taken care of,” I say, beaming.
I wrench him from the chair and pull him back into the backyard. The zombies have long since fled, back into their yard.
The stench of the flower has only grown. I can barely stand in front of it without wanting to retch. The writer’s eyes dart nervously around as I lift the camera and cup his hand around it, while simultaneously turning it on. His finger intuitively returns to it and he finds himself calm enough to start snapping photos, moving around to get different angles.
I can hear Anthony in the backyard. He yells and snaps what sounds like a whip and the zombies moan, which in turn seems to startle Gerald who fires a shot into the yard and I hear a grunt and excited groans.
I poke my head through the hole in the fence to find Anthony dead from a gunshot wound right through the head, laying sprawled on the lawn. His zombies have eagerly descended upon their handler and are ripping into his flesh.
“Damn,” I say.
I rip the pistol from Gerald’s hand and storm into Anthony’s backyard and pop a round in each of the zombies brains, ending their undead lives.
Returning to my own lot of land I find Gerald staring slack jawed at me.
“Did you want to ask me any questions about my horticultural technique?” I ask.