The high-class limousine speeding down the dusty, old country highway made an interesting contrast with its surroundings. Or rather, it would have, if anyone, aside from a few lazy cows, had been around to see it pass. There was also an interesting contrast between the passengers riding within the limo too. One was a woman with honey blonde hair tied in a bun, dressed in a stiff formal blouse and dress, the kind a secretary with a retro sense of fashion might wear. Her bright red lips were pursed over the Haruki Murakami book she was reading with focused intensity. On the other side of the limo was a woman with perfectly coiffed, ebony black hair, dressed in a tight and revealing business suit. The expensive jewelry she wore showed she like to display her wealth. Her shiny skin, as if every pore had been exfoliated and cleansed, showed she spent a lot of money to make herself look good. At the moment she was furiously tapping at an iPad.
"Sell, goddamn it, sell!" The dark haired woman yelled.
The blonde looked up from her book and sighed in exasperation. She rolled down the window, grabbed the other woman's iPad and threw it out of the car. She rolled up the window and went back to reading her book as if nothing had happened.
The dark haired woman was so stunned that she stared at her hands for a few moments as if the iPad was still there. Then she glared at the blonde and crossed her arms.
"You're fired, Daphne!" She fumed.
"Sure I am, Evie." The blonde replied skeptically, without looking up from her book. The blonde--Daphne--was employed by a powerful financial services company to make sure the black haired woman--Evie, that company's major earner--didn't suffer another stroke related to work stress. Daphne's primarily responsibility was to force Evie to go on vacation before her job sent her blood pressure off the charts. As long as Evie was healthy and making the company money, Daphne's job was secure.
Evie looked out the car window. "Where am I resting this time?" She asked tensely.
"Not at the usual spa." Daphne told her. "We can't pay them enough to take you after you nearly torched the place over a bad latte. A friend from Yale suggested a secluded inn in the country. He said it changed his life. That's where we're going."
"You went to Yale?" Evie said with surprise. "How did someone as smart as you end up babysitting a hedge fund manager?"
Daphne closed her book. "I studied literature so I could become a writer. My friends and family kept telling me I was crazy. They said I would never get a job and I would never make any money at it. I didn't listen. I was determined to follow my dream. After graduation, I tried selling a few stories but all of them were rejected. So I gave up on writing and got the highest paying job possible--babysitting you."
Evie barely stifled a derisive guffaw. Daphne shrugged and went back to her book. Evie started tapping away at her smart phone.
"Sell, goddam it!" Evie yelled. "Sell!"
After several more hours of driving, the limo finally arrived at the inn, a rambling Tudor mansion of several stories. Daphne and Evie got out while their driver unloaded their luggage. As they waited, a BMW sports car tore up, kicking up some gravel before coming to a stop. A handsome man in an expensive suit stepped out and immediately stomped into the inn.
"Nice guy." Daphne said sarcastically.
"And easy on the eyes." Evie added, licking her lips.
"Don't even go there." Daphne warned. "Lets check in."
Daphne and Evie, driver in tow carrying their bags, entered the inn. The man who had gone in before them was talking with an older woman with long gray hair, dressed in a bland full length dress, standing behind a check-in counter. He spoke to her in a harsh voice and then marched off, room key in hand. Daphne took his place in front of the counter to check in.
"Hi. Party of two from Toland Investments." Daphne said in introduction.
The woman nodded and produced two keys.
"So, how big is the Jacuzzi in my room?" Evie asked. "I need to relax after that long car ride."
"There is no Jacuzzi." The woman told her.
"What about the spa?" Evie asked
"There is no spa." The woman replied.
"Sauna? Pool?" Evie quizzed.
The woman shook her head.
"Then how the hell am I supposed to relax?" Evie cried.
"All you need is in the garden. Out back." The woman said.
"What are we supposed to do for entertainment? Do you have a yoga class at least?" Evie asked.
"All you need is in the garden." The woman replied again.
"You've got to be kidding me!" Evie yelled at Daphne. "This was supposed to be a relaxing retreat. We might as well be camping and I hate camping! Hate it, hate it, HATE IT!!! My blood pressure is skyrocketing! Fix this now, you cunt!"
Daphne's face turned red. She was getting angry herself. She leaned close to the clerk and said tensely, "When I called to make reservations, I made it quite clear there were certain requirements that had to be met..."
"All you NEED is in the garden." The woman interrupted.
"Well this is unacceptable..." Evie said angrily.
"Yes, yes, I know it is." Daphne interjected. "But unless you want to spend all night driving back to the city, I suggest we make the best of this place for now. Let's stay the night and go somewhere nicer and better tomorrow."
Evie nodded jerkily as she strove to contain her anger.
"We'll take our rooms for tonight." Daphne told the woman. "Just tonight!"
The clerk slid the two keys across the counter.
Daphne and Evie found their bedrooms upstairs, each lavishly furnished with antiques and comfortable poster beds. Evie looked out her window to see the BMW guy who had preceded them walking into the garden behind the inn.
"Maybe he can make me more relaxed." Evie mused, deciding make the best of this hell hole with a one night stand. She left her room, hurried downstairs and out of the inn to catch up with BMW guy.
Evie swung open the gate to the garden's entrance and passed into its sculpted landscape. She made quick steps over the sandy walkway, past plants both familiar and strange, laid out in orderly fashion or grown chaotically as nature willed. There were fountains and gazebos and sub-gardens dedicated to certain plants, shrubs cut to look like animals, pillars covered with ivy and flowers. It was scenery that would have captured the attention of any casual visitor but Evie was oblivious to the world around her. There was only one thing that she had on her mind--screwing that BMW guy.
The deeper she got into the garden, the stranger the plants became. They were larger, more exaggerated, almost cartoonish versions of their forms. A bush bloomed with purple roses the size of a fist. The limbs of trees ached with strange unnamable fruit. There were lilies as tall as a person. Evie took no notice, wondering where that man had gotten to. She should have caught up to him by now.
Suddenly, there was a masculine cry of surprise down a garden path. Evie assumed BMW guy must have had an accident. Maybe he had tripped and fallen. She decided to play his savior and hoped that he would be very, very grateful in all the right ways. She hurried down the path in the direction of the voice. Turning the corner around a large hedge, Evie saw BMW guy not far away, taking labored steps as if he were struggling through a thick mud. Evie squealed in delight as she hurried toward him. All was going according to her plan.
Or was it? The closer she got to the man, the weirder he started to look. Something was happening to him! His body was bulging and throbbing as if his flesh and muscles were inflating and breaking loose from his bones. The clothes he wore began to strain against the growing mass and finally surrendered to the pressure by tearing into shreds. Seeing Evie, the man reached his distorted arms out to her, as if in plea to save him from the torture from his own body. The limbs stretched out before him beyond their normal length, his fingers bending awkwardly like thin twigs as they extended outward. His increasingly bulbous, pulsating flesh oozed in elephantine flaps, covering his legs like melting wax flowing down a candle, leaving him standing stuck in tall mound of viscous skin. Lifting his arms above his head, he moved his lips as if to say something to Evie, but all that came out was an inhuman bellow. His shoulders suddenly began to creep upwards, building mass over his head and taking his still growing, elongated arms with them, fixing his form in a perpetual reach for the sky. The new pliability of his body was lost in an instant as his skin became hard and cut by narrow grooves and ridges as if it had been desiccated. His flesh had long lost its healthy pinkness and taken on a cast of mottled gray. Thin branches shot out of his now indiscernible arms, each grew buds from which sprung leaves of dark green. Large limbs emerged and sprung out of his bizarrely stretched torso, joining his former arms in decoration with lush foliage. Nearly all the man's movement ceased as his former skin sealed him in a prison of bark. All that remained recognizable of his former humanity were traces of his face, fixed in a knot on the tree he had become, his eyes darting and his lips moving to convey an inaudible whisper.
Evie was bent over in terror before the tree-man, trying to find the voice to scream. Finally, she tore off down a path in panic, not knowing which way she was headed but determined to get as far away as should could from him. Her flight was cut short as she suddenly fell to the ground. She had broken a heel. Pain screamed from her scraped palms and knees. Her twisted ankle throbbed in protest.
The tumble brought Evie back to rationality and to the bitter recognition that she didn't know where she was in the garden and, more importantly, how to get out.
"Oh, poor dear. Let me help you up." A feminine voice said, intruding on her frustration and misery.
"Thanks." Evie said relieved, figuring she had been saved by somebody from the inn. She reached for what she thought was a hand held out to her. When she took it, she realized ... it wasn't a hand! It was a large, long, flat bract belonging to a flower that was bending over her. But it was not just a flower--above the stem was the torso of a voluptuous female form of green flesh. Around a human face, beaming with a child-like smile, was fixed a halo of large, orange petals. While the creature's shoulders were human like, her arms trailed off into the flowery bract that Evie was holding.
"What the hell are you!?" Evie cried, pulling her hand away from the flower woman.
The stems of other flowers nearby leaned back to reveal human faces framed with petals. They laughed merrily at the increasingly distraught Evie. Evie got to her feet and limped backwards, wanting to know if the flower people were rooted to the ground and stationary or could they run after her. Before she could react, leafy bract arms wrapped around her wrists and ankles. She had accidentally walked into a bed of flower women behind her and they were now holding her prisoner. Evie struggled to free herself but the flower women's appendages held her arms and legs taut and almost unmovable. They giggled at her fruitless struggle.
"What do you want with me!?" Evie demanded.
"We want you to meet our mother, the Garden Mother." The flower women tittered in unison.
"What? Who?" Evie sputtered.
The ground in front of Evie suddenly erupted. A figure emerged from the ground, leaving the earth like a classical deity coming ashore on a tidal surf. The being was a strange combination of human and plant. She was a nubile woman with pre-Raphaelite curvaceousness and deepness of breast. Roots of dark serpentine green hugged her skin. Her hair was a tangle of flowering vines and leaves.
The plant woman approached the bound Evie who struggled all the more as she got closer. The plants that held her looked at the newcomer lovingly. "The Garden Mother." They whispered in awe.
The Garden Mother's green irises peered intently into Evie's face who tried to look away, trying to avoid all eye contact.
"Such pain." The Garden Mother said after her inspection and she stroked Evie's cheek, her scent of earth and cut grass filling Evie's nostrils.
"Surrender your pain to me." The Garden Mother said in a whispered breath. She clasped Evie's head in her hands and brought their lips together. Evie could not stop their mouths from locking and she tasted the grainy, harsh taste of earth. At first, she wanted to throw up, but the more she tasted the Mother, the more her flavor changed, to something sweet and seductive. She sucked what she thought was a tongue. Whatever it was, it melted and went down her throat like honey and immediately entered her veins, tantilizing her blood and making her vessels sing with a pleasing hum.
The Garden Mother released Evie from her lip lock to command, "Free yourself."
Though the order was cryptic, Evie understood what she meant. The flower girls released Evie and she stood her ground in a daze, slipping off her business suit coat, sliding off her skirt, undoing her bra, and taking off her panties so that her beautiful, toned, olive skinned body was completely naked before the Mother. Evie had no idea why she obeyed. She just did. As she stood there, she hinted to herself that she could run, she could try to escape, but she couldn't get the will to. She just stayed in place, waiting for the Mother to tell her what to do next.
"Drink of me." The Mother told her.
Evie tried to stop herself but a compulsion germinated within her, taking control of her mind and body.
"No ... please no..." Evie murmured as she leaned down to kiss one of the Garden Mother's hefty breasts. A drip of sticky sap ushered forth from and fell on Evie's tongue. Its taste was wooden but the effect was like wine and made her swoon with tingling. She suckled like a baby, initiating a letdown reflex, and she drank more and more, unable to stop, even as she sensed it was beginning to have some effect on her body. Her limbs were becoming stiff and more inflexible. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see her skin becoming rough and hard. Knobby callouses grew where once she had been smooth and blemish-less. Her only response was to release the Garden Mother's breast and fall to her knees, inhaling the dark earthy scent of that strange woman's body, until her lips found the mossy turf between the Mother's thighs. Evie inhaled and drank the cool wetness she found there.
The Garden Mother said nothing as Evie licked her, only telling of her pleasure through soft sighs as light as a spring breeze.
As Evie held the Garden Mother's waist and tongued her, soft, velvety flaps grew around her neck, surrounding her head like a bonnet. Evie knew what she had only guessed up to now--she was becoming one of the Garden Mother's plants. Her transformation was well under way and she was unable to stop it. A sappy tear oozed down her cheek as the only protest to her fate.
The Garden Mother's groans grew higher and faster as Evie took her toward release and the human-plant hybrid shuddered when the moment came. The Garden Mother looked down upon Evie and told her. "Release your pain."
In an instant, Evie shot up, fully revealing what she had become. Instead of feet, she now had roots sunk into the ground. Her legs had fused together in a single woody stalk. Above the waist she was still human but her flesh, always tan, had darkened into an unnatural brown, and was hard as bark. Snow white petals surrounded her face, which was the same color, except for a circular red mark on her lips. That mark, together with her coal black irises, gave her a face resembling a kabuki actress. Evie threw out her arms to show all traces of their humanity had disappeared below the elbow. Instead of forearms and hands she had bush-like branches. Her outstretched fingers of twigs bent crookedly and bloomed with white roses. What once been her hands became like flower bouquets. Small thorned branches squirmed forth from some of the the bumpy callouses about her body and bloomed with smaller white roses.
Evie moved stiffly to see her changed body, whimpering softly at what she had become.
"Please! Change me back!" She cried in thin weak piping high voice.
The plea was in vain. The Garden Mother stepped back and sank into the ground as if it were water.
Evie's new roots drew energizing nutrients from the sod beneath her, giving her an unwanted feeling of elation.
"I can 't believe this is happening to me!" She moaned. "I'm ... I'm ... part plant ... a bush."
Something else was surging into her with the sustenance she drew from the ground. It was the consciousness of the Garden Mother who had transformed her. The growing alien presence within Evie made her understand that the humanoid that she had embraced and suckled was just a manifestation of the full garden all around her. The Garden Mother was the entire garden and the people she took and remade became a part of her as would Evie.
"Get out of my head!" Evie protested. "I'll never be part of you!"
But the entity took no notice of Evie and continued filling her mind, bonding with her, blending with her, becoming one with her. Evie felt her perceptions and conceptions about herself changing with as much ease as her body had been remolded. Summoning all the strength of will she could, Evie struggled to maintain her sense of human identity.
"I'm Evie Hall. I am a hedge fund manager at the Toland Corporation. I had black hair and a great body before I got turned into a fucking plant. I was born on September 7th. My parents are Steve and Dawn Hall. I have a sister named Ruth..."
It was a futile effort. As she said the phrases, their meaning had less and less relevance to her existence. They were like the text of a book she had read long ago but had since mostly forgotten.
Evie's voice began to falter as did her concentration. "I am ... Evie Ha ... Evie..."
More and more, Evie saw herself as part of the garden. The vision of her former self was harder and harder to hold on to.
"I am Ev..." She sputtered. "I'm ... I'm ... a plant..."
The admission made her resistance crumple and she conceded what she was, in form and spirit. Evie's sense of self gave in to the presence of the garden within her. She gave away her individuality and saw herself now as a part of the landscape all around her.
"I'm a plant. I'm a rose bush ... I'm a rose bush of the garden." The rose bush said. Somehow the statement was comforting. Rose bushes were pretty, so she was pretty. Roses were fragrant and she had sweet fragrance in abundance. Roses were the most prized of all flowers, so she was garden royalty.
"I am a rose bush of the garden!" She said with enthusiasm.
Evie, the rose bush was now happy and grateful to be as she was. She threw back her petals and drank in the sun, showing off her glorious blooming flowers.
Back at the inn, Daphne had fallen into a deep sleep. She woke up after a few hours and picked up her phone to check the time. It was late afternoon. She had better get Evie fed because she became murderous when her blood sugar was low.
After straightening her clothes, disheveled from her sleep, she went over to Evie's room. Seeing the door was ajar, she pushed it open.
"Evie, time to eat." Daphne called. There was no response. Daphne went inside and looked around, but Evie was nowhere to be found.