Louie had not believed in the garden since his wife passed away. The moment Jane tripped going up the stairs in their split entry home and hit her head on the white carpet, Louie knew the garden would be dead soon after her. She was on Coumadin, a blood-thinner, which made the bump on her skull bleed everywhere. During the ambulance ride the last thing she’d said was “1972” when asked if she knew the date. At the time of her accident it was 2007.
It had been a long two years since her death. Louie still expected her to be around the house, bobbing through the kitchen and living room, hovering on the wooden floors in her grey robe with a book dangling from her hands.
Louie had done an excellent job of keeping the house clean and organized. He remembered watching the movie About Schmidt and how the widower in that movie had let the house dissolve into ruin. He was still healthy for a 74-year-old man. He was short, bald and he liked to wear wide suspenders every single day. Louie lived in New Brighton, Minnesota. His house was blue, plain, and nestled on the corner next to a park called Hidden Oaks. During the winter it was quiet, but the current summer days were filled with the voices and laughter of children playing on the playgrounds.
The sounds of their innocence were a bittersweet symphony to his ears; it was a sad kind of nostalgia that gave him happy memories of that time yet made him long to be young again.
Often, Louie would wander out into his garage and start tinkering with an old lawnmower he wanted to fix up and sell. Hearing the kids laughing on the slide or monkey bars made him feel like he was a part of some energy or game. He would only stay by the garage and avoid the back yard, which because of his corner location was on the side of the house facing some small woods that separated Hidden Oaks from his home. It was a living wall. A spark of undergrowth to keep the public away. Louie couldn’t stand going into the backyard. It wasn’t the potential of awkward conversations with strangers that made him hesitant. It was the garden, or his wife’s garden, which was the only thing he couldn’t save.
He’d tried taking care of it at first. Removing the weeds, clearing brush, and watering the various flowers and vegetables that he knew she liked. They all died though, like a brown wave of husk-laden decay had been wiped across the 12-foot square. A paradise suffocated by an ugly coat of paint. The garden was right behind the house and partially below the deck that attached to the patio door. It was surrounded by some green wire and wooden stakes. How his wife had made things grow in that sliver of shade for the last decade he had no idea. Louie had no success. The garden had missed its opportunity to bloom many times this summer, so Louie eventually gave up and let it curl into its own desired level of death.
One night, halfway through July, Louie noticed something strange about the garden. It was difficult to see what was happening through his patio door. It was dark. An inky blackness was sitting on the bug-swarmed grass like a shadow had fallen out of the atmosphere. Below the deck and beside his garden there was a person standing. In the gloom, it looked like a gargoyle attached to some holy roof in medieval Europe. It was tall, wide, with two long pointed extensions dangling from its body like broken wings. The shape looked like it was wearing some sort of cloak, which was moving in the darkness like it wanted to run away from the form it was wrapped around.
Louie blinked twice, then rubbed his eyes like he was in a movie. The figure was gone. Somewhere, Louie heard a drum echo like an old wound from a battle that hadn’t been fought yet. He didn’t know why, but his skin started to crawl. He wandered back to his bedroom after the astonishment wore off and he found it hard to walk. The walls felt tighter. The lights dimmer. The air had the smell of a flower he couldn’t identify.
In the morning, Louie walked out to where he’d noticed the figure. It was right beside his garden. The form had made him so curious he didn’t even consciously avoid the spot.
For once he was happy to see he his wife’s botanical legacy.
There were drops of greenery throughout the rows of dead leaves and stalks. Small eyes of jade were opening everywhere, like some magic spell had been cast from a forest spirit. There was no way the garden could have this much life in it after being dead all summer.
Louie smiled and looked around, half expecting the figure to be there or a camera crew playing a joke on him, but no one emerged from the park laughing at him and this strange astonishment. That night he waited for the shape to reappear. He stood by the patio door waiting for it to walk onto his yard. Eventually, the figure seemed to grow out of the ground itself in the darkness. It stood beneath his deck like some sort of lost statue. Before long the mountain disappeared as stealthily as it had appeared. It continued for a week until the garden was full grown. It was the lushest he had ever known it to be. People walking by the park came to look at it. He received compliments nearly daily about his verdant gem.
The last night the figure appeared he waited with the door open this time. As the shape grew from the grass and the shadow like a newborn landscape, Louie approached the sliding door.
“Thank you!” he shouted with a smile. What else could he say to this supernatural gardener? The shape darted away into the park and into the woods across the street. It looked like a piece of the wind had slipped off its earthly leash. The only feature he could distinguish out of the evening darkness were a pair of golden blades glowing in the dark. They were the arms from before, only they had been partially hidden. They were sharp, curved, and obscenely massive, like the claws of a giant crab.
“How did they use those things to garden?” Louie said to himself.
Another side story from the Greenland Diaries. If you want to more what is happening in this universe, especially with the third book coming out in the fall, you can click here to learn more about the series. I also offer the first book in the Greenland Diaries for just a buck on Kindle, so click here to find it. If you’re feeling really brave and supportive, you can also get a paperback edition of the book plus a short story collection for just $25. Shipping is free in the United States. Click here to see the deal via my store. Thank you for reading. Monsters, monsters, everywhere.