A Veggie Tale

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Another important part of my short story collection I'm about to publish. There are no words to describe this one, other than it is unique.

Submitted: January 16, 2013

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Submitted: January 16, 2013

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A Veggie Tale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There goes Stew,” Dean said. “Goodbye old friend.”

We were sittin' on my front porch drinking beer and reminiscing on ole Stew Baker, who they were just putting in the ground. Stew was a mutual friend, so it was hard on the both of us to see him go. Stew and I went to school together, and therefore had known one another a long time. Dean was his family's caretaker, whatever the hell that is. I prefer maid, but course he frowns if you call him that. He was also their gardener, and an awfully busy one at that. The Baker's were vegans or veggians or somethin'. People that just eat leaves and seeds and berries and shit.

Stew Baker's death was damn peculiar. And even more peculiar was what they found buried in his backyard. The whole town's still talking about it, and I imagine I'll be hearin' about it as long as I got ears. But no one had got the full story of what happened yet, and I was hoping Dean would finally tell the tale, as he was there to witness it first-hand. I'd been prying at him for three days now and all he'd tell me was "not yet. Ain't ready yet." Said he was still trying to digest it all. So I was hopin' a few bottles of his favorite brew would finally get him to open up a bit.

Up above us the clouds was beginning to shift abruptly, as they often do in late spring in these parts of Kansas. The wind was picking up like it might rain, and I was thinking how cliquish it all seemed happening around funeral times.

After Dean had polished off his first bottle, he stared up at them movin' clouds for a minute or two, as one does when contemplating something really deep. Then he says "Alright Jimmy, this is gonna stretch your limits of belief a bit, but I swear, on my dear momma's grave, every ounce of it is true. Hand me up another cold one. No wait...you still got that Kentucky whiskey in the house?"

I was about to say no, as per Dean's heart condition, till I seen how scared he was. "How do you take it?" I asked on the way in.

"Neat," he says.

I pulled the bottle out of the cabinet and poured out a good half pint, still in disbelief. I'd never seen Dean drink any liquor before. As a matter of fact, being the drinker I am, I imagine I've probably spilt more booze than he's drank. So I was hopin' this might be the truth serum I was looking for.

As I handed him the glass I noticed his hands was trembling somethin' awful. But he managed to tip it up to his mouth and pour darn near half of it down the shoot.

"That's better," he says, as he set down the glass and gritted his teeth. And he looked right better almost immediately.

"Now Jimmy," he continued. "I ain't no snitch, you know that."

I nodded.

"But guess it don't matter lettin' the cat out the bag now. He dead. Just promise me that what you hear here stays here."

"You know it will, Dean," I replied.

"When the Baker's hired me on, back in '95, I thought they were pretty much ordinary folk. Yeah they were tree-huggers, but big deal. They were both college professors, so I wasn't surprised they got caught up in that new age academia shit, ya know."

I nodded. I never went to college myself, but my youngest daughter did, and boy did she do a one-eighty. She dressed preppy in high school, wore classy perfume, and listened to country music. When she come home after her first semester at the university she looked like a little anemic thing. She wore rags, smelled like patchouli, and smoked pot. Used to call em hippies. But I call this new breed "granolas," seein' how they seem to be into everything that's ‘natural.’

"They didn't eat no animal products," Dean continued, "and that was the hardest part for me. I had to have my meat. So when I could I'd sneak in a burger or a chicken basket from the diner and hide em up in my room. They had a small garden out back. They wanted to expand it, so they could live off the land. So I planted all sorts of fruits and veggies. We had raspberry, blackberry, even blueberry bushes. We had your normal veggies, like peas and carrots and tomaters. Then we even had some perennials, like asparagus and rhubarb. It would be easier to make a list of what we didn't have.

"Well Stew, bein' he was a chemistry professor and all, he had his own lab down in the basement. Every once in a while he'd tinker around a bit with this formula and that. But around '98 or so he started spending more and more time down there. Said he was working on some new plant formula; something that would turn ordinary plants into super plants. Part of it was his obsession with veggies. But I also think part of it was the fact that Stew has always been a bit of a one-upper. He wanted to out-do his neighbor, Susie Jackson, who had quite the garden herself. But obviously, as every man does, you know he hoped to get rich off it or something. And by the end of the year he thought he had him a winner."

"Sounds like Stew," I added. The man had always seemed like the classic eccentric genius. He could weave together hideously complicated mathematical patterns and chemical formulas out of thin air, yet he found ordinary every day tasks like tying a tie or mowing the yard quite trying. And Marcy was every bit as smart and as odd as he was. She finished her undergraduate studies in two years, and was a PhD in philosophy at 26. But I've caught the lady doing some of the silliest things. One time I seen her walking down the street reading a book. Now just how can a person walk down the street and read a book at the same time?

Dean continued, “so the next spring we decided to try it out on the garden. We picked a coupla early bloomers: rhubarb and broccoli. And let me tell you this. Them plants took off so quick and grew so big that Stew had me start right up building a taller fence. In part he didn't want his neighbors to see these abnormalities and become the talk of the town. If you can picture a single floret of broccoli the size a of small tree, or rhubarb stalks as long as the rudders on your truck, can you imagine what would happen to corn or tomaters? And do I even need to mention watermelons and pumpkins?

"But you can bet Susie took a notice right quick. And this lady wasn't no Georgia peach. I caught the little red-head lookin' out the windows and peerin' over the fence more than once, her little freckled face turning red as a tomater, forehead all scrunched up in an ugly southern scowl. I was worried she was gonna light up the grapevine, blowing up people's phones and stirrin' up the big gossip pot. And eventually she did, but not right at first. I had a sneaking suspicion that she was the type that wanted to try and figure the mystery out by herself. So when I got the chance to chat with her a coupla times I told her we were going for just a few big ones instead of several smaller ones. You know how some folks use certain techniques like cutting off all the vines on a plant except one, so that the fruit on that vine get all the water and nutrients. It seemed to keep her suspicions at bay for awhile, anyway.

"But when it came time to harvest these puppies, we had more than just your blue ribbon winners at the county fair. This was Guinness time. But as I said, Stew didn't want no attention. So he was going to destroy the evidence, by eating it.

“Well Stew and Marcy ate them fruits and veggies up, but I wouldn’t touch the damn things. They just didn’t seem, I don’t know, natural. And it wasn’t long after they ate the stuff that Marcy come up sick."

"With the cancer?" I says. "You think it was caused by that formula?" Dean nodded "Yes and no, Jimmie. If you ask was her disease caused by the formula, the answer is most definitely yes. But was it cancer? Well, that I ain't so sure. That just seemed to be a convenient thing to slap on her death certificate. But whatever the affliction, it was caused by that formula. Somehow some of that stuff got into their systems. Either they didn't wash the stuff off good enough or it just stayed inside the produce until they ate it. I don't know, but it wasn't long before they started developing strange lumps and such.

"So they finally took Marcy to their doctor friend. God forbid they actually take her to the hospital, you know. But the word was the doc said it was cancer.

"Well, Marcy was pregnant at the time and..."

"Pregnant?" I says in disbelief. Stew and Marcy didn't have no kids, and I had never heard anything about no pregnancy.

"Yeah, and it ended up being a big secret. They had a mid-wife deliver the baby at home. Some gal they brought in from out of town. And here's where it starts to get ugly."

Dean tipped his glass up and took another swallow. Then he paused for a moment or two, letting me hang there in suspense. It was then that I noticed how tensed up I was. My whole body was digging into my chair. My forearms were pressing down on the rests and my hands were clenched in fists, sort of like you find yourself sometimes at the Cinema halfway through a suspenseful flick.

A young kid wearing a ball cap and a back pack rode by on a bicycle, and Dean waited for him to ride on by before he continued.

"As Marcy was screaming somethin' awful, the boys head finally began to appear. And that's when the midwife jumped back, looking as if she'd just seen a ghost. Stew dropped the glass of wine he was holding and it shattered into a thousand pieces, just like reality tends to do sometimes.

"The head that come out that woman had a greenish tint to it. Looked sort of like one of them kiwi fruits, with the fine brown fuzz on it. The eyes and ears and such looked fairly normal. But by the time the rest of the little guy come out, I quickly noticed some more problems. It's fingers and toes, and I do believe it's safe to call it 'it' now, were sort of webbed together, like a frog or somethin.' And them little digits almost looked sort of sprout-like. By this time I knew I was gonna be sick, and so I made for the restroom.

"As I understand it, that little mid-wife was so petrified she run out the house screamin,' and we never heard from her again.”

“Holy Jesus, Dean,” was all I could say. I had heard of babies born with some strange abnormalities, but never nothin' like this.

“Yeah,” Dean continued. “After Stew and Marcy had recovered from the initial shock of the whole thing, they tried to decide what to do about the situation. They named the little fella Logan, a name they already had picked out. They kept him locked up down in the basement, deciding it would be better keeping it all a secret for a while.

 

"Stew went on leave from the university so he could take care of Marcy, Logan, and himself. He knew Marcy might be in her last days, and he didn't know how much longer he would last himself. He was getting sicker and sicker.

"But more than anything else, he felt horrible about what had happened to Logan. He had always wanted a son. And now that he finally got one, it ended up being this freaky mutant thing. He felt responsible for what had happened to the little guy, so he spent most of his time down in the lab trying to come up with some sort of antidote.

 

"Well about this time I was fixin' to move on. I could tell things were only going to get worse, and I was a little worried about my own sanity. When I told Stew my plans, he started to panic. 'Don't go Dean!' he pleads, hangin’ on to my arm with both hands and practically gettin’ down on his knees. By this time his voice was getting real weak and hoarse, like a chronic smoker with the emphisema. 'Not yet!' he begs. 'Just wait one more year.'

"Well, bein' the kind hearted fella I am, I decided to stay on a little longer. By this time Logan was three. But he looked like he was seven or eight. It's hard to describe what he looked like. Have you ever seen that movie 'The Swamp Thing?'"

"Yeah." It had been a minute since I'd seen that flick, but I could still remember it clearly.

"Well he looked sort of like one of them things, only worse. And what's more, he would keep growing sprouts hear and there; long, thorny vines, sort of like feelers on an insect. And the vines had little patches on them that seemed to be a kind of eye. Not eyes like ours, but strange, light-sensitive patches like some primitive critters and such have. He had to be pruned daily. I got a picture of him somewhere, hold on...."

As Dean dug through his wallet for the picture I poured myself a good helping of the strong stuff. To say the least I was a bit shook up by all this, and I didn't know if I really wanted to see a picture on top of it. So I says "that's OK Dean, I think I'll take a rain check on that one. The image in my mind is good enough."

"Oh, all right then," Dean said, folding his wallet back up and putting it back in his pants. "Anyways, as I was saying, the boy grew at a rapid rate, and the vines even faster. And the strange thing was he seemed to grow more rapidly in the sunlight. He was never allowed to go outside, of course. But there was a big winder in the basement, facing the east, that threw a big patch of sunlight on the rug down there. Logan loved that patch of sunlight, and he would spend hours at a time lying in it. He seemed drawn to it, like he needed it.

“Well, there was about a six month period in there where Stew kept that winder shuttered up. And during that period the boy’s growth seemed to stagnate. Not only that, but the kid got weak and slow, like he was sick. When Stew opened the winder back up, low and behold Logan bounced right back to good health, going right into another growth spurt.”

“Well that’s somethin,’” I says. “What about the kid’s noggin? "

Dean shook his head. "That part of him never really panned out. He struggled to speak, mainly making gurgling sounds. Finally he managed to say Dada. After that he was able to string some simple sentences together, but that was about it.

"It was when Marcy passed on, in May of '03, that Logan really took a turn for the worse. Marcy was the only person he felt close to, and now here he was stuck with just his father, who wanted nothing to do with him. The kid was always down, sleeping a lot, moping aimlessly around. And the strange thing was that his vines seemed to wither a bit and sag, like a dillapidated plant. He would keep asking over and over again, like a broken record, "When Momma come home?" He never seemed to comprehend the concept of death.

"Other than that things went on as normal, if you call this normal, for a while. Stew returned to teaching and I kept Logan, the garden, and everything else in order for him. It was only a matter of time, though, when what I feared would happen started looking like it might. Stew was getting weaker and weaker, and Logan required more and more upkeep and maintenance. I think Stew convinced himself that the kid was always suffering and that he was helping the cause by taking care of him. Now Stew had never allowed any weapons in the house, so when he went and bought him a rifle it raised a red flag.

"When I finally asked him about the gun one day, he told me it was for protection. After all, Logan frightened him, and he wasn't sure what the kid would do if he got a case of the fits. OK, seemed plausible. But I wondered what he would say if I asked him about the freshly dug hole, nearly six foot deep, that suddenly appeared in the garden."

"Oh hell," I said. Thunder rumbled gently in the distance. Mother nature was bringing in a big one. Nights when it storms heavy I often have trouble sleeping. But tonight was going to be a rough one for sure, storm or no storm.

"Anyway," Dean went on. "I didn't dwell too much on the hole. I could only hope, being the optimistic person I am, that he was either getting a hole ready for some enormous bush, or burying something else he wanted to get rid of."

"But a couple days later I woke up around midnight in the middle of a hellish nightmare. I heard some clatter down in the basement, so I tip-toed halfway down the steps to see what was up. What I saw will haunt me till the day I die, partly cause I didn't do nothin' to put a stop to it.

"Stew was standing there with the rifle aimed right at Logan, who was sound asleep. He had a two liter pop bottle attached to the end of the barrel to muffle the noise."

"And you didn't do nothin?"

"I just froze up, Jimmie. I don't know how else to explain it. I guess I got scared. So I tip-toed back up the stairs and went back into my room. That's when I heard a pop-pop-pop. It must have taken a lot of bullets cause their was a lot of pops, with pauses in between while he was reloadin.

"Then I heard the back door open. I looked out the winder and seen him draggin' the body over to that hole."

"Jesus, Dean. He buried his son right in his backyard? That's nuts!"

"Well he was nuts by this time, anyhow. But I also think he had been planning on killing the kid for some time, you see. He kept feeding the kid veggies spiked with the formula, even though he could see what it was doing to him. I think his idea was that if he could turn the kid almost completely into a vegetable, it would hide most of the evidence, you see. Vegetables are bioda-...bioda-"

"Bio-degradable. I'll be damned."

"But little did he know his plan would backfire, big-time. The next day I started packing. I had seen enough of this freak show, it was time to boogie. So I told Stew I was stayin' one more night and that was it. Course he begged and begged. But he came to acceptance after a few minutes when he could tell I wasn't backing down."

"What about Logan? Did you ask about him?"

"No, I didn't have to. Stew told me that he'd taken Logan over to his Doctor friend cause he thought the kid was dying or something. He said he was gonna stay there for a few days. And even though I knew he was lying through his teeth, I wasn't gonna say anything more about the topic. Crazy as he was getting, he may well have put a cap in my ass too."

"No shit," I says. "I'm surprised you stayed another day yet. I think I would have bounced that night."

"Well I had a little plan, you see. I was a little worried Stew might point the finger at me when the murder was discovered. So I bought me a camera, and when he wasn't looking, I was taking pictures for evidence."

"Clever, indeed. So what happened next?" Dean had already taken me for quiet the ride, and who knew what he had in store for me next. As he was preparing to speak a doozy of a gust came along and sent my hat assail. I nearly threw my hip chasing it down.

As I was catching my breath, I noticed Dean had turned pale. And the shakes had come back "What is it Dean?"

"I just don't know if you want to hear this cause...."

"It's alright Dean," I interrupted. And this is the part I regret. I tells him "you're talkin' to a Navy Seal here. You ain't gonna shock me, believe me. Go on and finish old buddy."

So he turns to me and says "Just before I left the next morning, I went out back to say goodbye to the garden. That was the one thing I was gonna miss. That was my baby."

Dean's eyes teared up for a moment or two with nostalgia. But that expression quickly melted down into that pale, frightened gaze as he continued.

"Then I walked back to that Northeast corner, and that's when I saw the damnedest thing. Dean had covered up the grave good. It was unmarked, of course, and there were gigantic tomater plants all around it that kept it neatly hidden. But there in the middle of them tomater plants, all by itself, a single sprout was growing. It was just peering up above ground, maybe two, three inches tall. But I could see that it was vine-like and fuzzy. And it was growing so fast, Jimmy, that I could almost swear I could see it moving. But I figured I was just tired, that was all. My mind was playing tricks on me. So I left and moved into to the old Prairie Star motel.

"Well, I remember Stew was in bad shape when I left. He was terrible sick and could hardly get out of bed. And not two days after I moved out I get a phone call. It was Stew, and he sounded so frightened I could hardly understand him. He told me I had to come back. Said something was coming for him. He could hear it at night, making a creeping, stretching sound. I told him it was just his imagination. That he needed to take it easy and get some rest.

"Well, after not hearing from him for a couple more days, I decided to stop by and check up on him. I had my friend Margaret drive me over there.

"When we got there It was just after dark and there were only a coupla lights on in the house, which was odd. We knocked and knocked, but no one answered.

"Luckily, I still had a key to the house, which I had forgotten to give back to him. I walked in calling his name, but there was no answer. It was in his bedroom that I found him. I told Margie she'd better wait outside the room, cause I could smell death. Then I flipped on the lights.

"Now Jimmy, I know your gonna think I'm nuts, but this is what I saw. Stew was lying on his back, staring up at the ceiling, dead as a doorknob. His eyes were bulging in terror. His mouth was wide open, as if he were trying to scream, and his tongue was stuck all the way out. Wrapped around his neck was a vine as thick as a boa constrictor, with thorns as long as my index fingers.

"Come in through the winder it did. And when I looked out the winder I could see the whole thing, probably fifty foot long, stretching all the way back to that unmarked grave."

As Dean finished I just stood their speechless. Then he got up and thanked me for the whisky. And that was the last time I saw him alive. Ben Littlejohn, who owns the Prairie Star motel, said he heard the gunshot shortly after Dean got back to his room that night.

And that's why sleep's been so hard to come by lately. Why oh why, I keep asking myself, did I beg him to tell that dreadful tale. But one thing's for sure, that gunshot was certainly proof, loud and clear, that it all really happened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2020 Jake Lane. All rights reserved.

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