My short story “The Garden” had a very strange origin, with inspirations from Guns N’ Roses and Georgia O’Keefe equally.
First was Guns N’ Roses and their song, “The Garden”, which gave me a title and, for over a decade, a mood. I started the story in mid-2006 and worked on it for a week or so before realizing the couple hundred words I had were going nowhere and amounting to nothing, so I abandoned it, knowing I would get back to it later.
The first incarnation was about a boy walking through a meditative labyrinth who … something something magic and something, I never really figured it out.
And I did a TON of research on walking and labyrinths and meditation, took a lot of walks myself, hoping to get into the headspace for a story about walking, but it just never happened, nothing came to me, there was no story.
Then one day, years later, I saw something about Georgia O’Keefe and her particular style of art (flowers were made to represent a certain part of the female anatomy) and I had a vision in my head of a guy being seduced by a beautiful woman in a garden, only there was no woman, he was being hypnotized by sentient plants. From there, the story pretty much told itself and I wrote the first draft over a couple of days.
The names of the characters, Gordon, Randy and Bobby were he names of the guys I hung out with around the same age I imagined Gordon to be in this story. Gordon Bennington, Randy Collings, and Bobby Fairchild. The name Mya means “great one” or “mother”.
Gordon showed up at the back of the Rogers farm like Randy’d told him to, but his friend was nowhere to be seen. Randy’s bike lay at the edge of the woods where the property stopped, and there was his jacket among the flowers. The Rogers had a good twenty acres and this far back from the house, Gordon knew they wouldn’t see him and come out to run them off. Then again, there was a garden back here that looked pretty well-tended, so who knew? He wasn’t even sure this far back was considered their property at all. He hoped not, if what Randy told him was true.
Gladiolus, tulips, Madonna lilies, daffodils, hyacinths, begonias all reds, yellows, whites, pinks, blues and oranges. Gordon didn’t know the names, but they smelled good. Hidden among these, half-buried, were several larger bulbs that could have been watermelons except they were grey.
He called out, “Randy!” several times, but got no reply. He must have wandered further
into the woods. Gordon sat down on the jacket and was about to call out again when something got his attention, something lumpy under his ass. He felt and found Randy’s jacket pocket. He reached in and pulled out something slick.
This was what Randy told him he’d been doing up here the past few days.
Gordon had no idea what the flowers were called and the bigger bulbs in the ground were an equal mystery. But Randy had told him the leaves were edible. More than that, they’d given him one hell of a high. No after effects, either. He’d chew a few leaves, lay back, and before long he was in the middle of one of the best trips of his life. Gordon found a plastic bag with a rolled bundle of leaves in Randy’s jacket pocket. Maybe he was going to take them home and try to smoke them. But surely he wouldn’t mind if Gordon had a couple for himself. After all, this was what Randy’d called him up here for in the first place.
He pulled two, then took a third from the rolled bundle, slid the rest into the bag, then back into the jacket. He looked at the leaves and wondered how they’d taste. Bitter like grass? He sniffed them, and it was a familiar scent, but he couldn’t place it. They were dark red and shaped like hearts.
He called out, “Randy! Hey!!!”
When he got no reply, he put the leaves in his mouth and chewed. Almost as soon as the chemicals in the leaves touched his tongue, but surely by the time he’d swallowed them, the leaves took effect. He lay back in the grass, staring up at the brilliant blue summer sky, cloudless and crisp. His head felt thirty pounds lighter. His fingers tingled and, he realized, so did his toes.
Whatever this stuff was, Gordon would have to thank Randy as soon as he figured out where he was. For now, he wouldn’t worry about it, he just wanted to ride this wave.
If he lay still enough, he could feel the blood rushing through his veins, into his brain. He could hear it pumping.
His vision swam and suddenly he felt himself sink into the earth, into the grass and flowers, and he felt their leaves tickling and trying to wrap around and drag him down. Gordon tried to sit up and scream, but the flowers had become thick vines and his puny strength was no match. His heartbeat raced and he thought he might be sweating but if that were true, the sweat burned his skin like acid and the sky turned purple overhead and a shriek echoed inside his skull and then, before he could fully comprehend what was happening . . . it stopped. Gordon sucked in a huge breath, shot up from the ground, clutching his chest.
He sat there, panting and being glad he was alive when he heard a noise. A high, lilting sound. He looked over and saw something in the trees. She was tall with long blonde hair. Her face was that of an angel. Finally he managed to catch enough breath to say, “Hello?”
She stepped out from behind the tree. She didn’t say anything, just giggled again. Her walk was fluid, as if the structure of her legs were free-floating, more for motion than support. The sight of it had a strange effect on Gordon’s equilibrium and he had to look away for a second. She glided closer, giggled again, and Gordon asked, “What?”
“Nothing,” she said after a moment. “You just looked funny laying there all splayed like that.” Her voice reminded Gordon of rainbows and butterflies. Who was this girl? “What are you doing here?”
He hesitated, reluctant to tell her about the leaves or his quick but intense trip. At least, he thought it was quick. The sky did look a little darker.
He started to get up, found his legs too weak, and he fell again with a grunt.
The girl giggled again.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself,” Gordon said. “Help me up.”
“Because I have to get up,” he said. “I was up here looking for my friend. Hey, have you seen him? Bout this tall–” (he held a hand just an inch or two above the top of his own head) “long black hair? Wears glasses?” She shook her head.
“Probably wearing a Chiefs cap?”
She shook her head again.
She shrugged and sat next to him on the ground. Gordon was surprised to see her just drop down onto the grass because she was dressed in a long white sundress and the way it shone even in the lowering sky, Gordon knew she was about to stain it. He didn’t want to stare, but it was hard to take his eyes off her. Gordon knew who he was and knew this girl was beyond his reach. She’d see that in a minute and get up and walk away.
So he was taken by surprise when she turned and said, “What’s your name?”
“Gordon,” he said, feigning indifference by looking into the trees for Randy.
“Mine’s Mya,” she said. “Do you live around here?”
He shrugged. “Close enough, I guess.”
“What are you doing up here?”
“Looking for my friend,” he said. “I already said that.”
“Well,” Mya said, looking around. “Doesn’t seem like you’re looking very hard.”
“His stuff’s right here,” Gordon said. “He’ll be back to get it.”
“What if he doesn’t come back?”
“Then he’s gonna lose a jacket and his bike,” Gordon said. “Because his bike’s just over there and I’m not taking them both with me when I go. Maybe the jacket.”
“What if he’s never coming back?”
Gordon wished she’d stop talking to him. This kind of attention from someone this beautiful was making him uncomfortable.
“What if he’s dead?” she asked.
Get the rest of the story in my short story collection THE DICHOTOMY OF MONSTERS.