Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Weeding – Part Two

Read Part One


Part Two

When Jacob was a little boy, he would make up stories in his head, all of which centred around a large oak tree at the bottom of the garden. He used to say there was a beautiful woman who lived deep inside the tree’s hollow trunk, and that she would come out and play when nobody else was looking.

I remember the first time he told me about her. He ran back into the house, tugging at my skirt as I washed the dishes and burst into an excited ramble about his new friend in the tree.

Children are always making up imaginary friends, and he was only four at the time, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.

He would write her letters with his crayons, and take her food from the kitchen cupboards every few days. As time went on, his gestures of devotion to his friend began to concern me. He would steal my jewellery and leave it in the trunk for her. He would throw tantrums when bedtime came and he could no longer play in the garden. He even told me once that the woman would “punish” me for not letting him play.

I took him to doctors and to therapists and all of them told me that he’d grow out of it. They all seemed to have the same, weary, withering look, as if I was being ridiculous.

In a sense, they were right. He did grow out of it, for the most part. As time went on, he stopped taking her gifts and once he hit his teens, he stopped mentioning her altogether. He was always fond of the tree, but we were sure that as he grew up, he’d stopped believing in his friend.

As time went on, I forgot the strangeness of it all and it just became silly, childish stories but I think, perhaps, I want to cut down that tree. It peers at me through the window, knowing the part that it played in all this, and I can’t bear it.

Sometimes it seems that the tree grows, towering over the house and waving its branches in my direction, mocking me. The leaves flourish and flex over the endless, empty space, and sometimes, it seems the other plants shrink back into the shadows to avoid it. All except the roses that surround the tree, they stare up at me too, with an almost knowing smirk.

I know that I sound crazy. You don’t need to tell me that, I already know, and I’m not sure how much of this is real, and how much is grief, but I just know that nothing has ever been right with my boy. I couldn’t see it before. I didn’t want to, but now, I have no choice.

I waited around for the girls from The Garden to arrive at the campus, but they never came. It was like they knew I was waiting and so decided not to risk a run in with me. I can understand that, but I can’t forgive them for the part they’ve played.

It turns out, it’s all much bigger than I thought.

My Son was taken by this cult. I know that. That is bad enough, but it’s all so much worse than I feared. It’s all been going on, right under my nose and I didn’t notice it at all.

What kind of a Mother am I? How could I never see the way that this fate followed my boy? This has been hiding, just out of sight for his whole life and I never truly understood it until now.

Last night, I saw my Son for the first time in weeks.

I was in the kitchen, fixing my seventh coffee of the day as the clock struck midnight. I couldn’t sleep, so I was settling in for a long night of trawling the web for any sign of my Son. It was often unsuccessful but I had to try something. I’d search his name on social media, or look at photos in our local area that were posted online to see if I could spot him somewhere in the background. It was long, and fruitless, but it felt better than going to bed.

As I filled the kettle, my eyes were drawn out the window, to the tree that Jacob spent his childhood fascinated with, and that’s when I saw him. Jacob was perched on a branch, smiling and talking, seemingly to the empty garden. He looked healthy and happy, but something about the image unsettled me. He chatted away to himself, with a big grin, rocking back and forth on the branch all alone in the quiet night.

I went out through the back door and slowly approached the tree, seemingly unnoticed by him as I got closer. I pulled my dressing gown a little tighter around my body as a cool wind swept through the garden and called out to him.


I reached my hand up to him as I got closer to the tree, and he stared down at me. He looked puzzled, as if he didn’t expect me to be there, a bizarre, almost lost look was on his face, and he just stared back as I kept my hand out to him.

“Come inside Jacob.” I whispered, shivering from the cold and motioning with my eyes for him to get down from the tree. “Baby, it’s too cold to be outside without your coat.” He shook his head with a wide smile, and there was a rustle in the bushes behind him.

We were not alone.

An arm peeked out from behind the leaves of the bushes, followed by another as a young boy crawled out onto the grass, his body low to the ground and his eyes, dark, soulless and frantic. He glanced at me and then up at Jacob with a snarl. The almost feral nature of his behaviour set me on edge but I just focused my eyes on my Son, holding my hand out and pleading for him to come down to safety.

“Come inside now, Jacob.” He didn’t look at me as I spoke, he just seemed to look past me, his eyes lost in a faraway, fanciful stare, almost like he was dreaming.

The strange boy on the ground slinked around the tree on his hands and knees, hissing over at me and then looking to Jacob for approval. The boy looked between us again, growling as his eyes fell upon me and Jacob nodded.

“She chose me, Mother.” He whispered, his eyes suddenly turning to me, the smile on his face falling from view as he glared down from the tree in my direction. “It was always me.” There was another rustle in the bushes as a second small boy crawled from behind the leaves, his head low to the ground, twitching slightly with every move he made. “She was always waiting for me.” There was more rustling, now coming from all sides as arms and legs burst from the bushes all around the garden.

“Jacob, you have to come inside now.” I couldn’t hide the fear from my voice as I watched strangers gather beneath the tree my Son stared down from.

Part of me, a very small part felt like I should run. Under the tree was a crowd of crouched people, the young boys, hissing and staring, and then four or five more people who looked a little older, their faces shrouded by darkness.

“I have to be with her Mother.” His voice was so cold, and even though I could see clearly that he was my Son, as the seconds slipped by, it felt like he was slipping away from me. “There was never any other way.” As he spoke, my eyes were drawn to hands that slowly slinked across his shoulders. The gathered crowd began to drone, a long, collective, chilling moan into the air as they raised their heads. “I’ll be safe in the higher garden.” The crowd began to advance on me, and I stumbled back, falling down onto the soft grass as they stepped closer, the drone continuing to fill the otherwise quiet night.

“I’ll take care of Jacob now, Mrs Hopkins.” A lone female voice soared above the constant drone of the crowd, seeming to come from everywhere, all at once. “He’ll be safe with me.” I gaped in horror up at the tree, past the crowd to my Son, and the woman that was now snaked around him. She wore a smile that made me certain that she was pure evil, her arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders and chest as she looked back at me. “Get her.”

The crowd launched themselves at me, holding me down against the ground, their faces a blur, except for the same sinister smile of their leader. I tried to push them away, desperate to reach my Son, but they overpowered me, forcing me back down to the grass.

“Please don’t hurt my Son.” I cried, tears springing from my eyes as they pinned me down, one of them holding my head still as the woman kept her eyes on me.

She shook her head, laughing a little as she flicked one of her wrists lazily in my direction. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Roses began springing from the ground, from shoots to buds to full bloom in an instant. The crowd continued to moan and hiss as she gripped Jacob tightly. He seemed so calm, gazing down at me with a serene smile.

“He’s just helping the flowers to grow.” Her voice was soft but seemed to echo around the garden as she tenderly stroked his shoulders, her wicked smile spread wide across her face.

I’d always imagined that his stories about the woman in the tree were just stories, but now, I know that they were true. She had always been there, at the bottom of the back garden, hiding in plain sight and hunting my Son.

The crowd held me down but turned their heads to her, falling silent as she placed her head gently on Jacob’s shoulder. He still smiled, so peaceful in her arms, the way he used to be as a child, when I’d hold him and read him bedtime stories. I stared up, helpless, as I watched her.

“Now he’ll grow forever with us.” Her head moved, quick as a flash and her jaws opened wide, revealing rows and rows of sharp, glittering teeth that sank into his neck. He let out a fearful, panicked scream, beginning to struggle against her grasp as his eyes searched desperately for me.

I thrashed against my captors, reaching for him but always being pulled back down to the ground. Blood began pouring past her lips and down onto the dark bark of the tree as the sickening sound of chewing and slurping filled the air.

“Mum!” I sobbed as he called out, his pain piercing my soul as she constricted his body with her own until he fell silent. She tossed his lifeless frame down to the freshly bloomed roses and stared down at me, crouched on the branch, wiping her lips of his blood.

“Thank you for the boy.” She said, with a smile and a click of her fingers. The crowd released me, rushing to the tree and lifting her from the branches. “He will make a wonderful guardian for our flowers.” They carried her towards the bushes, and as I watched them disappear into the leaves, I wanted to follow them, but I was frozen. Perhaps by fear, perhaps by grief. I don’t think I’ll ever know.

My heart ached as I looked over at the roses. I knew what lay among them, but I was too afraid to look, too broken by the nightmare I was trapped in.

I crawled until I could stand, backing slowly away from the tree and the roses and then I ran for the kitchen, bolting the back door behind me and collapsing into a seat at the dining table.

I just stayed awake for the rest of the night, silently watching the tree and the roses. I wanted to wake up, but I hadn’t slept in days. I wanted to forget, but they stared back at me, every moment, every second, reminding me of what they’d done. I just watched them, as the sun rose and the world woke to a brand new day.

My husband offered me a coffee, but I just stared out at the garden, listening as he made his own and watching out the window. I watched him walking up the garden path onto the grass, with a coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other.

I watched him fall to his knees, wailing and screaming as he reached the newly bloomed roses and saw what they were hiding.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Crocodile Tears

Sometimes, things happen and you know, in an instant that you will remember exactly where you were and what you were doing as the world changed. 9/11, Princess Diana’s death, and for me, it is the day that they took over. This town is a wasteland now, brimming with ghosts and lonely echoes, and soon, the borders will be breached, and they will go for the next town. After that, there will be another town, and another. Villages and valleys, cities and hidden hideaways in the country. They will sweep through it all, until there is nothing left. Nothing but the stillness, the ghosts and the lonely echoes. That is just how they like it, and so that is how it will be.

It’s all our fault. Maybe I’m more to blame. Maybe you are. I suppose it doesn’t matter now.

I can’t say that I blame them. It’s hard not to look at what happened and blame myself, or the others around me that took the first steps. We all walked together eventually. We all walked towards this future. You were walking with us. You don’t remember it, but you took those steps, just like we did. The whole world walked to a place that we can never return from, and the truth of what is to come is still unfolding, so we keep walking, but it can only really ever lead to one place. I know that now.

Locking up such power, forcing it to entertain bored, weak, greedy humans was always a mistake. The trouble with us is that we think that the ability to stand up straight and talk gives you the right to do as you please, but there are forces so much stronger than us, so much more powerful. They just have the good grace to let us live peacefully. That’s over now.

For me, it began with good intentions. I think that most paths in life do, but every decision you make is only ever a few minutes away from ageing badly, because life goes on, to wild and unpredictable things, and before you know it, you are standing still, watching the world change around you, and realising that you are in one of those moments that will be remembered forever.

I have loved crocodiles since I was six years old. Thanks to Steve Irwin, I was obsessed with them, so I spent most of my childhood down at the zoo, with my nose pressed up against the glass, and as I got older, I began helping out during the school holidays. I knew the three crocs at the zoo by name.

Big Mama, the matriarch of the group, and a sweetie, if you treated her right. Nina, the smallest, but with jaws of steel. She was the star attraction for the zoo, and had even made the papers for an adorable video of her “lip syncing” (read snapping her jaws relatively on time) to a Nicki Minaj song. Then there was Green Inferno. He was big, mean and best left alone. He kept to himself, and I tried not to bother him, but there was always a respect there. He got his name because there was a rumour that the day he was captured, he was found devouring another croc, and by his bad attitude, I honestly believed it.

When I was fourteen, I started working at the zoo after school, and as time went on, and life went by, I thought I was living the dream. What kid wouldn’t? I had a good job, a good life and every spare moment of my life was spent with my best friends in the world, a family of crocodiles.

That was my first mistake. They were not my friends, and they were not a family. They were three powerful predators, trapped together by humans. There was so much we didn’t really understand, but as humans always do, we just waded in, right up to our necks, but the beasts were intelligent, acutely aware, and after years of boredom and poor treatment, they were furious with humans. It was the perfect storm. We imprisoned apex predators and forced them to entertain us. There was no way that it could end any other way.

It was the handbag. It sounds ridiculous, but sometimes a woman is pushed again and again and again, until she snaps.

Big Mama snapped.

She had always been the most docile, and that day was like any other. Nina and Inferno were frollocking in the water, waiting for feeding time, while Mama lounged in the sun by the glass barrier. She stared up at the guests as they wandered the zoo and didn’t seem too worried about doing anything but relaxing. That was, until, of course, she saw the handbag.

While it is frowned upon for the most part now, there are still a great number of people that take great pride in dressing and accessorising themselves in the skins of animals, and crocodiles are in great demand for handbags.

There was a luxury party that evening, so the zoo was almost empty, with the only visitors being a bunch of rich people who had hired out the place and wandered around with snooty attitudes and a seemingly endless stream of prosecco. It was just me and a girl called Lisa working that shift, and we didn’t mind. The luxury parties were always quiet. As long as you pampered them and let them do what they felt like, the rich and famous are almost as well behaved as the animals.

At the centre of the group was a woman, proudly balancing a handbag on her arm, made almost entirely of crocodile skin. It was hideous, but she seemed so thrilled with it, stroking it with a huge grin as she approached the crocodile enclosure. She leaned over the glass, tapping the bag against the barrier and peering down at Mama.

“Relative of yours?” She smirked. In the moment, I wasn’t sure why, but I had a very bad feeling. There was something deep inside that made me nervous, something I couldn’t quite shake, but I tried to just focus on helping them have the best day they could, as instructed. I watched carefully from the door of the enclosure, grabbing a feeding bucket, just in case a distraction was needed.

I should have listened to my instincts. Situations like that are exactly what instincts exist for.

Mama began tapping her tail against the ground softly, and the other fell still, listening to her rhythm and then slowly heading towards the shore.

The woman dangled the bag over the glass barrier, swinging it to and fro above Mama’s head with a chuckle, as the rest of her friends gathered around to watch. The glass was high enough to keep Mama at bay, which probably contributed to her arrogant stupidity. Crocs rarely jump on land, and so as cruel as the woman was, she was safe enough for us not to get sued, so I wasn’t worried enough to jump in just yet. We’d never had much trouble with the guests getting hurt. We would normally only have to intervene when a child got scared, and as there were no children present, I tried to calm my nerves a little.

“Jump up and get it, silly Croc.” The woman cooed, dangling the bag and laughing with her friends. Mama’s eyes followed the bag as Nina and Inferno padded closer, their jaws slowly snapping open and closed as their eyes trailed after Mama’s, up to the bag. “Got your nose…” One by one, the crocs slowly stepped towards the glass, their eyes fixed on the bag as it swung above them like a pendulum. “Or maybe the nose of your Mum.” She howled with laughter, the bag smacking loudly against the glass as the crowd around her joined the chorus of cackling.

Big Mama snapped.

There was a loud crash, as she began ramming her head against the glass. A few of the crowd stepped back in shock, giggling as she hit it again and again with no effect, and they returned to the fence, leaning over it with smiles, all joining in the torment, pointing at the bag with wide smiles and wicked laughter.

I fiddled with the door of the enclosure, wondering if it was time to intervene. Mama was clearly distressed. I’d never seen her like that, and as I crept inside their bounds and got closer, I saw Inferno following her lead, pushing at the glass with his long, thick tail and a surprising amount of force.

I took a few steps closer to try and calm things down when Nina turned towards me, her eyes focused and, as crazy as it sounds, furious. Crocodiles don’t often run, but she ran at me, her little legs pushing dirt and grass behind her as her jaws snapped. Without stopping to consider my fate if I didn’t, I bolted from the enclosure, slamming the door shut.

My heart pounding, I fell against the wall beside the enclosure, closing my eyes and slinking down the wall in breathless despair. I pushed down on the radio, signalling to Lisa, and relief washed over me when she answered.

“What’s up Colin?” She responded, her voice cheery in a way that I deeply envied.

“The crocs are a bit lively, do you think you could come down and…”

It was then that I heard the glass crack.

For a moment, I sat in motionless horror, but then, I heard it again. I dropped the radio, leaping to my feet and running round the corner to the front of the enclosure where the crowd was gathered, teasing and tormenting the crocodiles. Nina had joined the two older crocs, bashing her body against the glass with all her might as more and more cracks formed in the glass.

The crowd seemed oblivious, howling and hooting as chunks of the glass fell away, and once again, I was frozen in motionless horror as Nina’s snout poked through the falling glass, and with one last push from the bigger crocs, she burst through the breaking glass and screams filled the air.

In an instant, Nina launched herself onto the woman’s leg, and blood spilled across the grass as the small but strong predator gripped the woman’s ankle between her jaws and began yanking her towards the shattered glass. Several of the group fled immediately, screaming in terror and running wildly towards the exit. The crowd that had remained did their best to pull the woman away from Nina’s grasp as she hollered and howled in pain, blood bursting from her leg, but Nina’s jaws were determined and she dug in tightly to the woman’s skin and shattering bones, dragging her through the shards of broken glass towards the two bigger crocodiles.

The bag was strewn on the floor, splattered in blood as Inferno shoved his way through the remaining glass, giving chase to the terrified onlookers who began running for their lives. His jaws snapped open and shut as he rounded on a helpless man, backed against the monkey enclosure. The monkeys hooted and screamed, jumping from branch to branch and watching through the glass as the man stared helplessly over at me.

I stood, still and silent, watching the horror unfold around me. I had seen these beautiful animals as my friends, and in that moment, I was floored by the realisation that I had not known them at all. Inferno turned to me, and for a moment, it felt as if he was trying to let me know that after so many years of subservience, he was finally taking control. He shot me a look that sent shivers through my body, and I ran towards him, unsure of what I’d do when I got there, but knowing that I couldn’t let the carnage continue.

“Inferno, no!” I cried, watching him clamp his jaws around the leg of the man as he tried to run. The man fell to the floor, shrieking in agony as his leg splintered and crimson spilled out onto the ground, and I fell to my knees, unable to get any closer, breathless and terrified. He crushed the man’s leg between his jaws, as the man shook and screamed, completely helpless. The monkeys behind the glass made such a racket, chuckling and screaming as they pounded against the glass with gleeful grins.

I saw Lisa running down the steps towards the enclosures and immediately jumped to my feet, shaking my head and pointing wildly at the chaos all around me.

“Run the other way!” I yelled, dashing past the distracted Inferno and bolting up the stairs, my chest heaving as I caught up to Lisa and we ran towards the front office.

“Colin, what the fuck did you do?” She cried, as I looked back and gasped in horror at the sight of the three crocodiles now trailing after us, their jaws seeming to snap in unison as they chased us through the park.

We made it into the office, and after five days, we are still here. The town is lifeless. Anyone who could has made it out, and anyone that couldn’t was devoured. It sounds impossible, so much chaos from three animals, but these are some of the smartest predators on the planet, who have just spent several years caged by the people they now consume. It was only a matter of time, really.

The door is holding, for now, but it won’t last much longer, and after munching their way through most of town, the crocs are running out of food.

They’ve taken to circling the office, all three of them. I can hear them, constantly, a low hissing rumble from their hungry mouths as their feet pad around the office, their tails whacking against the walls, a constant reminder that they know we are in here, and that we have to come out some time.

Lisa is losing it. She has barely slept for days, and she’s starving. I can’t blame her. I feel the same, and there’s no hope of anyone coming to save us.

The crocs got through most of the cops in town quite easily, because a baton and even a taser are no match for the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom. After that, everybody who could ran. I think everyone thinks that there will always be a plan in place to save them, and for a little while, locked in the office, we thought that, but as the hours turned into days, and the days got dangerously close to a week, Lisa lost it.

I watched the chaos unfold on the news, and now, I’m cursing myself for hiding away like a coward, because, now, I’m going to die like one. I had a chance to run, but I was too scared. I can’t save Lisa. I couldn’t save the guests, but I will try and save you.

When they are done here, and they’ve filled their stomachs with meat, and revenge, they will find you. There are so many towns, so many meals, and eventually, they’ll get to you, so, please, lock your doors, put up barricades, and… Oh God… Lisa is opening the door… Oh God, no! Just run! Run now! They’re…