Contest #9 shortlist ⭐️

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General

An extremely rare and late bloomer, the Palm of Casper is one of the most dangerous plants in the world. Experts say a single milligram of its beautiful, ivory blossoms is enough to kill five men. It’s the last flower you’d expect to find in an assortment of edible flowers on top of a wedding cake. The bride and groom certainly had no idea. It was rarely tested for in toxicology reports by medical examiners and its effects mimic severe food poisoning and can cause paralysis.

When Henry nestled the narrow, vase-like flower among the other blossoms, he made sure to squeeze the petals to release more poisonous secretions into the buttercream. The almost translucent milky substance wept from the petals onto the frosting, running down Henry’s pointer finger.

Henry had never killed before. His father had died and left everything to his half-sister, not him. If she and her husband died, Henry wouldn’t have to worry about his various expenses: too numerous to list here. He couldn’t remember ever loving his sister, maybe for a split second before he knew her?

Henry was one of those kids who starting speaking later in childhood. At age four, he would only say a word or two if pressed, motioning with his hands. Then seven-year-old Marsha officially joined his family. The first thing Marsha did was decapitate all eight of his GI Joes. When Henry had showed his father the victims and pointed at Marsha. She shrugged and told their father she was pretending to be a surgeon like him and he had smiled and tousled her curly blond hair with his hand. The heads were never found, though the worst part was Henry spent weeks searching. He had gone through the garbage and even unscrewed all the air ducts in the house, shining a flashlight into the dusty darkness. Even if they had been found, she had used a small saw from the garage, so no subsequent operating could save them.

After weeks of looking for the heads with her watching with crossed arms and endless smirks, Henry had screamed a torrent of cuss words at her in a long sentence that astounded his father. He had always been able to talk but just hadn’t wanted to. Henry later excelled in school, a late bloomer, much like the Palm of Casper flower. Some called him good looking, despite a few mild physical defects, an unevenness. He did wear contacts to correct less than perfect vision after years of Marsha whispering, calling him names—four eyes, dork and idiot.

Watching his older sister get married, listening to her poor husband profess his undying love. Henry tuned out the vows and remembered his father’s last words to him. Dying of cancer, he actually asked Henry, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

Marsha grew up to become a cold and calculating surgeon, with the stomach to slice into living bodies with precision and grace. Fearless, because she didn’t care whether they died.

And maybe he was a little like her, after all.

Henry had never been married before and he hadn’t been to a wedding since his father married his stepmother. If he had, he’d know that the small top of the cake is generally saved for the one-year anniversary, not the cake cutting. The Palm of Casper blossom, even long frozen in Tupperware in a refrigerator wouldn’t lose much potency. In fact, this plan might have even been better to diffuse suspicion, assuming the couple made it through their first year together. Could Marsha hide her true nature?

He thought about all these things as he lay in bed that night after the wedding, still in his suit jacket and pants, staring blankly at the ceiling. Paralyzed.

Because you see, funny thing, it doesn’t matter how many times you wash your hands. The Palm of Casper secretions are much like those of the ghost pepper. The oils leave residue on your hands if you handle them without gloves. And when Henry had taken out his contacts that night, his finger had introduced the poison into his tear ducts.

September 30, 2019 19:19

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