RECAP from Part 1 (click the link for the full first part)
He was stopped by a sound. Not the snapping of a twig or the thud of a foot in the grass, but a hum. No, not a hum….a growl.
It grew louder. Goosebumps crept up the gardener’s arms, but he was frozen between the tree in the door.
Then he heard the growl again, more clearly this time.
Her name. Her name.
The gardener raced in the house and slammed the door. He grabbed his shotgun from over the mantle, and one of the hooks broke and clattered to the floor as he ripped it from the wall.
The voice was still there—he could hear it from the other side of the wall. It was low, sinister, threatening.
The gardener hesitated. He could feel his hand grow clammy as he positioned it over the trigger. As he waited, the minutes ticked by, and the voice faded from a growl to a barely noticeable whimper and then into nothingness.
All he could hear was the wind outside blowing through the leaves of the rose tree.
The beast had not followed him when he ran. There really was no certainty that it was actually a beast and not some figment of his imagination.
Maybe it was late. Maybe his nightmares were playing with his mind.
Just to convince himself that this was sleep-walking, dream-waking rubbish, the gardener opened the door and stepped out on the mat. Nothing. There was nothing around the rose tree, no beast, no voice, not even one growl. The gardener lowered his gun and watched the breeze shake the branches and flutter the leaves.
The rose tree was now in the height of its beauty. The light of the moon made the flowers look like decorations from a black-and-white horror film. He smiled. A thrill ran down his spine as he thought about the girl—about the dying red rose and her current suffering. She would learn one day whom she really belonged to. She would appreciate him one day….
In that moment, it seemed like his thoughts blended with his nightmares. The voice, this time in the form of a woman’s scream, erupted from behind the tree: “Stop!”
The gardener turned and fired. The explosion blew leaves off the tree. “What is it? What do you want?!”
A whimper followed, “What do you want?”
The gardener’s eyes widened. He suddenly remembered the green liquid he had poured around the tree a few minutes ago. Les had said that he became a rich businessman overnight by using it. Could this beast have anything to do with having his wishes granted?
“I’m waiting,” the voice turned from a whimper into a snarl.
The gardener blinked, and all his former thoughts came back to mind. “The rose….the red rose.”
“The rose!” The gardener stammered, listing the first thing that came to mind. “Take it out of her window.”
“Is that all?” There was a hint of mirth in the creature’s voice.
“Yes…wait.” The gardener’s brow furrowed as years of anger came boiling to the surface. “No….rip it to pieces. Scatter it across her yard. I want her to be sorry….” He caught sight of the rose tree’s leaves blowing away across his yard. “But then I want her to remember me.”
There was a whisper of air and a thud-thud-thud of feet pounding the earth. The gardener rushed to the window, and in the light of the moon, he could see a black wolf bounding across the lawn away from the rose tree. Shivering, he pulled the window closed and went back to bed.
The next morning, he was startled by an insistent knock. The gardener groaned, rolled out of bed, and stumbled over to the door. “Whadda you want?”
He would never have expected it to be her.
The gardener rubbed his eyes and blinked to be sure it was real. His love was standing on the rug. Her eyes were red with tears, her face was pale, and there were bloody cuts on her wrists, just as he remembered. Whimpering something indecipherable, she fell into his arms.
The gardener smiled. “Shhhhhh….” He ran his hand over her hair, feeling something like sorrow and something like triumph. The creature had done his bidding.
The girl stayed for days. He calmed her when she screamed at night about a black creature and cried for her lover. After several weeks, she began to recover—her skin was not so pale, her eyes not so puffy. But she would not tell him what happened that night…the night that he had poured the liquid on the rose tree.
One day, when his love was sitting by the fireplace, the gardener went outside and plucked a rose from the tree. It was pink, just like the first one he had given her. The petals were staunch and delicate, and their color was rosy. Thinking that it was high time to declare his love to her, the gardener took the rose inside and handed it to the girl.
But before he could breathe a word, his love screamed in terror and threw the rose into the fire. Her eyes wide, she pushed him aside and ran outside the house and away into the night.
At first, the gardener was heartbroken. He sat by the fire and watched the flames turn the petals into ash. He wondered if she would come back, if she would go back to the man with the red rose, where she was now. Mostly he wondered why?
However, after several hours that question no longer mattered. The gardener’s heart, which had been soft for so long, was filled with rage. How dare he wait so long to receive such treatment? How dare she reject the precious gift that he had spent years cultivating? He felt his hands stiffen with anger. He could almost taste her blood on his lips.
Several hours passed, and the gardener had only one goal in mind—to bring the beast back. It didn’t matter that Les had said the liquid could only be used once. The gardener was determined to find a way. He dumped buckets of water on the rose tree; he mixed up some spices and added those to the dirt around the base. He trimmed off several leaves and scattered them across the yard.
Nothing worked. The clock was approaching midnight, and the gardener was desperate.
He waited until 11:57 and decided to do the unthinkable—crush up one of his own roses with a pestle and pour it into his drinking water. It sparkled green just like the liquid from weeks before.
He downed the entire mixture with a single gulp.
In a moment, he could feel his limbs changing. His eyes widened, his mouth grew out to a point, and black fur raced down his arms and legs. He heaved, and a puff of air shot out from between rows of jagged teeth
The gardener realized then what had really happened to Les. He had become a powerful businessman within a day, but only at the sacrifice of being a werewolf at night.
But, the gardener did not think about that for long. His thoughts turned back to the girl. With a leap, he lunged out the window and over the rose tree. Just as the other beast had the night before, he raced over the empty fields toward town with death in his heart.