Bring me a Daisy
Bring me a Lily
I shall make your gloomy day
Bloody bright and jolly
“GARDENER WANTED – A young, unmarried man with gardening experience. Apply to Ms. Anna Jones, 13 Telford Street, Caledonia.”
Nigel looked at the newspaper cutting in his hand then at the door number and the name plate to confirm he had not lost his way. Adjusting the small bag that contained all his belongings on his lean shoulders, he wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead, uttered a small prayer, knocked on the door and waited.
‘Yes?’ a lady opened the door.
‘Ms. Jones? I am Nigel…gardener. This here…,’ he thrust forward the newspaper cutting.
‘Yes, I do, Ms. Jones. Not just from around here.’
After a brief discussion, Ms Jones said, ‘you can start from tomorrow. Food and accommodation only until we see results. Wage will follow the blossoms.’
Nigel joined his hands in gratitude as he took leave from Ms. Jones with the keys to the outhouse.
The outhouse was small, yet tidy. A window to let fresh air in the night and light in the day. For someone, who had to spend last few nights in the dark dingy alleys without a job, a roof atop, a bed to rest his body on, bread and butter on his plate twice a day, this arrangement was not particularly bad. Taking the strap of the bag off his shoulders, he walked towards the set of rusty gardening tools at the corner of his room.
Been a while! To new place, to new beginnings!
Armed with his tools – trowel, shovel, pruner and the likes, Nigel spend the better part of the day, out in the yard. With the sowing season past its peak, he would have to take errands to the nursery to get saplings. It was not too long before his love, care and arduous work was reciprocated. The barren yard that screamed of infertility when he had walked through the fence the very first time was lush green with a variety of flora – bed of roses, lilies, peonies, violets, petunias, daisies.
Mr. Jones decided to stop by Nigel on his way out to work one day, ‘Good morning there.’
Nigel stood up, pulled his hand out of the soiled gloves, and bowed to greet his employer, ‘Good morning, Mr. Jones.’
‘You sure have a green thumb and a great one at that Nigel. There were many who came before you but left without even a tinge of colour in here. This garden has seen seventeen summers, and not a single blossom. Weeds were all we saw in the name of foliage. You have breathed life into this cursed soil. Look at those beauties!’ Mr. Jones fixated his gaze on the wild daisies and mellow lilies.
‘Thank you for your kind words, Mr. Jones. Some love is all they needed besides the sun, soil, and water. Ms. Jones had specifically asked me if I could tend to daisies and lilies. I am glad I had not lied.’
‘You have made this garden come alive again. Now all I wait for, is the day when there are at least a hundred lilies and a hundred daisies blooming at the same time. You shall be rewarded generously if you manage to get it done. For now, I will let you continue with your work. Have a good day, Nigel.’ Mr Jones walked away leaving Nigel with his thoughts and the flowers.
‘You too, Mr. Jones,’ said Nigel slowly pushing his hands back inside the soiled gloves. Summer was at its peak – so was the season of daisies, but for lilies, it was almost time for farewell.
His train of thoughts was interrupted by voices coming from the house.
It was then that Nigel noticed them by the window of the living room with curtains drawn aside. The ethereal brown eyes, red lips, golden hair. Not one, but two beautiful faces. From where he was standing, he could hardly differentiate between them. They looked like mirror images of each other. Engrossed in conversation, breaking now and then into uncontrollable laughter. The faces were all he could see, and they were all he needed, to divert his mind away from the ask from Mr. Jones.
He wondered if he was so absorbed in his job all this while that he utterly failed to notice such beauty in his proximity. It was indeed his lucky day that the curtains were drawn apart.
From that day onwards besides adding a task to his daily routine of counting the daisies and lilies, he never missed throwing a glance towards the window, at least once while on duty.
On lazy afternoons, whilst he took break from the muck and laid on the soft green lawn listening to the chirping birds, his eyes drifted to the window. On those rare propitious days, he would see them by the window, reading, chatting or simply sitting idle staring out.
After weeks of arduous work, the day had finally arrived. Nigel could barely control his excitement. It was about time to get the much-needed wages before summer faded away. While he waited by the garden for Mr. Jones to step out for work, he counted and recounted the daisies and lilies.
‘Good morning, Mr. Jones. I counted. A complete set they are. A hundred daisies and a hundred lilies. Just as you had wanted.’
The glint in Mr. Jones’s eyes was unmissable. ‘This is fantastic news, Nigel. It’s harvest moon night. This could not have happened on a better day. We have waited long for it. You deserve a reward for this. Do me a favour, please. Prepare two garlands, one each with the hundred daisies and lilies. We shall have a special guest coming over for dinner tonight. Come around the house to the backyard by the basement entrance and join us for dinner. I shall meet you there,’ said Mr. Jones.
Nigel stood mouth agape watching Mr. Jones go back inside the house instead of work. Mr. Jones had left him baffled again.
Why wait until after dinner time for a reward. Why take the bother of calling someone over and arrange a dinner for rewarding a mere gardener? A pair of shoes or a hat for reward would have done just fine.
Nevertheless, as a good servant, he proceeded to do as asked. He grabbed a pair of wicker baskets and the pruner from the outhouse. With a pained heart, he began plucking the flowers off their stems. The wild daisies and the gentle lilies.
Last few minutes of freshness before they wilted away and found their way back to the soil.
Done with the last flower, he stood there looking at the garden, stripped off, of some of its charm.
Just flowers. They will bloom again in no time.
He raised his head to glance towards the window, only to find them shut. Two pieces of crumpled papers below the window, caught his attention.
Back in the outhouse, he opened the papers. One read –
Your eyes say it all, even though you lower them down as soon as they meet mine. I long to hold those soiled hands in mine. I long for a taste of those beads of sweat that cling to your shoulders. Tonight, could be ‘our’ night.
The other –
Stay away. Tonight. Every night.
The soothing music caressed his senses, aroma of eucalyptus calmed down his nerves. Rising from the ground with hands held high, head tilted backwards, he began swaying to the tune, lost in ecstasy. His body surrendered to his senses, his senses to the ambience. With a blissful smile on his face, his slackened body sunk onto the bed next to him.
He slowly opened his eyes to the sound of his name intercepting the music, but the fragrance crept up on him grasping him within its tentacles, pulling him back to the utopia.
‘Nigel..Nigel..wake up,’ he heard two voices call him in unison.
‘Daisy..Lily…Lily..Daisy,’ Nigel whispered, eyes still shut.
He rubbed his dry, unshaven chin on the corner of the blanket. Long unkempt hair weighed down his heavy head further into the soft pillow. A fragile thread from the fleece blanket got tangled in his dry cracked heels as he stretched his legs out. Grabbing a corner of the blanket in his palms he pulled it up above him and tucked his head inside. The warmth of the darkness comforted him.
‘Nigel..Nigel. It’s us. Daisy and Lily,’ the voices would not let his head rest in peace.
‘Help help help,’ as if jolted from a nightmare, Nigel sat upright throwing the blanket off. In the dim lit room, through his drowsy eyes he saw two pairs of brown eyes staring straight back at him. As he moved his eyes lower from the brown eyes, he saw those red lips.
The lower his gaze moved, the wider his eyes opened; the faster his heartbeat went, the deeper the realisation sunk in.
It can’t be real. Am I still hallucinating?
He could feel his throat drying up. Shielding his face behind his arms, he gathered himself up from the bed, ‘Let me go. I am a mere gardener. You will reclaim nothing from my blood. ‘
‘Blood? Your blood is not what I seek, Nigel. That is for Alakai and father to take care. A taste of your manhood is all I desire,’ said Lily moving her eyes up and down Nigel’s bare torso.
With this arm-shield in place, slowly moving away from the bed, Nigel crawled out of the room into the basement hallway where Mr. Jones, Ms. Jones and the third person were waiting for him.
‘Get me out of this,” pleaded Nigel as he fell on to his knees with folded hands. Daisy and Lily walked towards him and dragged him back to the room, threw him on the bed, closed the door and left.
Exhausted, Nigel stayed on the bed replaying the events from earlier in the evening.
Obliging to the family invitation, I had arrived for dinner in fresh clothes with the garlands in hand. I would have liked to carry bouquets instead. Mr Jones had said there would be a special guest. I was prepared with a figure in mind if the discussion of wages came up. But it never did.
Getting rewarded for my work was not the only reason, which lured me. I had secretly hoped to see the girls up close, especially Lily.
Mr Jones was waiting for me with a candle. I had followed him to the basement.
The special guest was already there. ‘Hello,’ I had flashed the courtesy smile handing the garlands to Ms. Jones.
Dinner was served. The girls were missing from the table. I was no one to question.
‘Alakai, this is Nigel, the gardener, the one with fertile hands that raised the hundred daisies and hundred lilies.’ Said Mr. Jones pointing the garlands.
Alakai rose from his chair. Dressed in a long white skirt and a flowing white shirt, hair parted in the middle. Lips coloured black halfway through, one kohl rimmed eye. One hell of a weird man!
‘You are the chosen one, my son. For a cause greater than you,’ Alakai had said.
Chosen? For what?
Pouring four glasses of wine, Ms. Jones had casually asked, ‘Have you met the twins, Nigel?’
‘I …yes…no…I mean not really. May be,’ I had fumbled and taken few sips from the glass to steady my nerves.
‘Lily, Daisy,’ called out Mr. Jones.
‘Go slow, Lily. Give it a go, Daisy, before the sun is out,’ Ms. Jones had said, ‘The gardener and his flowers are here.’
Cutting through the dark hallway of the basement, Daisy and Lily had come walking towards me, with a lantern in each hand. I had reached out for my rear pocket, but then it was too late.
The damn wine had taken control of my mind and body by then.
The door creaked open pulling Nigel back to the present. It was them again, with the garlands in hand. The twins.
A sense of fear engulfed Nigel as he battled with his mind.
‘Alakai said garlands were an integral part of the ritual. I deem them unnecessary. They are just a nuisance. What do you say, Nigel?’ said Lily holding up the string of lilies hanging around her neck.
‘Didn’t I tell you to stay away, Nigel? It’s all a game and you are nothing but a pawn,’ said Daisy.
She paused and continued, ‘Eighteen years ago, when Mother delivered us, she must’ve had the same terror in her eyes as we see in yours now. No mother would have wanted twins as us – conjoined. Two heads joined to one torso. Two brains, two hearts, two faces, two necks. Two hands, Two legs. Alakai had said, keep them. They bring with them fortune and good luck. So, we lived, confined to the house, protected from the prying eyes of the world as fortune walked through our doors. Year on year. Every year on the night of harvest moon, he comes around to bless us. Alakai had predicted – In the eighteenth summer, a gardener will walk through our gates who will be our gateway to paradise. With a hundred daisies and hundred lilies he will be the steppingstone to our emancipation. So, there you are. If only you had stayed away!’
‘It must be done before sunrise. Hurry up, Daisy. Stay in sync with me. Time is running out. If only this man had not collapsed after dinner, it would have been done,’ said Lily as she walked closer to Nigel pulling Daisy along.
Nigel closed his eyes as he felt their breath on his face. The moment one set of wet lips touched his, with his arms around them, he pulled them closer, pushed them on to the bed and clambered over them. Lily moaned. Daisy gave in.
With one swift move, he pulled the blanket over the twins to drown their voices in. With his knees pressed firmly on each hand of the twins, Nigel grabbed both the garlands with one hand, making a tight noose. With the other hand, he reached for the pruner in his rear pocket.
Nigel then tiptoed out to the hallway, where the Jones and Alakai were waiting. Drops of blood from the pruner trailed behind him in the soft glow of the harvest moon.
Last known Nigel is the sole owner of all properties previously owned by the Jones, after their sad demise in an encounter with a wanted man named Alakai. With no descendants, the Jones had left everything to their faithful gardener. Nigel is often seen on the newly renovated porch, sipping tea from expensive tea sets.
He has a staff to manage things. Gardening is just a hobby. The Lilies and Daisies from his ‘fertile’ garden soil have not only won numerous awards in the local gardening shows, but they are also exported far and wide.
As for Lily and Daisy – they were never seen earlier, so their disappearance was never noticed.
Prompt: Your MC gets a new job at a new place in a new city. The tight-knit family running the place welcomes them with open arms and then invites them to take part in a eerie cult ritual when they close at night. Your MC is scared but overwhelmed by curiosity. What happens next?