When the letter came it was a triple surprise. First that his uncle, a man he’d only met once, even remembered him. Second, that his uncle was dead. And, third, that said uncle was giving Kyle a home. Turns out it wasn’t much of a home. A plot of land with a lump of cobbled together wood, a door, a few windows. The place doesn’t want to stand, it’s tired. The awning above the door sags, the cracked windows let in what they used to keep out.
Two months after the letter, Kyle went out to the home. A three hour drive from the city. He was hard pressed to find any free time these days. January is his busy month at the gym, people pouring in, signing up for a free week, hire him for a session. Nine-out-of-ten never show up more than once or twice, but each year he lands a couple long term clients.
The doors’ hinges creak, the floors groan, light pours in through gaps in the walls. Did his uncle live here? Kyle wonders if he should even be inside. He’s no building inspector, but that half rotted support beam is bad news. There are potted plants everywhere. The front room has them lining the walls, hanging from the ceiling. A few have managed to break their planters and burrow through the floor. Might explain some of the home’s instability. In the kitchen the plants have found where the water comes from. Roots punch through the countertops, the sink sits at an awkward angle. Plants have taken over the table, one of the legs is broken.
He decides to check the rooms, already convinced the only thing worth keeping is the land the house sits on. There’s no way someone could live here. In the hall there are fewer plants. Only flowers on the floor along one wall and, odd, a patch on the ceiling. They’re unlike any flowers he’s ever seen, the colors too vivid, too deep. Wondering what they smell like he bends to pick one. At least he means to.
Before he moves a full inch he feels the presence of another. Like a hundred eyes burning into the back of his head. He freezes. Fear crawls through the soles of his feet, turning his legs to stone. Unsure of whether or not roots are actually digging into his skin his heart beats faster. His jaw clenches. Teeth grind. His mouth hurts, but biting this hard helps battle the fear. At least the pain is real in a way that makes sense. Pain he’s used to. Pushing himself in the gym. But the darkness creeping into his head, that’s not something he knows what to do with, so he keeps on mashing his teeth together.
It isn’t enough. The cloud, pitch black in his core, continues to grow. A shadow at day’s end stretching farther with every passing moment. Why can’t he move, why can’t he run, turn away, scream, do anything? And as the question unfolds he sees he’s stuck, truly stuck. Trapped in an instant. Unable to escape this second that continues to grow. The door at the end of a hall that remains out of reach no matter how fast you run.
The Other turns its gaze towards Kyle. Its eyes, two wavering points of light. Headlights rushing down a highway. No matter how he turns, twists, or tries to escape he can’t. The roots digging into his feet, join with tendons and muscle, begin to pull him down. The flowers growing along the wall shimmer. A trio of bees hum. One lands on a pedal. Kyle watches its wings open and close to the rhythm of his beating heart. He wonders: If I’m trapped in a singular moment how can I still feel my pulse?
He sees this play out from a place that isn’t behind his eyes and between his ears. He’s elsewhere. Watching a visitor, a stranger. Someone come into his home. Someone that doesn’t belong. One of the two fall, the bees, startle, take flight. Dust jumps into the air, the light cast from cracks in the walls dances among the motes.
The flowers grow more vibrant. They smell, if anyone was there to sniff one, of blood and honey.