Friday, October 14, 2016

The Gardens

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: crash, upheaval, greenery, plant, young, and career. They were submitted by:

I recently had my career plans thrown into upheaval (through my own decision) so I started to write about the progress I've had with that, but then I remembered it's October--the month when my creepiness is openly acceptable. haha. So, I changed my mind at the last minuted and penned a little fiction for today. Hope you enjoy. 


I think the plants at the botanical gardens where I work are taking over. Or at least one type of plant.

I know that sounds crazy which is why I haven’t told anyone and why I’m writing this down. For one, I need to vent without it ending in an involuntary stay in the mental hospital, and for two, I want a record of things just in case something happens to me.

I’ve been working here at the James P. Spooner Memorial Gardens for about 6 months now while I’m kind of in-between careers. I have a bachelor’s in English literature which has proven to be pretty fucking useless unless I want to teach. I tried teaching. I really tried. But, being in a classroom everyday having to read dumb essay after even dumber essay really wore me down, and I couldn’t take it anymore. At the very least, I needed a break. Burnout was getting to be a real problem to the point where I actually told a student of mine in a community college class I was teaching that I didn’t give two shits if they passed or not since it was their parents’ money they were wasting not mine. Probably should have looked into my students beforehand since one of the dudes in the class was the grandson of the mayor. Needless to say, my current break from teaching wasn’t exactly by choice.

For awhile, I didn’t really sweat it. I mean, I’m still young by most people’s standards. I have a lot of good years left, you know? But I didn’t realize how much upheaval that one tiny incident would cause in my life. It really didn’t take too long for me to realize how screwed I was, and I mean that in the worst sense of the word.

I looked for a job for a long time to no avail and ended up having to move back to my hometown to the little apartment above my parents’ garage which, I guess, is better than their basement. They gave me an allowance, as embarrassing as that is, for helping them renovate part of the house. And my sister gave me a little money for helping tutor both her children in reading, grammar, and English which helped. I mean, I love them with every fiber of my being for being willing to help me through this rough patch, but as soon as I heard about this job at the gardens, I jumped on it. I didn’t want to be a burden on the people who loved me most after all, and I figured working in all this greenery would calm some of my anxiety.

I could not have been more wrong.

The first few weeks went by without a hitch. I’m on the plant production and exhibition logistics team taking care of pest control, maintaining environmental conditions in my assigned areas, keeping those areas clean and looking their best, setting up new exhibits etc. There really wasn’t a problem until we started getting ready to put up a Halloween exhibit in September. Over the summer, we all had this bright idea to have a carnivorous plant exhibit for Halloween and decorate it up for a Haunted Horticulture walk that we would open on the weekends for the month of October. If it all went well, it would be an annual thing and be a way to keep profits up after the summer months when they tended to drop (before Christmas light exhibits for the holiday season). So, our team had to work with the botanical scientists to sort out what plants would work together and how to work out the environmental needs for those plants. This one guy (Dan…I never knew his last name) in that department told us he had been working on manipulating the DNA of some of these plants (sundews and Venus fly traps specifically) to make them larger and appear a little more aggressive catching their prey and that he thought he had a way to make them glow in the dark so we could cut down on the nighttime lighting to save shave some off the budget. We would have those types, a few varieties of pitcher plant which always look scary and alien, some bladderworts, and a few butterworts thrown in the mix as well.

If you’re thinking that the whole thing sounds absolutely insane and that of course it would cause problems, you’re smarter than I am. At the time, “more aggressive” and “scarier” were pluses to me. I was absolutely enthralled with the idea of this Halloween walk (Halloween is my absolute, all-time favorite holiday) and wanted to make this the best exhibit the gardens had ever seen. I mean, I was really taking ownership of the thing working after hours and coming up with ideas at home. I felt a spark working on this project that I hadn’t felt for a long damn time teaching. So I completely ignored that nagging little pit in my stomach that told me this was a reallllllly bad idea. Have you ever read that book The Gift of Fear? Listening to those nagging little feelings can save your life. But what I did instead was thoroughly ignore the fact that my life was starting to sound like a B horror movie.

After the meeting, Dan got to work on his creations, and our team started cleaning out the Summer Fun exhibit little by little placing the plants elsewhere in the gardens and selling a few to local nurseries (where we often buy plants as well). We had everything cleaned out by the end of August and closed off that particular part of the gardens to guests so we could begin work on the Haunted walk. We had lots of creepy shit we bought from department stores to help with the décor. The whole thing basically looked like a lab you might find in one of the many rooms at the Addams family mansion. The plan was for one of us was going to dress like a gory mad scientist and a few others were going to be the failed experiments both inside the exhibit for jump scares and leading up to it to increase the ick factor everyone was feeling before going in.

Since mid-September, we have been setting the plants into place and putting on the finishing touches, right? I’ve been staying late every night getting more and more done on top of my daily duties just to make sure it’s perfect. I mean, it’s stressful, but I’ve been happy, and the other guys have noticed how much I’m doing. I’ve gotten a ton of compliments, so it’s all healthy stress. What I’m trying to say is I don’t think it’s the workload or what I’ve been through with the career change that has me paranoid or delusional or any of that shit, and I don’t have any other issues like this anywhere else in life, so it can’t be something like schizophrenia, can it?

Anyway, when I get here in the mornings, I’ve been noticing the plants have grown an absolutely insane amount or are in completely different spots than where we put them. No one really seems to know what’s going on, and Dan has been M.I.A. for several days now. No one can get in touch with him, and no one has seen him since before we moved the last few plants out of his lab. At that point, I was getting a little weirded out, but the other night really made me think something is going on with these plants…

I was working late again and was trying to move a few things around on one end of the exhibit when I heard a crash on the other side. I ran over to look and I saw one of the plants had knocked over the pedestal it was sitting on and was literally hanging from the overhead rafters while simultaneously shoving a bat in its mouth. I swear I heard the thing smack and say mmm-mmm when it was done.

I ran out of there as fast as I could and got into trouble the next day for not closing things down correctly. I blamed it on working too late on the whole project which smoothed things over because how could I tell anyone what I saw without them thinking I’ve lost it? Plus that excuse has kept me from working late. I leave as soon as everyone else does especially since the whole exhibit is pretty much finished. The last couple days have been quieter. I haven’t noticed any of the plants out of place, but the growth is still insane. I don’t know what’s going to happen when the exhibit opens soon and I have to be in there with those things in the shadows… 

If I end up going missing like Dan, I hope someone finds my story and destroys those things before they get anyone else.

Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Southern Belle Charm

Not That Sarah Michelle

Spatulas on Parade

The Bergham Chronicles

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

Confessions of a part time working mom

Never Ever Give Up Hope

On the Border

Friday, October 7, 2016

Destruction of Evidence

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 12 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is:

The scientist didn't mean to drop that petri dish, now he must make sure.

It was submitted by:

I’ve been reading a lot of Reddit’s creepy stories. Some are on a subreddit called Let’s Not Meet which I 100% recommend if your scariest nightmares involve experiences with real people. On this sub, the stories are supposed to true, and I believe a good percentage of them are. If a story seems fishy, readers will flag it, and it will be removed without some sort of proof being provided or at least something that provides more credibility to the moderators. But there are a few other subreddits that simply ask for the suspension of disbelief in order for the reader to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Some of those stories involve paranormal experiences, and some you know from the start are fictional, but you still can’t help that feeling of utter dread stiffening your whole body. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve slept with the light on a few times since I found these threads.

When I got this prompt, I really had no idea idea what to do with it, but then it hit me. Here was my chance to write a little something creepy if you’re willing to suspend your critical faculties in the interest of (hopefully) making your skin crawl. The stories I like best are always in first person about a personal experience and in a conversational tone, so that’s what I’ll be attempting to deliver here. First person narratives aren’t usually my style, and the writing on these things is often a little amateurish so I hope you’ll stick with me. 


Ok, before I tell you what happened to me a couple months ago, I should probably give you a little background. I have a p.h.d. in microbiology. The lab I work in does all sorts of testing far beyond my realm of expertise and is in the same building as the medical examiner’s offices. It’s kind of smart. I mean, it’s easy for the medical examiner’s office to bring in samples to be tested by some of my peers, but it’s probably not politically wise. A lot of people say it makes our lab unbiased.

Most of my work involves testing for nearby medical doctors and hospitals, but occasionally I get a case from the medical examiner for cause of death. I also have an agreement with my employer—as long as it isn’t an inconvenience to anyone and no one complains, I can use the lab after hours to conduct some research I’ve been working on about superbacteria—in simple terms, the ones resistant to antibiotics. It’s the only place local with the kind of facilities that allow such testing without risking anyone. Otherwise I would have to travel for hours to a university to have similar access. So far it has all worked out well. My research is coming along nicely, and there have been no issues. All this is important for the story as you will see as it unfolds.

Because I work on my own research after hours and because the research is pretty intenstive, I am often the last one to leave the building. I’m there well into the night even after the night clean-up crew has come and gone. There are a couple security officers that patrol the grounds, but they’re not exactly vigilant, man. I once walked out the door to see both of them in the guard post at the end of the parking lot smoking a joint and eating nachos, so they’re just…there.

So that particular night I kept getting that feeling like someone else was there. I don’t really scare easy. I mean, I’m a 6’5” male, average build. I’m not ripped or anything, but I do alright, you know? Sometimes being in the lab so late was a little creepy for sure, but that night was a whole different animal. I remember getting chills several times when I was working, but I never really heard anything or saw anything. It was just that unending feeling of being watched. Bu then again I was really focused on my work. I’d thought at the time that I was making a breakthrough. I won’t say that I discovered anything that could kill the resilient little fuckers, but it was this tiny vulnerability in at least one strain that could have been manipulated to produce viable treatment options. And of course all that work is pretty much gone now. But I’ll get to that.

I have my petri dishes to make slides and see if I can find that same vulnerability in other strains when I happened to catch something in my peripheral—movement out in the darker hallway where the lights weren’t on. I watched the hallway for a moment, saw nothing else, and figured it was just shadows playing tricks on my stressed mind. I had been working long days and longer nights, and the whole schedule was taking its toll on me mentally and physically. I ignored it, went back to my research, and tried to shake that creepy feeling.

That’s when I noticed movement again but this time it was less shadows and more noticeable. I looked up straining my eyes trying to see what was going on. Where I did my research was a room off to the side of the other parts of the lab that were more out in the open. Out there were computer techs, fingerprint analyzers, document analyzers, the whole nine yards. It was in here where DNA and the like were conducted. Anything that needed a sterile area to prevent cross contamination was done here, so we’re talking a fairly large room. It was separated from the rest of the offices and work areas by glass walls and glass double doors, so I had no trouble seeing out. The problem was the hallway leading into this part of the building was across both this room and the next. It was enclosed by glass as well, but it only had low lights on at that hour for the cleaners. It wasn’t just a matter of looking up and really being able to see what the deal was.

Anyway, I was straining, watching, intent on figuring out just what the fuck was up when I heard it—just a soft sliding of cloth on carpet followed by a light thump. In the middle of the day there was no way I ever would have heard it, but being nighttime, it was dead quiet in that place. The sound came in slow and steady swoosh, thump, swoosh, thump. I’m scanning when I finally see him. There’s a guy, an older white guy with long stringy hair, crawling on his belly. There’s a large knife in its sheath in his teeth and a gun, some kind of automatic rifle, strapped across his back. That was the thump. Every time he pulls himself forward, it hits the carpet.

I was frozen in place. I mean, he was between me and the door, and I had no fucking idea what he could possible want here. There’s no money, nothing he could take. My mind was racing trying to figure out just how the hell I am going to get out of there. At that point my heart was beating so hard I can barely hear him moving anymore over it--THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP. My skin broke out in goosebumps. I knew whatever this guy wanted, whatever he was doing here, it wouldn’t end well. Without thinking I backed up knocking a couple petri dishes off the table as I did.

Of course he looked my way. Of course.

He didn’t even seem startled to see me there. He must have known I would be there and would be alone. His eyes took on this dead stare even as he smiled around the knife and stood. He was nearly as tall as me and wore all black like some kind of movie cliché. The look on his face almost made me piss myself. No exaggeration. It was that cold. There was no rage, no malice, only that maniacal smile. He dropped he knife in his hand then used it to motion me out there with him. I looked behind me at the mess I made. I couldn’t just leave it; I couldn’t be sure it wouldn’t cause a problem large enough to shut down the whole lab and maybe make some people sick. I had a hazmat suit just in case when I did my research, so I bent down to quickly assess the damage when he rapped hard on the glass doors with the butt of the knife over and over and screamed NOW! MOVE YOUR FUCKING ASS. NOWNOWNOW.

I pushed through the double doors leaving the mess behind me too scared of this guy to even take a final look behind me. He grabbed my arm as soon as I waswithin reach holding the knife in one hand, the gun still strapped to his back.

“Take that fucking shit off your face.”

I did as I’m told, then he tells me to destroy all the computers in the place.

“What?” I don’t have a fucking clue what he’s asking me for a minute. Stunned. Confused. Totally not with the moment.

“I said to fucking destroy all these computers, you fucking dumbass. NOW!”

I thought at that point that he must be incredibly insane, and that there was no way I would live through the night. I reached in my pocket and hit the side button on my phone 3 times which enables S.O.S mode. I had it set to sent video and photos to my parents and my roommate at the time who also happened to be one of my best friends. In my pocket, it wouldn’t send any video or pics, of course, but I was hoping it would get audio, and they would know what happened to me at the very least. By this time at night, my parents would definitely be asleep and probably my roommate, too.

I tried not to think about it too much, though. I was hoping I could get him talking and do what he wanted and maybe things would turn out okay…

So, I said, “You want me to…just…demolish all these computers?”

“Goddamn it if I tell you one more time, you’re dead. I can technically do this shit myself without you, but I don’t want to leave behind any evidence.”

The weirdness of that was not lost on me. Technological advances make it possible to test pretty much anything just by way of him being present in the room, but then again, we aren’t talking about the kind of guy who has it all together anyway.

“With what?”

“Whatever you can get your hands on, idiot. Just get it the fuck done and get it done now before those two stoners out there make their rounds again in an hour.”

My heart was beating even harder then. That one comment said he had been watching the place for god knows how long, and he probably knew I’d be alone in here.”

I picked up one of the office chairs hoping that the two stoners as he had so aptly named them would hear the chaos and come running to my rescue without dying in the process, and I let chaos reign with it. I smashed a whole line of computers in the back. I smashed every terminal at each individual workstation. I blasted through to the officer manager’s desk and smashed that one. It didn’t take long. I guess between the stress I was already feeling and the absolute terror this guy put me in, the whole process was cathartic. I honestly got a little glee out of demolishing the place which has only added to the bullshit I feel about the whole situation.

Once I was done, he actually said, “now I’m in the clear. Good job, boy.”

What the fuck was that even about? I had no idea at the time. He then told me to get on my knees and put my hands behind my head before laughing like some kind of evil super villain. That was it for me. I just knew it. Right about then though, I heard voices.

The stoners.

Then I heard sirens.

There was no way out for this dude. I mean, I was there on the ground, hands behind my head, absolutely vunerable, and I just knew there would be a gun fight. My thinking was that he would absolutely have to fight his way out the door past the stoners to try and get out the building before the police broke in.

It didn’t happen that way though. I watched in absolute amazement as this guy ran over to one of the workstations, hoped onto the desk, and pulled himself up through an open ceiling tile I hadn’t even noticed was open, and slid it back into place behind him.

The stoners burst through the doors with absolutely no chill at that point. It was incredibly stupid. The both of them would have gotten shot if that guy had still been on the floor. The looks on their faces…

Anyway, the police showed up. I filled them in on what happened, let them listen to the recordings which unfortunately resulting in my phone being confiscated for evidence, and was sent home.

So here’s where it gets even crazier. Last week I was contacted by the prosecutor’s office, and yesterday I had to go in to talk to them about what went down that night. What they said is that this guy thought that by destroying the computers, he would completely destroy all the evidence that had been tested concerning a quadruple homicide. The evidence ended up tying this guy to that homicide. He broke in, stabbed all 5 members of the family living there, but one of the children lived through it. Between the testimony of that child and the evidence (hair, skin cells, and DNA from a wound he caused to himself during the attack) at the scene, it was a pretty shut and dry case. So he was trying to destroy the evidence and god knows what he had planned for the kid, right? Then they tell me the most insane shit…dude had been living in this building for an undetermined amount of time. After searching where the guy crawled up, the police found this little nest area but no sign of the guy. There was a journal documenting my movements as well as the guards’ and a bunch of blankets, food wrappers, and bags of literal shit. Eventually he was caught near the hospital where the kid was still being treated for his wounds.

As of right now, no one has been back to the room I was working in at the office. It’s sealed off completely. No one knows what we’re going to do, and to be honest, I can’t go anywhere near the building without crumbling in a panic. Pretty sure I have PTSD.

That’s my story. Let’s just say I hope they put the guy away for a long fucking time, because I don’t think I will live through a round 2 with him.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

Not That Sarah Michelle

The Bergham Chronicles

Spatulas on Parade

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

The Lieber Family Blog

Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

Southern Belle Charm

Confessions of a part time working mom

Never Ever Give Up Hope

A Little Piece of Peace