Strange Fruit (Part Three)

It’s finished. Part Three of Strange Fruit is here + you will discover what has troubled our main character for so many years.

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Perhaps, there is someone out there who can help him?

Of course, if you have any information leading to the whereabouts of XXXXXX please direct yourself to the nearest XXXX-XXXXX and call this number: XXX-XXX-XXXX


If you missed Part One or Part Two, Read them FIRST.

I wouldn’t want for you to spoil the ending, now would I?

Part One

Part Two

 


 

AT Strange Fruit Cover-01

 

I went to stay with Sienna that night. The doctors told me amputation was their last choice, obviously. Still, my father’s spoke so unlike himself that night. Regularly a cold and somber man, especially since mom died. The way he flailed in the bed set me back. The extremes of his mood swings were alarming, to say the least. I went back to check on him twice a day, and for the rest of the time, I stayed at Sienna’s place. I didn’t want to think about the garden or what might happen to my dad if he did lose his hands.

Four days passed before I finally came home. A call from the doctor notified me about the end of pop’s treatment with powerful antibiotics and his wounds had been cleaned, he could return to healing. Despite sarcastically suggesting the surgery, I was thankful he could avoid it. In his state, I knew he would regret it whenever he came out of the strange haze that consumed him.

That was before I had returned to see the garden, though. If my father saw what became of it I would have been crucified. The vines grew much and crept across the ground, into the dog run. Rocky stood barking furiously, standing a safe distance away from the garden itself he remained in place. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Insane. That is how I would describe the changes. Absolutely insane. Vines stretched up the body of the statue and were wrapped around it so tight the stone cracked. red stains leaked from the cracks and led into the pond, which had turned red from the nectar of the fruit. Fruit which was blossoming abundantly.

I sat in the kitchen as Sienna tried once more to convince me to burn the whole thing to the ground, and as I stared, I saw the vines moving slowly, stretching upwards and tightening around the statue. Little by little the cracks grew and deepened in the stone as the vines encompassed it. We sat there for ten minutes, maybe less, before I decided to do something about it.

I planned to rip the bushes out of the ground.

I retrieved the hoe and the shovel from our garden shed and began to work while Sienna went for a run to de-stress. I dug through a foot or so of soil before I uncovered a massive network of vines beneath the soil. Crossing over themselves and linking in confusing knots, they formed a mesh shield above the roots, which I could barely see buried in the dirt. I hacked and hacked, ripping vines out of the ground as Rocky continued barking, slobbering as he did so. I slammed the shovel into the net and severed them, feeling an overwhelming anger at the garden itself for being such a burden on me, on my father. I tore up as much of it as I could, and I continued digging. As I revealed more of the buried network, I chopped them into pieces.

I dug a couple of feet into the soil and completely uprooted the foundation of the statue when I realized something.

I didn’t put on gloves.

I dropped the tools and looked down at my hands, seeds stuck into my bleeding fingertips.

I didn’t think twice as I ran inside and began cutting them out of my fingers, the image of my father’s hands in my mind as I sliced the seeds out and drowned the open wounds in peroxide.

Sienna came back and saw me washing my hands, and she entered the kitchen to see the seeds soaking up the blood and swelling, exactly like the professor explained it. I looked out towards the yard and realized I had left the door open from the dog run into the house, the same door that led into the garden.

Sienna and I bolted outside when Rocky charged the garden, barking and snarling, biting at the fruit that hung from the bushes. She got to him before I did, she fought to pull my boy out of the garden, his teeth packed with mulched fruit and vines. She dragged him inside and we knew we needed to call a vet immediately. Sienna drove, and I sat in the back with my pup, worried he would wind up covered in pus and black scar tissue like my father and it all hit me at once. The anger and the sorrow, how attached my father had been to the garden and how I could lose my dog because of that attachment.

“Alright Si, I’ll do it.”

She didn’t need to hear any more as we arrived at the vet and explained everything. The receptionist looked at us like we should be mental patients when we told her my dog ate bloodsucking plants, but she admitted us regardless. The vet checked over my boy and didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, but I begged him, pleaded with him to keep Rocky there overnight. I didn’t want him anywhere near that garden until I had cleaned up the mess I was about to make.

We went back to my house and I covered myself head to toe in clothing, gloves. I put on the old pads I used for the city hockey team years before. I didn’t want to take any chances. Sienna left upon my request, she took a few of my things with her as she left. I was planning on staying with her for the foreseeable future.

I returned to the garden and looked over the statue, shards of stone falling away from the constricting vines. I picked up my shovel and went back to work, digging and hacking until I found the deepest root and could unearth it.

As I worked, A gentle noise rose from beneath one of the bushes and moved the leaves to find a small rat, wrapped up in the vines and fighting to escape. I grabbed the vine with my knife and sliced it from the bush, and the rat scratched its way out of the prison and fled somewhere out of the yard altogether.

Sienna started texting me then, telling me what my dad said about the garden. She wanted information and instead of going to her house she went to the hospital. She told him what happened to Rocky and demanded an explanation. Whatever method she used worked, because not long after my father called me and spoke while I put on the speaker and continued hewing his precious garden to pieces.

“I created a hybrid fruit with the help of some friends of friends I met through work. I wanted to make something easy for your mother to grow. I didn’t think it was possible, but son I did it. I made those fruit coming out of the garden with your mother. I made them for your mother, Nick. Don’t destroy the only memory I have of her.”

I remained silent and looked down to see a small pack of rats, long dead, hidden beneath the bushes behind the statue.

“Your mother always hated them, rats, you know.”

“Explain the blood.”

I picked up our hatched from the ground and swung, severing the bush holding a small family of rats and throwing it across the yard.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I had taken enough of his dancing around the subject and didn’t reply. He continued on, begging me to stop as he heard the sounds of the hatched and the shovel slamming into the earth.

Sienna took her phone back and in the background, a crash came from the other side of the phone.

“Your dad just stood and started running down the hall Nick, do whatever you’re going to do now.”

I dug and dug, silent and focused as I kept searching for the roots of the plants. I finally began to uncover them at five or six feet below the surface, all lined up in a row and converged on a central location. Directly beneath the statue.

From beneath it, I hacked apart the rubber hoses that funneled water into the fountain and pushed, toppling the statue onto the lawn and shattering the cracked stone. From where it landed a burst of nectar rushed out and the broken pieces revealed a series of fruit, with their tendrils exposed, malformed and clumped together inside the hollow stone.

I couldn’t help myself as I dug, I screamed out loud out of rage. My work continued until the sunset, and another foot or more down My shovel hit something solid above the center of the roots.

A small wooden box revealed itself within the earth. A padlock tight around a metal hinge. I broke it open with my hatchet, and inside I found a small stack of papers which I threw to the side. I read the headlines of the first, and a knot grew in my stomach.

I kept digging.

Another few inches, my shovel reached another solid object and I took the hatched back into my hands and slammed it down, splintering the wood beneath it.

From inside, the hatchet stuck into something. Something soft.

I yanked it out and used the shovel to pry open the wooden slats, and in the dimming light I made eye contact with a person, roots emerging from their rotting flesh, their eyes wide open and devoid of color. Pale white reflections wearing a garish smile.

Tears filled my eyes as I continued to hack at the box, and with each swing, I uncovered more of the face that stared back up at me. If it wasn’t for those papers, and the necklace still draped around her collarbone I wouldn’t have known, but the woman in the coffin was my very own mother.

I climbed out of the pit and ran into the garage, taking the spare gas cans my father kept around the house for emergencies and returning to the pit, dumping their contents into the hole and weeping.

Before I took my lighter out of my pocket I retrieved the pile of papers from within the small lockbox, and I turned to light the whole garden ablaze.

It took quickly, and in the bright light of the fire, I saw him once more.

The thin man, his torso short with protruding limbs like a spider. He stood in the dog run, hunched over and grinning. His eyes white like my mothers, his face decorated with small holes, tiny tendrils reaching out from their depths like vibrant tongues licking the air around them. His teeth covered with knotted grass and his skin a pale grey.

I stood there in horror as the man held out his hand, and my mother climbed from within the coffin and step towards him. Taking his hand and turning back to me, for only a moment, to smile.

The two of them stepped out of the dog run slowly and left through the front door of my home into the night as the fire spread, and caught beneath the kitchen where my father had spent the last few days staring at me, praying I would obey and keep his secret.

I ran then. I ran all the way to Sienna’s house and collapsed on her porch, my eyes red from the tears and the fright.

I didn’t know what I saw, and I couldn’t say anything for a long time.

My father’s house wasn’t saved in time. Mrs. Peabody was fast asleep, as for the other neighbors, maybe they didn’t care. Maybe they had seen that thing that observed the garden too. Maybe they wanted the house to burn down.

I don’t know.

 

 

 

Epilogue

 

It’s been nearly eight years since that spring. Rocky recovered well. Sienna told me he had started to grow strange tumors on his belly that night, and for each one the doctors removed, two more grew in its place. After I set the garden ablaze and my mother left, the tumors shrank into nothing. My fingers healed perfectly, too. Funny.

Anyway, I waited so long to say something because if I had come out sooner, my own secret would have been revealed. My house didn’t survive the fire. I couldn’t say anything. Moreover, I didn’t know how.

Not after what I found in that box.

Ever since mom’s death, I believed the story I had been fed. Until I had time to recover, to sit down and read those pages, I believed what my father told me.

A garden of untruth.

He wasn’t at work that day, he had been the one to strangle her downtown. In the shadows, he took her life. The newspaper stated that she was found behind a bar. His journal remembered the night differently. My father mentioned someone named Ixatol. Nothing turned up online, I’ve searched for a long time for answers. Nowhere I’ve been has given me any kinds of clues about who he is or what he did, but my father was terrified of him.

I turned those papers into the police a few weeks ago. I should have done it sooner, but I didn’t want to be linked to the house fire in any way. Sienna and I are settling down in a new house now, a couple cities over. My dad was locked up in psychiatric care after telling his story to the officers who picked him up, running through the town in a medical gown. I’m willing to bet he doesn’t even know what happened.

Maybe it’s for the better.

I know it’s a long shot, but I don’t have any answers and I am desperate to know what that garden was for, who that man was. I need to know. So I’m coming here and putting this out for anyone who might have an answer. If you’ve come across Ixatol, or someone who knows him, I want answers. I need to know what my dad did back then. I need to know why I saw my mother rise from a coffin in my backyard.

It’s been nearly eight years, and Rocky is having trouble getting up like he used to. His hips are bad, and the vet is telling me he has cancer. I don’t want to say goodbye to my good boy yet. He has so much left to give. He was there when all this started, and I want to keep him here until I see it through. If you have any information, please come forward.

While I wait for anyone out there to get ahold of me, I’m going to finish working on this garden for Sienna. She’s a terrible gardener, and I think it’d be a nice place for Rocky and our soon to be baby girl to play.

When Rocky gets better, that is.

 


 

Part One

Part Two


You know, one of my best friends has a dog named Rocky. I hope he doesn’t read into this too much. 😉

Thank you for reading along with me, especially if you’ve been in since the start of Mean for the Holidays. If you have been coming back every day I owe you so much. Thank you for keeping up with the madness that comes from within my mind, I hope you’ve loved it.

I won’t pitch a whole bunch of stuff in this post, that’ll come in the next one out today. 😉 If there’s something you want to find, you can find it here.

Salt + Iron Productions

I’m going to be resting and relaxing a lot tomorrow in preparation for the rest of the week. It’s only a few more days before Christmas + I can’t wait.

Thank you for everything this week. This is only the beginning.

 

Life is not meant to be awful.

-AT

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