It was one AM, October 31st, and I was at the botanical garden on a dare, fuming at how stupid I was, and remembering what happened.
“Chicken!” Tommy stuck out his elbows and flapped his arms like stubby wings, “Buck-awk!”
“Am not!” I indignantly denied.
Everyone circled us, watching, waiting to see what happened, chanting “Prove it! Prove it!
Tommy had that grin people have when you walk into their trap, “Halloween’s this week, right?” Heads nodded all around. “And you, flower boy, always take pictures of the roses at the botanical garden, right?”
Everybody joined in, “Yeah, flower boy.”
Tommy issued his challenge, “So, take pictures of the stupid roses, but take them before the sun comes up on Halloween.”
“But, they’re closed after dark!”
“So, you scared, flower boy?”
“OK!” I paused, took a deep breath. “I’ll take the pictures!”
“And you show them to us on Halloween.”
So on the 30th, I did my homework, watched my TV shows, and went to bed like I always did. I set an alarm for midnight, after I knew Mom and Dad would be asleep. Then, I snuck out and walked the few blocks to the botanical garden. It was easy to get in. They ran chains along the entrance gate, it stopped cars, but was easy to crawl under. “Just to show Tommy,” I pulled out my phone and took a picture of the gate, from the inside.
There were no street lights. “I should have brought a flashlight.” I’d thought about doing that, but figured someone would see it’s beam, and call the police, so I walked in the dark
Everything looked different after dark, the trees beside the road looked black, leaves and all. And they looked bigger than they did in the daytime. All limbs and branches, like arms and fingers. “Happy Halloween,” I mumbled as I walked.
The rose garden was easy to find. I walked to its center. In the dark, I couldn’t see the roses. No colors, no pretty roses, just black rows of amorphous blobs on the ground.
In the middle of the roses I wondered, “How do I get picture in the dark?” That’s when I heard rustling noises. There was no wind, not even a breeze, but I heard rustling. I walked the length of the row of roses, trying to figure out what was making the sound. I couldn’t find a cause. And the rustling noises grew stronger, more frequent.
It sounded like someone was walking through the rose bushes. I stopped, and the rustling grew louder. I held up my phone, and tried to take a panoramic picture. “They’ll all be black.” That wouldn’t prove anything. I had to get pictures of the roses. I held the phone close to a rose bush, and shined the screen on it. I got a hint of color, so I took a picture.
I checked the picture to make sure it was OK. It was a red rose, almost black in the dark. But it wasn’t shaped like any rose I’d ever seen. The tips of the petals formed the outline of an eye. I stared at the picture. Then took pictures of other roses. They all looked like eyes.
I heard laughter, and a voice whispered, “Fresh meat, fresh blood. And I swear, the roses started moving.
I ran down the row I was on, looking for the opening to the next row, so I could get the hell out of there. But there wasn’t an opening, just endless rose bushes. So, I ran back the way I’d come, but the roses blocked my way.
I was trapped.
And I heard the roses whispering, “Fresh meat, fresh blood.” I backed away from them. They got closer, and whispered, “Fresh meat, fresh blood.”
I had to escape them, so I ran through them. Through the bushes filled with thorns. I felt their branches reach for me. Their thorns tore at my clothes, my arms, my legs. “Fresh meat, fresh blood!” I fought my way through the roses.
The botanical garden workers found me unconscious in the parking lot. I was a bloody mess, with scrapes and cuts everywhere. They called 911.
When I got out of the hospital, Mom and Dad never let me look at the pictures of the roses from that night. But one night I heard Mom ask Dad, “Why did he arrange the petals to make them look like eyes?”