Deputy Johnson laid next to his wife later that night. He had showered, which was what usually sent him off to sleep, but his mind was racing. ’Chief Schaefer told us to rope off around the Professor’s house.’ He thought, ’Why?’
He laid in bed, tossing and turning until finally his wife said, “Go sleep on the couch, you’re keeping me up.” He stood up and got dressed, putting on gray sweat pants and a gray pull over hoodie. He grabbed his heavy black police flashlight, his keys and took a drive.
Back at the Professor’s house, he got out of his car. The street light was burned out, so it was dark. The sky was black, except for the stars, and he put his bright headlights on to illuminate the street. The slut was yelling for someone to shut up. The way her words sounded, he assumed she was drunk. The Professor’s house was dark; Heather’s house had lights on inside.
He slowly looked everything over and things looked fine. Across the street, Bill and Karen’s motion sensor light lit up as he neared. The ivy had grown around the light, putting a greenish hue to it. He tried to remember if the ivy had been there last week when they found the Professor, but he wasn’t sure.
He saw that Bill was sleeping on his front porch, the TV was on inside his house. Sitting out there in the dark, Bill looked like hell, eyes sunken and white as a ghost. The ivy covered the front porch. Deputy Johnson’s tennis shoes crunched the plants as he walked. Out of the corners of his eyes, he kept thinking he saw movement, but every time he looked, it would just be the swaying of the vines. He said Bill’s name as he approached. “Bill, what are you doing out here? You okay, you look sick.” Bill didn’t respond. His skin grey, the vines were growing up his chair. It looked almost like they were growing inside his pants.
He was sitting on an old-fashioned lawn chair, as his walker sat next to him. The green tennis balls were barely visible under the dark green. Bill’s head was slouched backward. Behind him, the TV sounded like it was an episode of, “The Golden Girls”. The ivy partially covered the windows. He took his long black flashlight and poked Bill’s shoulder, “You alright, Bill? Talk to me.” When he poked Bill’s chest, it started what looked like a downward avalanche. Bills head fell straight down to his lap as his chest sunk inward. The vines pulled what was left of him in all different directions. Deputy Johnson heard a loud tearing sound, but he was pretty sure that was Bill’s clothing, at least he hoped it was.
When the ivy had an abundance of food, it became stronger. Two bodies, six squirrels, a raccoon and a bunch of grasshoppers made it pretty strong. The septic tank helped as well. There was also what it was finding in the sewers, and, just moments ago, it spread into the river halfway through town.
Deputy Johnson said, “Jesus Christ,” as he backed away. “That’s what the Chief was talking about. I got to call…” He stopped talking, phone in hand as he turned. Around him on the deck was a wall of ivy. It was so thick he couldn’t see the stars anymore. He shined his flashlight back and forth. The way he had come was now blocked. The wall slowly got smaller as it advanced toward him and the plants he was standing on began to move and crawl up his legs.
He stomped them down. He saw yellow spots through Bill’s window where the ivy wasn’t as thick. He tried to just burst through the lower screen part of the window, but hit the glass as well. As he landed, he rolled into the living room and stood up, brushing glass and ivy off himself. He saw the TV. Next to that on the couch, he saw Karen standing up, naked with holes all over her body. He could see bone in places. Vines hanging down from the ceiling were holding her up, as if she was a puppet.
Deputy Johnson had seen the movie, “The Blair Witch Project” when he was younger. He had also seen part two and the faux documentary and everything afterward. It was that first one that scared Johnson. That guy in the basement facing the wall and the girl yelling, “Mike!” at the top of her lungs, scared him beyond belief. He hadn’t slept for three days. He decided at that moment, when the vines dropped Karen to the floor and started reaching towards him that he would rather be in the Blair Witch’s basement.
He backed away from the living room and entered the kitchen, where he saw the vines had opened the refrigerator and were moving all around in there. The sight of a vine opening an orange Tupperware container and attaching itself to the leftover Hamburger Helper drove him to cry out in a crazy laugh. He threw his flashlight at it and said, “I’m out”.
He ran out into the garage, the vines scuttling on the floor after him. One of Bill’s hobbies had been precision drilling. If you needed something drilled, he could do it, and was good at it too. In his garage, he had a giant top-heavy drill press, about 200lbs. Deputy Johnson found that drill press in the dark, and when his face connected with it, he tipped it over, shattering his nose in the process. Both the drill press and the deputy fell to the floor. In the dark, a pool of blood began to grow as his head rested on the cement floor. When the vines got there, the pool of blood began to dissipate. The vines found Deputy Johnson’s broken nose quickly and crawled inside.
An hour later, he woke up in the living room. He heard Blanche lecturing Rose and imploring her to not be stupid. He had always liked “The Golden Girls”. There was something in his nose, and on his face. He fought to sit up, but was being held down by criss crossing vines. When he lost that fight, he then fought to stay awake, but he wasn’t for long.
Deputy Primus wasn’t in the mood for Deputy Johnson to be sick the following day, or to not show up. “Not today,” she said to herself. He was an hour late. She called the state and asked if she could get two highway patrolmen for the day. They said she could get one. When he pulled into town, he immediately started ticketing people. When local police get used to the people in town, they sort of ignore them after a while; sometimes it takes an outsider to see a crime. Deputy Primus called Johnson’s wife to find out where he was. His wife said he’d been gone since last night, and then added, “If you find him, tell him we need milk.”
Deputy Primus left the station and began policing Melrose. She had a cousin named Josh who she hadn’t spoken to in a long time. She thought he was an idiot. When they were younger and still on speaking terms he was known as the family moron.
Josh lived directly behind Bill and Karen’s house. Many years ago, because of Josh’s mother’s inability to keep her yard clean, Bill had planted numerous lilac bushes between them in order to not have to look at her damn dirty yard. A few months ago, Josh’s mother had died of lung cancer and he was the beneficiary of a $30,000 life insurance payment.
Josh had collected the life insurance and gone to town-- new TV, speaker system, etc. He had collected every piece of Rick and Morty merchandise he could buy. He also bought a large supply of cocaine and marijuana. On the first floor past the front door is covered in garbage like Burger King wrappers, an old egg carton, and, past the entry way, there is an opened Miracle Whip container on the dirty kitchen counter, the once white mixture now yellow. The sink is full of dirty dishes. The living room is piled high with pizza boxes, the TV is on and loud. Next to it is a dirty footprint on the white wall.
Upstairs, Josh’s bed doesn’t have any sheets; he is in the bathroom. There is a thick layer of clothes on the floor. His pants are down, he is sitting on the toilet. After being fueled awake for five days straight with cocaine, he had finally passed out 17 hours ago when he had found the need to take a crap. Drool on his Pickle Rick t-shirt, Josh opened his eyes.
They were bloodshot and skin was a pale color. He licked his lips. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was the mold in his pink shower. He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees and cradled his head. ’Man, oh man, am I thirsty,’ he thought. He reached over to his sink and grabbed a tiny glass and filled it with water. He did this 15 times. His belly now bloated, he tried to stand up. He felt weak. He looked at his fingers and thought he was skinnier than he remembered.
Putting both hands on the toilet seat, he pushed but could not get to his feet. He was stuck firmly on the toilet. Spreading his legs, he looked down into the toilet. Growing up into his butt hole were a bunch of vines. He reached down and tried to pull them out. The skin on his hands where he touched the vines burned immediately. It was painful, a strange pain, ’Like I’m pulling on my guts,’ he thought.
Luckily, he had had the foresight to have brought his cocaine and marijuana in the bathroom with him. He packed his glass pipe with the green and lit it. This may not have been what you would have done, but, when YOU have vines growing up into your butt, then you can decide what to do about it. Judge not, lest ye be judged.
Next door to Josh’s house was Jessica. Her husband was at work. She had two little kids, one still in diapers, one sometimes used the toilet. She was on the phone; her baby girl was in her high chair, spreading food all over her face, occasionally getting some in her mouth. Her little guy was staggering around the kitchen, which was a mess. Not dirty, just messy. Having little kids kind’ve makes it inevitable.
As the little guy walked around, she confided to her sister, “I get the urge to just leave, leave him. I would never do it, but sometimes I think about it.” The little guy had just finished his lunch. There was an oven pan mostly full of chicken nuggets on the table; when she was done talking to her sister, she would eat some. In the living room the TV played “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”.
The little guy kept walking to the opened basement door, then he would laugh. She saw this out of the corner of her eye. He did it maybe five times before she paid attention. He walked to the table, grabbed a chicken nugget, walked to the basement door and threw a nugget down and laughed. Still, on the phone with her sister, she planned to scold him with a spanking, but she wanted to catch him in the act the next time he did it.
Acting like she didn’t see him grab another, she followed him. He was not wearing a shirt, just shorts. Halfway to the basement door, she kept talking to her sister. “Mom always did that. It was like a habit for her. I can’t believe…”, she stopped talking. When her son tossed the nugget onto the first step, leaves reached for it and pulled it down into the dark and, the little guy laughed. Her sister asked, “What’s the matter, you just stopped talking?” She turned on the basement light and saw a wall of green vines with a reddish tint to them. They had covered every inch of her basement stairs. When they were exposed by the light, they spread into the kitchen. She picked her little guy up just before they touched his feet, he dangled over the floor as she ran. Her daughter was strapped into her high chair. She pulled the entire chair outside and literally threw them in the car and attempted to get out of town. She didn’t get far. Much later, talking about it with her sister, she would be told she screamed the entire time. Her sister nearly had a heart attack when the phones were cut mid-scream. From her little house in Florida she tried to call her back at least 50 times.
Out on the Sauk River, in a kayak, Jessie cast his fishing pole. Chief Schaefer’s office was to his right, near a large sewer hole on a hill. Jessie didn’t really pay it any mind. That day was his only day off. Before he hit the river, he had a fight with his wife, ’That bitch wouldn’t back off,’’ he thought. He was hoping for sunfish. As a back-up, he would accept muskies, but never northerns. That Y-bone was too hard to cut out of the meat.
Speaking of butts, his was cold from the water, but the sun was warm. He cast his line out for the hundredth time but, nothing was biting, not even a nibble. He started to hear things from the sewer, talking, or was it shouting? “You little bastard” or “Straight to the orphanage.”
It was none of his business what they were fighting about, but with no fish biting, it did pique his curiosity. Pulling in his fishing line, he grabbed his paddle and went a little closer to the sewer. After not hearing anything for a while, he grabbed his paddle when he heard, “Right into foster care.” Hanging out of the sewer was what looked like a waterfall of vines hanging down into the water. He put his hands onto the plants and looked back into the dark. He could still hear it if he leaned closer, the vines were so thick, it looked like a carpet of them. His fishing gloves protected his hands.
It seemed that the closer he got, the quieter the fighting got, causing him to get even closer. As he immersed himself in the fight, the vines wrapped around his kayak before he even noticed.
Across the river in the yard of the big red brick house, a little boy named Brock was shooting at a paper plate lodged on a wooden fence with his BB gun. He had drawn a bullseye with a red Sharpie. He saw a guy struggling in his little boat, then he heard screaming. He ran to the house and told his mother. When she ran with him to look, the man was gone. All that was left was an overturned kayak. She dialed 911, but her phone didn’t work. NO SERVICE.
Jessie exploded up from underwater. he had been under for almost two minutes. He coughed as he swam. “Those damn weeds were moving on their own.” he said to no one. As he made his way to shore, a lady with her kid ran up to him. He held up his gloved hand and said, “Get back! Get back!” They stopped in their tracks. “There’s something in the water. It tried to grab me.” As he said this, black looking helicopters flew in above them, and they all looked up.
Jason Black had nine emergency radio’s, two satellite phones, 16 emergency kits and four hideouts scattered throughout his land, stretching 10 miles upstream. When the helicopters flew in, he and his son disappeared into the woods. To help fight the boredom, Jason watched his son fish. He could only fish under tree cover. He was attempting to contact his wife. He figured they wouldn’t let her near Melrose. Whatever his son was sick with was what the government wanted. He wasn’t stupid. His cell phone still wasn’t working. “This is Black Bear looking for his female. Over.” Usually, he would receive a joke reply or someone would hassle him, but today his radio remained quiet.
Greg was standing waist-deep in the river, Jason didn’t like how pale he looked. He cast his line out perfectly. Jason remembered showing Greg one time how to cast; that was all he needed. The Sauk River got skinny in parts. He was about to try the radio again when his son said, “Dad, the fish are leaving.” He walked down to the river and looked. There were ripples as the fish swam past Greg upriver. There were also turtles. Jason had never seen anything like it before. His parents had told him of a volcanic explosion that once caused fish to swim like this upstream as they escaped the sulfur from the volcano. He grabbed Greg by the arm and jerked him out of the water. Whatever the fish were escaping, it wasn’t getting his son. In the woods, he heard someone talking on a radio. “Closing in on him now”. Followed by, “Roger”.
Josh had smoked a bowl, then he advanced to his cocaine. Using his razor blade, he cut up three lines, snorting them. Midway through the third line, it dawned on him to use the blade to cut the plants growing up into his butt. It was quick work. Pulling on the plants had hurt so badly, he gave up quickly. Cutting them, at least he was able to stand up and flex his arms. The cut plants receded back into the toilet of hell. “From whence they came.” he said. Looking in the mirror, he saw how bad he looked. Worse than a hangover, he looked almost green.
His scatterbrain immediately started thinking about Burger King burgers. Pulling his pants up, he decided food was more important than anything. Down the stairs, he heard someone talking on a radio. In his living room, the TV was blaring a Rick and Morty DVD. “Who the hell is in my house?” he said walking down. Amongst the garbage wrappers and the filth were six soldiers, all were wearing green rubber gloves and face masks. When they saw him they started screaming at him to get on the floor.
Jessica had almost made it to the I-94 highway when she saw it was blocked off by big green military vehicles. She thought she might be in trouble because, in her haste, she had been locking her kids in their car seats while she drove. As it turned out, those were the least of her worries. There were cars parked, eight in a line, her car made nine. The other people that had been driving were ordered to get out of their cars and get face down on the ground. The two soldiers who told her to get out were visibly scared, one of them was shaking. She did as she was told.
They told her to get on a bus. She turned to grab her kids. The soldiers thought she was trying to escape and it got heated. When the kids started crying, they let her get them, which was a good thing. Otherwise, she would’ve fought to keep them. Her phone was confiscated.
As they were bussed across town, she saw people were being ordered out of their houses. Above her neighborhood hovered three helicopters. They circled each other. There was a thick black smoke rising; she hoped her house would be spared. ’Then again’, she thought, ’with those creepy plants in the basement, I’m not going back.’
On the outskirts of the west side of town, there were brand new giant light brown warehouses built for the turkey plant. Jessica and the other people on the bus were ordered out of the bus at gunpoint when they arrived. Cots had been set up inside, she picked one and let her kids crawl around on it. There was a man sitting next to her that didn’t look well. His red-buttoned work shirt said Big Roy’s Heating and Plumbing. She moved away from him. The warehouse filled up quickly. Some of the newcomers were feisty. They didn’t like being ordered around.
A lady with a clipboard in a yellow hazmat suit came out from behind a cloth barrier. One of the soldiers next to her had a bullhorn and thick green rubber gloves. “Alright, listen up, everybody. I know you guys are confused. We need to conduct some blood work. We will be doing this as quickly as possible. This blood work is for you benefit.”
One of the men being pushed into the warehouse screamed, “This is bullshit! I’m an American citizen.”
In a top floor office that was dark, Tony stood behind the General. Both were facing a bevy of monitors. The one they were the most fascinated with was a woman covered in ivy attempting to crawl around on the floor, the green ivy dragging behind her. She was dying. The General turned to Tony. “Suggestions?”
Tony had been waiting, “I have a soft spot. Get the women and children separated, get them tested first.” The General nodded, “You have a brand new baby girl, don’t you? Very well. Plus, I don’t want another New Mexico if we can avoid it.” Although Tony had no idea what he was talking about, he figured it wasn’t good. As he left the room the General said, “There was a time when we would just kill everyone. Man alive, how things have changed”.
At any given time the General was in constant contact with 8 to 15 people, be it through radio, satellite or cell phone. As Tony returned to his post, the General was on the radio, “What do you mean hog-tied?”
The man on the other end spoke, “Sir, six soldiers were found hogtied. Their weapons were taken, they were in the woods west of Melrose, upstream the Sauk River.”
The General was frustrated. “I thought you guys were goddamn Green Berets?”
“Sir, we are. I don’t know if this guy is Special Op’s or what, but we can’t track him. They only found him by accident; said he has a kid with him.”
The General thought for a moment, “Well, you know about him now. Step up parameter’s, patrol watch, send in more men, we need everyone accounted for. Unless you want me to bring the Rangers in here? Is that what you want? Taking orders from a Ranger?”
The man on the other end said quick and loud, “No Sir!”