Flash Fiction Competition 2020 — Second Place

We are excited to announce the second place winner of our competition! Check out what Reinier van der Plas has come up with for the prompt “What are we going to do with the flesh-eating plant in our garden?”


The Mansion
by Reinier van der Plas

An old house stood atop the hill at the very end of Scully Drive. A streak of lightning followed by a crack of thunder. Frederick Grover sat on a chair and looked up into the sky through the rain-beaten windows of the old mansion. A nasty wind swept through the garden, whisking leaves through the sky. He adjusted his spectacles and frowned. “Ill omens,” he muttered. Behind him an old lady wrapped in blankets rocked back and forth in her chair. The wood creaked rhythmically along with her movements. “Pah, nonsense!” There was a forceful voice hidden behind that frail posterior, “You latch on to any old scrap of change. Ill omen this, bad sign that. You know what you are?”

Frederick waved his hand dismissively, “Yes, yes.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. You’re a crackpot!”

“Hmm,” his eyes ran from one end of the garden to the other. There, all the way at the back of the garden, between the petunia bushes a cat sped through the black of night. It darted past the stately granite vases and back down into the hedge. “Bad sign.”

The old woman, Adelaide Grey, brought her feet down on the floor. The rocking ceased and all was quiet in the house except for the patter of rain and the swinging pendulum of the clock. Her straining arms pushed her up out of the chair. “I’m getting a drink, dear,” she said, her voice notably softened.

“No good getting a drink with this racket outside, we should prepare.”

Another cat -or was it the same cat? A cat in any case- jumped out of the oak and scurried across the grounds.

“Oh, I won’t start packing our bags again, dear. We are not leaving, I’m not moving an inch.”

Frederick turned his head to look at her. She reminded him of how old they had become, much more than he did himself. “Then how will you get your drink?”

A dim sarcastic smile played on her lips. She shambled over to the living room door and crossed the threshold into the hallway.

The door closed with a slam that shook the frame, some dust settled on the faded sofa. In the meantime Frederick had returned to his survey of the garden. Yet another cat hurried out of the garden but before it could reach the hedge something whipped up out of the ground, the cat lurched to the side. Frederick put his hand to the windowpane. Another vine burst out of the ground, this time right underneath the poor feline and wrapped itself around the panicked animal that clawed and hissed and pawed. It was no good. The vine pulled her down into some sort of pod, and she was gone.

“No,” he whispered, “No, not good at all.”

The bulbous pod undulated.

“Dear,” Frederick shouted, “what are we going to do about the flesh eating-plant in our garden?”

After a significant amount of swings of the pendulum Adelaide returned empty handed. “What on earth are you shouting for?”

Frederick pointed at the plant. “That, dear.”

Eyes scanned the garden till they suddenly stopped. “Oh dear.”

“Yes, dear.”

A crow landed on one of the granite vases. It silhouette was backlit by a stroke of lightning that fractured the sky, and it cawed once. In the following moment, as Frederick rested a hand on Adelaide’s lower back, the weather calmed and a quiet descended on the couple. He examined her with tired eyes. “You forgot your drink.”

Before she could reply the quiet was ruptured by the shattering of the vase, another plant burst from the earth and snapped at the crow who barely escaped its jaws. Vines sprawled among the broken vase, the wind whipped up again and the rain came crashing down with double the fury it had before.

Adelaide swallowed, “I think a herbal tea would do us good.”

“The earth hungers dear, we have ignored her too long,” he glanced at the pictures on the wall. They went from sharply coloured pictures, to blurry ones, to black and white, to fainted sepia. He remembered the very first one. They dressed up for the occasion. They posed for ages. It was too damp and the flash refused to go off. Another stroke of lightning ripped open the sky behind him. “We must feed her,” he said, adjusting his spectacles.

“Oh, I’m too old for all that. As for you,” she began to count on her fingers, “when was it again?”

“When was what?”

“The last time you managed to get up.”

Frederick slowly removed his hand from her back and started counting on his fingers.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” she said, waving her hand dismissively, “best thing to do now is to put the kettle on.”

A low grumble came from beneath the floorboards.

“You ought to feed her, dear,” Frederick protested, but Adelaide had yet again begun her journey to the kitchen. The ground shook violently. The picture frames trembled as the wood panelling on the walls creaked and splintered.

“I have a new blend, you know. That will calm our nerves.”

“Adelaide,” a rigid and skinny arm reached out to her.

“Yes dear?” 

The floorboards cracked and burst open, the windows shattered and the walls blew inward as the roof collapsed. An unholy cacophony of noise drowned out the wind, rain, and thunder. When the violence ceased, nothing but eerie silence remained.

The next day, when the postman swung round at the usual hour, the old mansion at the very end of Scully drive had vanished. In its stead a sinkhole of immeasurable depth had opened up. The postman could not explain what had happened.


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