“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” This is the original expression, which changed to, “Stop and smell the roses.” Quoted by Walter Hagen, December 21, 1892 – October 6, 1969.
“As you can see, the azalea intrigues the most sophisticated florists in the whole city of Flippen. With more than 24 varieties, we have the most diverse azalea garden in the 5-mile radius.” The group of addictive interviewers all gasped and wrote down this riveting information. The tour guide resumed, “If we can just have a couple million dollars, our garden can-wait! Come back!” Every reporter ran off to another not-so-great attraction.
“Terry!” Mr. Grayson bellowed at his only tour guide, “You better not made those damn reporters run off ‘cause of your fancy shenanigans.”
“Sorry, sir. I’ll try harder, sir.” Terry stammered as she shuffled over to Mr. Grayson.
“Do I have to lower your pay to fiddy cents?”
“No, sir. I’m sorry again, sir.”
“You better be. You know what happened to our last tour guide?” Terry glanced worriedly at the gravestone that read, “Here Lies Bartholomew's Ego.”
That’s when she noticed it. An old man watering a small patch of dirt next to the gravestone. She never saw the man before, yet she seemed familiar with him. She turned, and the overweight asshole had already left Terry alone. At 10:39 that night, Terry left the garden and headed to the apartment complex she called home.
A week later the Oldman Elementary School fourth graders came to the azalea garden in Flippen, Georgia. Having to deal with eighty-six squirmish, childish kids upset Terry, but she did it anyway. About halfway through the tour, a huge storm overlapped all of Flippen, but everyone ignored those not-so-usual things.
Terry gestured to a small section of red beauties and explained, “These azaleas are the most we have at this garden and-” The lights above them flickered.
“It’s ok. It’s just the-” The lights shut down, drowning the garden in pure darkness. “Lights.” Terry resumed, looking around for the reason of this sudden interruption. Then she looked at the house of Mr. Grayson, right beside the garden. It’s front porch lights produced a dull light.
“The hell?” Terry whispered, “It’s not a blackout…”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” A scream pierced the endless darkness.
“What the *BLEEP* is going on? I’m just trying to turn those damn lights on, and someone screaming like a banned sheet!” Mr. Grayson wobbled over to the dark form of Terry.
“Banshee.” Terry whispered under her breath. She ran to the group of kids, looking for the source of the scream. The lights shone bright as they turned back on. The teachers helped Terry with her search. One girl explained that the boy beside her screamed, then vanished. Terry scanned the crowd for the boy. He disappeared.
Later, the boy’s parent drove down to the garden to receive the unbearable news. They cried too much, so Terry went on a self-tour, reciting the facts to herself. As she got to the end to the tour, she noticed something peculiar. A rose. The rose itself lacked strangeness, for the place where it sat caught her attention. The small patch of dirt that the old man watered a week ago. That reminded her of the dirt patch, the lights, and the boy. She knew they had to be connected. She thought about it day and night for weeks, but couldn’t figure the mystery out. The next month, more disappearances erupted in the quiet town of Flippen. Seventeen people kidnapped in five days. Terry watched this all on the news. The next day, she looked at the rose at the garden. It now had friends. Eighteen roses now occupied the small patch of dirt.
She knew they were connected. They had to be. She searched for the old man all over the garden, but he must’ve left a while ago. Terry then looked out into the street. A figure stood beside a fire hydrant, staring at Terry. The figure held a rose. Terry sprinted out of the garden, across the street, and to the figure.
“I know what you’ve been doing. You kidnapped that boy and turned off the lights. You watered the patch to put the rose in. You kidnapped seventeen other people and put their roses in the garden.” The figure stood still, and the rose he held dripped of red liquid.
“Is..is that…” Terry whimpered, backing away from the man.
“Blood.” He muttered, then he grabbed the hydrant with both hands and tossed it over his head as if it weighed nothing. A gaping hole appeared under the hydrant. The man jumped into the hole, with Terry following close behind.
The sewer system reeked of disgusting fluids and roaches littered the pipe searching for a way of survival. Terry following the footsteps and the occasional splash of urine. The man ran into a wide room, with roses littering the dirt floor. The smell of rot and blood. She gasped as she found nineteen bodies sitting against the wall, slumped and brown.
“You-you killed th-them.” Terry whispered.
“Of course.” The man turned to her, “I needed to get their blood. He ambled to the nineteenth body of Lisa Winger, grabbed her hair, and her head came completely off. Terry cringed, looking away from the horrible gore. Blood dripped from the head as the man set a rose beneath its severed neck. The blood fell onto the rose, turning it a deeper shade of red. Then he opened a hatch that she didn’t see before. He grabbed to rose, and threw it outside, quickly slamming the hatch shut.
“That’s how you’ve been doing it.” Terry whimpered, backing away from the man.
“Yes. My old friend, Fredslinger, you met him.” He declared, taking steps towards the tour guide, “He plants the roses, and I kill off all of Flippen, to make my rose collection complete.” He grinned, taking bigger steps toward Terry, who stood still, full of fear. The glint of a sharpened knife took her into darkness.