Flash Fiction: The Nightmare Garden
There is a garden behind Maria Terreur’s house. Sometimes you can see it from the street, but most days it hides where prying eyes won’t see. It all depends on if the garden wants to be found that day. If the garden is feeling like it can face the world.
There are roses in the garden. Blooms like you’ve never seen, full and bright with luxurious velvet petals and thorns that pierce skin to the bone. The roses are never watered. They are fed a diet of blood from unsuspecting donors and sweat from the gardener’s brow. The panicked cries of small children are a particular treat, a delicacy the roses are not often afforded. But when they are, the petals shine. The thorns glint like ready blades.
A wooden bench sits at the far corner of the garden, where the shrubs and flowers are stunted in the shade of a maple tree that has been there longer than anyone knows. You may not have heard of nightmare grass, but it is in abundance in this far corner of the garden. It likes the darkness, has never needed sun. When you sit on the bench, you might feel a creeping, itchy fear roll down your spine, your arms, your head. It’s quite possible that dreams you have not remembered since before you started growing worm their way to the front of your mind. Strange and terrible things you had forgotten were once made real by your imagination. You might be tempted to leave and yet, remain strangely rooted to your seat. Unable to go, though your skin screams for you to leave. You will probably not leave the bench. Not ever.
The nightmare grass grows faster than anything in the garden.
Near the front gate you’ll find the Venus Secret Trap. The title is contrived, to be sure, but the gardener has never been known for her imagination. Only her strange and wonderful plants.
The Secret Trap feeds on exactly what you’d think. Only the best secrets can keep the Secret Trap strong and fat. For ten years, the neighbor’s secrets kept it satiated and green. He had so many to choose from, so many bloody stories that excited its senses. It has been a few years since he died, and the new neighbors do not have very good secrets in comparison. However, the body is still buried in their backyard, and that does help a little.
The garden behind the house is Maria’s prized possession. Some day she will die, and the garden does get a little excited about it. But there is also worry that there will not be another like her, and that everything inside will wilt. The nightmare grass will bend and yellow. The roses will close and shrivel. The Secret Traps will faint and die, their corpses littering the cobblestone path. And even though Maria waters the roses with the sweat from her brow and blood from her hands, even though she lets the nightmare grass have her terrible dreams and the Secret Traps her ungodly secrets, the garden waits patiently. The garden watches. And sometimes, on a good day, the garden faces the world.