It was cruel to bring her back this way, he realized. Before, when he had cupped his fist into the graveside earth, his thoughts were only of her: skin warm, pin pricks of wildflower freckles splashed across her cheeks like a forest fire. Now, she slept in an oblong bed of satin, light extinguished. So, he drove his hands into the earth, reached down and took what essence of her still lingered, and brought it home in a flowerpot, sprinkling it in the vacant patch of garden between the rosebush and hydrangea.
She grew quickly, forcefully, and before long he could hear her as she raked her limbs against his window, calling out to him as her fingers rode the wind. Through the floorboards he heard the groan of her roots pressing against the planks, searching for him, each splintering thrust a longing cry.
And she hungered.
The first to go were the rose bushes, bleached of color until their petals curled into themselves like dirty napkins, littering the yard in a gray carpet. Then the grass grew bald and spotty as an old man’s head, and the hydrangeas turned to desiccated tumbleweeds. And the bird feeders lay dormant, yet bursting with seed, and the squirrels disappeared, and the deer which fed along the fence line, and the foxes, snakes, voles, and the owls.
But nothing was so horrible as the pale rubber soles he witnessed one morning disappearing among the veiny roots at her base, the splayed feet like rabbit ears slowly sucked into the earth.
By the time he excavated the body, it had been consumed, bones picked clean, pearly white in the onyx dirt.
He purchased additional steel bolts for the gate and slung a large tin DO NOT ENTER sign from the post and he spent his nights with a thermos of coffee, keeping watch, ignoring the caress of her leafy fingers on his cheek, asking for more.
And he wondered, as she shivered in the breeze, if she had always been this way, and death had been a safety valve for her cruelty, or whether his selfishness had somehow poisoned the funeral loam.
He knew that on some level she felt. So, he tossed aside the kerosene can, the chainsaw, the weedkiller, and grabbed his maple handled hatchet.
He hoped it would be swift.
Her bark was smooth, chestnut brown, flowing upwards into a spray of slender limbs with lime green leaves and delicate flame-colored blossoms. They tilted to him as he entered the yard, holding the hatchet.
You brought me back, they seemed to whisper, accusing, this is what you wanted.
Tears worked their way down his face as he shouldered the blade, brought it whistling down into the flesh of her trunk.
A sigh escaped from her as he worked the blade free, wiping a hand across his bleary vision.
It took five swings, in the end, and when he finished, she was spread out across the grass, crimson petals and pale skin.
Danny Menter is a writer and educator working outside Chicago, Illinois. You can find his stories in Metaphorosis Magazine and Flash Fiction Magazine. He is currently pursuing a MFA in fiction writing at Lindenwood University.
photo by cottonbro studio (via pexels)