01 Jun At the roots of the roses
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"At the roots of the roses"Written by
Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
When I was young, I was told my mother committed suicide by jumping from a bridge. Her body wasn’t found, as the river she landed in led to the sea and many bodies of the people that went missing in it weren’t ever recovered.
My mental health was understandably not the best, as I was only seventeen and even though I wasn’t the perfect child and would often have fallouts with my mother, I loved her despite my recklessness. Looking back I understand that she had a few demons, but no one could really have thought it would lead her to do something like that.
Since I was a child I’ve had a love for flowers, and especially roses, which was what helped me get back to a normal life again. A few miles from the city we lived in was a farm that grew roses. I dropped out of college to take a job working with producing and selling the roses that grew there. The place was quite the only thing the city had to brag about, as it was often said to have some of the best roses in the state. I for one absolutely adored them. There were huge fields with only roses for hundreds of meters, and most of them had a wonderful pink colour. The farm grew different colours, red and yellow as well as pink, but I liked the pink ones most and they were also the ones that sold the most.
Anyhow, I want to describe my first day working there. I’d applied to the job with the help of my psychologist, who had gone out of her ways to help me on the way to happiness. I still appreciate her efforts greatly. We were both so glad when the company got back to me and agreeing to give me the job. I took my bike and cycled out there as fast as I could, and I remember how tired my legs felt. I got there early which seemed to be appreciated by my new boss. He smiled at me and for the first time in months I felt all warm and fuzzy inside, which was a great contrast to the emptiness that had resided within me previously. I was so happy about getting to work there I barely even noticed that he touched the pendant of my necklace that I’d been wearing. My mother had made matching pendants for us when I was a kid, and since she’d gone I had been wearing mine all the time. I didn’t even take it off when I slept or bathed. The necklace felt like the only thing left of my mother that I owned. My mother’s necklace had gone with her; otherwise I’m sure I would’ve been wearing hers instead. I was a bit taken aback by his course of action, yet I tried not to think about it too much, and I soon forgot about it. My co-workers were all nice, and I soon made friends with a guy named Nick. He was 25 and had worked on the farm since he was 23, mostly because it paid the rent. He used to be quite the comedian and his dream was to become a chef and own a restaurant. When I asked him why he didn’t choose to apply to a job in a restaurant or café downtown, he would shrug it off. I stopped asking him as the question clearly made him uncomfortable.
After some time I learned that my boss was not the owner of the company, it was a lady named Alexandra. She looked much younger than she was, and the rose farm had been in her family since the early 20th century. Nick told me everything he knew – it was Alexandra’s great grandfather that had started the business, and whatever he’d done to make the roses so perfect was a secret he’d guarded with his life. That was exactly what his children and grandchildren had done after him, as they all kept their mouths tightly shut about the issue.
Alexandra was a very beautiful woman; she had pale skin and icy blue eyes. Her brown hair was always in a tight bun, and every time any of us workers met with her she would wear dark clothing. Everything about her gave a sense of respect, and we were all nervous when she came to observe our work. Nick and I were both sure that Alexandra and our boss, Mr Verne, were in a relationship because they seemed to be so close. Nowadays I really couldn’t care less. I’m just happy that they’re both dead.
It was in the early summer that things… where the truth was uncovered. The truth that had been hidden in the ground for generations, and that had kept getting fed more and more.
Not many people think about it, but roses often get entangled with each other out on the fields and it’s not always easy to notice because the fields are so large. My co-workers and I had gone out to check to be sure this hadn’t happened so that when we harvested the roses, we wouldn’t have to throw any of them away because they’d grown all over each other.
I was walking in a pretty slow pace, my eyes moving around as I looked over the roses. They had just started blooming ´and their scent was heavy and completely surrounded me. Nick was further away; I could only see him as a figure in the distance to my right. The sun had started moving toward the horizon, and I wanted to try and get back before it got dark. It was significantly colder, and I shivered in my work clothes. When I think back, I can’t remember hearing any other sounds than my own footsteps and breathing, which was a bit unnerving. A bit further away I suddenly spotted a big bushy mess of entangled stems, leaves and flowers. I hurried my pace up a bit and got some of the tools I’d brought with me out.
The thorns were sharp and hurt a bit even through the gloves I had on my hands, yet I started cutting the stems as I’d grown to be quite good at. I was careful not to harm the roses or the stems that led to the flowers. I had gotten through about half of the bush when I spotted something odd in the ground. Close to where I had my knee, something white was sticking up through the ground. Only a small bit of it was visible, but big enough to notice. It didn’t look like a rock, and my curiosity got the better of me. I put my tools down and backed up a little so that I could start digging the thing up. I put my fingers in the ground as close to it as I could, and began to shove the earth to the sides. The object was a bit rounded, and as soon as I could I started to pull it out of the ground. I eventually pulled it out and was completely dumbfounded. I didn’t realised what it was at first, but when I understood I felt sick. I had pulled a big bone out of the earth. I immediately signalled Nick and begged him to come over to my location. It felt like ages until he came, and I showed him the bone.
“It’s probably from an animal”, he said. I wasn’t convinced. So we started digging more, and it soon became apparent to us that it wasn’t just any kind of animal. Nick pulled out a human skull. As soon as he saw what it was, he immediately dropped it with fear in his eyes. I felt tears welling up in mine, and I watched as Nick started to rip the roses out, pulling the roots out as well. Out of the ground came many other bones. They were of different sizes and colours, and Nick hastily moved out to pull even more of the plants, from different locations around us, out. We found bones in most of the places. Terrified, we hurried back. I was behind Nick and I struggled to keep the pace. The landscape around us was bathed in the light of the sunset. The roses were in every direction and I feared to even look at the ground. Because of that I nearly tripped many times. I was terrified of getting left behind, and I was sure I would if I didn’t keep up.
When we came back we called the police and I tried to describe the situation. I was panicking, and Nick had to take over. After that we alerted all our co-workers, and we tried to find Alexandra and Mr Verne, but they weren’t in their offices. When the police showed up we were taken back into the city for questioning as the police searched for Alexandra and her accomplice.
Later that night we were informed that they had become the prime suspects of huge amounts of murders. It wasn’t exactly that way, because after confessing Alexandra also told police how the murders and placements of the bodies dated back decades. Her great grandfather had started the business; his idea had been to give the flowers the bodies of hundreds of people, and many years later she had sworn to keep it going. The farm had been his life, she said. Her pretty words hadn’t helped her or Mr Verne from the death sentence however. Their executions were two of the quickest in America back then, it took only about a year and a half before they were condemned with lethal injection. Alexandra’s last meal was a glass of water with a pink rose from her own farm floating on top. Mr Verne was much less dramatic than the mastermind.
But what keeps me up at night the most isn’t any of this, or how my old friend, Nick, looks nowadays. Not the torn man he has become. No, the thought that scares me, the fact that is my worst fear, is what the police gave me after they closed the case.
It was a necklace with a hand-made pendant, the exact same as the one I had around my neck. A pendant I’d seen so many times before.