Tristan stood on his deck watching the sky water the garden he’d just planted. The scent from the rich, dark soil and compost wafted to his nose, mingling with the aroma of rain and freshly cut grass. Tristan’s garden was his fortress. His refuge from the chaos. Each year he worked tirelessly to bring it back to life.
The forecast had said clear skies and yet it poured, watering his garden. Hopefully, he’d given the seeds plenty of depth to keep them from washing away.
Putting aside the mug of steaming mint tea in his hand, Tristan took one last cursory glance around the garden, examining the even rows of planter boxes Harley had built for him and the brick paths separating them.
A border of hedges stood between the yard and wrought iron fence that separated his garden from the rest of the world and all of its chaos and filth. It was beneath those hedges that Tristan noticed movement. It was a curious movement, inconsistent with the shuddering of leaves as they were pelted with raindrops. Tristan ducked out into the garden, lifting his collar in a futile attempt to shield himself against the pouring rain. Water sloshed in his boots, soaking his socks through almost immediately. Tristan gritted his teeth against the sensation, pushing forward until he stood before the bush in question.
The pouring rain was deafening but, beneath the onslaught, Tristan was sure he could hear something coming from beneath the plant. A faint mewling sound. Hesitating, he reached out, thankful he’d changed his gloves–the only protection he had against the disgusting world that would otherwise seek to sully him.
Pulling back on the lowest branch, Tristan discovered, what appeared to be, a black trash bag that had somehow grown a paw. A large section of the bag was on the other side of the fence–no doubt some ne’er-do-well had dumped it there–but the smaller section had somehow managed to infiltrate the bars and invade his sanctuary.
Nya, he heard the bag cry, more distinctly this time.
Tristan considered leaving it as it was. Whatever it was, it wasn’t his problem to deal with…Except the fact that there was a foreign entity in his garden. Tainting it. Soiling it. Perhaps he should call Harley…
No. Surely he could handle this much.
Wiping rain from his brow, he steeled himself before pulling at the hole where the paw was protruding, ripping it wider until the entire thing was torn completely open.
It was no wonder the larger portion hadn’t been able to make the trek between the bars of the fence being packed with a pile of kittens all a hodgepodge of colours and sizes though it was difficult to distinguish the number. The pile remained completely motionless even as rain soaked their fur–Tristan couldn’t bring himself to touch them to be sure but he was almost entirely certain they were all dead. That was, of course, except the one that had wormed its way beneath his hedge. It was a tiny creature, smaller than the palm of his hand. Its fur was a dingy shade of brown or grey. Now free, the animal took off across the yard, jumping into the largest planter box–the one holding the squash, zucchini, and cucumbers he’d carefully spaced the appropriate length from one another–and straight up the concrete steps leading to Tristan’s back door; a trail of muddy paw prints staining the stone.
Tristan had to count to ten to resist wringing his hands together.
What would Harley do, he wondered, in this situation? Probably something like check on the animal…make sure it wasn’t hurt, possibly. Tristan’s first instinct on the other hand: push the bag back out of his garden…find a way to get rid of the furry, grimy interloper…then scrub the crud from the bricks and concrete.
Perhaps a bit of food would be enough to coax the animal from the deck and back out of the garden. There was leftover pork roast from the night before.
Tristan edged past the animal hunched in the corner of his deck; it was wedged between the stone building and the table that held his teacup. He carefully stepped over the splotches of mud staining his deck. It was bad enough the rain had soaked him through…
Don’t think about it… He chided himself. If he thought about it, he wouldn’t be able to ignore the sensation of the invisible spiders creeping over his skin. The inky tendrils of blight crawling over his flesh, spoiling him, tainting him…Don’t think about it…
Tristan stripped off his boots. After squatting in the dirt, he was covered in mud and grime. He peeled off his jeans next, hanging the black denim fabric over the iron chair, careful not to disturb the animal shivering beside the table. He’d collect them later…hose everything down once the rain stopped. Though he’d been soaked completely through, Tristan chose to leave his skivvies in place. It was already the end of March, but still too chilly to strip completely. Futilely, Tristan squeezed as much water from his undershirt as he could before removing his gloves and dropping them on top of the discarded pants.
The second Tristan pulled open the door, the half-dead creature darted like lightening straight inside, another trail of prints leading up the hall and disappearing around the corner.
It’s in my room. The thing is in my room…
Tristan tried not to think about the creature defiling his home. Invading his space. Sullying it. Befouling the one clean place he’d worked so hard to create for himself. Tristan tried not to think about the animal making its way through his room. Contaminating the very air he would breathe.
Covering his mouth and nose with his arm to keep himself from breathing in the fouled air, he took his first step inside. Tristan’s foot squished, sliding across the floor, making him almost lose his balance. He’d stepped in the paw print–smeared mud across the floor–making his toes grimy, wet and cold. He gagged, disgusted and horrified.
Nya…he heard the creature call again. It stood there, watching him, its scruffy head peeking around the corner. Its yellow eyes considering him carefully. Its head lowered defensively, its ears pressed to its skull. Droplets of water pooling beneath its feet.
My room…Tristan put his hand to the wall, bracing himself against it as his world began to spin.
Nya, the creature called again. Mocking him.
Don’t think about it, he reminded himself, his vision beginning to swim. The polluted air choked him. He could see it. Polluted particles from everywhere the creature had been floating through the air, contaminating everything. Defiling everything. They stuck to his skin…he could taste them in his mouth even as he shielded himself against them.
It was all in vain. Everything he’d done had been in vain. He was just as dirty as the rest of them now.
He was just as dirty as the rest of them…