The Vine Doombringer, Part II
Geoffrey C Porter
The first night I surgically pulled five short two to three inch sprouts. I wore a headlamp with a bright LED light. The same knife that pulled the sprouts planted them in a flowerbed two houses down from mine. Done thing and sleep was never so blessed.
The day passed uneventfully. Around midnight, I plucked five more short vines. I wanted to travel farther with the specimens, and I had my running shoes on. My feet knew the way, and I wanted to go about two blocks. The house had no lights on, and it seemed the yard was as much weeds as my yard. A perfect place to spread.
I planted the first and gave it a little drink from my canteen.
The porchlight snapped on. I froze. A door creaked open. Fight or flight, and I was too dumb to do anything.
A woman stepped onto the porch. She wore a burgundy silk robe and rabbit slippers. “Are you stealing from me?”
“No,” I said. I wanted to say I am the Vine Doombringer and I bring the vines, but I wasn’t that insane yet. Yet.
“What are you doing?”
I held up the vines. “Planting.”
“Let me see those. Come closer.”
I hesitated. Slowly, I stepped closer.
She began to grin with a hint of pancakes at midnight or malice. I wasn’t sure. “I haven’t seen this strain,” she said.
I grunted, for lack of a better word.
She reached for the vines, but I pulled away. Her hand brushed against mine, like a spark in me. “Do these bloom?” She asked.
“No, but some of the others do.”
“All plants bloom.”
Don’t start an argument. I should be running away. Something about her voice mesmerized me. “Leave the plants, and if you want, bring more tomorrow.”
I set the specimens on the porch and did run at that point.
The next day the compulsions started to demand I go back, like a great spell had been cast on me. At night, I went a block in the other direction from the witch’s house. Wait, I didn’t know for certain she was a witch, and rude to make assumptions. I planted three vines in a bed of ferns.
Always the one strain, the strain that grew in my heart now.
Two days later, the compulsions were too strong. I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I must take that lady a peace offering. My trusty blade dug up a nice specimen of all six strains which fed on the nutrients in my yard’s earth. I didn’t wear my light headset or bring my knife. Drop the plants off, and run.
I stepped onto her porch while the sun set in reds and oranges behind me. No buzzer presented itself, but a brass gargoyle knocker hung centered on her door. I knocked three times. A tingling sensation ran up my arm as the brass met wood.
I waited. Too long. I turned to leave. The door creaked. A beautiful voice said, “Wait.”
I turned. Her clothes were various shades of blue, but every article was a different shade.
My left hand moved forward with the offering of vines.
Her face lit up, and she took the plants. She separated each one. “Two of these are quite common, but the other four I’m lost on. I must open the old tomes.”
I made to leave.
She reached out and touched my left arm, freezing me on the spot. “Wait,” she said.
Always telling me to wait like I was no more than a servant. But did it matter? Was it negative, or was it another delusion?
“I have something for you.” She went back into the house.
Moments later, she returned with a small pot containing three dandelions.
I frowned. Dandelions.
She smiled bright in the setting sun. “These are heirloom, the strain dates back at least eight thousand years. Best flavor and prolific. Spread the seeds far and wide.”
That I could do, and I took the pot. I went home and set it on my back porch in a place I thought would get the most sun. A few days passed, and I realized I didn’t know that woman’s name or anything about her. I seem to have taken every offering I could.
So important to learn her name, but it may have been a new compulsion. I found myself at her door and knocked the gargoyle.
She answered and smiled. Today, her clothes were various shades of green, and her hands were covered with dirt.
I had to know. “What is your name?”
“I need to know.”
“Ash. And not for Ashley, but Ash as in what’s left over after a fire.”
She reached out and pulled on my right arm. “Come inside.”
Oh, the horror, but that charge was running up my arm from where she had a hold.
I stepped into the house. It was like stepping into a great jungle. Red and blue LED lights hung in every corner. The air was so clean, like I’d never had air so clean. I wondered if there were snakes. A large spider web waited in one corner, almost big enough to swallow a small dog.
She walked into a small kitchen. Bright lights hung above a table. Underneath the lights where the vines I’d given her in pots but were blooming in shades of red and purple. Blooming.
“How?” I asked.
“Twenty hours on, four hours off.”
I knelt down and smelled the flowers, a brisk smell almost a rose. “Amazing.”
“So, I must ask, what is your name?”
I signed. This never went well. “My friends call me Iron.”
She let out a little chuckle. “I thought my name strange.”
“Don’t make fun.”
“No, it explains a great deal. I’ve never met somebody who didn’t burn if they touched my skin, some even to ash.”
So, she had been trying to hurt me. Delete that thought. Testing.
I grinned wide at her for the first time. “Maybe we can test this theory further.”
“We could,” she said.
“You sent the vines to my house. To bring me here. You cast a spell.”
I wasn’t angry. Wanted the truth.
“I’ve never seen four of these strains of vines before you brought them. I admit to nothing, and so what, if I did.”