Thanks to everyone who stopped by and enjoyed the first part of my short story, Under the Flowerpot. Here’s the second installment.
Although McKenna’s voice of reason told her to leave the box alone, curiosity drove her to open it. Inside, she found a folded paper on top of a cloth bag, the red paisley pattern faded into a rosy shade of gray. She reached inside the cloth and withdrew an old fashioned wooden spinning top, the kind she’d seen in black and white photographs, usually carved and painted by hand.
Her pulse sped to a gallop at the memory of Dad twiddling the item in his fingers, usually right before he went out to his greenhouse to work. He always looked happiest when he held it.
After setting the box on the floor, she positioned the point of the top in one palm and twirled it slowly with her fingers. Although it once had a pattern of red and blue stripes and stars along the bulbous part of the toy, it had mostly worn off, and a crack ran down its middle.
Attention turned to the note, McKenna lowered herself to the floor in case her knees wouldn’t hold her. A tiny thread of hope weaved its way through her doubt. Did Dad leave something behind for her to find?
Her shaking fingers unfolded the paper, and she found Dad’s scratchy handwriting in uneven rows across the page.
My Dearest McKenna,
Now that I sit down to write this, I’m not sure where to start. I know you’re angry with me, and you have every right to be. I’ll do my best to explain.
The bag I’ve left in this box fell out of the sky one night while we were still at the old house. Inside, I found the toy and seeds. Please don’t think I’m crazy, but something compelled me to find a safe place to plant them, so that’s why we moved.
I’ve been sitting here for hours now, trying to find a way to explain and just can’t. You need to see the miracle for yourself.
Open the spinning top and look under the golden flowerpot on the bottom shelf closest to the door of the greenhouse. You’ll know what to do next.
I did my best to protect them, and now that I’m dead, I need you to take my place. Love them, McKenna, and protect them. Please. I know I wasn’t there for you, and I hope that once you see what I’ve been doing, you can forgive me.
McKenna held the note to her chest as she attempted to draw in air through her tight throat. Them? The plants? Heat born of rage swelled in her soul. She grabbed the toy and coiled her arm to throw it, but whispers once again broke the silence.
“Please don’t,” the tiny male voice said. “Help us, McKenna.”
She gasped, lowered her arm and searched the greenhouse, but found nothing she hadn’t seen before. Between ragged breaths, she said, “Wh-who are you?”
She palmed her forehead as if that would keep her mind from falling into the crazy pit that had claimed Dad. “You’re losing it.” Why did I even come here? This is insane.
Fingers trembling, she dropped the toy and note and ran to the door, but the vines had woven a tangled web across the exit. Unwilling to consider how that could have happened in such a short time, she pulled one of them, ripping it in half. A cry came from behind her. Had she hurt the plant? When she turned to look for another way out, something flew at her, her hands rising to catch it out of instinct.
Too stunned to move, she stared at the object in her fingers. It was the bag containing the top.
“Please,” the same small voice said. “We’ll die without you.”
The desperation and grief in the tone cut through McKenna’s anger like a serrated knife. She flinched, her fingers fisting around the toy.
A tingling in her spine came with hope that she’d find answers if she followed Dad’s instructions. She’d never believed in anything supernatural, but with no body to accompany the one speaking, she’d either been wrong not to believe, or her mind was slipping into the abyss. Either way, she had a sudden burning desire to know what waited for her down there. That her fear and anger had vanished should have bothered her, but it didn’t.
Dad had said to open the toy. McKenna turned the object over in her hands, then slipped her fingernails into the crack along the center. At first it didn’t give, but her need to solve the puzzle drove her to pry harder as she grunted with the effort. With a splintering sound, it finally gave, slicing her finger as it did.
“Dammit.” McKenna shook her damaged digit, blood dripping from the wound as she searched for the golden flowerpot. She located an overturned container of the right color, the only one that didn’t contain a plant. Her hand reached for the object before she could consider whether or not she should, as if something had taken over her movements by remote control.
Beneath the aged, ceramic pot, McKenna found an impression in the dirt that appeared to fit the two halves of the spinning top. Taking one half in each hand, she fitted the items into the slots, dripping her blood across the soil as she worked to make the pieces sit just right.
The dark earth trembled, and the crimson drops of McKenna’s life disappeared into it. As if someone had flipped a switch in her body, her senses awakened, brightness, sound and scent overwhelming to the point of panic.
Before she could think about how to escape, pain sliced along her back. Crippled by the agony, McKenna flopped onto the floor, writhing hard enough she slammed her head against one of the posts supporting the glass ceiling. Sparkling white stars danced in her vision, and unborn screams jammed sideways in her throat. Both of her legs snapped in unison, the terrible cracking sounds invading her ears like shards of glass. Her skin shrank and split, her hair fell from her head, and every cell echoed its pain.
McKenna cried out inside her head, as she could no longer speak.
The pain stopped as quickly as it had arrived.
I’m dead. Oh, God, I’m dead!
TO BE CONTINUED…
Dun, dun, dunnnnnnnn. 🙂 I’ll leave you there until next time.