's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Seeds in the Skin

Submitted by Dandelion Steph

Pat, pat.

"What are you doing?"

"Isn't patting my friend on the head an appropriate thing to do when she fails a social studies test?"

Amber rolled her eyes. "In what world is that a normal thing to do?"

Nicolas sat down. "Sorry I was late to first period today. My dad had to shave his legs."

Amber quirked an eyebrow at him. "That's not a normal thing for men to do."

"It isn't?"



Later that day, Nicolas saw Amber distractedly scratching her scalp in class. Her fingers twitched as she stared off into the distance, and she grimaced. She perked up as Nicolas came to join her for lunch.

"Your Dad's Muslim, right?"

"Um, no," Nicolas replied. "What makes you think that?"

She leaned forward. "I remember from my social studies test—yes, the one I failed—that Muslim men often have a high standard of modesty. Your dad always wears long, baggy clothes, even in summer, and you know how muggy the summers are here."

Nicolas shrugged. "Isn't that...just normal for some people?"

Amber squinted, hand on her chin, before absently scratching the top of her head again. "No, it's not."


Amber sat alone, waiting for the bus. Her hands clenched and relaxed, clenched and relaxed, as she stared into the distance.


"Aagh! Don't startle me like that!"

"Why are you so jumpy today?" Nicolas asked. Amber shook her head. "Not jumpy. Just...distracted." Amber swallowed nervously, and turned to him. "I...can you check out the top of my head for me?"

"Uh, sure."

Amber's head looked pretty normal, Nicolas thought. Then he saw a small, white bump, like acne, where her hair parted in the middle. Nicolas squinted, curious—was that a tiny stem?

"What is it?"

"Uh, a bump? Looks kind of like acne?"

"Maybe it's a cyst," Amber muttered. "I'll go ask my parents."

"It...kind of looks like a tiny plant."

Amber snickered. "I don't roll around in plant seeds, you know," Then her smile faltered. "It's...weird. When I scratched there, it...almost felt like it was part of my body.” With a diesel-engine rumble, the school bus pulled up. “But that's ridiculous, isn't it?"


"Who is this?" a feminine voice responded.

"Nicolas. From school," Nicolas said. "I'm trying to talk to Amber. This is her phone."

"Oh," the voice at the other end said, pausing awkwardly. Nicolas heard a faint exhalation of strain at the other end. "This is her mother you're speaking to."

"She, Amber I mean, wasn't at school today." Nicolas explained. "Is something wrong?"

"She's..something came up. She's having surgery." Amber's mom said hurriedly.


"It's...extensive. She'll need some time to recover. You should let her rest."

"Hang on! Is she awake?"

"" With that, her mother hung up.


Threadworms. Hookworms. Pinworms. All gross, terrifying, and disgusting, but the symptoms just didn't match. Nothing did.

Nicolas held his hands up to his head from the strain. If even the Internet didn’t know, who did? Certainly not his parents.

I just wish I could help. I just wish I could know, he thought. Nicolas glanced down at his computer's clock. It was getting late. It seems I'll just have to wonder about it tomorrow.


Nicolas looked at his left wrist. His veins underneath wriggled, pulsated slightly. Out from a small hole on the side of his wrist grew a white, veinlike threada stem. The stem had a little bud, tinged slightly pink. The bud turned slowly to face him, then grew, then grew, swelling to a mature flower that shakily unfolded.

He felt the eyeless flower was looking at him. The flower's fanged mouth smiled...and then opened.


When Nicolas woke, his body was soaked with sweat.


“Hey, Mom, it’s time to go,” Nicolas said as his mother got out of the community pool.

“Don’t be in such a hurry,” she replied. “I’ve got to change out of this first! Wouldn’t want to get the car sopping wet.”

“Did you know I beat my swim time today?”

“Good job, Mom!” Nicolas said, hugging her. He soon regretted it: she was very wet in her one-piece bathing suit.

“When have you been such a hugger, Nicolas?”

“Well, why shouldn’t I hug you?”


At the dinner table, Nicolas’s mother grimaced. She stood up strangely, brushing her back against the chair, before flinching. Finally, she took off her sweater.

There, on her shoulders and neck, were faint, almost seedlike white bumps. Nicolas leaned over. A few had thin, white, hairlike growths, as if hairy moles. His father, seated beside her, stopped chewing.

Nicolas’s mother hesitantly stroked the bumps with a perplexed expression. “Honey, do you know what this is? They’re...strange. Almost like they’re part of my body. It feels painful, trying to pull them out.”

“Got any ideas on what they are?”

His father paused. His expression was heavy.

“Yes.” Nicolas’s father said briefly. He got up from his chair. “I’ll drive you expert on this.”

“Now? It’s so


“The clinic’s still open.” he said shortly, with a hint of desperation.

“Oh, alright.”

Wordlessly, his father guided her to the car. “What are you doing, Dad?” Nicolas asked.

“I’m taking her to someone who can help.”

“Will she be okay?”

His father looked at him, frowning, his brow creased with concern. Then, he looked away, a thousand-yard stare in his eyes.

I know someone who can help," his father repeated.

The doctor can help. The doctor can help,” he choppily muttered as he put the key into the ignition.

As he sped away, Nicolas wondered: But does the doctor know?


It was late when his father returned.

“Son, did you...touch...your mother today? Any handshakes? Hugs?” His father said wearily, not facing him.

“Um, yeah, I did hug her earlier. She had one a bathing suit, and I had to change out of my wet clothes."

This merely made his father’s frown worse. “Will Mom be...okay?”

“She’ll be there all night, son.”

“What? Why?”

His father grimaced. Nicolas gestured desperately. “What is it, Dad? Come on, tell me!”

His father looked at him, a frown seeping from his face, his eyes tired, dragged down. “Why, Dad?”

“When...a man....” His father stopped.

“Come on, Dad. You can tell me!”

“When...I...was around your age...” his father gulped, and looked away. He stared at a wall, then flinched, then sighed.

“In my body, there are...little seeds. In your body....too. The seeds take what they need, and grow within you.”

“Dad, that doesn't make sense.”

“There's no going around it, son." His father said resignedly. “Forgive me. Forgive me of this fate I have given you, my son. We love you, your mother and I. No matter what.

“The seeds...they want...” His father's hands twitched, as he struggled to describe it with hand motions. “They want...lush soil. But if they don't get it....they settle for less.”

His father, eyes shadowed, sighed. “It's best if I show you. Follow me.”

He followed his father to the bathroom. His father faced away from him, still for a painful few seconds. There, his father slowly ratcheted off one layer of clothing, then another.

Tiny, white seedlings poked out from his father's back. His father's skin, despite his relative youth, was wrinkled, a little puckered even, the seeds in the faintest of divots in his back. There was a pattern of pale speckles and blotches on the skin of his back, as if the little plants had drained the very color, the very vitality, of his skin.

It looked the little plant unraveling from his wrist in his nightmare.

After a minute or two, his father hunched over and picked up his clothes. He then gravely picked up a razor from the shower, and handed it to his son.

“Never let it bloom.”