Wind whistled through the tree tops and caught loose maple leaves in its swirls, cascading them to new locations. It was only late summer yet the air already had a nip to it and the trees had a golden hue hinting in their leaves. Two boys in the strange limbo between childhood and teenagerdom walked along a dirt road toting old buckets and rocks that had caught their fancy. The taller of the two had brown scrappy hair pressed down into his eyes by a blue knit cap while a baggy striped sweater encased his torso. He had a soft look to his eyes not commonly associated with his age group of obnoxious confused persons. He talked timidly yet intensely to his shorter companion who donned muddy, thread bear shorts, and red t-shirt and baseball cap.
“I really did catch the fish! Honest!” the shorter boy exclaimed.
“I’m not saying I doubt you Luis, but I'm not seeing any fish in that bucket of yours.” laughed the taller of the two.
“I let him go cause me mum made me. I would’ve kept him and ate him, I’m no baby like you are Sherrie.” Luis said. At least your Mother cares what happens to you. Sherrie thought to himself.
Luis kicked a rock and watched it clatter against the low wall of grey cobble stones that lined the road and seemed to keep the wild tangle of woods away from the calmer shrubs of civilization. A grand yet rundown manor approached in the distance. Its once splendid shingles now crumbled and occasionally slid off the roof, clattering to the hard pressed earth below. A knot of thorny vines crept up the right corner of the manor. On their stalks were glistening gems of inky purple.
The awkward lull in the boy’s conversation ceased when Sherrie yelled, “Blackberries! Right up ahead. Oh Luis have you seen such good looking berries before?”
Luis looked worried. The mixture of doubt and apprehension crinkled his maturing face as he responded.
“They do look nice.” he commented, but the strange palette of emotions displayed on his face made Sherrie confused.
“What’s wrong Luis? Is there something bad about the blackberries? Or are you just scared of lady Wilson?” He inquired. It was not normal for his ravenous and usually foolishly brave friend to turn down free summer sweets. But there was something ominous about the old manor. A hungry feeling of sinister nature swaddled the house and its surrounding land. Sherrie soon regretted that he had challenged his friend’s daring.
“Me? Scared? Of some old lady who lives alone in a stupid old house?” Luis said with a raise of his small brow and a puff of his prideful chest. “No, lets go get us some blackberries.”
Luis shifted the creeping ivy as he clamored over the low barrier encompassing lady Wilson’s land. Sherrie followed in clumsy pursuit, skinning a hand on one of the rough stones as he climbed over. He landed with a thud and nursed a sore bottom while watching Luis scamper toward the miniature sword covered vines. Why did I suggest these blackberries?Sherrie thought to himself. In the moment of desire for the small bits of summer ecstasy, Sherrie had forgotten his fear for old lady Wilson and her strange abode. The gangly boy looked around and spotted small humanoid shaped blackberry bushes of an uncanny variety. They were nowhere near as grand as the mammoth vine that ruled the manor’s corner but the almost faces of the topiary sent the chill of approaching November down his spine and caused him to hurry over to Luis. The rushed motion of the tween boy caught the attention of the lady Wilson.
By the time Sherrie arrived at the foot of the seemingly infinite coils of the blackberry vine, Luis had already stacked dozens of berries atop the rocks that filled his rusty bucket. His nubby hands had bruised most of the tiny fruits in the process of removing them from the vine and scraping off unwanted plant fibers, but the juice now shimmered scrumptiously on top of them.
“Here, have some.” Luis said with purple stained teeth and tongue. Sherrie reached into the bucket and picked a particularly fat one, its skin bulging with the ripe plunder harbored beneath it. Sherrie slipped the bloated treasure passed his lips and felt the sweetness envelope him. How could such a jubilant wonder be produced from the wretched and vicious looking plant that crept upon the wall?
“I’ve never tasted such sweet blackberries before. We’re gonna have to come by and steal these more often.” Sherrie said with a quirk of his mouth. This boy of timid projection was actually one of hesitant mischief, encouraged of course by his thieving best friend.
Pausing mid chew, Luis asked, “Didn’t we hear about these berries before?”
“What do you mean?” Sherrie said absentmindedly while trying to shovel more of the delicacies into his maw.
“There was that girl,” Luis began, “Lucy Torna, right?”
“What about her?”
“She told us she was gonna get some of lady Wilson’s berries one day, but she got caught.” Luis paused, “And then we didn’t see her no more, What happened?”
“I heard she moved out of town or something. She was way older than us anyway” Sherrie said with the carefreeness of one who still holds onto some fleeting aspects of childhood.
“Yeah, she was old.” Luis said. Sherrie looked up at him and they both laughed.
Luis froze. Sharp fear filled his face as he looked past Sherrie.
“Run, run, run!” He whispered in terror. Sherrie turned around to see the old woman of the house walking briskly towards them with a grin on her face. He began to follow after the fleeing Luis but was halted by a tight hand on his shoulder. Wrinkled fingers and yellow nails confined him to the spot.
“Well now, it looks like I’ve caught a young man stealing from my garden.” the woman said in a voice like dry pine wood. Swiftly lady Wilson turned him around. Sherrie cringed as his gaze fell upon her. Thinning cornsilk hair covered her head and years worth of sun spots and wrinkles make her look like an abused leather couch with its stuffing coming out. In her other hand she gripped a cane of knotted blackberry vine, her fingers curling arthritically around the thornless handle.
“What ARE we to do with the youths now a days?” lady Wilson cackled. Sherrie jittered and attempted to leap away but her hand still had an iron grip on him.
“Luis! LUIS! HELP, she’s got me Luis!” Sherrie cried for his friend. All he saw was a rustle of branches and a flash of the departing boy.
“Hush now boy, yer elder is speekin’ to you.” lady Wilson crooned. Off one of the abnormally shaped bushes she took a blackberry. It was the ripest and most appealing one he had seen yet, even with the stem still in it. The sight of the lovely berry assuaged some of his fears for lady Wilson. The old woman held it out to him.
“Take it and eat the whole thing, stem and all. This is your punishment for stealing.” malice gleamed in lady Wilson’s eye as she said this. Once again, Sherrie attempted to pull away, but she forced the berry past his lips and held his mouth shut. He chewed, but the taste did not befit the beautiful appearance of the berry. It was sour; a pungent taste of rot and terror filled his mouth and made him gag.
“Swallow boy, and I will tell you your fate”
Sherrie fearfully gulped the putrid fruit down and collapsed as lady Wilson’s hand released him. He coughed and attempted to vomit but the berry was firmly in his gut. He felt a dense spot where it was, almost as if it had taken root.
“That seed will grow, through your blood and eventually to your heart. The thorns and brambles will trace your arteries, veins and all other places where the blood flows. It will be quick, three days at most. Then when it is done you will bear to me what you most coveted.” When lady Wilson spoke these words, the air seemed to grow heavy and a great terror filled Sherrie’s heart. A heart that would soon be occupied by thorns and brambles.
Tears leapt from his eyes and he scrambled toward the cobble wall.
“You’re lying! That’s not true, it can’t be!” Sherrie whimpered.
“Oh but it is. You know it’s true. You can feel the seed in your gut,” lady Wilson crooned. “Already growing with the beat of your heart and the pump of your blood.” She looked over the low wall and said, “ Now you best be going, run youngin’, run from this place.”
Sherrie gathered his courage and the last shreds of his pride before bolting out of the hideous garden. Dirt crunched beneath his feet as he continued down the road at blinding speed. As Sherrie passed the trees and grasses that lined the way, a black sedan approached, its paint gleaming in the sun. In it was his mother.
The lovely day did nothing to stop the nagging woman from dominating the surroundings when she halted the car and hastily emerged from it.
“Sherrie! Sherrie! What were you doing bothering Lady Wilson!?” his mother yelled. Her voice stopped Sherrie in his tracks and gave him a feeling of utter shame and humiliation. He saw that his mother was not alone, but with Luis. The guilt in his friend’s expression lightened as he noticed that Sherrie seemed unharmed.
“I wouldn’t just leave you Sherrie! You know that! So I went on got your mum” Luis said, flying out of the back seat. He paused, looking around then continued “What did lady Wilson do to you?” Luis whispered so that Sherrie’s mother could not hear.
With gripping eyes Sherrie glanced to Luis and mouthed I’ll tell you later, then timidly looked at his mother.
She was annoyed. Long blonde hair framed a pixie face and eyes the color of an angry ocean, pale and dark all jumbled together in the haste of the waves. Her arms were crossed and she rapidly tapped the fingers of her right hand upon her left elbow, egregiously bothered by her son’s offense.
“So I am sitting at work, and Luis shows up. He says ‘Ms.Hawthorn, Ms.Hawthorn! It’s Sherrie! Lady Wilson’s got ‘im! You have to help!” she said with a scowl. Disappointment stained her good looks as she glowered at Sherrie.
“What have I told you about bugging Lady Wilson?! Or me when I’m at work?! Well?!” she said, raising her voice and her eyebrows at Sherrie. They began to walk towards her car which was haphazardly parked in the middle of the dirt road, Ms. Hawthorn’s heels digging into the soil the whole time.
She spoke as if commanding a hopeless intern, not her only child. The woman’s inconsiderate tone ruptured something inside the boy.
“I WOULDN’T REMEMBER BECAUSE YOU HAVEN'T SPOKEN TO ME IN TWO DAYS!” Sherrie yelled.
The outburst shocked them all. His mother stopped walking. She quickly turned toward him and stared with a look of furious disappointment. All Sherrie saw was a quick flash of her glossy nails before a firm smack was delivered to his face.
“Never raise your voice to your mother. I may not see you a lot but I damn well work enough hours that I deserve some respect.” After saying this she again turned away and finished her walk to the car.
Sherrie stood where he was for a moment and felt his pink face. The pain glowed dully from his cheek, but it was not that that kept him rooted in place. He felt a twinge in his gullet, a creeping up his chest. He tried to brush it away as if it were a stray bug, but it was inside him. Sherrie’s eyes widened in fear and his breathing became shallow. Did lady wilson speak the truth?! Sherrie thought to himself. A shocked dry moan escaped his mouth and the breeze ruffled what hair was visible beneath his blue cap.
Luis interrupted his terror with a gleeful shout,“C’mon Sherrie! Get in the car!” he said.
This broke Sherrie from his terrified stupor and he quickly hurried over to the car, got in, and shut the door.
Scenery ran by as the car flew down the bumpy small town highway. Sherrie shifted in the synthetic fabric seat and looked to his mother. She drove with tight hands gripping the faux leather wheel and a distressed look on her face while Luis attempted to play bloody knuckles with his disturbed friend.
Sherrie cautiously opened his trembling pink lips and let out a shaky breath before he spoke.“Mom, something happened at lady Wilson’s, she-”
Just then her cell phone rang. The electronic beeping interrupted Sherrie and set his mother even more on edge.
“Hold on Sherrie, I have to take this, we have plenty of time to talk later-” she said to him “Veronica Hawthorn speaking, what is it? The WedgeWood tea company?- Yes, yes- No! They’re suing us?! That can’t be!...” this frantic conversation of tea company dealings went on without pause until Veronica glanced over to Luis.
She turned into a quiet driveway ringed by aspen trees and wild rose bushes whose buds had mostly gone to seed. The crumbling cement of the drive lead them to a house with beige walls and a door the color of wilting pine needles. A busty woman with red hair burst out of the front. She wore a button up shirt the color of boiled egg yolk and khaki pants. Her stout frame and kind eyes made her look like a motherly pillsbury doughboy.
Veronica gestured with frustrated hands for Luis to get out of the car and go to his mother.
Before Luis could jump out, Sherrie swiftly grabbed his arm. His knuckles were pale as he drew close to Luis’s ear and whispered no louder than a breath or a careless wind :“Meet me at Quiet Creek tonight at 2 o'clock.” Luis looked at him with intrigue but had no time to question before his mother called to him in a boisterous fashion.
“Looie my little boy get inside, I got dinner ready!” she said.
With a quiet pop Luis opened the door and scampered to his mom replying, “I’m not a little boy, but I will take that food!”
Veronica stopped outside of her and Sherrie’s house. The driveway was impeccable and the postmodern exterior boasted bay windows and sickening simplicity that mirrored Sherrie’s almost catatonic state of mind. The house was pleasant enough, but it lacked the general coziness associated with a longtime home and had bountiful amounts of business like formality. Veronica took a pause from her phone call.
With bloodshot and worried eyes she said to Sherrie “Get inside and behave, remember to eat dinner. Now your Mother has to take a business trip for a couple days to work on this case. Oh the life of a corporate lawyer!” then went back to conversing with whatever bland personality hid on the other end of the electronic device.
Sherrie carefully undid his seatbelt with thin and uncooperative fingers then proceeded to slide out of the vehicle, making a grainy sound as he went.
Sherrie stumbled his way to the front door, observing the neglected petunias that inhabited the front porch in a sad horde. They were close to death, deprived of water and any inkling of love that Veronica could have mustered for them when first purchased. He extended a hand toward the dehydrated petals, only gently caressing the lonesome underbelly of the closest one before it crumbled beneath his fingertips.
He hurried to his room.
The hideous mechanical beeping of Sherrie’s alarm clock woke him. A malicious caress moved inside his abdomen; it groped for a way to climb and spread. Sherrie gripped his chest and violently crumpled into the fetal position until the sensation passed. When it was done, he dragged a hand from beneath the rumpled bed spread and placed it upon the device, struggling to find the proper button that would make the incessant noise stop. He gave up on pursuing the nodule without sight and sat up, cracking open the sandy veils that lidded his eyes. The clock read 1:37 AM , it had been beeping for two minutes. Pressing the power button, Sherrie hunted for pants and shoes in the ashy darkness and grunted in satisfaction when he finally found them.
He slipped out of his room and to the back of the house, making low brushing sounds as his boots hit the grey carpeting. Sherrie flipped the paint covered switch and was blinded by the sudden light. An industrial lamp brightened the room, revealing heaps of unused tools and dusty cans of paint. Walking over the paint stained cement floor, Sherrie came to a drawer of miscellaneous tidbits. Hair ties, tape, ziplock baggies, fast food sauce packets, screwdrivers, spare staples, bag twists, spare christmas lights, and all number of things inhabited the everything drawer. Sherrie rummaged through it, and peered into the back, searching until he found a flashlight.
In melancholy triumph, Sherrie walked to the back door of simple oak and left the house.
Rocks tumbled and ferns clamored when Sherrie sped down the small earthen path. Branches arched longingly overhead as if the trees yearned to hold each other and turns obscured the upcoming trale. He stumbled occasionally but always caught himself before the greedy rocks below his feet could bite and scrape into his hands. With every step his thoughts banged against his skull, reminding him of what lady Wilson had said. Already growing with the beat of your heart and the pump of your blood. Her message tumbled through his head and he slowed his pace, fearing the rapid beat in his chest.
Sherrie pulled his cobalt cap tighter and calmly walked the last few paces into the small clearing. The creek could be heard tumbling over worn rocks and eroded ledges while the withdrawing moon cast its hesitant rays upon the swirling froths of water. Atop a moss covered granite boulder sat Luis. He turned a sharpened cedar wood stick still partially covered in brittle bark in his hands and fought to see movement in the dim treeline.
Sherrie emerged and extended a hand to block the new moonlight and let himself adjust to the luminous surroundings before lowering it. He strode over to the boulder, tiptoeing through jumbles of angry pine needles and deceptive, ankle twisting rocks.
Luis, who had escaped lady Wilson with his bucket of plunder, looked at him curiously and said, “You want a blackberry?”
Sherrie gazed at him with a look crossed between shock and amazement and quietly uttered, “No, thank you, I believe I’ll never want another blackberry ever again.”
“What do you mean by that Sherrie? I didn’t steal all of these for nothing!” Luis exclaimed, nearly overturning the aged bucket.
Sherrie sighed and scrambled onto the boulder; his foot only slipped once in a particularly damp place. He settled next to Luis, mirroring the crisscross applesauce position that his friend had assumed. Sherrie furrowed his brow and scrunched his lips, looking for the right thing to say. Once or twice he thought he grasped it, opened his mouth, but closed it again because at the last minute the words had again alluded him.
Finally he managed to stutter “S-something happened- when you ran away. She- lady Wilson had me eat a blackberry.” he paused. “But it was not like the others- it was b-bad and wr-w-wrong and now I can feel it. I can feel it growing inside creeping along, trudging its way to my heart.”
Sherrie let his face fall into his hands and lowered the calm demeanor that he had been maintaining since his mother had slapped him. Tears trickled past the sallow bags under his eyes and over the still cherubic cheeks of his maturing face. Sherrie pulled his hands from his face and looked to his companion.
Luis sat there in awkward confusion, not knowing what to do. “Sherrie,” he said “I have no idea what is going on.”
This halted him.Sherrie calmed himself then explained the disturbing actions of lady Wilson.
“She took a blackberry, off one of those strange bushes, and made me eat it. It tasted like misery, like the fear of a child. And she told me that brambles will grow in my veins and I will die in about three days.” Sherrie clarified.
“Oh, Sherrie- you had me going for a little while! I thought you were seriou-”
“I am serious.”
“You can’t actually believe this bolox can you?!” Luis blurted.
Sherrie continued to let his eyes bore into Luis.
“I can feel it,” he said “working its way through me. It’s rooted in my stomach like I swallowed a metal marble. It’s like a painful tickle, softly ripping and tearing through my veins. Don't doubt me Luis. I know.”
Luis flickered his eyes to Sherrie’s and kept them there.
“I believe you..... But I don’t understand. If lady Wilson did this,then there has to be someway to undo it!” he clamored.
“I don’t know Luis,” Sherrie said picking at the loose chips in the boulder “maybe it’s better this way. It’s not like my mom’s gonna notice.”
“What?! You can’t say that! You’re my best mate. I can’t let you die on me!” Luis wailed. He gripped his cranium and made a face of immature frustration. Suddenly the irked look was replaced by one of icy clarity.
“Jane Torna!” Luis exclaimed, dropping his stick.
“The girl who works at the shop we steal from occasionally!”
“Which one?” Sherrie said facetiously.
Luis rolled his eyes but elaborated. “The pastry shop on Martin Way. With the strawberry thingamabobs that have the icing and stuff.”
“Oh...But I don’t understand how Ms.Jane could help with my imminent doom.” Sherrie said, flailing his arms to punctuate the last word.
Luis hopped off the rock like a bunny hurrying to hibernate and seized his staff. He planted the sharpened stick into the layers of needles and soil, tossed his head to look at Sherrie so quickly that his ruffled sheep-dog hair stuck into his eyes and mouth. He quickly dislodged the matts of keratin from these orifices and blinked his eyes wide.
“Ms.Jane is lady Wilson’s grand niece, but she’s nothing like that piece of old jerky,” Luis stated “Ms. Jane is pretty and nice, and just may know something and about your curse thing- whatever it is.”
“Really?!” Sherrie said, looking up in hope. He leapt off the rock, forgetting his inherent clumsiness, and fell flat on his face when a crack in the boulder caught his toe. For a short while he stayed there, breathing in the damp soil and listening to the excited gurgle of the stream.
“That sounds great.” Sherrie said, maintaining the same amount of enthusiasm even though the words were muffled by the earth and a leaf filled mouth.
Luis giggled at his friend’s silliness then helped Sherrie up.
“Okay, now that that’s settled, let me go show you the place where I caught that trout! He might still be there!” Luis said. The boys eagerly pranced away down the creek, carefree for a while longer.
The exterior of the pastry shop was cotton candy. A pink paint had been thickly slathered over the wooden boards of the old store front and the windows had been adorned with new blue pinstriped tents. In the small plots of earth before the shop lilacs and chionanthus bushes had been planted, perfect for concealing young hooligans. Luis and Sherrie waited in the ample foliage for Ms.Jane to arrive and unlock the glass and metal door. There were still many hours before opening, but the pastries had to be made.
From around the corner appeared a young woman. She had short honey colored curly hair and thin cupid’s bow lips which were covered by a thin layer of amaranth gloss. Large citrine doe eyes were fenced in by thick but pale eyelashes, making one think of glamorous kiwi fruit. Her turned up button nose was mottled by warm freckles and lead to a dramatic indentation above the upper lip. Ms.Jane’s short figure was decorated with a puffy azalea print blouse, pleated high waist pants, and outrageously tall wedges. She walked quickly and surprisingly gracefully to the sectioned glass door and inserted the key, turning the lock and entering the Pâtisserie.
In the bushes, the two boys prepared to enter the shop. They brushed leaves and dirt off their sub-par clothing and scuttled out from beneath the plants. Luis quietly turned the knob and both boys went inside.
Jane blinked at them in surprise. The wild flutter of the young woman’s lashes made Sherrie’s heart clench with his first crush of adolescence.
“Have you two boys come to steal my hard made pastries again?” she said with a playful warning in her voice. Quickly she grabbed a handful of flour and threw it at the boys, covering them in a cloud of powdery white. They coughed and blinked the invasive flour from their eyes, upturning their hands in surrender.
“No, no. We come in peace!” Luis clamored.
The rosy tile floor was now strewn with the careless dust but the scarlet carpeting and matching drapes in the adjoining dining area had remained untouched. Behind the empty glass display Ms.Jane halted in her preparation to fling more baking supplies. Her demeanor changed from full defence mode to approachable older sister at the utterance of those words.
“Well, what is it I can do for you, my darlings?” she said. Ms.Jane tilted her head in a bird like manner and stared at the two boys.
Sherrie began to explain but was yet again halted by Ms.Jane.
“Hold on, you have a trickle of blood above your collarbone.” she said.
And it was true. Over the bone was a nick that slowly oozed crimson liquid. The surrounding skin was a pale and murky purple, as if something was contained beneath it. Jane Torna hopped over the counter with curious ease and strode over to the boy that was equal to her height, even when she wore high heels. Softly Jane touched the cut and found the skin stiff, she pressed harder and drew back in shocked pain. Examining her finger, Ms.Jane found she had been pricked...by a thorn? Terrified realization filled her peridot eyes and she gasped, violently shaking her curls.
“L- lady Wilson...?” she stammered “Did she do this to you?! Have you eaten the berry?” Her thin eyebrows were drawn close together and the skin of forehead crumpled in tense fear.
“Y-yes,” Sherrie stuttered. He had not noticed the visible spread of the brambles and was shelved for a moment by the realization that they had spread so rapidly. “I was wondering if you could help me...since you are related to lady Wilson.” he finished.
Pity brimmed in her eyes and tears dampened her lashes.
“Come into the backroom, we must not be seen.” She said, and swiftly bounded away, gesturing for the boys to follow. Sherrie and Luis trailed after her and struggled to keep up with the nimble girl as she sped past the kitchen and through multiple doorways until finally arriving in a supply room.
“How long has it been since you ate it?” Ms. Jane said quickly, turning to face Sherrie. Luis stood unimportantly off to the side, climbing on the crates of flour and sneaking handfuls of the sugar stored in the room.
“About a day, but she said I got three.” Sherrie said.
“What did she say exactly?” Jane replied impatiently.
“Three at most.” he corrected.
“That makes sense. By the looks of it you’re not gonna get those full three days. Those brambles are close to your heart.” Jane was speaking in a rushed and urgent manner. Sherrie was stricken and Ms.Jane had no time to comfort him. Luis fell off a crate of flour behind them, neither noticed.
“W-what do I do?” Sherrie inquired, “Is there something I can do?”
Jane Torna considered the aluminum shelving of the room then spoke.
“I don’t know if it would work, but ....when you feel the brambles come to your ribs, when the thorns draw near to your heart, when the strange power of the vines is most vulnerable, cut down the father plant.” her voice trembled as she spoke. The drops of salt water finally escaped through the prison bars of her lashes and ran down her face. She grew quiet and melancholy, like a glove without its pair.
“How do you know all this?” Sherrie gently whispered.
“I had a sister,” she said with a sniffle, “her name was Lucy, Lucy Torna.”
Recognition draped itself over Sherrie’s features. He backed up hitting his head upon a shelf and colliding with a cabinet, sending spices and measuring devices hurtling to the greedy floor.
“Oh, oh my gosh...Ms.Jane I- I- I’m sorry. I didn’t know-” Sherrie began. He was stopped in his condolences by a wave of Ms.Jane’s hand. She walked over to him, shoes clacking on the hard floor, and gave him a hug gentle enough to not break his skin with the hidden thorns.
“It’s all right boy, it was years in the past.” she said, ruffling his mop of brown hair and giving him a peck on the cheek that left a ghost of her lip gloss behind. “Now go and save yourself, for me and the sister who was lost to the same fate that awaits you.”
Sherrie took one last look at her sad eyes, his crush growing, then gathered himself and Luis for departure. The two boys left, both looking back in longing, one for pastries and the other for companionship.
Sherrie fingered the axe blade with trembling hands. It was rusty from disuse but still fiercely sharp. Small sections of the metal gleamed in a furious effort to resist the oxidation that the rest had succomed to. The wooden handle was brittle and splintered but remained firmly embedded in the axe head. The boy turned it over in his hands and exhaled with nervous anxiety. He was crouched behind the old cobble wall that surrounded the manor, terrified to enter the hungry atmosphere of the place.
The pangs had started at sunset. The thorns ripping through him in evil stabbing bursts. Sherrie was covered in small cuts that leaked maroon and slowly migrated toward the center of his chest. He had to he careful not to trip or fall lest the thorns break through his knees and palms.
The boy clutched his chest as a thistled creeping sensation drove its way around his ribs and closer to his heart. I must do this now he thought to himself.
He mustered a cry of fury and leapt over the wall. Terrible strength filled his limbs and the brambles in his veins became accompanied by adrenaline. Sherrie caught sight of the looming vine and spurred himself ever faster toward it. He swerved and twisted to avoid the humanoid plants in his wake because, now knowing their origin, he was truly disturbed by them. Finally he came to the vine.
In the evening light, its innumerable thorns cast ghastly shadows upon the ground below. The twist and curve of its septic trunk took the look of human arms, grasping and vying for some level of purchase on the manor wall. The purple and jubilant berries were no more, replaced by searing morsels of blood red poison that promised immolation for all who sampled their meat.
Sherrie brought the axe down on the trunk. It rang with a sound not natural for a mere vine to produce. He brought it down again, and the sound was more muffled this time. Thump. Another fall of the axe. Thump. Another beat of his heart. Thump. A chunk of the vine is wedged out. Thump. The brambles pumped closer. Thump. Thump. Thump.
The axe’s handle slivered. And as the young man brought it down one last time a treacherous CRACK was heard.... The axe broke; its brittle handle cleaving in two. The beat of its head against the stalk of the vine ceased, but the thump of Sherrie’s heart did not. It continued to pound, driving the brambles closer. Closer. CLOSER.
A sudden pain gripped Sherrie. Thorns encircled his heart and as it beat, it stabbed itself. The thorns finally punctured his veins, arteries and organs. He bled. And it was not the blood of a young child, but the blood of an adult. It coursed out, staining the earth around the young man and wetting his clothes. The vines grew rapidly outside of Sherrie, thriving and flourishing in the new flood of liquid. They burst upward from his chest and downward through the soles of his feet, rooting themselves in the ground. The burgeoning of the brambles drew painful howls from Sherrie.
The young man’s piercing wails rebounded across the garden, and were heard by Lady Wilson. She listened in contented silence until all of Sherrie’s agony was manifested in one final cry of WHYYYYYY?!??!
When the last rays of the evening sun had disappeared and the final cries had ceased, Lady Wilson ambled to her garden. There she found a new bush, its leaves and thorns gleaming with burgundy. It bore young berries, just old enough to be ripe. The old woman plucked a single fruit and examined its glossy knolls. Lady Wilson passed it through her dry lips and shuddered in rapture as the juicy meat and succulent taste of the blackberry passed over her.
We see a blonde haired woman frantically arguing with multiple people over some trivial matter. A young man enters the room where they are. He gently and almost regretfully walks to the woman and whispers to her “Miss, your son cannot be found, he is missing.” We see she is shocked at this and excuses herself. The woman hurries to the bathroom where she calls the mother of her son’s friend. The other line answers in tears and confirms to the her that yes, her son is gone. The woman hangs up. In tears she leaves and drives home, to the house that is even more empty than it was before.