This story was inspired by a poem written by a friend of mine. I’m including it here with his permission, although he has asked to remain anonymous.
I plant my garden in the cold of the winter
Seeds of depression is what I’ve sown
You know there’s nothing left to live for
Since you’ve gone, sadness is all I’ve known
C’mon and grow
Little seeds grow
Take me down and torture me
Swallow me then slowly let me go
C’mon little seeds grow
She left him in the spring. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been as bad if she had left in the fall or winter. But she left in the spring and his heart died. All the things that brought him joy turned to ashes. Especially his garden.
He tried. He planted his seeds, watched as they sprouted and then died. What little hope he held of finding something to sustain him until his heart healed died with them. He was barren as that plot of land.
He had nightmares every night. He would wake gasping and screaming, certain his heart would explode out of his chest. On some nights, he would wake from those horrific dreams to find one or two small dark seeds on her pillow. The first time, he wasn’t sure what they were and threw them away. The gardener in him recognized them the second time. He carefully scooped them into an envelope. They multiplied quickly.
The neighbors talked. They knew she had left, although they didn’t know why. They saw his spectacular garden lay abandoned. They heard his screams in the middle of the night. They talked, but the talk faded as spring turned to summer and then summer to fall.
No one thought it odd when they saw him working in the garden that fall. They were sure he was simply preparing the empty beds for winter and the next year would see a return to the abundance of produce he had grown in years past.
No one saw him on his knees in the rows the next new moon, carefully planting small, dark seeds in the dark of the night. No one saw the sad smile as he stood surveying the neat hills just before dawn.
They saw the black vines that began emerging from the soil a few days later. They assumed he had tried to plant a winter crop and it had failed just as spectacularly as his efforts the previous springs’ had. They shook their heads and discussed how sad it was that he seemed to have lost his green thumb at the same time he had lost his love.
He watched the black vines growing and felt a strange kind of peace. They grew and he attended to tidying his life. Every night, before he went to bed, he walked out to his garden and carefully tended the rows. The vines thickened and seemed to speak to him in the silence of the night.
It had been three months since he had planted those small, dark seeds. He stood, leaning on the hoe he had used to clear the snow from the rows. The vines were whispering again, using her beautiful clear voice. He listened, nodding here and there. He stood up straight, the hoe falling to the ground. He was still for just a moment before reaching for his hat, bending to place it carefully next to the tool. There was a smile on his face as he straightened. He walked to the center of the garden, careful to not step on the vines that were stirring, reaching out to touch his feet and lower legs as he passed them.
He stopped. A final glance at the dark sky, he carefully lowered himself to the cold ground. He lay on his back, crossing his arms over his chest. The plants reached out to him, tendrils and leaves softly caressing him before slowly extending to reach over his body. They took their time enfolding him, wrapping him securely in their darkness. Roots stirred beneath the surface, creating a void that he began to sink into. He did not struggle. His eyes were closed, and he whispered her name as he was swallowed.