's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" Fourleaf "

Submitted by Angela M Shaver

The strawberries were dry, gnarled and extra bristly. Well, most had been eaten already by critters that had gotten into the greenhouse. Most of the plants were like this, not dead, but wilting, blotching, and bolting. The greenhouse had been abandoned, only recently. I slipped in to get some scraps.

The fancy, frilly gilded white pots were pretty. I might have liked one of these when the store was here. I felt like giving the plants some water. Under the tan papery layers of iris leaves I found a peculiar thing. A nearly dry glass vase. It was smooth and basically looked like a light bulb. Your typical vase, really. If it were not for the little murky pool of green bacteria filled water, something I would have passed off as an artifact of neglect, were it not for the plant. The plant extended a few centimeters from the top of the vase. It was like some kind of very dark green cactus with no spines. Actually, it dawned on me that this wet plant was more or less a large pickle. I refilled the vase and set it down on the table. I looked around for something else to eat, but knew there was probably nothing.

As I pushed the door open a crack, I realized something was lurking in my shadow. Hmmm… lurking may have been a strong word to use. It was more like waddling. Something small was waddling in my shadow. The glass vase, now with glass legs and gnarled duck ankles and little flappy webbed feet. Somehow it moved fluidly despite being glass. I had never seen a thing like this before. I walked out onto the rock slab path. The duck pickle followed me. I walked off the path trampling colorful tulips. A bumble bee nearly the size of a ping pong ball wriggled out from under my foot and took off like a humming bird. Better to use the path, I decided. I’m glad I didn’t crush the bee and that it was kind enough not to sting me. Come on little buddy, I said.

I was going to an underground river. The tunnel goes to a pond above the main lake. A good place to fish. I was still hungry, as always. Why not go to the main lake? I like the adventure of tunnels, caverns and streams with critters that perhaps only I have seen. That and some other personal reasons… Anyways, duck pickle was still following me.

I felt the dense slick tree roots to guide myself through the earthy passage. The flow was low but still strong. I never knew why the flow decreased like this, my inference was that the spring needed storm recharging. Since it had not rained in a while the flow was low enough I could trudge up the underground river with my head well above the water. Duck pickle was doing alright, but I decided to pick it up anyways. No reason to risk duck pickle getting swept away and shattered to pieces.

I grabbed the neck of the vase. It started to glow faintly like a green glow in the dark sticker. I could see a tiny label at the base made of frosted glass. Four Leaf. Fourleaf’s glow was proving to be pretty useful. It waved its legs like a dog or cat paddling while held just above water. Fourleaf did not seem to be struggling, just being derpy. At least, until I got to the Big Hole. I usually leapt over this obstruction to continue my hike.

The duck pickle, Fourleaf, decided to be a twit and started kicking. The toe membranes were sharp like blades of shattered glass. I dropped Fourleaf and watched its glow swiftly disappear into the depths. That was way, way deeper than I thought it was. I contemplated retrieving Fourleaf from the abyss. I contemplated that for quite some time. I can hold my breath a lot longer than anyone should be able to. But drowning was still a fearful prospect. I went down.

As I sank, doomed perhaps, I saw a circle of rippling silver. Bursting through the circle I found myself in a muddy cavern hardly the size of a bedroom. It was well lit, something I did not notice right away. Fourleaf was sitting atop a big boulder. The glass made the most horrible gritty squeals as Fourleaf shifted its base slightly. You followed me like I was your duck pickle mum, now I’m stuck here with little air and little food, I said. I say little food… because I could eat you. I have had worse… having no name after all, I said.

Fourleaf put its feet on the bulb of its vase. It looked like it was putting its hands on its hips (only with no hands or hips). So you DO have a brain after all! Or at least so to speak, I said. Fourleaf somehow seemed even more agitated, I’m not even sure how I could tell. I’m sorry, even for a no name, I was being a prick, I said. Then it dawned on me that the place I was in was lit somehow. It was like sunlight or artificial lighting. Fourleaf righted itself, walked over to the mud wall and pressed its duck-like foot against it. Everything went black!

Okay, it was just that my eyes had not adjusted. The light came back and blinded me. Thank you and also frick you, you fricken duck pickle, I growled. I removed the grime with my hands. Disgusting. A panel with two plastic buttons was underneath all that muck. The red button controlled the unidentifiable light source. What did the green one do? Well, after pressing it the water receded from the cavern entrance. When I climbed out I could see that the Big Hole was sealed and all the water was gone. Deadly cliffs with needle sharp spikes of stone awaiting at the bottom, thank you duck pickle, thank you sooooo much, I said. Needless to say the green button no longer worked. Thus I could not flood the place and swim back out. I went down.

It was difficult with Fourleaf standing on my head. It kept disheveling my hair as it rebalanced its weight. As a result my own hair, now flecked with detritus, kept ending up in my mouth and eyes. The mud was under my nails which seemed almost as tortuous as being skewered. I slipped once, somehow holding onto a single tree root and Fourleaf. The rope-burn was not fun though. Nor was the sense of near helplessness. I put Fourleaf back. At least, it was not a real bird on my head. Fourleaf would not poo on my head would it? Thankfully not.

I removed the flaking orange rusted grate. The rest of the way was like the inside of a giant PVC pipe. It was slippery as heck but well lit by Fourleaf’s glow. When I came out I was bombarded with shouting a stark contrast to the hours of near silence in the pipe. The bright sunlight made my vision foggy and speckled with green spots. I felt rough bindings being tied to my limbs. I was so tired, dazed, and sort of disoriented or maybe feeling more… disinterested? I should have escaped but I did not have the will to fight. When I adjusted I realized I had been captured by a party of two men and one woman.

Fourleaf was also bound. This was almost comical since I doubt anyone knew what a duck pickle was. What if Fourleaf could spray poison like a cobra, electrocute you, or spontaneously combust? What if larval duck pickles burrowed out of its skin, proceeded to lodge themselves in your eyes like those sleeper shark parasites and remained there until they were old enough to drop off and start the cycle over again? What if duck pickles are like werewolves, only you stay a duck pickle forever, except some people end up as goose gourds, horse potatoes or camel celery? What if the duck pickle is you from the future? Yes, all of you!

I may have gotten a little carried away. It was not quite that funny at the moment. It was more likely you would get a rare infection or skin contact poisoning from Fourleaf, but then again we are talking about an animate pickle jar… I mean flower vase, which clearly understands speech.

The shorter fellow turned out to be no fellow at all. He proceeded to rant about how I had ended up at this meadow that was his secret place for rebuilding his “device”. “How could a ****** like you get through the tunnels, you miserable ************!.. (blah, blah, blah, horrible idiot, blah, etc.)… Then there’s that ugly THING! What is IT!?...(blah, ugly, blah, blah, pickle?)…No one should have survived! Nobody is going to steal MY patent on the device! I would off you myself if it were not for…” He yelled but then trailed off.

If it were not for what? I said. I could almost smile but I was also nauseous. I knew the answer. The answer I did not want to know, hear, or accept. I was just being a prick. “YOU! You must be. Filthy **** eater, you survived only because of your own pestilence… (cue list of slurs)… But what are you doing here!?” He screeched. I wonder that myself, I was. “Don’t toy with me!” He rudely interrupted. Going fishing, I said. “Really…? I suppose that might make some sense but still… you should only be in elsewhere-places shouldn’t you? Oh and since when do you eat fish!? What a laughable ruse. I have not forgotten a thing, so why are you HERE! He said. Yes of course, everyone knows, I said. I spoke the poem that made my stomach gnash upon itself. The phrases that cast a glaze over my eyes. It’s not even a good poem.

Those that forget their names,

Seek the abandoned and set flames,

The torn pictures with no frames,

Don’t take others’ names.

Some parts of the poem are metaphorical. But everyone knows what it really means. It’s almost a nursery rhyme. Except everyone says it regardless of age. The thing is, I don’t know what it means. Well, I do and I don’t. Or maybe there are exceptions, but NOBODY would accept that. I have met people who have forgotten their names. I am like them. However, I was also different. I never had anything to lose.

Hmmm… I wish I could have hugged that duck pickle right about then. It took him a moment but he finally realized that we had met before. I was a child and I was in this meadow. I don’t know why I was there. It was a long time ago and I have always tended to wander. Not the way I’m “suppose to” either. I can deviate from my “expected course”, sometimes that is to the benefit of others, but they will never know. I think this scared him. I was telling the truth and it scared him more so than if I were outright dangerous.

It was not spring then. It was winter and the meadow was a deep snow field. He and his entourage spotted me half buried in the snow. He decided not to risk destroying me. The snow would do the work. Keep in mind that he thought I was a child. In a sense I was, but not the way he would accept or anyone would really. It must have been a real surprise.

I had dismantled his device in the most destructively reckless manner possible. I remember being angry, not hungry. The metal looked like crumpled balls of tin foil. It was beautiful.

I was happy to some extent. Except he wanted me gone for good. No one listened though. No one was willing to risk their name. Then it dawned on him how “wrong” this was. No, not him, being a grade triple A bad egg. Me, my age, motives, and skill. I took out an oily slab of smoked fish and ate it in the meadow. It seemed like a good place for a picnic, the shimmering snow was now complimented with silvery ornaments. Two thirds child wonderment and one third being a daredevil prick. I stared at him and practically through him until he finally booked it.

Ha, ha, I guess I have a name! You can call me fish breathe and that’s my duck pickle, Fourleaf! I said. “Holy ***** ******* *****, the **** did it have to be YOU! **** you… (more expletives)…,” Him alternating between yelling and muttering. May I ask what you are even doing? Obviously, I have no use in your patent thingamaboby. No one would believe me anyways… I said. His answer was more or less no. More expletives than less, but otherwise no. He figured I was too unpredictable to trust. Not to mention duck pickles, that really was not helping. Who owns a duck pickle anyway? Actually, I don’t, because Fourleaf is a person, but try telling that to a crew like this.

In any case, Fourleaf was long gone. I may have been bound but I could still see Fourleaf using the webbing between its toes to slice up the rope. Both amazing and freaky, considering the type of rope they used on Fourleaf. I don’t like blades or needles, I just don’t roll like that. Plus it looked like it was getting toe jam out and having an orgasm at the same time. I really hope THAT did not happen, because that is seriously gross, and I don’t even know why I feel that way. I’m sorry Fourleaf.

For the first time in many years there was a rainbow. It was so vibrant. No one knew what happened to the rainbows. It’s funny because rainbows are not even objects in the first place. It’s a natural phenomenon. But it stopped happening. Everything else, good, bad or otherwise seemed to be the same. I had only seen a few when I was very young.

I’m not entirely sure how Fourleaf was involved in the “return of the rainbows”. I was still in bondage. I had worked my joints loose as I regained my will to fight. The angry guy did not like the rainbow. In fact it scared him. He wanted to book it again but this time his vengeance overcame his fear. I did not free myself. I was left to perish from the wounds. I don’t handle pain well. Despite this I had a final comment. It’s too bad I never knew your name… I said.

Something rather odd happened to me after that. Another had found me. A stiff…hmmm… this one was desperate or creative, I’m not sure I care to know which. They clearly did not realize. Should the bullets have killed me? Probably, but I woke up in somewhat working order. Lucky for him I suppose. Unfortunately, I inadvertently shocked my benefactor who proceeded to try to subdue me. The result of which was them hanging from their big toe in a sycamore tree. It’s ok, I cut the rope… eventually. I don’t know why, but some people are frightened of the rainbows. I even met a no name some time later that was absolutely terrified of them. Fourleaf has tagged along with me ever since. Every time there is a rainbow it sits down.

I have never managed to communicate well with Fourleaf. Fourleaf seems to understand whatever I say, but only responds when it considers something interesting or important. I do know it has emotions. Fourleaf’s sense of humor is almost as terrible as mine. I still call it a duck pickle. Maybe Fourleaf would be less of a prick sometimes if I stopped that. But seriously, I don’t care if it’s some fairy flower or unfathomable horror. It’s a duck pickle.