A Short Story By Luis A. Mendez
Jason Thorn, a young man nearly 22 years old, hesitated when his college roommate of about the same age and his best friend of ten years offered him a small plant as a gift to set up their new place. For a split second, Jason wondered, “Am I being offered some sort of ‘herb’ that I’ll grow, cut, dice, and roll into paper and smoke at a later time?” After all, why else would a man give another man a plant as a gift? Jason thought plants were for women and given by thoughtful husbands appreciative of their efforts to keep the house and kids in order, or a desperate boyfriend trying to make up for getting caught flirting with a blonde salesclerk while his girlfriend was in the fitting room of the local mall’s fashion store
His roommate, Mark Fielding, misunderstood and thought Jason looked like he was too proud to accept the gift.
“It’s not a big deal, dude. Just take it for yourself. I’m okay with just having one since I don’t need both of them,” he said, referring to the other plant that came with the one he was offering.
“What’s up with this? Kind of a strange gift,” Jason commented as he took the plant and turned towards his side of the room to find a suitable place for it to sit and grow.
“What do you mean?” Mark asked, turning towards his side of the room so that he could find space for the other plant.
Jason put his next to the alarm clock on top of the nightstand directly next to his virgin bed.
“I don’t really grow these kind of things, so I can’t promise I’ll do a good job in taking care of it. As I remember, I had one I was supposed to take care of in elementary school that died before the project was even half-way done.”
“Nah, don’t worry about that. Just give it plenty of water and sunshine whenever you can,” Mark assured him as he placed his plant on the windowsill in the sun. “I just thought I might as well give you one because my mom sent two in the mail.”
After seeing that Mark had outdone him in proper placement of their plants, Jason changed the subject by referring to his previous roommate. “That’s what that package for you had in it? Oh, okay. I guess it could be worse; you could be kicking me out of the room to sleep with some random girl you brought home at three in the morning.”
Mark laughed, “Yes, no more roommates like Tab. Man, I am so hyped that we made this happen for our senior year.”
Jason nodded in agreement and was relieved as he had just realized how much better things were going to be from now on.
“I’m going to get much more sleep now that I don’t have to dread returning to my room to a locked door at three in the morning, or getting a ride home from dad, or sleeping in the hallway while hearing noises of what I can’t have.”
“Aw, don’t beat yourself up too much about that. I’m in the same boat,” Mark replied as the two young men continued to unpack their belongings and organize the small studio room.
“Ain’t no way any girl wants to fuck me in this school either. No girl is gonna’ agree to get locked in here with me late at night, so you won’t have to worry about sleeping on the floor anymore.”
“Don’t say that about the girls, you never know,” Jason said, trying to make his friend feel better, but frankly knowing that guys like them struggled. They were young and slightly overweight college males with overgrown hair and still living in their “nerd world” as Mark’s mom once called it, all the while pining for those pretty things who roamed the hallways and smiled at them as they passed by, almost as if they were both pitying them and mocking their lot in life as the guys stared back shyly with their awkward smiles.
Mark shook his head in response, “Trust me, we’re not going to be anyone’s type until we graduate from here next year. Even then, not until we get a job and then not until we start getting the big bucks. At that point, we’ll probably get married to women who don’t even love us but want to live our rich lifestyle — but that’s the way life works sometimes.” He chuckled and sighed while, showing he was half-joking but not necessarily parodying their current lot.
Jason paused from unpacking and gave Mark a confused look, “You make that sound more depressing than it should be.”
“You don’t think it is? I mean, take my man card away, but it’d be nice if my wife actually loved me,” Mark said, surprised at Jason’s retort.
“Not that. I mean you make us being rich sound so depressing. I’d love to make Blackburn money,” Jason replied with a sarcastic chuckle.
“That wasn’t what I was talking about you dope,” Mark replied with a quick teasing throw of a pillow at his best friend.
Jason dodged it and it knocked over his new plant. “Oh crap,” Jason said as he quickly reacted and grabbed it off the floor. Small amounts of dirt outlined where it had landed on its side. Luckily the only damage was one bent stem.
“Oops!” Mark said. “My bad, man,” he said as he approached Jason and they surveyed the damage to the gift from his mom.
“Should I leave this stem alone? Maybe it’ll heal,” Jason said after lightly touching the damaged limb and then handing the plant to Mark. “Like I said, I’m not experienced with these things.”
Mark causally twisted and broke off the stem without saying anything to Jason. “Just let the rest grow, as you don’t need that one little stem that badly.”
“Okay then,” Jason replied as he took his silent “pet” and put it back on the nightstand.
“I think we could use a break from all this unpacking,” Mark said as he turned towards the door. “Come on, let’s go grab a quarter pounder or something at that Mickie D’s we saw coming over here.”
“Fine by me,” Jason said as they headed out the door, excited to munch on some more of the food that had helped put them in their predicament of being lonely, hopeless, college virgins.
Meanwhile, the plants continued to grow and thrive.
It took a couple weeks, but the first sign of some strange happenings for these two young men came while they were asleep on a Friday night. Jason noticed something was going on when he jumped off the bed as a bright blue light blinded him. His first thought was “Mark left the TV on, didn’t he?” He planned to tell his best friend to cool it with the brightness but dreaded any possible negative vibes. After all, dealing with the TV being on late was nothing compared to what he had been tortured with by his previous roommate. “Don’t get unappreciative and screw this up”, Jason told himself as he sat up and looked towards the space that was emitting this light.
Mark woke up and was hit by the radiance of the bright-blue light. He also thought it was probably due to his roommate watching TV. He sat up and opened his eyes and stared towards the space emitting the light as well, all the while expecting to have to ask his roommate for the TV’s brightness settings to be lowered.
Instead, both young men stared at each other, realizing the TV wasn’t causing the light. The culprit was the plant on the window sill. It was glowing a bright blue, and tiny light orbs came off of it. They got off their beds and walked closer to it without saying a word.
Finally, Jason broke the silence, “What kind of plants did your mom give us?”
“Not any plant like this,” Mark answered.
Jason turned towards the plant by his alarm clock. “This one isn’t glowing.”
“Maybe it’s not mature enough yet,” Mark wondered aloud as he joined Jason in investigating the other plant. “Or is it a different kind of plant? But that can’t be because they look exactly the same.”
“Except that one glows,” Jason said as he pointed towards the glowing plant.
“What could it mean?”
“We should google it.”
They turned to one each other at the same time and nodded, “Google it.”
The computer yielded few answers for them. They did find research on bioluminescent plants, but none of the information referred to anything like this.
“I mean some of these plants look like they could glow pretty bright, but none of them sound like they glow this bright with this color,” Mark said as he scrolled up and down a page on the subject. “I can’t find anything about light orbs either.”
“An undiscovered species?” Jason postulated before pausing as he thought about another possibility. “Wait a second, there aren’t’ any nuclear plants around here, right?”
Mark did the research. “Nowhere within three-hundred miles.”
“What the hell then?” Jason said, turning his attention to the glowing organism. “And look, the light hasn’t faded one bit — still going strong.”
Mark turned off his laptop. “Nothing we can do for now. May as well try and sleep on it. Doesn’t seem to be harmful to humans; it’s just shining that light off itself.”
Jason draped a small towel over the plant, as the light was so bright it still lit up the room. “Well, I guess, if anything, we have a natural night-light now.”
“What? Are you scared of the dark?” Mark teased as they returned to their beds.
“I’m going to ignore that,” Jason replied as he fluffed up his pillow.
Mark chuckled. “Okay then…don’t let the boogieman get you down.”
“Screw you,” Jason said with a slight laugh as he lay down. And that’s when he noticed it — a strange sound, like a wave of binaural beats clicking in rhythm. It was faint, but if he listened closely, he could hear it. It was coming from the plant, but not the glowing one but instead the one that sat next to his alarm clock — his plant.
Jason listened to it for a while to confirm it was the one making the noise. He sat up, “Hey, Mark, this other plant is making some sort of noise,” he said, but then realized Mark had fallen fast asleep. “That was quick,” Jason muttered as he laid back down. He decided to let it be and went to sleep, as the light sound from the plant was actually soothing, giving off an ASMR type of vibe.
The plants stayed in the room, growing, and one glowed all night long, and the other emitted sound waves.
The next week involved interesting developments. The plants had stopped their strange behavior the day after the two friends and roommates woke up. They asked Mark’s mom about the plants, but she didn’t mention anything special about them. Eventually, life got in the way and both young men almost forgot about the event. Then on the Friday night, a week after the event, they were in their dorm room sharing Chinese food when each suddenly looked up and seemed to be hit with the same idea.
“Why don’t we actually go out tonight?” Mark asked.
“That’s kind of scary,” Jason replied.
“Why?” Mark retorted, shooting up from his chair as if he had been hit with a burst of energy and confidence. “Aren’t you sick of being trapped in here while everyone else is out and about? How do we expect to ever get a date this way?”
Jason stood up, also feeling more energetic and confident all of a sudden. “No, I mean I was just thinking about changing things up tonight, too. We can’t be fat and lazy slobs all the time.”
Mark smiled at the realization they both had the same thought at the same time. “I don’t know why, but I suddenly have this high for life I haven’t had before — like we should enjoy the weekend!”
Jason nodded, and then as if both were communicating telepathically, he and Mark each shot towards the closet to find some clothes. “This must be what having an epiphany feels like,” Jason said as they started looking for clothing.
“I don’t know what’s gotten over us, but why not give it a shot? What’s the worst that can happen? At least we should try,” Mark replied. “Make sure to wear something respectable,” he said as they pulled out clothes they hadn’t worn since God knows when.
After both had dressed and gotten in to the small car they shared, they looked at each other and suddenly realized they had run out without any plan. “Where exactly are we going again?” Jason asked.
Mark hesitated a bit and then started the car. “I know a place.”
They left the plants in their room and, unbeknownst to them, one started glowing and the other started making noise all over again.
“This is a bad idea.” Jason said as they shuffled into a well-known hangout for classmates who were single and ready to mingle — a local lounge called Hell’s Pawns that was nearby and marketed towards their demographics.
“Really? Cause’ I think it’s a bold gamble worth taking,” Mark said, now being the more aggressive of the two and leading them to the bar by a dance floor where would-be couples or random hookups danced slowly to the soothing music.
As they sat at the bar, Jason looked around intimidated, as the confidence and energy boost were still there, but still not enough to take all his preconceived insecurities away. He noticed Mark was reacting differently and getting more confident to the point that his mannerisms seem different. Something was up with him. He was like a man possessed.
“What happened to your sense of adventure from earlier?” Mark asked as he waved the bartender towards them.
She was about their age, pretty enough, but a “plain Jane” compared to other girls around the school hallways. Long brown hair, blue eyes, a button nose, what seemed like an average chest size, and a comfortably plump figure. Her name tag showed “Shirl.” She smiled at them politely and didn’t seem fazed that they didn’t look like the kind of guys that came on a Friday night to a singles lounge.
“Hi. You guys here for a drink?” she asked as she placed down some napkins, obviously knowing what their answer would be.
“Hopefully more than just a drink,” Mark said, now absolutely acting like someone Jason didn’t know. Shirl giggled as Mark smiled back, maybe in an attempt to flirt with her. “Make that two shots of tequila. One for me and my wingman here,” he said as he and Jason started taking out their identifications.
After making sure they were of age, Shirl brought four shots of tequila and a small bowl of cut limes.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. We ordered two, not four,” Mark said as she delivered the shots of liquor.
“But you’ll eventually order another round. I know how these things go. Trust me, I went ahead and saved you the time.” Shirl said with a flick of her hair as she turned her back towards another customer.
That’s when Jason suddenly realized that she looked like the most beautiful woman he’d have ever seen. He didn’t know why, but the same strange feeling that had overcome him to join Mark on this daring adventure also seem to draw him towards her.
“Okay, then,” Mark said as he turned to his best friend and offered him a shot, raising their glasses to make a toast. “To getting out more.”
“Um yeah…to getting out more,” Jason said as they clanked their small glasses together and shoved the burning liquid down their throats.
Mark took it in stride as he already started to pick up the other shot, “Damn, that’s good. She was right. She did save us some time,” he said as he turned to survey the area around them.
Jason had to get his bearings as he coughed and gagged, waving over Shirl in a hurry to ask her to grab a glass of water as a chaser.
As she informed Jason the limes in the bowl were supposed to help with that, Mark slapped the struggling young man on the back. Mark made sure to make eye contact as Jason looked to him. Mark’s eyes were the windows into his soul, and the man was a completely different person at that very moment. Whatever made them crazy enough to come here, Mark was much more on board than Jason was. As if the surge in energy and confidence was only growing in him as it drained from Jason’s earlier burst. “Blonde girl at your two o’clock,” Mark finally said to him as he nudged his head towards that direction.
Jason stared at that direction. A group of girls, all about their age, stood there talking. In the middle was a blonde girl with green eyes, who definitely had curves but was not overweight just a little plumper than Shirl. She had a sparkling smile that flashed back at Mark when she realized he was looking towards her. “She’s actually pretty for a six or a seven,” Jason said as Mark guzzled his second tequila shot, again with ease and no need of any chaser at all.
“I think she’s more than a six or seven, man.” Mark said as he patted his friend on his chest and then stood up to approach her. “Want to join as my wingman? She’s got some cute friends,” he said, not looking at Jason and just staring intently at his newly desired friend.
“I…I think I’m good for now,” Jason said, terrified at the idea of embarrassing himself with girls who probably thought he was disgusting. He picked up his second shot of tequila. “You’re welcome to join me again when she turns you down,” he said half-jokingly to his friend.
“Fuck you,” Mark shot back with a laugh as he began walking towards their direction. “I couldn’t help but notice we were making eye contact,” he said to the group of girls.
“Neither could I.” the mysterious blonde replied. “But I was a little more curious why I’ve never seen you here before.”
“Let’s just say I’m new to the scene,” Mark replied before he introduced himself to her.
She held her hand out for a polite introductory handshake. “Martha.”
Jason turned away, not wanting to see the car crash Mark was headed towards. He quickly took in his second shot, coughed again, and this time sucked on the limes like Shirl told him he should.
It was then that Shirl approached him, “Another round of shots?”
“No, we’re okay for now,” Jason said as he fought some more coughing from the second shot and sucked his lime. “My friend is making a fool of himself with those girls, and I think I have discovered that I actually hate tequila.”
She giggled a bit, and at that point Jason realized he actually liked her giggling. That’s when the crazy idea of just sitting down and talking to her between her serving up drinks to other clients came into his mind. Whereas he felt unworthy to approach the other girls, he strangely felt at ease with her, so when she came back around he tried to strike up a conversation. “Don’t drop any of those corny one-liners dad told you to use”, he thought to himself as she approached again. “I…I think I’ll try out a ‘Jack and Coke’,” he announced as she smiled back. Was she smiling because she liked him? “No, you idiot, she’s a bartender dealing with a customer. She’s always smiling and being polite to customers”, he thought to himself.
“’Jack and Coke’ coming up,” she said as Jason looked back towards Mark and was stunned to see him actually doing seemingly well as he stood talking to the blonde he had fixated on, making her laugh and smile as she held her drink. Her friends seemed almost as fixated with him themselves. Shirl noticed too and commented, “Looks like your friend isn’t doing too badly,” as she set his drink down.
“Yeah, I’m legitimately shocked,” he said as he took a sip of his new drink and was pleasantly surprised to realize not only did it not make him cough and gag, but it truly tasted good to him. Then he realized he had chosen the ‘Jack and Coke’ because that same feeling that had gotten him out here was the same one that had told him to blurt that out as his new choice. “Do I have a guardian angel looking over me tonight?” he wondered to himself.
“You like that one?” Shirl commented as she came back around.
“Yeah, this is actually my first time trying it,” Jason admitted. “It’s my dad’s go-to drink, so I guess I was just wondering what all the fuss was about.”
“You haven’t had much alcohol, have you?” she replied, leaning over the counter to get closer to him.
A bit intimidated but still feeling a tad more confident than usual, Jason tried to keep his wits about him. “Well, I haven’t been twenty-one for long.”
She laughed a little and leaned back with a teasing roll of her eyes. “That’s what I mean. You and your friend don’t seem like the types to come out to drink and hit on girls. Well at least you don’t right now. He seems to be much more different than I thought he’d be. Did he drag you here to let loose?”
“We both actually took a leap of faith,” Jason replied, sipping his drink and wondering if she was insinuating what a loser he seemed like to have been so inexperienced with liquor.
Shirl then leaned towards him again, this time exuding a warm and welcoming aura, “Well, first lesson in getting out more is that everyone has a poison.”
“Alcohol,” she explained as she took a sip of Jason’s drink without even asking, and yet somehow doing it while looking incredibly sexy to him. She then leaned back and explained, “Whiskey is my poison.”
“Oh…good pick then,” Jason replied trying to hide the fact he was now completely smitten with her.
“Don’t tell anyone I did that. I’m not supposed to drink while behind the bar,” she said with a sly grin as she turned towards another customer.
Jason didn’t know what else to do but look down at his drink and take another sip, but that’s when he noticed the lipstick smear on one side of the glass. He sat there staring at it. “Um…is this technically like kissing her?” he wondered to his poor inexperienced self as he looked around as if he was about to commit a crime.
Shirl came back and giggled a bit when she noticed his predicament and startled him. “You going to finish that, or do you want another round in a clean glass?”
“I…,” Jason began but seemed to have no clue how to finish his reply.
She laughed and put her arm on her heart as if to make a pledge, “I don’t have cooties. I promise.”
Jason finally let loose a bit, chuckled, and took a sip. She put a hand out of the blue to stop him, making him wonder if he had just exposed himself as some sort of pervert. He looked up and expected her to laugh or mock him, but she continued to be inviting.
“If you’re going to do that, at least let me know your name. I don’t get to cheat like you and see a name tag.”
Jason introduced himself. She pulled her hand away. He took his sip and got a bit of her lipstick.
Shirl laughed and helped him to wipe it off. “I’ll give you a new glass of ‘Jack and Coke’ on me,” she said as she turned back to work.
“Hey, I think she might actually like me in some way” Jason realized as he looked at Mark to shockingly find him in the warm embrace of a slow dance with the girl he had pursued. “Holy crap, whatever got into us tonight is working so far”, he thought to himself with a smile.
For the next two hours or maybe three, who knows, Jason slowly sipped on his dad’s go-to drink for a couple more rounds. As Shirl came by every time, they got to know each other a little more. She was just out of college, so she wasn’t that much older than him. She was pursuing medical school she had a place that she shared with a roommate. Her dad knew the owner who was letting her work her way to keep afloat.
Before Jason realized it, it was time for that dreaded last call. He had gotten so caught up in getting to know Shirl and sipping his drinks that he didn’t think about Mark after sighting him on the dance floor or about how they’d get back to their place. He looked at the last place he had seen him, and he wasn’t there. He also wasn’t nearby, on the other side of the lounge, or in the restroom. So Jason took a quick look outside and realized their car was now gone. “He ditched me?” he thought as he pulled out his phone. Mark’s phone was obviously off.
“Did your buddy run out on you?” Shirl asked, catching him outside buzzed, confused, and a bit panicked.
“I think he did,” Jason replied, wondering just how much of a loser he seemed to her now.
“I’ll be happy to give you a ride,” she offered.
Jason was stunned, and one part of him was jumping for joy at the idea of what that could possibly mean, the other part said, Oh, no, I can’t do that to you. I can just get a taxi or something.” He pulled out his phone to make a call.
“No, really it’s okay,” Shirl assured him with a light touch on his shoulder as she pointed across the street. “My car is over there. You don’t live too far from me anyways, and I told you I knew which place you were talking about.”
The car ride was tense for Jason and probably no big deal for Shirl. He wondered if she was just being nice, setting him up to take charge and ask her out, or what if…no, he didn’t know if one-night stands were for him. But what was nice was the fact they talked a little more, this time about their experiences living in the area as they passed a couple landmarks near his place.
“This is it,” Jason said as the car stopped in front of his and Mark’s place.
“Looks nice enough to me,” Shirl replied.
“It’ll do,” he said. Then something strange happened that had not happened with either of them that night-an awkward silence.
“Hey…don’t be afraid to come back to the lounge again,” Shirl said, finally breaking the ice. “I work there every weekend.”
“Okay, sure thing,” Jason said, a bit disappointed that his night with her was over and nothing seem to come of it save for a friendly invite back to her workplace.
Shirl stopped him with her hand as he opened the door to get out, “Hey, come back soon,” she said and then leaned over to give him a peck on the cheek, which to a guy like Jason at that point in his life was almost like getting sex.
“I will,” Jason said as she smiled and waved good-bye to him and he headed to his apartment.
Jason skipped with happy thoughts in mind and a boost of positivity in his steps as he approached his room. Yet strangely enough, the closer he got, the more that feeling that had possessed him and his roommate was telling him to stay away from the room. He inserted his key expecting to get answers on Mark when the young man suddenly opened the door looking tired, paranoid, and a bit frazzled.
“Oh, hey, man. I didn’t expect you back so soon. I was going to get back to you,” Mark said, shirtless and obviously blocking the path to get inside.
“What?” Jason replied, trying to shove his way in but realizing Mark wasn’t going to let him. Jason persisted a little more.
“What happened to you? Were you going to go back to get me? Why do you keep blocking me?” Jason also noticed what seemed like the blue light that had been glowing from one of the plants. “Is the plant glowing again?”
“Look!” Mark finally snapped as he made sure to close the door, his shouting leading to some pounding from other rooms that were asking they keep it down. Mark then calmed down a bit and whispered, “I’ve got Martha in there. We’re…you know what we’re doing.”
Jason looked at him befuddled, not sure whether to congratulate him or what. “Martha is the chick you hit on at the lounge?”
“Yes,” Mark said nodding and looking around as if scared someone might hear him. Was he ashamed?
“Well I understand jumping at the chance to lose your virginity, but don’t ever leave me like that again, man.” Jason replied, realizing he was stuck outside just as he had been with his old roommate.
Mark nodded and put his hands up as if to beg for forgiveness. He seemed drunk or high or possibly both.
“I know, man, I’m sorry. But they were telling me to get her back here.”
Jason was confused. “They?”
“The voices.” Mark admitted as he continued to behave strangely paranoid.
“Voices?” Jason stepped back, fearing what Mark could be on.
“Yes,” Mark replied, having to lower his voice quickly before his whisper became a shout again. “The ones who told us to get out of the apartment in the first place.”
Jason raised his eyebrow in skepticism. “You heard voices?”
“Yes, voices.” Mark was now inching closer towards the door, as if to make sure nothing came in or out except him.
“I just got a feeling, and I didn’t hear voices.” Jason revealed as he started pondering if he should call the cops. That’s when he noticed Mark’s bruises. “What happen to your chest man?”
“Oh, just rough sex,” Mark explained as he covered them, as if he were ashamed.
“So…you guys already did it then?” Jason felt a tinge of hope now. “So, she’s dressing up to leave and so I don’t have to stay out?”
“No. She’s spending the night. I gotta have you go elsewhere, though.” Mark then saw the flash of annoyance in Jason’s eyes. “I know, man, I promised this would never happen, but I just need you to take a bullet this one time.”
Jason sighed. “You know what, man, I think you’re drunk and maybe even high. Whatever you two are up to, I’ll leave you to it.” He then left to give his dad a call to pick him up.
After the call, Jason waited in the entryway of the complex that his dad that his dad was outside to pick him up. But as he waited, the strange feeling that made him feel more relieved the farther he got from his and Mark’s room came over him again. This time it was telling him something really risky. He tried to fight it, but something told him to go for it. He picked up his phone and left the lounge a voicemail asking if he could have coffee with Shirl and he made sure to let it be known he was, in fact, thinking of it as going on a date.
Meanwhile Mark returned inside, where his plant continued to glow, and Jason’s plant continued to make sounds. Then he looked at Martha’s dead body on his bed. While Jason had been flirting with the pretty bartender, he had listened to the voices guiding him towards his greatest desire. He seduced the blonde, took her back to their apartment, and was given the sex he so desperately felt he needed. What he didn’t expect were for the voices to tell him to strangle her when he was behind her during a change of positions. He ignored them for a while. Then he couldn’t stop ignoring them anymore. He was promised a great high if he did what they told him to do. He got it before the fear, panic, and guilt set in. He put his back to the door and sighed in relief that Jason had left. He then slid down and waited for the voices to tell him what to do with the body.
And the plants continued to grow-one glowing and the other making sounds.
Mark convinced Jason to stay away from their apartment for a week by telling him Martha was “like a sex machine who could never get enough” and promising him he’d find a better accommodation for their dalliances. The truth, of course, was something more sinister. The voices that had ingrained themselves into his head convinced him to chop her body up in the bathtub, put her remains in a large suitcase his grandpa had given him, throw it into the lake, and then clean the apartment with massive layers of bleach.
This didn’t come without suspicion. Eventually during this whole process, there were complaints about an awful odor coming from the apartment. Mark spent time out of his part-time job and classes to clean up the place, and even when he had the place looking back to normal, he was haunted by what went on there. The sex that turned violent when the voices that had gotten him that far tried to tell him to get rough. The voices told him to strangle her. The voices told him he’d enjoy the high. The voices guided him to commit murder.
Jason had a much different week. Shirl got back to him and agreed to the coffee. They bonded closer and agreed to another date, this time the more traditional dinner and a movie. Jason felt the same feeling that had guided him before to start convincing him to change his diet and lifestyle. He started dieting, jogging, cut his hair, and easing up on being stuck at home. He was feeling better about himself, as if his life had suddenly changed for the better in just one week.
Mark finally invited Jason back on the next Saturday after their lounge adventure. Jason was seriously thinking it might be time to call off the roommate deal they had if Mark was going to make this a new thing. He was headed out when he was approached by two detectives, twin brothers working as partners.
“We’re not saying he and you are in trouble,” they explained as a confused and perturbed Jason talked to them in front of his dad’s house. “We just want to get answers to a few questions we had for him.”
“I’ll make sure to talk to him today about the situation,” Jason replied as they politely left without incident. He stared as they drove off wondering if this was about the drugs he thought Mark could be on.
The phone rang then, and he saw it was Shirl. He answered, “Yeah, I promise I’ll meet you at the movies, then we can go to The Dessert Factory afterwards. I gotta talk to my roommate today about an important thing.”
“Is it an emergency?” she asked.
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” he replied.
As he headed over to talk with his paranoid and guilty roommate, the plants continued to grow.
“We need to talk, man.” Jason said when Mark finally gave him the okay to come into the room. “What’s been up with you the last week?”
“I just got caught up with waking up next to a naked woman. I’ll handle it better next time,” Mark explained as he shut the door behind him.
“Okay, but asking me to stay away for a week, avoiding work and class, and, by the way I still remember what you said about the voices,” Jason said as he surveyed the apartment.
“The voices?” Mark was starting to show signs of paranoia. “Oh! I was drunk when I said that.”
“Sure…,” Jason replied as he turned into the bathroom and noticed something.
“Dude, what did you do the bathtub? You over-bleached this thing or something. I can see the residue.”
“I was just cleaning it up a bit,” Mark explained as he seemed to try to get Jason to stay away from the bathroom.
Jason finally fought back, shirking away from him. “You gotta’ tell me what’s been up with you. You’ve been beyond weird the last week. I didn’t sign up for this when we agreed to be roommates.”
“I…,” Mark then couldn’t finish his thought. He seemed to be listening to something, and then he started to burst into tears as he collapsed onto the bathtub. “I didn’t think you’d ask so many questions.”
Jason was startled as he slowly approached to console him. “Hey, man, you okay?”
It was the voices; they made me do things I shouldn’t have” Mark blurted out as he swatted Jason away.
“What are you talking about?” Jason demanded to know as he tried to snap his friend out of it. “What’s going on? Did this Martha chick get you into some shady stuff?”
“Martha’s gone, man,” Mark said, still crying.
“Gone? What do you mean? Are you breaking apart because she dumped you?”
“She’s dead!” Mark replied through muffled sobbing. “The voices made me kill her.”
Jason’s heart sunk, and shock set in for a split second. Now it all made sense. “Are you saying these supposed voices made you murder someone?”
Mark just nodded as he continued to cry. “They won’t stop. They just keep telling me to hurt people. They even want me to go find another girl to hurt.”
“Mark, we need to call the cops and get you some help,” Jason replied, looking around for a phone, half-expecting (and hoping) this was some sick prank.
“No!” Mark snapped as he then raced past Jason and blocked the door. “No! The voices told me not to. They said the experiment isn’t finished.”
“Experiment?” Jason was now worried about his own well-being, as he was stuck inside with someone who just admitted to committing murder due to psychotic voices in his head.
Mark nodded as he continued to block the door, sobbing and delirious. “Yes, they’re conducting an experiment on human behavior. That’s all they’ll tell me. They chose me because I made them angry.”
“Mark, please. We have got to get you some help, man.” Jason said as he started planning how he might protect himself.
Mark then started shaking his head violently and approached Jason slowly and purposely with a wild-eyed look on his face. “I can’t let you ruin the experiment. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”
Before he had time to act, Jason was being strangled by his roommate and backed into his nightstand. “Mark…” he eked out as he fought for breaths.
Mark looked down upon his new victim and continued, “I’m sorry. I have to do what the voices said I have to do. They’ll protect me now.”
And suddenly the feeling that had guided Jason down a much more benevolent path the last week than the voices in Mark’s head had given him a sudden idea. He grabbed his plant from his nightstand and he hit Mark’s face, knocking him out. The plant had fallen, and the pot was shattered.
That’s when Jason realized the other plant had started glowing again. But this time, something different happened-it was speaking and not like a normal speech pattern, but like some sort of telepathic link.
“Please, before your friend awakes again, destroy the plant you just used to incapacitate him,” the plant seemed to say.
Jason put his hands over his ears. “Oh no, now I’m the one hearing voices!” he said to himself as he stared at the scene around him in horror.
The glowing plant continued to plead, “No, I was not the one who was deceiving your friend. The other plant was the one behind the voices that haunted him. Now you must destroy it.”
“What…what is happening. Plants can’t talk,” Jason said as he fought against ending up having a nervous breakdown.
“I am the one behind the feelings you’ve been feeling. I have been protecting you from the experiment. I’m the one who drew you to protect Shirl,” the plant explained.
“Yes. I need you to realize something. We are a rare species of herbal organisms. My companion and I ended up in a store where your friend’s mother bought us. We try and produce positive beta waves for organisms around us. I am currently using those same waves in a different form to telepathically communicate with you.”
“But…I don’t understand. If you communicate through positive wavelengths, then why…?” Jason looked down at his fallen friend and the busted plant beside him, “…why all this?”
When your friend knocked down my companion and tore off a stem, it made the decision to experiment with him, seeing his actions as possible signs of aggression. To test the depths of human behavior, I, in turn, began to emit the light I am now to try and reject the waves he was using on your friend.”
“The waves?” Then it hit Jason. “Oh my God, you mean the sound it was making?”
“Right but the rejection only worked on you. So I made the decision to use you to protect others. But obviously the voices that my companion had transmitted to him were too strong. Luckily, I was able to protect the target my companion had in mind through you.”
Jason put it all together. “Shirl? You were drawing me to her to protect her?”
“But the damn fool forgot that there were plenty of other females available as backup plans,” Jason suddenly heard another voice say.
He looked towards the busted plant and he knew the other voice was coming from it.
“Your friend was a perfect test subject,” it explained. “I have been fascinated with human behavior since I was a seedling.”
“You ruined his life!” the other plant shot back, intensifying its glow to reject the other plant from getting into Jason’s head as well.
“He was merely an experimental subject in the same way humanity uses other organisms below them as experiments,” the fallen plant shot back.
“I beg you, before your friend awakes and my companion orders him to kill you again, destroy it!” the glowing plant pleaded as Mark started to stir.
Jason was still in shock at all of this but got his wits about him quickly enough to grab the plant off the floor as it was making noises again while attempting to awaken Mark who was struggling to wake up.
“Hurry, Mark!” the seemingly evil plant shouted telepathically.
Jason quickly took the plant and shoved it into the garbage disposal, covered it up, and then flipped it on. He almost expected shouts of agony but he heard nothing. After believing the plant had been taken care of, he turned the disposal off and looked towards Mark. He had stopped stirring.
“It is finished,” the glowing plant proclaimed. “I only wish we could have avoided more than just future experiments.”
The door was pounded on by the police. “Open the door! We have a warrant!”
“They have found the body, asked questions, traced steps, and been brought here,” the glowing plant revealed.
“How do you…?”
“I can hear their minds as I read yours when I guided you.”
“What… should I do? I wasn’t a part of this. I need help,” Jason said as he hesitated to let the cops in.
“Let them in,” the glowing plant advised as it started to fade its blue light. “I will guide you just as I have the last week.”
“What about Mark?”
“I’m sorry but he can only be helped by your justice system now.”
Jason looked all around him-the plant on the window sill, the destroyed one inside the garbage disposal, his friend unconscious on the floor, the cops banging the door looking to learn of Mark’s involvement in murder. He sighed, took a deep breath, and opened the door knowing he would be all right but that his friend’s life had just been changed.
And as the cops stormed in, the previously glowing plant just sat there and grew. The other plant did nothing. It was as dead as Mark’s date.