Richard stared out the window at the rose garden. He was chilled despite the warm summer evening. The middle-aged man's thoughts were dark and heavy, torturing him.
I can't do it. Not again. This has to stop.
A gust of wind brought him the scent of roses, and he cringed. The heady aroma was thick with hunger, demanding relief. Leaves rustled louder than the wind could be responsible for.
They're hungrier sooner. Damn warmth put them in a growth cycle. Should go cut them down. Maybe burn them.
Even as Richard imagined the rose garden enveloped in flames, he knew it wouldn't work. The second to last caretaker had tried it and had been taken in his sleep. The roses knew not the meaning of forgiveness.
He could try running, like the last man. If he kept moving, they'd never find him. That was his mistake. He tried to put down roots. Roots are always the trap. They were the opening, and he was driven to suicide.
Richard knew about roots. About proper ties, not the monstrous limbs that pulsed with life and flicked like snake tongues. Not the gnarly tentacles that tore young women apart to feed their bizarre life.
No, he meant the roots of heart and family. The love of a wife and daughter. The need to be together, to fulfill their wants.
But those roots had dried up. The divorce had torn Richard apart. Three years since he'd seen his daughter. A year since he'd been desperate enough to take this job to try to win his family back.
This job raising flesh-eating roses.
Scent and rustling grew stronger, sending chills up Richard's spine. The roses had been getting closer to the house, staying more and more in their active state. They'd even begun showing the remains of their previous meals.
Fuck them! Cursed monstrosities. I won't be their puppet any more. Yet he didn't move away from the window. Leaving would require passing through the arbor and the heavy gate. The majority of the roses gathered at the gate, guarding the path. There was no escape. He'd have to suffer the onslaught of images from the demonic plants, sharing their hunger in his sleep, seeing the reminders of previous caretakers who had failed them.
It'll have to be fire. Burn them. Wound them long enough to get away. He swallowed hard. Or just wait for them to eat me. They'll never survive the trip to town.
But in his heart, he knew the remoteness wouldn't save people. It just delayed the curse, made for less accidents and questions. Given enough time, the plants would reach a population center, and would flourish with the massive influx of flesh and blood.
He would have to go out to find a victim for the blood roses.
Richard's phone rang, making him jump. His hand shook, but he answered it just for the distraction. "This place is so overgrown. Aren't you supposed to be a caretaker?" His ex-wife's voice was strident and derisive.
"You're here?" He couldn't believe his luck. He'd asked her here when he first took the job, but never expected her to show up.
"I wish I weren't. But I had this nightmare about you dying amongst the roses, and I couldn't get it out of my head. For Maggie's sake, I had to come out."
The solution to all his problems was in the driveway. She'd make a quick meal, something to tide over the roses until he could strengthen his resolve. "Please, come right up." Richard moved to the gate control, letting his ex in.
"Don't make me regret this." He heard her get out of the car. She'd step onto the path, and those vicious branches would snag her, pull her into their thorny embrace. Blood would spill, flesh would be sundered, and verdant demons would be sated. The scent of rose grew stronger, and Richard began to laugh.
"Hi, Daddy!" his daughter yelled from the path. The roses rustled, laughing at him.