Marie couldn’t sleep. She’d never had to sleep in any other bed than her own before. This bed was too lumpy and too big and it smelled strange. She missed her old bed and her old house. The thought that she would never go back home again made her chest hurt and her stomach tie itself in knots. All she wanted was to see her parents again. She still didn’t completely understand what had happened, only that there had been an accident while her parents were away and now she had to live with her grandmother. Scared and sick, Marie rose from the bed and padded out into the hall. The house was big and dark. Looking around to make sure her grandmother was nowhere to be seen, Marie descended the old, creaky stairs and made her way into the sparsely decorated living room. There she heard the song for the first time. A sweet, barely audible tune made its way through the air like a gentle breeze.
Opening the back door of the house, Marie was surprised to see that it was summer. She had been so caught up in tragedy that the seasons had passed without her noticing. She stepped onto the patio and realized that the song was louder. She was close. Crossing the crumbling patio, she found the remnants of a garden. Flowers and weeds mixed and cohabited, becoming entwined and indistinguishable from one another. Hedgerows and flowerbeds ended abruptly and poured into one another. In the center of the ruined garden reigned an enormous rosebush; or perhaps a collection of rosebushes that had once been separate but had grown together due to years of neglect. Marie had barely left the house since she had been there and had never explored its premises. The rosebush pulled her to it like a magnet. Then it hit her that the song was permeating from the rosebush. Stepping towards it, the roses seemed to way and flow. She felt dizzy and nauseous. Beginning to lose balance, she fell forward and braced herself on the limbs of the bushes. Thorns laced the skin of her hands and arms. The smell of blood tainted the flowery perfume in the air. Losing consciousness, something wrapped around her and covered her face.
Sunlight and a warm embrace woke Marie. She lay before the bushes in the arms of her grandmother. Marie refused to answer any of her grandmother’s questions and spent the majority of the day alone in her room despite her grandmother’s protestations. That evening, Marie sneaked out of the house just before nightfall. The soft humming once again flowed from the mass of rosebushes. Her hand brushed the petals as she attempted to circle the massive rosebush and something grasped her wrist. Whirling around to see what had latched on to her, a small flash of something retreating into the bushes was all that she could see. She hunched down and peered into the hedges. Seeing anything inside the shadowy heart of the hedges was impossible. Giving up, she stood and brushed off her knees. The light humming still continued. The day was coming to an end and she vowed to take up the investigation of the hedges the next day.
It isn’t healthy. You’re becoming obsessed with those damn roses.
No, I’m not. I’m just…curious about them. Marie’s grandmother tried to argue with her but Marie didn’t care. This worried her grandmother even more. Marie had once been a lively girl, always running through life. Now, she seemed listless; even worse, lifeless. Though Marie didn’t dare tell her grandmother, the roses had made their way into every part of her life. Roses danced in her dreams, the air hung heavy with the smell of rose petals, and even the food she ate had the bitter, leathery taste of roses.
Marie was becoming obsessed. The roses became her world. Every night, she visited the roses and listened to their song. After a week and half, something new came from the roses. A voice, at first only a whisper. The first few nights of hearing it, its words were indecipherable. Soon, though, the voice became clearer. Every word the voice spoke was beautiful. The voice spoke of impossible things. The voice promised it could show her her mother one more time. All it took was surrender. The promises scared Marie and she refused the roses over and over again, but beautiful promises have a way of breaking down all resistance.
With the promises ringing in Marie’s head, she made her way down to the roses for her nightly ritual. Immediately, she noticed that this night was different. There was no humming and there was no voice. The air was silent and only the smell of the roses hung in the air. She circled the bush, pleading with it and desperately grabbing the thorny stalks. She fell into a lump of tears in front of the massive bush and refused to move. Slowly, the humming began again. Marie leaped to her feet and faced the flowers.
Give yourself to me. Just let go. The Voice was like a warm, comforting hug from her mother. She could listen to it forever. The temptation was irrepressible. The bushes began to part and from the opening a face was barely visible. Mom? she walked up to the opening but still could not clearly see the face. The roses closed in around her and pulled her within.
The police searched the house and the garden but Marie was never found. There was never any suspect; never the slightest clue of what had happened to the girl. The general consensus was that she had run away but no one dared mention this belief to her grandmother. Her grandmother fell into a deep depression after the disappearance. The pain of losing a child and then a grandchild was too much to bear. It was then that she began to hear the music in the garden.
©2012 Corey Powell
Corey Powell is an aspiring author and lifelong resident of Kentucky. He attends a small liberal arts college in the state and is pursuing a degree in English. Another story of his will appear in an upcoming Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine. He can be contacted at email@example.com