Bogleech.com's 2016 Horror Write-off:
Auntie Matilda (bless her soul) was my mother's oldest sister. She wasn't estranged from her sisters or anything; it was simply that a long time ago they had come to a mutual agreement that they had their differences that had to be respected, and save the occasional family gathering she was perfectly happy keeping all familial relations long-distance. We kids mostly remembered her as the aunt who at every gathering brought a pinkish gelatin ring mold embedded with pimentos, olives and celery and called it a "salad".
When Auntie Matilda eventually came to terms with the fact of her impeding mortality, she felt the bonds of family and blood more keenly than ever before, and decided she had to do something for her family. Having no children of her own, and eager to make up for all the sweaters and gift cards she never sent, she declared that she would ensure that each of her nieces and nephews would have a roof over their heads.
Auntie was pretty well-off, but she did have five sisters, so she found herself a bit hard-pressed to provide housing for the entire brood, especially in this day and age. But in the end she made good on her promise, and when she passed away I found myself the proud owner of an apartment flat.
I had just graduated college and was looking for a job, and having another place to live really opened up additional options and expanded my search area.
The only snag was that the apartment was in Florida. No offense to all you Floridians out there, but I just detest the humidity, and its associated fungal infections. Still, beggars can't be choosers, and was I grateful to have any sort of property to my name. So outfitted with sufficient antifungals and a robust cortisone cream I set to see my new property.
The apartment was located in a small, six storey building. Most of the other flats were rented out as offices by a software/website company, but a few were owned/rented by tenants such as myself.
I met the (possibly self-appointed) apartment caretaker and de facto "landlord" of the building, Mr. Yamaguchi, who took me to see my new apartment.
The apartment was sparsely furnished and in good condition. The only shortcomings apparent to my eye were dark streaks of mildew bleeding down the walls, a byproduct of the suffocating humidity. That, and a particularly hideous, mustard-colored couch.
As we went from room to room, he explained that my aunt rarely stayed at this flat, instead usually renting it out, and the last renter had packed up and left in a hurry, citing a family emergency, and had no intent of returning. So the deposit was paid, and the lodger left on good terms.
As we talked, I got the feeling Mr. Yamaguchi was a bit ill at ease; as if that there was something he had to show me that he was definitely not looking forward to.
"Now I'm about to show you something...a bit out of the ordinary," said Mr. Yamaguchi with the air of someone about to negotiate a plea deal. "The last guy here, by the name of Burton, used this room to grow all these exotic plants. Had lights and irrigation and everything. He took most of his collection with him, but happened to leave a pretty special one behind."
He opened the door to the last room.
It was clear, from the long table littered with empty flower pots, that the room had been used as a plant room. It was now devoid of greenery, save for one, rather spectacular remaining specimen.
An enormous planting container the size of a kiddie swimming pool sat in the corner. A huge, gnarled woody vine, twisted about like a petrified anaconda, arching over and touching the ground. This vine was probably the original plant, now clearly dead, but from its base several offsets had sprouted.
Some of these secondary vines were almost as thick as the main one, and had grown so tall they actually snaked up all the way to the top of the room. The ceiling above the corner was heavily damaged; huge chunks were missing, and I could actually see pipes. The vines grew right through the hole, as if they wanted to colonize the entire building.
Festooned along their length were glossy-green, long tapering leaves, like the leaves of a mango. Each leaf's tip was drawn out into a long, fleshy tendril that twisted and curled. Some had latched on to each other, or neighboring leafstalks. Each tendril end in a bulbous, half-wilted tip, except one, which terminated in an enormous form.
A vast, huge barrel-shaped vase, like a massive gourd big enough to take a bath in, lay supine on the floor. The opening to the thing was turned upwards and had a glossy, heavily striped and banded lip, and was shaded by a leafy cover or lid.
It had garish colors; vibrant, glossy saturated shades ranging from cherry red and vivid fuchsia to beet purple and every gradation in between, and smudges and hints of other colors, like shades of orange, yellow, black, olive-green and mottled browns. And every spot of color was ringed with contrasting colors; like those striped agate geodes when cut open, or gazing at storms on the banded surface of a gas-giant.
I was looking at the largest specimen of Nepenthes I had ever seen; a gargantuan pitcher plant. I knew that sometimes fruits and vegetables could grow to immense sizes; I had seen those huge freak pumpkins at fairs and so on. But I had never seen anything like this: practically a real-life man-eating plant.
I walked up and carefully gazed into the mouth of the pitcher. Maybe it was the way the colors deepened and darkened, but the interior seemed to extend far deeper that pitcher's size would suggest. A musky odor, pungent but not unpleasant, wafted from the opening. A scent reminiscent of peaches and soap, plus a hint of ammonia. Okay, maybe just a bit unpleasant.
Mr. Yamaguchi walked up to my side. "Weird, huh? Looks like something pretty special, don't it? So I contacted this Burton guy. Apparently, he thought it was dead and so left it behind." He gestured at the ceiling. "But one of the pipes here sprung a leak, so the ceiling here got damaged and caved in, and this corner stayed wet all the time. Combine that with all the sunlight this room gets, and I guess it managed to, um, bounce back."
He peered into the opening of the trap. "Anyway, he told me he got caught up in a big nasty legal mess, so he couldn't come and get it. He asked me to take care of it for him until he settled his affairs. It's too much of a hassle to move the thing, and I'm afraid I might kill it if I tried. Something like this must be pretty valuable, so I didn't dare. Best to leave it as it is."
He waved at the ceiling. "It actually grows into the apartment above yours, right through the floor and into the room. A bit of an inconvenience, but the guy upstairs doesn't mind. Hope you don't mind having it here either."
He turned to me. "I've taken care of it ever since-" his tone turned apologetic-"but if it's not too much trouble, could you keep an eye on it now that you're here? All I do is water it once a day. And Burton promised that once he collected the plant, he would pay for the repairs."
I told him that as long as I resided here, I would be glad to take care of the plant until its owner came back for it.
After checking for vermin (and a generous application of a discount air freshener), I declared the apartment to be "livable", and decided to stay for a few days or weeks, while I scoured the area for possible employment. I toyed with the idea of roommates (non-botanical), or renting it out. I hadn't felt this optimistic in a long time.
Then things took a turn for the weird.
It all started with the cat.
I had spent most of the day tidying up, and night had fallen when I had finally finished the living areas. With broom and dustpan in hand, I figured I might as well sweep out the plant room. The floor and tables were littered with dried moss, potting dirt, dead leaves and various odds and ends.
I enter the room, flip on the lights and start sweeping.
I was so absorbed in my task, it took me a few moments to process the fact that there were sounds in the room with me, and that they were coming from the pitcher.
Fear, illogical yet unrelenting, squeezed my innards as I had a sudden vision of the plant belting out a show-stopping tune in Levi Stubb's voice as it chucked me into its maw.
My alarm only increased as my brain completed its analysis of the auditory data and identified it as the sound of claws scrabbling for purchase.
Paralyzed by indecision as to my flight-or-fight response (certainly a maladaptive trait), I could only stare agape as glistening jointed, furry legs emerged from the pitcher, gripped the rim and pulled their owner out.
At first, I thought someone in a fit of cruelty had taken a cat, folded it like a pretzel and tied its hindquarters near its head. But then it became clear that all of its limbs sprouted from near its head, while its body dragged behind like a burlap sack half-full with bones, with its tail sticking out the back.
It had more than just four legs, and all of them were deformed and twisted, grotesquely elongated and spindly, with too many joints. Paws looking squashed and twisted, with missing toes.
And its head was a bulbous mess. It seemed to lack a proper neck, the head squashed in between the shoulders. It had too many eyes, all different sizes and shapes. The upper jaw split sideways into two fat sausage-like halves, each bristling with coarse hair and gnarled teeth. The lower jaw just dangled uselessly as if dislocated.
The wretched thing was obviously sickly, the outline of its ribs sticking out in stark contrast along its sac-like body. And it couldn't support its weight, not with the way its legs bent at such strange angles. It skittered like an insect, its claws scraping against the pitcher wall as it half-slid, half-climbed to the floor, dragging the rest of its body behind it, its whole body sodden with the liquid contents of the trap.
It hissed, then scuttled towards me.
I shrieked and batted it away with the broom. It slammed into the wall and crumpled into a heap. Its baggy body split open from the impact, brittle ribs snapping like twigs and entrails spilling out. It gurgled loudly and convulsed, then slumped and laid still.
I admit I panicked (the poor thing was probably trying to get away by dashing between my legs), but despite my flailing, I didn't swat it that hard. I hadn't meant to kill it; the thing was just very frail.
In a daze, I scooped up the remains into a bag and dropped it down the garbage chute, then stayed up till dawn scrubbing the floor where it fell.
To be honest, the spot was clean after the first hour, but I wanted to occupy myself, to keep my mind off the gruesome scene that I had just perpetuated. Yet as I cleaned, my mind went over what I had just seen. It was obviously a grossly deformed cat, but what was it doing inside the pitcher? When did it get in? How did such a horribly misshapen beast survive to adulthood?
After that, I carefully poked the pitcher a couple of times every time I had to go water the thing, just in case some twisted vermin lurked within. After a few days of this, the horror of that event had faded, and one day I rationalized that such a creature was probably in a state of perpetual agony, and thus by putting it out of its misery I had done it a great service.
Feeling much better, I left my apartment, and (almost literally) ran into my upstairs neighbor.
My neighbors mostly kept to themselves, so I didn't see much of them. We just exchanged greetings along the stairs and hallways. The apartment directly above mine was occupied by a guy I knew as only Maurice, a college-aged, raven-haired guy shorter than me by about 5 inches.
I had no plans that day, and Maurice was just coming home, so it was our first chance to exchange more than just a few words. After some small talk, our conversation turned to the sole thing we had in common; namely, the botanical lodger that grew up my ceiling and through his floor. Maurice invited me in to see the rest of the plant.
His apartment was messy, littered with laptops and hard drives, and cardboard boxes piled high. I inquired whether he worked for the software company that occupied the majority of our building, but he answered in the negative; he was, like me, currently job-hunting. Drinks were offered, and thus fortified he led me to his backroom.
The room was filled with more boxes, save for one corner that had been cleared. The leafy vines sprouted from the damaged floor and snaked along the corner to the ceiling. As down below, the leaves ended in tendrils, and one tendril expanded into a massive trap.
The pitcher here looked different.
For one thing, while the pitcher in my apartment had its mouth facing its tendril i.e. on the same side, the one up here had its mouth facing away from its tendril. Plus, my pitcher was a huge, stout reclining barrel, while this pitcher stood upright despite its size, and had a more slender, hourglass-shaped figure, with a mouth that flared outwards like a trumpet.
My pitcher was colored in bright saturated hues, while this had a more subtle coloration: pale brown or tan, with spots and stripes of more intense colors.
Still, this was clearly the same plant. I mean, how many giant Nepenthes can there be in an apartment building? Although Maurice clearly got the better end of the deal; this pitcher smelled a little like an ice cream parlor; hints of butterscotch and vanilla.
"Wow!" I exclaimed. "This looks completely different from the one in my apartment!"
Maurice looked puzzled. "Really? Isn't it the same plant?"
"No doubt about it," I replied, "I guess it be some sort of variance caused by environment or stuff. Does having this thing here bother you?"
He shook his head. "I just use this room for storage, so I got used to it. Mr. Yamaguchi asked me to clear a space for it to grow. I figured it didn't hurt. But now..." He trailed away, then said gravely: "But word of advice? Get rid of it as soon as possible. As soon as the guy comes back, let him pack it up and get it out. Until then, don't stick your hand in the pitcher."
Seeing the look on my face, he went on: "You see, it's..." He hesitated for a few seconds. "Look, just between you and me, there's been a...an incident."
He paused, then sighed resignedly and continued. "I'm not sure you've noticed, but our side of the building is slightly damaged thanks to the giant weed sprouting through my floor. There's a crack that leads to the outside, lets inside all kinds of things and critters. There's a stray cat that used to squeeze in here sometimes. I chased it out the first few times, but I gave up and let it be.
"A couple a days ago I was going through my boxes. The cat was here, and I noticed it was slowly creeping up on the pitcher. Above the mouth of the pitcher a big banana spider had built a web.
"Now this cat comes up, then pounces on the spider. It fumbles the landing, slips on the rim and falls into the pitcher. I hear a splash and laugh my head off. So I bring my phone out to take a pic of the cat, but it never comes back out. I poke around with a broom handle, but can't feel anything solid."
I raise my eyebrows at that, but his gaze was dead serious. "So yeah. Water it, but careful you don't end up inside it."
I was about to laugh it off, but I didn't want to piss him off, so I just shrugged. "Can't be that dangerous. You're saying this thing can dissolve a cat instantly? Why, just the other day a cat climbed out of my pitcher!"
Maurice stared at me. "Really?"
I immediately regretted blurting that out. I hesitated, but decided to tell him about the mutant cat anyway (I chose to gloss over the details of its demise).
Maurice was silent for a minute or two, then finally spoke in a strange voice: "This...mutant cat? You said it had a lot of legs? How many?"
"It's not like I really counted," I replied, "but yeah, way too many legs."
"Would you say, eight?"
I looked sharply at Maurice. His eyes were gleaming.
"One last question: when did you meet this mutant cat? Was it a tabby?"
I frowned; that was two questions, but whatever. "Last Tuesday. Around five PM. And yeah, a yellow tabby. I think."
"The cat I was talking about fell in at around four in the afternoon, last Tuesday."
I suddenly had an unpleasant feeling, a passing moment of vertigo.
We didn't talk anymore after that. I left his flat, said goodbye and went on my merry way.
But the conversation we had left me with unpleasant ideas planted in my mind.
A stray cat.
A deformed feline monstrosity with too many legs.
I shook my head. I had real-life problems; I was an independent adult now, and I did not have the luxury of being distracted by flights of whimsy.
Or so I told myself.
A few days later, Maurice came knocking at my door. We exchanged greetings, then Maurice mentioned that since I had a good look at "his" pitcher, would I mind if I showed him "mine?"
I had my misgivings, but I felt I had to return the gesture. so I let him in.
I showed him the thing. As he examined it, I got the feeling he was putting on an act, like he didn't really want to see the pitcher itself. He kept looking around, distracted, searching. And when he finally left, I got the distinct feeling that he was disappointed.
He came back the next day. I was getting really sick of this, so I barely concealed my annoyance. But Maurice was all soothing gestures and profuse apologies, and came by to ask my permission to conduct a little experiment.
I was inclined to just shoo him away, but the guy was so apologetic I felt like an asshole if I denied him, so I asked what he planned to do.
"Just observe. That is all," he said demurely.
I sighed. I let him in.
He went straight for plant of course. He just stood there, at the door, staring at it. I offered him a chair, which was graciously accepted. To my embarrassment, I had nothing to offer him by way of refreshments, but then again I wasn't expecting guests.
I went back to my laptop. Fifteen minutes passed while I wrote e-mails and checked job listings.
I was just about to ask Maurice how long this was going to take when I heard him urgently whisper:
"Come, come quick!"
I rushed over. He had risen from his chair but was half-crouched just inside the door. When he noticed me he pointed at the pitcher mouth.
"Look!" His excitement was almost palpable.
I heard scrabbling. I shuddered with disgust at the memory.
Something was trying to climb up the slippery inside of the pitcher, and was obviously failing.
"Maybe we need to fish it out,' Maurice mused out loud.
No sooner had those words left his lips, when a sodden mass hoisted itself on the lip of the trap, then slipped off and landed on the floor with a wet 'plop'.
It was a rabbit.
Maurice snatched up the rabbit, which let out a shriek. Realizing he had startled it, he cradled it and started stroking its back, which did little to appease the furry critter.
"Eureka!" His tone was exultant, triumphant.
Without waiting for me to ask, he launched into an explanation: "You see, the plant obfuscates things. But, eliminate it, cut it out of the picture, focus on the end result, and it becomes quite simple; two creature go in one end, a single grotesque creature comes out the other. A creature that a combination of the two. Cat and spider go in one end, eight-legged cat comes out the other! What we have here is a classic scenario, straight out from a horror film: teleportation mishap!"
I opened my mouth to speak, but he cut me off.
"Well, I just call it 'teleportation' for now, I have no idea how it actually works. The thing is, the plant 'transports' whatever is deposited into the upper pitcher into its lower pitcher. Maybe the thing dissolves in the upper pitcher, is transported through the vine, and is then reformed in the lower pitcher. Or else a copy of the original thing is produced, whatever. But for all purposes, that process is teleportation.
"And when two creatures are involved, it gets them mixed up and transfers them as one being, a fusion of the two!"
I finally found my voice. "Now hold on here! You can't possibly be serious here? A transporter plant?!"
"Then how do you explain that eight-legged cat? I came by yesterday; your ceiling is much better condition than my floor, and there's no crack big enough for a cat to squeeze in."
"But it makes no sense!" I exclaimed. "Why would a plant teleport things? This is impossible!"
"And If you want proof, I have it right here!" He hoisted up the rabbit. "Yesterday I had a whole canned chicken lying around, so I just tipped it in, waited a while, then came downstairs. Nothing came of it, and I thought, well, that was that. But later, I had a sudden realization: 'What if it's only living creatures?' The cat and spider were definitely alive when they went in. It was worth a try.
"So this morning I went to the petshop, and bought a rabbit as a test subject. I chose it specifically because it has a distinctive pattern of black spots, so I could recognize when it came out the other end. See?"
He pulled out his phone and showed me a photo of what seemed to be the same rabbit.
"See? This is the rabbit at the petshop! You can see it's the same animal. And roughly forty seven minutes ago, I dropped it into my pitcher upstairs."
Excitement grew within me, the thrill of discovering the fantastic. The catspider, its warped anatomy...
But I resisted the tantalizing pull of such a preposterous idea; I had to be the one grounded in reality, the skeptic. It sounded too fantastic to be true.
"You could have smuggled it in here, either now or yesterday!"
He raised an eyebrow. "I see. And just how did I smuggle it in? In my mouth, perhaps? Crammed down my pants? And don't dare you say it climbed in from the outside, I specifically chose a rabbit so I could rule out something climbing in from the outside and falling in. No rabbit could climb this high."
I had sat down without realizing it.
Maurice kneeled beside me. "You want conclusive proof? I have another rabbit upstairs. I'm gonna put both of them in now."
I hesitated. "I dunno, I have the vague feeling that this is cruel somehow..."
He scoffed. "Look at him!" He shoved the rabbit practically in my face. "A bit soaked, but none the worse for wear! Besides, I'm using two rabbits, not a rabbit and a cockroach or something. Two individuals of the same species should be no problem; I have no intention of pulling a Cronenberg and producing Brundlebunny or something."
I admit, I was curious, and eager to see it in action. We went upstairs, where it turns out Maurice had bought three rabbits. One was the same as the our recent test subject (white, spotted and blotched with black), while the third was a brown lop-eared rabbit.
Maurice explained that he planned to put in the third rabbit ten minutes after the first two, to check if it would be incorporated into the fusion if there was a time gap between being put in. That's why he chose a brown lop; to be as distinctive as possible from the other two, so it features would be easily recognizable.
We checked the patterns of our first two test subjects, noted their coat patterns, then lowered them in.
A squeak, a splash, then silence. No further sounds, no signs of a struggle. I peered inside the pitcher mouth; it was too dark to see anything clearly, and just like the pitcher it my apartment, it seemed to extend deeper than it did in reality.
After about ten minutes we lowered in the lop, which went docilely.
We went back to my apartment and took up vigil at the plant. As the minutes passed I could feel my excitement growing.
"What's the point of it?" I wondered out loud. "I mean, why would a plant have such an ability to teleport creatures? What would its purpose in nature be? What possible benefit could it derive from it?"
Maurice stared thoughtfully at the plant for a few moments, then replied: "Maybe it doesn't have a purpose or benefit? Look, down here."
He pointed at the pot, near the base of the plant. I took a closer look; there nestled a small plastic tag I hadn't noticed before, hidden beneath a leaf. It had a label with something scrawled on it. Although faded, I could still make it out:
Nepenthes macrophagia x insania
"I found this yesterday. See the way it's written like that? With an 'X' between the two species names? This plant isn't a purebreed, it's a hybrid; between whatever the heck is a 'macrophagia' and an 'insania'. What I'm trying to say is: maybe this plant's abilities are a happy accident, an unexpected result of its mixed parentage. Two species that were never meant to be crossed, whose genes interact with one another in unforeseen ways. I don't know if either of its parents were special or magical or whatnot, but when you combine the two, something strange and wonderful, and completely unnatural results."
I wasn't so sure; mate a donkey with a horse, and the resulting mule doesn't exactly breathe fire or shoot lasers. But hey, I'm no biologist. What do I know?
We went back to waiting. Nothing happened at the forty-seven minute mark. But at one hour and twelve minutes, the pitcher began to rock and shudder.
We both stood up. After a few second we heard gurgles and splashing. We looked at each other-should we help it out?-but before we could take any further action something heaved itself out of the pitcher with a squeal and slid to the floor.
It was an enormous rabbit, white with black blotches. It's eyes were bloodshot, it heaved and shuddered, and wheezed like its lungs were diseased. It struggled to its feet.
Maurice took out his phone, but even without the photos I could tell that this animal's coat pattern was a combination of the previous two; some of blotches had white hairs interspersed with the black.
It was clearly not in good shape. It squealed as we approached and tried to get away, but it could barely move. It was too big to fit in the cage Maurice had brought its components in, so he had to go upstairs and get a spare cardboard box.
We were so engrossed in the plight of this poor animal that we both jumped at the sound of scrabbling paws. The noise turned out to be the brown lop. Upon examination it seemed to be perfectly fine, so we put into its now spacious cage.
We stood looking at each other, the silence broken only by the whines and wheezes of our gargantuan rabbit. Finally Maurice spoke:
"I'm so sorry, I just-"
"Just stop!" I snapped.
"Look, I thought with two rabbits it'd be safe, it'll just be a bigger-"
I cut him off angrily. "Look, we both did this willingly, we're both guilty. Let's...let's just wait until tomorrow, and if Blotches here isn't better, we'll take it to the vet. You know, have it put down."
"Yeah, sounds like a good idea." Maurice looked at the lop, possibly to avoid my gaze. "This little guy seems fine, though."
"Yeah." I tried to change the subject; something more academic. I was struck by a sudden thought. "You know, we're colonized by microbes, on our skin and in our guts. Rabbits are no different, and who knows what kind of parasites they might have."
I knelt down to take a closer look at the lop. "So why doesn't the plant fuse the rabbit with the bacteria on it skin and in its gut?"
"That's a good question," mused Maurice. "Maybe there's some kind of size threshold. I mean, the spider was huge, legspan maybe bigger than my hand. Maybe if it's too small, like microscopic, the plant can't fuse it, or doesn't get it confused with a larger organism. Or maybe it's a matter of genome size; a rabbit has a lot more genes than a bacterium."
"Maybe," I said. "Or maybe the plant did fuse them, but it's being masked somehow. Like maybe because a rabbit is such a big complex organism, and a bacteria is such a simple one, that the complexity of the rabbit sorta overwrites the bacteria. Maybe this little guy is now part-germ but he doesn't show it. Maybe the catspider was too."
"Too bad he can't talk, I would've liked to know how it felt." Maurice looked thoughtfully at the plant. "Ever heard of the teleporter paradox? Are you really teleporting, or is the machine disintegrating you, then producing an exact copy with the same memories? Is it still the same individual? Are you still the same person?"
He looked wistfully at the lop. "Man, I would give anything to know."
I stood up. "Plenty of time for that; maybe we can teach a chimp sign language and send it through. But for now, I think I'm done with experimentation."
It seemed the brown rabbit was disturbed by the noises from the big one, so we decided to leave Brownie here with me while Maurice took Blotches upstairs.
I decided to go to bed early. Had trouble falling asleep that night. Nightmares featuring the plant predominated.
I slept in the next day. When I woke up, I spent ten minutes trying figure out what had troubled. It was only when I saw Brownie that I remembered the events of the previous day, and that we had to take Blotches to the vet. I ate a quick breakfast then went upstairs, and knocked on Maurice's door.
I knocked again. I yelled through the door.
I figured he had slept in as well. And like a complete and utter idiot, I had forgotten to take his phone number yesterday.
I went back down, and went to check on Brownie. He seemed to be in perfectly good spirits.
But looking at him, as I fed him a bit of lettuce, stirred a memory of last night. Of us, looking at our rabbits. Of Maurice, with a wistful look on his face. And his words:
"I would give anything to know."
I rush back upstairs. The door is unlocked (of course it would be, how would he get back in if he had locked it?), I run in.
Blotches the rabbit in his box in the living room, noisy breathing confirming life.
I rush into the plant room.
The pitcher is motionless, although slightly tipped to one side.
I see Maurice's clothes, piled up near the door, with his cellphone and keys placed carefully besides them. A large, folded paper which I snatch up.
I read the words "Too excited. Can't wait! See you on the other side! FOR SCIENCE!"
I feel nauseated.
I rush back downstairs. I head to my own plant room, hoping that everything will be fine.
I press my ear against the door.
Nothing. I hold my breath.
Then I hear a wet slap. Followed by another.
I open the door.
It was sprawled on the floor next to the pitcher.
A massive, spindly serpentine form. Its skin a raw, glistening pinkish tone, like pale, diseased gums. The head (if you could call it a head) was a bulbous, knobbly, pear-or-fig-shaped mass. Arranged in a misshapen ring around its thickest part were fleshy, rubbery cups. Each was rimmed with leathery red flesh like that of a wrinkly, well-chewed lip.
Perched on the apex of the "pear" was a crown of twisted bone splinters and hooks, with tangled streamers of greasy black hair, like rotting seaweed.
The lumpy head was attached to a limbless, snake-like body, divided into segments, like a warped facsimile of the human spine, except sculpted from flesh. But it was far, far longer than humanely possible, and as you went down its immense length, the "vertebrae" that composed it gradually became larger and flatter and broader.
The thing just lay on the floor, apparently immobile but not without movement. The suckers on its heads seemed to gape and writhe as if searching for purchase, while its larger segment seemed to almost pulse. Yet it was incapable of any purposeful locomotion; a crippled, wretched creature.
And the stench was unbearable and eye-watering; ripe and putrid like sewage, but acrid and stinging like formaldehyde.
More and more segments continued to emerge from the pitcher, spilling out the top in loops and piling up on the floor, seemingly being pushed out from below rather than from any action on their part. Each was now the size of an enormous pizza.
The segments were now covered by thicker skin, reddened and oily like an inflamed scalp and riddled with enormous, almost ulcerous pores, single, greasy black hairs and burst cysts. And each one had a puckered pink orifice in its side, like a gaping prolapsed anus.
The segments now emerging from the pitcher were so huge the sides had to be rolled up to fit through the opening. And these big segments were distorted by all these lumps, as if filled with potatoes.
Except these lumps seemed to writhe and twitch underneath the hide.
The last segment plopped free from the pitcher and slid onto the pile. I had no idea how long the thing was. Twenty feet? Thirty feet?
I must have passed out, because the next thing I remember is waking up on the floor with my face pressed into a pool of my own vomit.
The events following this were a blur. I remember banging at Mr. Yamaguchi's door and blurting out the whole story, then grabbing him by the hand and showing him the...thing.
I remember arguing and shouting. I might have passed out again or gone into hysterics, I do remember getting slapped in the face at least twice. Anyway, before I knew it Yamaguchi had well and truly taken control of the situation. I guess I was just lost and floundering, and I just wanted someone, anyone, to take charge and tell me what to do, so I could just run on autopilot.
We carried the fleshy thing into my bathroom, and as we did it started to fall apart in our hands. The segments continued to writhe even after they were detached from the main body. We managed to load everything into the tub. Then went to the plant room and at Yamaguchi's stern command we uprooted the plant and pulled out its vines out of my ceiling. We went into Maurice's apartment and pulled it out from that side as well.
We dragged the pitchers into Yamaguchi's apartment, and into his bathroom. We emptied the pitchers of their watery contents. Both of them seemed to hold far more liquid than their size and weight would suggest. The liquid from lower pitcher was clear and tea-colored, while the liquid from the upper pitcher was dark and cloudy, and absolutely reeked.
Then Mr. Yamaguchi brought out some tools and we hacked and sliced that plant up into manageable pieces. We then shoved them into the yard-waste bags.
After that, Yamaguchi then got a sledgehammer and with grim determination headed for my bathroom, but thankfully it wasn't needed. The hideous thing had long since expired and all movements (from all its parts) had ceased, so we packed up all the pieces into black garbage bags along with any other trash we found lying around (the hideous sofa finally served a final purpose when we gutted its cushions to pad the bags).
We dragged the yard-waste bags to the front for the trash collector to pick up, but we threw the garbage bags into a dumpster behind a supermarket a few miles away.
Later, Yamaguchi got rid of the note and wiped clean the handle to Maurice's door, while I scrubbed down my apartment. Then together we checked outside for anything we might've overlooked.
And it turns out we did. The plant had sent a vine through the crack in the building, but instead of growing upwards it descended, a woody liana flush with the building so that at a casual glance you'd think it was part of the building. We must have missed it when we uprooted the main plant.
The liana buried itself in the soil behind a bush, and thus sheltered from the eyes of passersby it had sprouted an offshoot. Three shiny green leaves, one of them extending into a tendril that ended in a pitcher, an ugly speckled thing that looked like a hollow magenta-purple potato the size of a one-gallon jug. We pulled it up, and yanked down the liana. I wasn't so sure if it could overwinter, but we didn't want to take any chances.
We managed to do all this without any of the tenants noticing; Mr. Yamaguchi was familiar with the daily routines and schedule of everyone in the building, and knew exactly how to go about our tasks discreetly.
I worried about the police, but Mr. Yamaguchi told me lots of adults just decide to up and disappear; anybody can make the choice to "go missing" legally for whatever reason. The only time the police search for a missing person is if that person's disappearance is reported and is believed to be in danger. He said Maurice was a loner as far as he knew, so no one should come looking for him. He would keep the apartment as is until the owner came asking about Maurice; after that it would be up to the owner whether to look into Maurice's disappearance or not.
I myself wasn't so sure; I remembered all the computers and hard drives in his apartment. Maybe he had a prominent online presence. Would he be missed by friends and family? Or was he a loner online as well as in real life, just another nobody in the vast sea of humanity?
I didn't even know Maurice's full name. I never asked Mr. Yamaguchi, nor did he ever mention it. It was definitely not one of my finer moments; it shames me to say it, but at the time I was only concerned about myself and how to avoid anything unpleasant.
It never occurred to me to question Mr. Yamaguchi's actions, or why they seemed to match up with the actions of a seasoned serial killer. In retrospect, maybe it was for the best. Maybe Mr. Yamaguchi had his own, perfectly innocent and understandable reasons to avoid unwanted attention.
Besides, too many nosy questions, and I might've ended up in a garbage bag as well.
I should mention that, at the very least, I took Blotches to the vet. They did some scans and stuff; turns out he had enlarged organs, all pressed up against each other. The walls of his heart were so thick, it could barely pump. He was put to sleep. To avoid any further questioning I just told them I found him abandoned in a box behind my building.
As for me, I sold the apartment. Mostly because I couldn't bear to live in it after that, but also because that last thing I needed was some horticultural maniac to track me down and blame me for all this. I did have to sell at quite the discount though, on account of the hole in the ceiling.
I kept Brownie for a few months, to make sure he didn't mutate into a pile of slime or turn into some kind of hybrid bunny-plague. I'm happy to report that Brownie continued to be perfectly fine, and a subsequent visit to the vet confirmed his good health. I later gave him to a family whom I hoped would love and take good care of him.
There is an epilogue to this.
One day I was looking through one of those clickbait sites when a certain headline caught my eye, about a cryptid sighting in Florida. Normally, I never read such garbage, but what had caught my attention was the name of the neighborhood mentioned. It was near where my former apartment was located.
I navigated through the maze of linked sites until I finally reached a proper article. There weren't many details about the cryptid; only vague and ultimately useless descriptions.
It wasn't really viral news or anything; there were only a few other reports, and they were mostly identical. They were clearly copies of the same article, and provided no additional info.
Except for one. This particular article was from a local news site, and differed from the rest in that the eyewitness featured said he saw two creatures. Unfortunately, the guy's phone battery was dead, but he did manage to draw a sketch. Mind you, the dude had pretty bad drawing skills.
Still, when I saw the drawing...
It made my blood run cold.