Strange Fruit

I woke up once to find my father cutting off his fingertips. A night of restless sleep and vivid nightmares brought me out of my bed and to help calm my mind, I thought of taking a short walk around the neighborhood. I wanted to get out of the house for a moment, and as I plucked my keys and jacket from my dresser, our kitchen light reflected beneath the crack of my bedroom door. Stepping out and towards the staircase, my father brandishing a knife in the kitchen, a frantic joy in his eyes as he held it against the tip of his fingernail and dragged it slowly across and into his flesh. His palm writhing against the force of the knife and I could hear the faint pop of the blade hitting the counter.

I rushed downstairs, worried. When I got there, he looked up to me and spoke, only a few words but it chilled my bones.

“Nicholas, I think your mother is here. Will you get the door?”

What he said wouldn’t have shaken me as much if my mother was still alive, she passed away three years before that spring. After she died my dad found it difficult working through a world without her. She was assaulted downtown, and we weren’t told much else, with pops at work and me out of town on a vacation with my girlfriend Sienna when it happened. He called me and gave me the news and we caught the first flight back home. She passed before we got there. My dad explained everything and after that, he separated from real life. His boss was a rock for the rest of the family and managed to get him plenty of time off, with which he began working on various side projects mom always wanted him to take care of, planning an extension on the house and replacing our carpets. Other smaller jobs, new doorknobs, and a new bathroom sink. The big one was the garden out back. She always wanted to have a successful place to care for plants, but every year she tried, her crop wound up dead or wilted before we could harvest any of the fruit. Dad took over in her honor and with the help of my girl’s dad and our neighbor Mrs. Peabody, an avid gardener my mom was always fond of, pops managed to do it.

It’s been a long time since then, and enough time has passed now that I can speak freely about the events that followed. I’m not haunted by the nightmares anymore. I’m just, wondering.

That night, when my dad decided to remove his fingerprints, I took him to the hospital and checked him in. For all intents and purposes, the trip was simple enough. The doctors patched his hands up and sent him back home the following morning. After I picked him up we sat in the living room for a long while and talked about what happened. I was filled with questions and he didn’t do a good job of answering most of them. The whole situation confused and worried me. I knew he picked up drinking after the fact and was getting pretty good at it. I picked up drinking too.

Well, with the state my dad was in I chose to take over the many half-finished projects he tended to. He showed me his yearly plans for the house and the all-consuming list my mom made before she died. Scrawled on the back of a CVS receipt and filled out top to bottom all the things my dad took care of were marked off, doorknobs and floors, repainting our guest room after a cousin took her devastating six-year-old’s artistry to it.

That spring he focused on three things primarily, expanding the garden area and building a dog run for my boy Rocky. We adopted him in the winter. A German Shepard pup who was almost more than I could handle. Mom always wanted a dog, and after her death, I bought Rocky to help me cope with not having her around. A good dog, albeit a bit rowdy. Which is why pops requested I finish the dog run first. Secondly, the more important of the two, to maintain the garden. He gave me strict watering times and an even more strict list of pruning specifications, along with a handful of notes detailing proper procedure and care for the plants. With little gardening experience, I took all the information in, wanting to do whatever I could to help my dad get better.

My first day after repairing the dog run, I looked over the garden and really inspected it, hoping to go above and beyond what my dad requested of me. It featured a large angel statue in the center, offering not only decoration but function as a small man-made pond. With faulty wiring and a malfunctioning spout, I knew my spring schedule would fill quickly. The dog run tracked around the garden, my dad made it clear that he didn’t want Rocky to go anywhere near it, afraid our excitable boy would tear up the plants and ruin dad’s hard work. I obliged, but after I let him run through once he wouldn’t go anywhere near the garden side again. Choosing to stay on the other side of the lawn and far away from the small gates built to house it. I assumed he didn’t want to be trapped behind the back alley track and thought nothing of it.

The weird things started coming after the first few days. I began having these crazy dreams about this woman dancing in the garden, she looked identical to the angel and I woke up a few nights in a row covered in sweat. Those dreams didn’t frighten me mid-sleep, they were incredibly comforting. When I awoke, I would feel sweat pouring off my skin. Thinking back, maybe she wasn’t as beautiful or serene as I thought then, there was certainly nothing out of the ordinary to me. They were only dreams, after all.

My fourth or fifth day in the garden, Sienna and I were working on clearing out some of the vegetation. The previous day I had overwatered it because I was going out to dinner and when I got back home at night I found my dad sitting in the bay window of our dining room staring into the bushes. He didn’t turn his head as he spoke to me.

“You gave it too much water yesterday, Nick. I was reading the logs. I appreciate what you’re doing, but this is important to me.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I hadn’t written in any logs or recorded my watering schedule at all, which led to me overwatering in the first place. Evidently, my father wrote down the times I watered and kept tabs on the work I did. Expecting perfection from me I apologized to avoid a lecture and went out the next day to work on managing the tangle. In the process, Sienna found a patch of vines that crept into the statue. Those vines were clogging up the induction system for the fountain itself and it only took a few minutes to clear it out. After we got the mess of vines and leaves out of the suction chamber the water flowed from the pot again like a dream.

We skipped away with our work done and went about our business.

After a night out, I got home to find my dad in the same place, still staring out the window absentmindedly picking at his bandages.

“Son, I planted that for your mother and I hope you take your responsibility to it seriously.”

I only half heard him as he told me his expectations regarding the care of the garden because it looked like if only slightly, the statue rotated.

It turned to look up, towards my bedroom.

Two days later, Sienna and I confirmed together that the statue was looking towards my bedroom as we were taking care of our usual pruning tasks. I didn’t want to think my dad moved it, and I especially didn’t want to consider it having moved on its own. The idea was illogical. There was no evidence otherwise, though. The best I could do was believe it had always been looking towards my room.

My dad took to sitting outside with us and directing our work after that, telling us where to snip vines and where to focus our watering. When we finished, I could hear him at night crying himself to sleep and apologizing to my mom for not being able to take care of the garden like he used to.

We caught the attention of our next door neighbor who took a moment to smile and wave before returning inside. My father carrying a disgusted look on his face as she stepped away. After asking him about it he only told me

“She thinks she knows what a gardener does.”

Didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t today.

Well, after we finished for the day Sienna and I went out for dinner, at the restaurant we barely received our food when I got a notification on my phone, our security system picked up movement inside our backyard. I knew my dad was home, but night had fallen, and it was likely he went to bed, so we bailed on dinner and rushed home. On the footage, we saw a tall man rooting through the garden, looking for something. As we pulled up, we saw him hope the fence and take off down the street.

The gangly figure ran away from our vehicle as we pulled up. A tattered jacket and pants covered thin, long limbs. Like a spider who missing half its legs, he stretched his legs his way away from the house and ignored my shouting. We went through the house and couldn’t find my dad anywhere. When we did, we found him out back in the garden, covering up a small hole with dirt and mumbling to himself.

“If he finds out, I’ll have to be planted elsewhere. I won’t get to come home again.”

I startled him when I approached, and he swung the trowel, hitting me in the arm and leaving a scratch. He ripped his bandages to shreds and he was looking around the yard, frantic.

“Did you see him?”

I nodded, and lifted him up, getting him back inside where I convinced him I’d call the police. Sienna cleaned up his wounds. On one hand, where his bandages fell away, there were a few rows of little stickers or grains embedded into his bare flesh. His hands were bleeding profusely, and we knew we needed to get him to a hospital again after we tried to wrap his hands and stop the blood. Nothing helped. He sat in the chair muttering about the gardener and praying he would be okay.

We got back to the hospital in a hurry and rushed him into the ER, on the way Sienna tried to pluck out one of the seeds and as she did my dad started screaming, telling us it hurt so bad and he wanted to be back in the garden again.

His obsession with his bushes threatened to prevent a hospital trip, and he wouldn’t listen to a word I said so I just stopped speaking. We practically had to drag him into the car to take him to the hospital. The doctors looked at his hands and pulled out the grains, offering him a sedative after he wouldn’t halt his dramatic screaming. His doctor took a few pictures to show me. It looked like my dad’s fingertips were tiny bloody strawberries. These little seeds stuck into his skin. They pulsated and swelled. The doctors had a hell of a time removing them, despite only piercing the first few layers of skin. It didn’t look any worse than a prickle bush stuck in there but if you had heard my father, you would have believed they were taking bullets out with pliers.

I called the police while the seeds were being removed and they told me they couldn’t do much besides send a patrol car to inspect the area. I took it and made a note to file an official report the next morning. The intruder didn’t seem to have gotten inside and if they had, I thought my dad would have said something. Of course, he was more focused on the seeds inside his fingers at the time, so he might not have noticed.

While the doctors worked, I stayed in the waiting room with Sienna, talking to her about the craziness of the whole situation.

“I think you should tell your dad to kick rocks.”

“Hardly, how do you think he will react?”

I couldn’t bear to. The last few nights had been crazy, but coincidences are crazy. The statue hadn’t moved, and the things stuck in my dad’s fingers were simply thorns. weak flesh, whatever. I justified it.

So I waved her off for the time being and told her I’d talk about it later. Around the same time, the doctor came out with a small dish with a bit of blood inside. He knelt next to us, his look of astonishment obvious to everyone else in the room as he whispered in my ear.

“Do you see this, Mr. Raleigh?” He swiveled the dish around, allowing the blood to soak into the seeds and cover them. “Do you see what is happening?”

I watched, Sienna watched, and we were both silent as the tiny seeds previously embedded in my father’s fingers began to grow into tiny plants in the dish. Soaking up the blood quickly they grew small trunks and bloomed dark green leaves and when they soaked up all the blood they remained in place and died a few seconds afterward.

“What is this?”

I asked as if the doctor would know, He was looking at as much of a mystery as me. I could hardly believe it.

“This was what your father had stuck inside his fingers. It wasn’t hard to remove them, but this is remarkable. We’ve kept the remaining seeds and dried them to the best of our availability. I’ve never seen something like this.”

Neither had I, and a familiar shiver ran up my spine as we all stood and returned to my father’s room.

I tried to question him briefly about the seeds, but he didn’t answer through the haze of a deep slumber. The nurse explained that he fell to sleep after the procedure. A non-medicated sleep, to boot, he was simply out of energy. I stopped trying when Dr. Keith came back into the room with a small clear bag with a few of the seeds bouncing around.

“I have a friend in Botanical Studies over at the college, would you mind if I sent a sample of these to him?”

“Sure.”

I didn’t mind, I wanted to know what they were more than the doctors did.

Sienna and I ended up going home afterward and sleeping at home while my dad recovered. The next morning I saw it again.

The statue moved once more.

I didn’t see it until I cleaned out the water to clean the basin and replace the filter system. After I finished the job I turned it back on and noticed the stream of water falling from the small vase shifted slightly. A small patch eroded into the stone basin from where the water would splash off before falling into the pond and the vase was no longer pouring the water on the same spot. It moved a good two inches to the left. The statue looked the same and in disbelief, I inspected it up and down. All the fixtures looked to be in place. So I made a note of it and took a picture of the changed stream. I didn’t have anything to base it off, but I figured it would help me adjust it later.

Frustrated with the rapid growth of the garden, I called Mrs. Peabody and invited her over for lunch and to hopefully teach me a bit about gardening that afternoon. She got there and when we finished lunch, we were standing in the garden and she marveled at the sheer amount of undergrowth the bushes were producing.

“This isn’t like anything I have ever seen.” She plucked vines from the ground and dropped them, looking over their structure. Intertwined across the soil, like a net cast beneath the bushes. “They are like roots growing above the earth. There are so many. You’re telling me you prune all this every day?”

“Every other day. Yeah.”

Her look of surprise caught me off guard.

“What does your father have you doing to this garden? Are you using growth aid chemicals? Unique watering habits? These are the healthiest plants I’ve ever seen.”

I shared my father’s regimen for the garden and she looked it over, coming to the decision that his daily ritual was a preventative measure to keep the growth at bay.

“The only thing I can see is, little old these plants will choke themselves if they grow out of control. You see those vines?”

She pointed beneath one of the bushes and moved the leaves and branches out of the way. The main stalk of the bush wrapped up in layers of vines two or three rows thick. They spiraled up the stalk and rested on branches more than halfway up the bush itself.

“That’s the kind of thing you’d find in the jungle. To top it off, there is already fruit growing here.” She pointed to another, and there hidden behind a patch of leaves she found a small orange and pink fruit. She cracked it open and peeled the two halves apart.

It contained bright pink flesh, white at the edges almost like a watermelon. Densely packed and filled with small pockets. The pit cradled a large black seed, surrounded by the same smaller seeds I had seen my father’s fingertips. Around them there were small tendrils, wiggling gently. They came out from the pit of the fruit and reached towards the other end, trying to reconnect with their opposite side. Mrs. Peabody held it up for me to see and I looked, panic grabbing me as soon as I noticed the seeds.

Thankfully, she was wearing gloves.

She ran a finger along the pit and we marveled at the tendrils, they responded to her touch and tried to reach out for her. The flesh of the fruit producing a translucent dark red liquid. The nectar was extremely sticky, and Mrs. Peabody took a moment to glance at it before placing the cracked fruit back into the earth, burying it face down in the soil.

“I’ve never seen that before, Nick. What did your father say these were?”

“I couldn’t tell you.”

She departed a moment afterward, recommending I call her if I have any further problems with the garden. She wanted me to talk to my dad about the fruit too, which was a given. My first priority was a conversation with my father. I can still see those tiny tendrils reaching out for Mrs. Peabody’s glove, trying to touch it. Twitching in the air like it took all of their might to stand on their own.

After returning indoors, I avoided my care of the garden that day intentionally. I wanted to experiment. To see if it really would kill itself without all the maintenance.

Sienna came over and we laid around for a while before I got a phone call. Dr. Keith’s friend from the college called with some news regarding those seeds. They absorbed blood and did so quickly, swelling and blooming. Dr. Keith offered up some from a recent donor, under the table, for the lab to experiment with and they emailed me a collection of photos which proved what they were saying.

They managed to maintain a single plant, which bloomed in the pool of blood. After reaching a certain point, he remarked, all the plants would stop consuming and rest within it only feeding when necessary. He called them botanical vampires. The concept wasn’t entirely unfamiliar to the world of nature, but it was striking that they would only react as such to the presence of blood.

We finished speaking and I hung up to relay the information to Sienna who told me once more to reject the garden while my dad was in the hospital. I still didn’t want to; my desire for the new chores to end eclipsed by my curiosity.

It took a while, but I talked her into coming with me to deliver a sample of the fruit to the lab. On our way, Dr. Keith called us and told us to get there as soon as possible. Pops continued talking nonsense and the doctor explained that something was wrong with his hands. As much as I wanted to drop off the fruit, I needed to be with my dad.

When we got to the hospital, I saw firsthand what the doctor explained. My dad begged the nurses and the doctors to let him go back to his garden, telling them he needed to water his fruit. He made all kinds of complaints without realizing his fingers turned blue. They were swollen and looked to be terribly bruised. The knuckles had trouble bending and the blue tint to his skin had begun working its way up to his wrists.

“I don’t know what happened. It is like this swelling expanded overnight. We weren’t expecting it. I wanted you to be here, to see if you could calm him down while we get our team together. There is a chance he is going to lose his hands if we can’t stop the spreading of this infection.”

“Infection?”

I looked once more, and couldn’t see any signs. Not until I got close. On the exposed bits of his fingertips where he had sliced, jet black flesh protruded from his skin. Cracks filled with puss decorated the tips of my father’s fingers and I stared at them for a long time.

I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t have come up with an answer anyway, but my dad chose to answer for me.

“Nick. Tell these people to cut off my hands.” His explosive screaming halted when he saw me, and he returned to his somber and cold self as soon as I reached the side of his bed.

“I suppose,” I looked towards Dr. Keith. “Cut off his hands?”

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.

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