The garden is everywhere, smothering the house and blotting out the faint light of the moon. You want to scream, but the vines curl around your mouth and stifle any pleas, distorting them into desperate whimpers and cries for help. They tighten around your head, digging in their thorns, ripping the delicate flesh around your face. Fighting only quickens the slithering, or drop from the ceiling, binding tighter and tighter until there’s not enough room to wiggle even a finger.
The garden is everywhere, if it can be called a garden at all. It’s the reason every house on the block is empty, why there is blood on the floor of the botanist’s lab when everything looks normal. At first, it looked like a regular garden, a stone path flanked by flowers and trees, nothing special at all. The vines were interesting only because they were on everything; they almost seemed to grow from the building itself.
Now, as the vines pull backwards, something begins to stir in the garden. There’s the sound of cracking, like the floorboards breaking apart. Small breezes cause the plants to sway in time with the creaking. It’s breathing. You’re surrounded by something big, something alive. It looms over the room like a monolith of undefinable evil, unknowable terror.
Even the smallest bit of resistance makes its vines tighter, its pull faster. It’s so close you can feel its breath on your spine. The room grows humid, and the sound of the creaking is replaced by wet, heavy breaths and the snapping of teeth, the snarling of a beast. With a final tug, the vines pull you from the floor and into the hole the creature emerged from. Its jaws close.
There is no more light. The vines pull away and dissolve, releasing you but you’re too sore to move. One hand brushes what feels like flesh, a wall of something wet and pulsating in time. The smell of roses is overpowering; your stomach churns and bile creeps its way up your throat. The liquid rises, slow and steady, covering the room until you’re forced to squeeze your eyes shut and hold your breath. There’s no way of telling where up or down is, or what’s drowning you. You begin to feel your skin dissolve and you scream, swallowing the acid. Another sensation comes.
This one isn’t physical. In fact, it takes away the pain, separating the body from the mind. Your thoughts mingle with dozens, no, hundreds of others, all in a panic, all afraid.
Hugh Stoll is a senior at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School who enjoys a nice cup of tea with their existential dread in the mornings.