Ant Smith

Stories

Tendril

I only had a couple of hours free. A Saturday morning. Nice day. A rare day. Two free hours of a weekend. They come and go way faster than the Monday to Friday working week days, these precious weekends. Two hours in a dull and dusty office, as I'm sure you know, will drag along tick by aching tick. But two hours in the sun, in the garden, blink and they're all but gone, it seems. Never enough time to tend the garden. Like most I'll whizz the mower around at least, but always a week or two later than I meant to. Which, to be brutally honest, makes the job a royal pain in the arse! The bloody mower just keeps cutting out, partly because the grass is way too long and the poor little mower constantly chokes up and trips out. Fag break while it cools down. Then on to the next tiny little patch. The grass is too wet really, from yesterday's drizzle - but if I don't get it mowed when I can I'll have to resort to a sickle or something. Not that I have a sickle. God I'd love a sickle. I'm a goddam grown-up, why can't I have a sickle? Probably because I'd just end up chopping my own toes off or something. I wonder if I should add one to my Amazon (TM) Wish List, but who has sickles on their wish lists? Terrorists I suppose; do you get 'flagged' if you add a sickle to your wish list? I push on, mowing the grass in a patchwork, perpetually pausing as the power trip trips again and again.

"Fuck It!" I exclaim, for the umpteenth time. It's as if and as though the grass doesn't even want mowing. Like it's fighting back or something. How can a mower BE this unreliable?

It was extra frustrating for me. You see, my garden's not just a bland expanse of green lawn. There's bushes (mostly overgrown), all kinds of unnamed flowery things (wherever they might have come from), and even a frighteningly well developed rhubarb patch. I know right, rhubarb for god's sake. Apparently, it makes great jam mixed with a little ginger. No really, I looked it up and everything. I got this idea you see, or maybe more a wish or dream. I actually like these little opportunities, these quiet moments, to fiddle on in the garden. Growing stuff. I mean, like, growing your own food - it's like some kind of ancient magic thing. Have you seen how fast some of these things can grow? It is quite literally mind blowing sometimes. So I'd love that. Planting something, like deliberately. Then digging it up months later and cooking something. Feels almost pagan. But I can't even get past cutting the lawn in the little time that I do have to spend out here.

I guess this is why I never even noticed it, until it was simply way too late.

I really only have the very odd weekend. When I'm not visiting family, catching up with friends, and when it isn't raining. And when the bloody grass that doesn't want bloody cutting doesn't need cutting again - I'm thinking as I hoy the mower down the final stretch, along the old fence. Twisting the flimsy handle to try and get the 3000rpm solid steel cutting blade right into the edges, when the whole thing suddenly tips over spewing slightly damp clumps of cut grass simply everywhere. I literally, and I do mean literally, look as though I've been dragged through a hedge backwards. I wipe the worst of it from my face and whilst still spitting grass fragments off my lips I kneel down to see if I'd hit something, or done any significant damage. The last thing I needed was to tell dad I'd ruined the lawnmower. In fact I'd been counting on him forgetting I'd ever even borrowed it. Who has two lawnmowers anyway? Yeah, my dad, that's who. Just one more disappointment for him to add to his list... there's something caught up around the, uhm, central axel sort of a thing. Gingerly I reach out and ever so gently tap the blade, a sort of index finger flick

ZZZZzzzzingg!

The blade sings as it does a crazy 180 degree half spin. I snatch my hand right back, pretty bloody quickly. Shit! That's not supposed to happen. There's supposed to be a bloody trip circuit or something. In fact their IS a bloody trip circuit, the bloody thing's been tripping out all morning and then now, right now, just when you want it to be tripped out it nearly takes my finger right off! My favourite finger too!

I got to admit, my heart is racing a tad, and to be honest I feel kind of super foolish. It's just the kind of story you read isn't: "Permanently disfigured...electrical fault...STILL PLUGGED IN". There's a website isn't there? The Darwin awards, I think... "MAN GETS PENIS CAUGHT IN LAWNMOWER". At least it was just my finger. My favourite finger, though. But at least I do still have it.

ZZZZzzzzingg!

The noise kind of haunting, echoing in my head. I clamp my fingers in the opposing armpit, half for protection and half for a comfort. But mostly to stop myself doing anything else stupid to them. I pop back into the house, unplug the lawnmower extension and contemplate a cup of tea...

Yeah, like there's time for tea. It's gone noon already and it's a Saturday afternoon and there's a hundred and one things to be done. Bus to town and errands to do. Bus home, I mean to my parents, chores to sort out (they are getting on) - a bit of weeding in their garden! I've got my own garden to be weeding. But they are getting on. I don't mention the lawnmower. Nice bit of dinner. Then bus after bus back home, and I do mean home. It's late. Sun setting on a summer's day late. I'm thinking a glass of wine. Why not, it's summer. Drinking at home alone though, isn't that a bad thing? Don't you read stories about people who drink alone at home? Sad lives. Apparently. Then I remember the mower. How I'd left it belly up on the grass, extension cable trailed out like the gizzards of a quartered man. Haha, 'cept it's orange of course. I don't think gizzards are orange, are they? Whatever, I didn't think I should leave it like that overnight. I'll bring it in before bed. One more glass of wine. Wine not? Hahaha. Why. Why not.

I guess I fell asleep at the table. Just a bit. For a bit. Not sure on the time now. It's pretty dark out. I can see my own reflection in the patio doors. I stare for a moment. It's, well weird. It's like I'm saying something. As I watch myself I can see my lips move, but I'm not actually saying anything. Am I? I can't hear myself anyways. I give my slightly wine-buzzed tired eyes a gentle rub and immediately regret it as one eyelid does that awful thing of kind of turning inside out for a moment. Cursing myself, I decisively grip the door handle and step out in to the cool night air.

Then I pop back in for a torch, from under the sink. It actually is quite dark now, and I'm not sure but there's that sound. Well, it seems like I can hear something. Like a rustle. A breeze in the trees, but for it being a pretty still night. Maybe a cat in the bushes. I'll just retrieve dad's mower, then head up to bed.

Of course I immediately trip. A whole day stuffed full of trips. The extension cable caught around my boots, how the fuck? I take a pretty smart crack to the temple, no stars nor such, but it sobers me up alright. I shiver a little. Is it that cold out here? I rub where it hurts for a moment while casting about for the torch. I see it a little way off. Still working but somehow, quite dimmed. It's rolled off down the way a way, near where the mower lay. Or where the mower did lay. I can't make it out now. I can see the extension cord trailing off, but it seems to kind of disappear, merge into the lawn. And where the mower is, was, there's just a vague mound. I don't know if I'm just concussed, or if the torch is so dim or the night is so dark, there aren't actually any stars, but surely I should see something of the mower with its garish orange casings?

And there's still that noise. The one you can only hear when you're not listening.

I don't quite trust myself to stand again. I feel like some kind of force is holding me down to the face of the planet. Quite ridiculous. The house seems distant now. The night colder. With some labour I crawl over to the torch, as though trying not to make a sound. Why am I doing that? I reach out and my hand closes round the aluminium cylinder of the torch body. Except for a moment it doesn't feel like that, the expected cold casing feels more like a moss. I drop it again in disgust but when I look down there it is. Just a torch. A normal torch. Gingerly I reach out and give it a prod, and it feels normal. It feels real. I pick it up again. Smacking it into my left hand to jiggle the batteries, but instead of coming on full strength it goes out completely.

"Oh come on you fuckety fuck fuck" I whisper hoarsely as I smack it again and again. Then I stop.

You can hear it now even when you're listening. That rustle, rustling. All around. Getting louder and louder. Behind me, to the side. It's circling. The sound of leaves in a mini cyclone. Drawing closer and closer in the dark. Desperately I smack the torch again and it blooms into full life and I can see what is to be seen and I suppose it's now, it's this moment, when I started to scream.

For in the full beam of the torch I can see, there is no more lawnmower laying belly up by the old fence. There is just some rotten, writhing, biomass of reaching stretching alien tendrils growing at a fantastic rate, encircling and enveloping me. I feel them snaring first my digits, like tightening piano wire. In my mind I know, these tendrils, I've seen them choke and stop a steel blade and now their strongest obstacle is but human flesh and bone. My flesh and bone. And soon I'll be just another rotting weed. My last human act, is to twist my head back towards the house. Whilst I am first horrified to see the tendril creep along the extension cable, towards the patio, and the house, and the neighbours, and the street, and the town and beyond I am finally in some way free. For all we do now, is creep, and creep, and creep.

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