UPDATE: If anyone wants this in ebook form, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.
"The Roaming Greenery"
by Edward Lorn
They said I used to see things, things that weren't there, things that made me, Bob Bernard, anxious. But I'm all better now. That's why they let me out. Well that, and I snore loudly.
They set me up in a one bedroom apartment in a really good part of Bay's End, gave me a prepaid cell phone with a built in camera and 250 minutes, and set me free.
Back when I got sick, sick in the head, I burned down my parents' house because I saw roaches. Pest control people came out every day that week and told my parents there was no sign of the vile creatures. But I saw the roaches all over the place. Sunbathing on windowsills, floating belly up in my bath water, lounging on the kitchen table using bananas as Barca-Loungers. There were hundreds… no, millions of them. I caught the curtains aflame chasing one cockroach through the living room with a lighter and a can of bug spray. The rest of the house went up shortly after.
No one got hurt those fourteen years ago, but my parents lost everything. Even their son, as I was whisked away to Pointvilla County Institute for the Insane.
My plant collecting started during my time at the institute.
My new landlord's son Danny helped me carry my plants in on moving day. He seemed cool enough. Said he enjoyed pranks and practical jokes. A real get-over-on-you kind of kid. I could see the twinkle in his eye as he described how he'd put a bag of dog poop in front of 12B's doors, lit fire to it, and knocked before running around the corner of the hall, where he played audience to what happened next. When the resident—guy named Carter—opened his door, dude mashed that bag of dung until he was ankle deep in scorched canine leavings. Danny laughed constantly while telling his tell, and I chuckled to hear it.
I gave Danny ten bucks for the help and he thanked me. Good kid.
Danny’s father Kyle is caretaker of this place and collects rent the first Tuesday of every month. Cheapest place in town, only eighty dollars a week because management had something worked out with the State.
Everything was going to be just fine.
I made quick work of arranging my plants—Phineas the Fern, Carlita Cactus, and Peter Poinsettia—about the apartment. Phineas went on the dining room table, Peter sat in my bedroom window, and Carlita slept on the nightstand next to my bed. After I was done, I went grocery shopping, spending little time and even less money gathering my necessities.
I was quite shocked when I came home and all three plants were sitting on the sofa in the living room, watching Oprah. Shaking my head, running over everything the doctors at the institute had taught me, I calmed myself down with little effort. Obviously, I had not put my plants where I thought I had and, in a fugue state, had set them up to watch a bit of television. I took all of my prescribed meds and put everyone in their rightful place. An hour later the pills took hold and I drifted.
I dreamed of roaming greenery.
Imagine my surprise when I awoke and found Phineas and Peter watching me from the foot of the bed.
It was, shall I say, disconcerting.
Everyone back in their original positions, I used the cell phone the State had given me to take pictures of every plant in their place. To test my theory, I locked every window, stepped outside, and used my key to throw the deadbolt on the front door. All entry points secured, I went for a walk around town. I was gone an hour.
When I got back, Carlita was floating in the commode, Phineas was under the bed, and Peter was laying atop my pillow. His leaves were extra red, as if I'd caught him in the middle of lewd acts.
Hurriedly, I checked my cell and found the pics I had taken. I wasn't crazy. My plants were alive.
This went on for three more days and I began to grow…anxious. Like with the roaches those fourteen years ago. I stayed up for two more days, fighting sleep, wanting to catch my plants while wandering my apartment, but I saw nothing.
I developed a twitch in my right eye and my hands would not stop shaking.
I took my meds that evening and sat on the sofa, watching cable until I drifted off.
When I awoke, all four plants were setup in a pretty little row on the coffee table like birds on a wire. They were glaring at me.
That was it.
I'd finally had enough of their games.
Peter went in the oven, which I set to broil. He screamed and popped and hissed as he cooked.
Carlita, needles and all, went headlong into the garbage disposal. She wailed in protest, but was soon green soup in seconds. My arms and shirt were painted with her gore.
I drowned Phineas in the bathtub. On principal, I plugged in the toaster and tossed it into the water with him. The fuse blew and darkness enveloped me.
I hadn't realized I was laughing until I heard the pounding on my door.
I answered it, looking a distraught mess, soaked in Carlita’s green blood and smelling of Peter’s charred corpse. My landlord Kyle stood in the hallway outside my door with Danny in tow.
"Sorry to bother you, Bob. I know the power's out. I’ll look into shortly. Anyway, we were on our way over when everything went dark and I didn’t think this could wait." Kyle's voice grew stern. "Danny has something to tell you."
"I've been sneaking in while you've been asleep or gone and moving your plants around." Danny rolled his eyes, seemingly exasperated. “I used my dad’s keys to get in.”
“Wha—Ow?” I said. I can only imagine this was a mixture of “what” and “how”.
"He'd sneak in after hearing your door close or seeing you leave. We can always hear you snoring through the floor, because we're right above you. That's how he knew whenever you were asleep. He has a problem with taking pranks too—Are you alright, Bob?"
"Fine," I said. Smoke from the oven floated over my shoulder. My right eye twitched. "Just feeling a bit… anxious."