The Garden (Excerpt)

Here’s an excerpt of one of my recent stories, “The Garden.” I’m currently sitting on a ton of original stories, but I’m not quite ready to publish any of them, so I figured I’d share a piece of a newer one. Hope you enjoy.

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The lilacs in Alice’s garden were dying. Their newfound gray palette, a shadow of the vibrant purple they once been, was mocking her, their decay a satire of her inability to cultivate life.

Worst of all was that she hadn’t even grown them. Alice had bought the plants fully grown at a nursery; she had been desperate to push past the initial weeks of germination that had proved so troublesome, and had thought raising a fully grown plant might make the ordeal more feasible. She was wrong, as her dying plants made clear

Alice watered them, making one last effort at rehabilitation. She stood and picked up Snots’s leash. The dilapidated boxer hobbled along at her side, his three legs doing their best to keep up.

On her way out of the space, she passed her friend Jen’s garden. It was still alive and thriving, despite it having been three years since Jen had departed. Alice had heard rumors that Jen’s husband had continued keeping it alive, but she had never seen him in the garden.

It appeared the speculation was true, as the garden was more vibrant than it had been the day Jen had died. The space was surrounded on three sides by a bunch of flowers, which had grown closer to the low, white-picket fence that enclosed the garden. In the center were patches of vegetables, nearly ripe. Their diversity was an accomplishment in itself; carrots, zucchini squash, beets, and more she didn’t recognize.

Beautiful as they were, the rest of the plants in the garden paled in comparison to the lush display of lilacs in the center, their violet a beacon of attention to any who walked by. Every time Alice passed, she would stop and stare, mesmerized by the beauty of their deep purple. Those lilacs always reminded Alice of Jen.

She was the reason Alice had started gardening, and her inspiration to continue to do so. Despite all of the failures, this sentiment was what had allowed her to push through the grief at the loss of her friend.

While the lilacs in Jen’s garden lived, so did she.

Alice, frustrated by her ineptness, opened the gate to the garden, resolving to get closer to discover what it was that made these lilacs thrive while hers always perished. She inched inward, striving to get close enough to see without disturbing the serenity she was intruding upon. Solidly within the confines of the fence, she stared at the flowerbed, searching for that secret something she had been missing.

Her fixation was broken by a tug on her arm. Snots was pulling forward, yanking his bodyweight on the leash. Alice tried to maintain her ground, but the weight of the three-legged animal was too much. He pulled deeper into the garden and sniffed the soil between the black-eyed Susans and the vegetables. Snots dug.

“No, Snots, stop!” Alice yelled, horrified by the irreverence of the animal. She tugged on the leash, attempting to drag him backwards, but failed in her efforts. Alice continued pulling, desperately, when a flurry of soil landed on her boot. The contrast of her yellow boot and the dark brown earth highlighted a shade of crimson.

Confused, intrigued, and paralyzed, she let the dog continue digging. The more Snots excavated, the more prominent the red in the dirt became. He dug until his body was significantly below the surface, and his spots of white fur were dyed red. He stopped and whimpered, distressed at his findings.

At the bottom of the hole was a ripped plastic bag with four fingers sticking out. Alice, nauseated and shaking, opened it. Inside Alice found a severed limb, in tact from digits to elbow.

She screamed.