Manny:Man eating Plant of Kentucky or Kansas
“I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with him.” Boston said as he gripped the back of my jacket. With no one around where we were walking, he had popped out of his marble to try to talk with the plant monster, but retreated after almost getting swatted in the nose.
“Yes we are.” I said, panting slightly with the extra weight and my pace to keep up with the creature before me.
“Oh? And how is that? We’ve walked almost a mile and we’ve made almost no progress with our friend.”
“I don’t see you walking. And we’ve traveled a mile. It’s progress.”
“Are you all right? You’re being stunningly optimistic.”
“I know, I think I’m coming down with something.” I said as I looked around. We have been walking for more than a mile, I think. Probably close to three. But I didn’t want to tell Boston that, he might complain more.
“Hey, he’s turning.” Boston pointed ahead of me. Indeed, the plant life had turned left and had scuttled into a yard and was peeking over a six foot fence. I jogged in after it and stood next to the fence as it coiled it’s trunk like a snake so only the eyes peeked over the fence.
“So, what’s over this fence?” I asked conversationally. The tree glanced down at me and growled.
“You followed me.”
“For the last hour and a half.” Wow, for someone as big and scary as he’s supposed to be, he really isn’t all that observant. “So what’s over here?”
“None of your business.” It growled back.
“Fine, if you won’t tell me, I’ll figure it out. Hold on, Boston.” I backed up a few feet, and took a running start to jump up. I made a lot of noise trying to get my head over the fence but I finally did, and got to look into a backyard at least twice as big as my own. “I think dad got screwed with our house. Everybody’s back yard is bigger than ours.”
“It’s not as if you use the back yard anyway.” Boston commented as he looked over with me.
“What are you doing?!” He hissed as he wrapped a branch around my leg. “Get down, he’ll see you!”
“Who?” Boston looked around. “Oh, is that him? Little kid in a sand box?”
Immediately the tree ducked down, trying to make itself small.
“He doesn’t look all that scary.” I commented as I looked over to the little boy in the blue flannel shirt. He looked about eight, and he had sandy brown hair. He must be deaf if he didn’t hear all the noise I was making. “So, what’s the connection? Let me guess, the kid believes in you, right? ”
“Not for long.” The tree muttered sadly. I dropped down from the fence and landed without injuring myself, which I mentally patted myself on the back for.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“He counts to ten and I disappear. Soon he won’t believe in me anymore.”
“Ahh, I was wondering about that.”
“What?” I craned my head around to look at him. Boston twitched his whiskers.
“I’ve been noticing things. Usually, if a belief is to become a… nightmare, like I’m guessing you must be, with a child’s interpretations of a man-eating tree, they are a lot more careful, unless they start to get desperate. Desperation usually comes hand in hand with disbelief. None of us, when we are granted bodies, want to go back to being some wandering shadow of a dream. So we do what we can to keep the belief alive. Am I close?” Boston directed the question at the large tree.
“Yes.” The tree glared at us. “What do you want from me? You know I made a mistake. It was not the boy’s mother I was scaring. I’m leaving her be. Now go.”
“Why are you trying to scare the mom though?” I asked. If I was going to get the story, I might as well get all of it, right?
“Because the boy counts to ten and he has to leave, because that’s the guidelines the boy set.” Boston said. “The mother doesn’t have that luxury. She doesn’t believe in him that way. So, if he scares the mother, eventually the kid will hear about it, and have to believe in him. Just like you when your mother was scared.”
“That’s a tricky and dirty way of doing things.” I frowned. “I can see where it makes sense though.”
“You’ll probably be seeing more of it as we meet more of my kind, especially ones that partner with children. Children are not the best choice.”
“Only one around.” The creature said sulkily.
“Why? Kids believe in a whole bunch of stuff.”
“Kids grow out of it. Almost all of them. They grow up, and there’s a point in their lives when they believe in nothing fantastical anymore. Anyone latched onto them at that point gets a very painful occurrence of changing back into something less than real. Some even die if they keep hold long enough.”
“Wow. You guys kind of have the short end of the stick for life and everything, don’t you?” I looked at the giant creature before me, and I could feel that nagging sense of pity. Here was a guy that was doing everything he could to be…well, I don’t know who he’s trying to be, but he’s trying.
I chewed on my lip and watched the willow monster poke its eyes over the fence again.
“Say, Boston…can you guys, like transfer?”
“Of course. The only thing we need is the origin.” He tapped the black marble. “And we can jump. But sometimes it doesn’t work, and we always change to reflect the new partner. That makes it dangerous, and very possible for injury.”
“What if I got hold of somebody that would believe in man eating trees? Would that work better?” The wheels had begun to turn in my skull.
“Maybe, but I don’t see how you can find someone like that.”
“You don’t?” I said as the plan smoothed itself out. “Hey tree man. You know where your origin is?”
“Why should I tell you?” He grumbled.
“Well, for starters, I’m your best shot for not turning back into…whatever it is you guys turn into. Secondly, I have a plan.”
“And what is this, ‘plan’?” He sneered.
“Well, I have an acquaintance, whom after this will most likely be a friend. Anyway, my friend just loves freaky beasts like you. All I have to do is have your crystal thingy and give it to her, and you’ll be okay, and you won’t have to go around scaring people’s moms and catching mine on accident. What do you say? No more worrying about counting to ten, no worries about disappearing? What do you say?”
“Why would you do that for me?”
“Well, to tell you the truth, I feel bad for you. Sides, it isn’t like you’ll be living with me. We’ll both be happy. You’ll be staying out of trouble and you won’t have to worry about me trying to pull out your branches and following you around town.”
He stood considering the offer.
“And that kid will finally be able to forget you and get on with his life without anyone dying in the process. It’s a triple win situation. Quadruple, if it works out like I imagine it will.”
“I took it back, I have it now.” He resigned with a shake of his herbal head.
“Really…well, if you had it, why didn’t you wander off and find somebody else?” I could feel a twitch coming on.
“It’s not as easy as that.” Boston whispered.
“Like hell it isn’t. Hand over the crystal. We’re going for a walk.”
The walk would have been shorter if I hadn’t realized I didn’t know where I was going and had to check on the people that almost crashed on the way.
“I don’t think we should use the phone booth books anymore. People tend to stare.” Boston commented as we found the right street and walked down it trying to find the house. “Bet you we’ll show up in the tabloids.”
“Probably not. Who’s going to believe an article about a tree, a floating cat, and a teenager trying to get direction from a phone book?”
“I didn’t know you knew the last name.”
“I picked it up at school. A last name like ‘Twinkle’ is kind of hard not to remember.” I said as I stopped before a two story, white house with a white picket fence. The grass was really clean and green, surprisingly, even more so since the next neighbors’ house was having trouble growing any. The windows were covered in blue curtains.
“Are you sure this is the place?”
“It can’t be.” I looked down at the slip of paper in my hands. “But this is the address. Let’s knock.”
None of us moved.
“Anytime now, fearless leader.” Boston said with his chin on my shoulder. I steeled myself and opened the little gate and walked down the well tended walk. The tree monster stayed behind, peering over the fence at us.
The door was white, just like the rest of the house. I knocked on the door.
I knocked four separate times before the door finally swung open and this thin, old black woman peered back at me. She was wearing an old sundress that looked faded and well worn. She was a few inches taller than me, and her eyes were almost black. There were earrings in both of her ears and she looked me up and down as her hair in the ponytail swished with the movement of her head. The hair was speckling gray, but still seemed to carry small traces of blonde in it.
“Can I help you?” Her voice didn’t crack at all, nor was it squeaky or high pitched. It was mellow, and her eyes were studying me very carefully.
“Hi…Is Nikki home?” I asked slowly, darting my eyes to the house and back to the woman.
“You a friend of hers?” The woman clicked her tongue on the top of her mouth as she looked me up and down.
“Sort of don’t cut it.” She prepared to shut the door.
“Wait! I just wanna talk to her for a sec!”
“About what?” The old woman asked aggressively.
“Grandma? What’s up?” Nikki’s head appeared over her grandmother’s shoulder. “Hey, it’s you! What brings you here? I’m not having a movie day today or anything…”
I squinted up at her. “Actually I wanted to talk to you.”
“Oh… It’s okay grams, I think I can take her. Dude, I love your backpack. Where’d you get a cat with glasses? Where do you shop?”
“I am NOT a backpack.” Boston hissed out before I could stop him.
Both of them stared at Boston, who quickly shrank behind my shoulder. I rubbed my eyebrow.
The grandmother puffed herself up. “What exactly…was THAT?!”
“He’s related to what I have to talk to Nikki about.” I stepped to the side so they could get a clear view of the plant just outside their gate.
“Oh good Lord.” The grandmother slammed the door in my face.
“That went well.” Boston chirped behind my shoulder.
“Please shut up Boston. Please.” I just stood dumbly staring at the door.
There was a hushed argument and suddenly the door swung back open and Nikki bounded out, in shorts and a t-shirt that said ‘I love blood’ and a picture of some horror villain. She stopped about half way to the gate, turned around ran back and grabbed me by the elbow and dragged me with her. She stopped five feet from the gate.
“What, in hell, is that thing?” She said, pointing to him.
“That would be a ...a…you know, people keep explaining it to me but I don’t think it’s quite sunken in yet.” I said back, a little off balance.
“He’s a stray belief in need of a home.” Boston sang.
“And what is that? Some demented furby?”
“I am NOT a furby or a backpack!” Boston sulked. “I’m a cat.”
“Cats don’t talk.”
“And you’re wearing clothes!”
“You expect me to run around in my birthday suit? I have more class than that!”
“You’re like a stuffed animal!”
“I am not!”
“Alright, ALRIGHT! Pipe down you two, let’s try not to make ourselves any more conspicuous than we already are.” I grumbled. “Now, look, Nikki, I have to ask you to do something for me. See, this monster here needs a place to stay and a person to be pals with. Would you be willing to take him with you?”
“What am I going to do with a giant plant?!”
“Make your own horror movies?” I suggested, and watched as her face portrayed many conflicting thoughts. First was fear, then confusion, anger, shock(I would have thought shock was first), and the it settled into a sort of mischievous gleam
“You know, this could have its benefits. Still don’t know where I’m going to put him.”
“Well, never you fear.” I pulled out the flat gold rectangle. “As far as I can tell, they adapt. Oh, and they aren’t pets, remember that.”
“I’m not allowed to have pets anyway, after the gerbil. Hey cool its gold!” She held up the gold crystal I gave her. “What is it…holy cow, he’s spazzing!”
I looked over at the tree, which was rapidly changing appearance. The brownish bark turned dark black and whorls and swirls rushes across the bark. The leaves turned a dark blue but the willowish appearance of the tree stayed the same. The eyes of the creature went from black to brown, and the teeth became more subtle. The snake like trunk became even more flexible, and the roots merged till there were only four.
“Whoa…” Nikki had her mouth wide open as the tree creature shrank down until it was only eight feet tall. “You weren’t kidding about adapting; this is just what I was imagining he should look like!”
“Good for you. Think it’ll be okay if you keep him with you?”
“Does it clean?” The grandmother’s voice commented behind us.
“Grams, can I keep him?! Please?! He’s so cool!”
“We had this talk after the gerbil, didn’t we?”
“Maybe he can keep the monsters that ate Elvis from getting out! Please! Please! I’ll love you forever and ever! Please!”
Wow, she took this even better than I thought she would. After she got over the shock, Nikki was more than happy to take him.
Her grandmother gave it some thought. “Well, if he helps against the cellar…”
“Alright! Right on! Hey, what’s your name?” She asked leaning over the fence.
“I don’t have one.”
“That won’t do…Manny! Short for the Man-Eating Plant of Kentucky!”
“Aren’t we in Kansas?” I asked, looking around.
“Right, Kansas, sorry. Hey, I got the perfect place for you upstairs, now that you’re like, smaller and everything. And this gold thing, I’ll make like a bracelet or something.”
“Well, our work here is done, I believe. Maybe we should run back home to see if Mom’s okay.” I said to Boston.
“Oh no, you’re staying here, I bet you got a whole story that I need to hear. I wanna know what exactly this guy is and where he comes from. Is he an alien?” Nikki asked catching my shoulder.
“Why don’t you all talk about it over lunch, I’ll make some peanut butter and jelly.” Her grandmother walked back into the house, muttering something under her breath.
“Are you sure it’s okay?” I asked.
Nikki pushed me to the house. “You just brought Manny-Come through the gate, Man, I’ll stow you upstairs-and you think that eating lunch with us isn’t okay? You’re weird shorty. Besides, Grams making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s her specialty. You can’t miss out on that. Come on!”