Horror Suspense

Trigger warnings include: Child death, mild gore and violence, indirect cannibalism (?), explicit language.


    Bosie Howard looked into the rear-view mirror of his 1993 Mercedes for just about the millionth time since he’d wrestled it off of the highway. TJ (Tucker Jones, if you asked the state) was at that fine age where he was old enough for his legs to dig into the back of his daddy’s chair, but not quite old enough to have the sense not to let them.

    “Teej, get your feet off of daddy’s chair, please,” Bosie said, but he needed only say the first two words—TJ’s feet had come down the instant he realized he had been doing something wrong.

    Mary Howard was resting her sunburnt forehead on the passenger side window of Bosie’s tin can. He could almost picture her losing a layer of skin to the thing when she peeled her face from it. Not that it would be anything he could laugh about—he and the rest of the Howard family were all pink-to-red from scalp to toenail. The two week long vacation had been very much needed, and Bosie thought they might very much need another to recover from the first.

    Cindy, freshly eight with an attitude to match, was asleep in the seat behind Mary, which was no surprise. Cindy fell asleep any time she was in a moving vehicle for longer than three minutes.

    With Mary resting her eyes, Cindy sleeping, and TJ carefully watching his sandal-clad feet, Bosie turned onto Oak Way, drove past a few driveways, and then slowed to turn into his own. He braced his hand on the top of the steering wheel, looked out the window on his side, and then stopped completely, still in the street.

    “Mary,” he said quietly. Mary hummed, not picking her head up from the window.

    “Mary,” he said again, not any louder, but with just a touch more urgency. She looked up, focused on where he was looking, and sat up straight.

    At first glance, it looked as if their driveway had been eaten by the rest of their lawn and was hidden beneath a layer of grass. After taking a moment to squint, though, the “grass” did not quite appear fluffy enough. Mary ran her eyes over it, then finally placed it for what it was: vines, overlapping and criss-crossing on top of the pavement.

    They both stared at this for a while before Bosie broke himself out of his daze enough to pull into a neighbor’s driveway and turn around. He parked in the grass in front of their house, and he heard crunching beneath the tires.

    Bosie turned the car off and unbuckled, opening his door. Cindy snapped awake at once and unbuckled herself before moving to work on TJ’s seatbelt. It clicked off, and Cindy looked up.

    “Whoa,” she said, and TJ’s head snapped to the side to see what she was looking at.

    For the better part of the past year, Mary had been working quite tirelessly and unsuccessfully on a garden. She had hopes of being able to grow a lot of their own fruits and vegetables so they wouldn’t have to pay for them at the Whole Foods or the Farmer’s Market (Bosie had suggested just getting them cheap at Wal-Mart, but Mary had nearly laughed in his face at the thought of paying for pesticide-soaked, wilting greens. He had thought ‘fair enough’). After months of coming up with too-small vegetables and rotten fruit, Mary had decided to do away with the produce nonsense altogether. She had told Bosie that once they were back from vacation, she would pull it all up and replace it with an herb garden, because herbs had never given her any trouble, and they could probably get some good out of a thing like that anyway.

    Bosie opened the side door of his car and let TJ and Cindy out. They all stood by the car, looking at the small patch of the front yard where Mary had tried to start her garden. Before they had gone, it hadn’t looked like much of anything. Bosie had thought at one point that it nearly looked like a compost pile. Now, it was overrun with stems and vines tangled up with one another. Bosie could see several full-sized watermelons, and a few that looked to be even larger.

    They traced their eyes over the mass of green and followed it to where it spilled out onto the rest of the yard. There were a few melons and cabbages and uprooted onions strewn across the grass, all sprouting up between the masses of thick vines. The vines continued onto the driveway, and Bosie noted with some amusement that in the space where he would have parked his car, there was a watermelon that was at least twice as large as any he had seen at any Whole Foods or Wal-Mart he had ever been in, pesticides or not.

    Silently, Bosie walked to the front door and fished his keys out of his pocket. The rest followed him, equally silent. Bosie got the door open and saw, with a numb sort of shock that almost didn’t feel like shock at all, that their house was full of those thick vines, too, crossing over everything and making the living room look like the end of Jumanji.

    They were quiet for a while longer, and then Bosie bent over with his hands on his knees and started to laugh. He was laughing alone for a moment, and that made him sound sort of crazy, but then Teej joined him, then Mary, and then Cindy, and they were all laughing then, still standing in the doorway.

    “We’ve got to harvest all this,” Bosie said, catching his breath. Mary huffed out a few more laughs.

    “How do you suppose we do that?” she asked. There was humor in her voice. Bosie headed for the kitchen, carefully stepping over vines and fresh produce, and they all followed with equal care.

    Bosie pulled open the knife drawer in the kitchen and dug out two big ones for him and Mary. He gave Cindy a small one, and TJ happily took a pair of kitchen scissors instead.

    “There isn’t so much in the kitchen,” he said, “so get everything you can from the rest of the house and pile it up here. If it’s too hard to get through, leave it for me and mommy to get.” TJ and Cindy nodded at them resolutely, and Bosie thought fondly that they looked like little soldiers being deployed into the jungle. That was when the novelty of it all had not yet worn off.

    They went off to divide and conquer, and that was the end of that.

    Cindy and TJ stayed together as they explored the house. They hadn’t meant to, but Teej was scared, and Cindy was a bit, too, though she would not have been so quick to admit it. They started in Cindy’s room, which was not too badly covered. Cindy wrinkled her nose as they worked cabbages off of the vine-covered floor, and she was happy to move onto the strawberries near her closet.

    Once that was done, they went into the bathroom, which was in the hallway between her room and TJ’s. TJ was beginning to be less scared and more excited. They started to pull watermelons from the bathtub, which was full of them. While TJ’s kitchen scissors worked away at a thick vine, an even thicker vine began to work away at his sandal.

    Bosie had cleared away almost half of the greens from the living room when Cindy began to yell.

    “TJ! TJ!” she shouted, and the shout turned into a shriek, and the name turned into one long syllable. Bosie dropped his knife, turned toward the bathroom, and then stopped short to pick the knife back up. He knew that Mary would be there before he was, and he was right. He arrived to the sight of Mary pulling TJ away from a large green mass. She had him by the torso, and one of his arms was wrapped around her neck. Bosie tried to find where the other arm was. He could not seem to find it.

    Cindy shrieked again, and Bosie ran toward TJ, watching a thick, spiked vine wrap itself around TJ’s tiny ankle. He began to hack at it with his knife, but he could barely manage a dent in it. If he was damaging it any, it wasn’t enough to do much good. He picked up Mary’s knife from the ground and tried using both, and Mary kept on pulling, but TJ wasn’t screaming, and he wasn’t struggling either. There wasn’t any more blood spouting from the place where his arm had been.

    Cindy made a frightened sound, then shrieked louder than before, and Bosie and Mary both turned to her. Another vine was moving, and this one was creeping onto her shoulder from where her back had been pressed to the wall.

    Bosie ran to her, and Mary tried to do the same with TJ still in her arms. She couldn’t get any further than one step, and she froze, a coldly horrified look on her face, before looking down at TJ—at TJ’s body. She shook her head rapidly back and forth, opened her mouth, closed it, and then let him go. He disappeared beneath the writhing mass of green immediately.

    Cindy let out a helpless cry as Mary reached her and began to try to tug her away from the vines, just as she had with TJ. Bosie began to pull back with his entire body before laying the knives into the vine as if he were swinging an axe. He thought of when he had said he would get a knife sharpener for the kitchen knives. They were dull, had been dull for years. He couldn’t think of why he had never gotten one. Why on earth had he never gotten one? Just why not?

    Cindy disappeared into the wall, and by then, she wasn’t screaming any longer. The vines covered her up, and the two remaining Howards watched as the vines went still for a moment. They slunk back like frightened snakes, shriveling away and slipping out of the bathroom. They retreated to wherever they had sprouted from, only leaving behind the fruits and vegetables. Half a dozen watermelons sat in the bathtub, and the Howards left them there. They walked through the rest of the house and saw that all the vines had gone away just as the ones in the bathroom had, only leaving behind some cabbages here, some strawberries there, onions and melons and potatoes and things Mary didn’t even remember planting.

    Without a word, they walked around the house and gathered everything up like it was all they could do, piling it into the kitchen. When it was all done, they stood side by side, staring at the whole mess.

    “We’ve got to get rid of it all,” Mary said, and Bosie thought she sounded the way she always did when a neighbor came by unexpectedly during an argument. He nodded, and they stood there for another second more before setting off to work, chopping, boiling, peeling, washing, and preparing everything the vines had left behind.

    When all was said and done, they had an entire table full of sliced watermelon, washed and destemmed strawberries, mashed, boiled, fried, and baked potatoes, vegetable stew, and some onion rings for the hell of it. Mary began to make phone calls. Come on over, invite your neighbors, friends, relatives. The garden sprouted up like devil-may-know and now we’ve got more than we know what to do with. The food is all prepared. Sure, bring your girlfriend along.

    The whole neighborhood and half of the next one over came, and they all managed to find space in the house to sit and eat. The fire department even came down, since Mary had called the chief herself and told them all to take a load off. Everyone laughed and talked and stuffed themselves, and Mary and Bosie had no appetite whatsoever, but they ate anyway, and no one asked what was wrong or where are the kids Mary?

    It was almost midnight by the time everyone left, and the kitchen and dining room were full to the brim with dishes. Something to do, Bosie supposed. He and Mary stacked up all the dishes from the table and carried them into the kitchen. They set them on the counter, and Bosie picked one up off the stack.

    “Our kids were in there,” he said, casually, the way he might say that it was nice to see the neighbors again. “Somewhere in that mess. Our children.” He scraped some scraps of food off plates and into the trash.

    “Yes,” she said, taking plates from him and sorting them neatly into the dishwasher. They had only just gotten it fixed a few weeks ago, and she was glad of it, because there were loads of dishes to be done. The silence hung between them like a stench.

    “I wonder when they’ll find out,” Bosie said. Conversational, like small talk by the mailbox. “It’ll be a tooth, maybe. In their shit. The firemen, or the Thornton’s next door. Maybe one of us. Like a fucked up King’s cake. Who’s got the baby? Our children, Mary.” Mary was sorting the plates into the dishwasher very quickly.

    “Yes,” she said sharply. Bosie stopped talking. He scraped plates, and the slide of metal on glazed ceramic was the only sound in the house.

    The next morning, Bentley “Crutch” Henderson headed for the bathroom before he was even certain he was awake. Watermelon always gave him the trots—that gross red kind, too—and he’d had a hell of a lot of it last night at the Howard’s—or was it Howards’? He couldn’t remember, only that the watermelon had been free and that there’d been plenty to go around.

    He flipped the light on, opened the lid, and squatted. It hurt like hell coming out, and that wasn’t normal, no matter how much watermelon he’d put away. He thought of how people always said you can’t digest the black seeds. He was never too careful about that, and he thought that maybe he ought to be.

    Once he’d finished his business, he stood, put his hand on the flusher, and then thought to look in the bowl. Something had scraped him up pretty nicely on the way out, and he meant to check what it had been.

    At first he didn’t see a thing, because he had been expecting a seed and was looking for black. Then his eyes sharpened up, and he saw a glint of something. It was white, not black, and he thought it looked a bit like a chip taken out of a ceramic plate. He looked at it for a long while, had another thought and then looked into the mirror above the sink. He smiled.

    Crutch looked back at that thing in the toilet and fainted dead away before he could even think to flush it down. 

December 14, 2023 23:28

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Ferris Shaw
22:58 Dec 23, 2023

Feels like early Stephen King to me. The good Stephen King, the one who knew how to write.


D'Spencer Luyao
17:48 Dec 31, 2023

Stephen King is my favorite author so that's probably where the similarities come from! Thank you


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13:27 Dec 19, 2023

Well done D'Spencer. Creepy and unsertly. I'm unsure about what thought made crutch smile before fainting... Was he becoming possessed? Really good


D'Spencer Luyao
14:22 Dec 19, 2023

My intention was for him to be looking at his own teeth- maybe for reference, to check whether the thing in the toilet was, in fact, a toilet, but maybe to check if it was one of his own (which I think would've been a small comfort LOL). Thank you for reading!!


11:31 Dec 20, 2023

Ah ok that makes sense! :) Never a good thing to find a tooth in the toilet bowl after a good feast, any tooth!! :)


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