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"What's your poison?"

The bartender asks me in a jovial manner, his eyes fixed on me expectantly.

That's a fairly good question.

What is my poison?

Of course, I know exactly what the answer to such a query is, in multiple ways, in fact. To start with, my poison of choice, were I to choose to partake in such ghastly endevours such as murder, would be Thallium. Tasteless, odourless; the poisoner's poison, as they say. Though, of course, that's hypothetical, I wouldn't do something as barbaric as that. Not with poison anyway.

My poison in this circumstance, though, would be a double shot of gin and tonic; a slice of lemon to finish. Some might call me basic, perhaps even sub-par, for drinking such an unelaborate beverage. I believe drinks can help make a person, but I also believe that people are liars; and as such, a drink certainly shouldn't decide where on the intangible personality scale they sit.

I place a gloved hand on the bar counter, hands shrouded in black as I clear my throat.

"The usual."

The bartender gives me an extremely perplexed look.

"Miss, my apologies, but I've never seen you in here before, I might be mistaken but-"

I cut him off with a raise of my hand.

"Oh, I know. But you will see me again quite soon I'm sure."

The weathered man shifts on the spot; the uncertainty is visible on his face.

I offer him a small smile, my red painted lips framing my pearly whites as I aim to quell his apparent discomfort.

"I mean, for drinks, you know, I think I'll come back here more often."

The tension leaves his body in an instant; his face once again morphing back to the jovial contentedness he'd had just before my little comment.

"Oh, right. Sorry, took that the wrong way."

I shake my head, my ginger locks following my movements as I chuckle.

"Not a problem, I can see why you'd find that weird."

I reach my hand downward, thrusting it into the depths of my burgundy handbag; feeling around for what I need. I brush against something, the shape of a bottle unmistakable against my gloved palm.

I grimace.

Just a little longer now.

I finally find what I need, plucking my purse from the container. It's a dainty little thing, pastel blue with silver clasps. Demure and inoffensive. Just like me.

"Here, for the trouble." I say as I thrust out a five pound note towards him.

I drink in his expression as he looks at the money. He wants it, I know he does, but does his desire outweigh his modesty? That is the ultimate question here, and his next action will display the answer in full.

Tentatively, his left hand clutches the currency, and then retracts; stowing it away in his trouser pocket.

He mutters a "Thank you" as he walks off.

I think I rattled him a little.

Typical, how typical. Though I can't blame him really, the barman's plight is exceedingly woeful. I've watched him for a while now; I know how he works.

I know that he leaves for work at exactly quarter-past-twelve, Monday to Friday. I know that he drives a Nissan Micra, with the number plate BDZ-745. And I certainly know that his wife and children would be upset if he were to be living a double life.

Such a meaningless existence, living on borrowed time. They're always found out, and they never understand that. His wife is a pretty young thing, not unlike myself when I was a young woman. Blonde, charismatic and strident; I can't see anyone else worthy of giving those children what they need. I see the adoration in her eyes; hanging onto his every word, a little lamb by his side. But of course, she isn't enough for him.

Nothing is enough for him, and that's why he took my money. Beyond that charming exterior is a wretched soul with a cold heart. He sees her every week, too. He tells his wife that he's got to work late, and indeed he does; but not at his job. All his work entails at that hour is maintaining his relationship with Faye Green.

Yes, she's just as contemptuous.

I see a wench in a woman who knows her lover is married. A vile, repugnant person is what she is. Both of them are full of hedonism, with not a single care for the ones they affect.

No matter.

I take my leave from the bar, wincing slightly. My hands are intermittently pulsing, a buzzing sensation under the skin. While it's not unbearable, I should remedy it while I can; it'll only get worse as time goes on if I choose to ignore it.

My brown-heeled boots lead me to a secluded area just adjacent to the bar, where a group of low-hanging willow trees congregate near to the local woods. They provide me with the perfect cover that I need; thick, whip-like branches form a tight-knit mesh as they hang down, obscuring me from onlookers.

My hand once again reaches inside my bag.

This time, the glass bottle comes out. It sits in my palm, a white sticker upon it labelled 'Flora'.

I smile a little.

I suppose I like the irony of the name my mother gave me. Mother also made the tonic, and passed down the recipe to me once I had shown symptoms. Not out of kindness, though. Oh no, my mother was the first hedonist that I had the misfortune of knowing; one might even claim she was the catalyst for what will soon transpire.

The experimentation was cruel, to say the least. I wasn't the first, but I would be the last. Locked in my room was where I stayed; her hydroponics lab off-limits to us youths. Unless, of course, we were needed. The drugged stupor she kept us in was bad enough to keep my memories of such a long-gone event fairly hazy; though I remember a few parts. I remember needles of purple, notebooks; rows and rows of plants I didn't dare touch. And the fear. The fear was intense; all of us shared it. We went into those rooms not knowing who'd come out; if my brothers and sisters would become twisted abominations before the day was done.

And to think, she'd told us this was supposed to be helpful; a new step in ensuring human survival.

I was the first success; and as such, she couldn't let her only 'promising' child expire from mutation. And so here I am, forty-two years old; holding the liquid that keeps me from joining my long dead siblings, due to a sick desire to monitor my 'progress'.

It tastes rather bland, really, with a slight hint of peach.

I wince once again, face pulling into a grimace as I feel the pulsing come back with a vengeance. A frown sets into my face, and I sigh.

Bottoms up.

I unscrew the lid of the bottle, preparing to drink the grey liquid housed inside. My hand raised to my mouth, ready to drink...

...I stop.

No, not quite yet. I must endure this just a little longer.

The pain is becoming a large obstacle, one that my dear mother made clear that she found to be a necessary setback in the "onward march towards salvation". We were never allowed to know too much; never allowed to understand the inner workings of her mind. Of course, we weren't viewed as people, and as such the woman found no issue with keeping us in the dark.

I intend to do my own research soon, anyway. I have spent too long trying to hide, trying to suppress my painful condition. I have felt every emotion imaginable, from bitterness to resentment; despair to rage. Surreptitiously gaining information on this particular man has not been easy, but being exposed to wanton hedonism has got me to where I am now, and I cannot overlook it. The subject of my wrath is possibly a little unorthodox; one would be quite correct in that there are several million others with a more self-serving character than the insignificant man I have chosen.

Of course there are, I know this; he's just a suitable candidate to start with, a detestable person who's easy for me to find. I am so sick of the decadence; it frustrates me so much. I simply want a world full of kindness; a world full of helpful, wonderful people. Why is that objectionable? Surely no one would argue that a man such as Norman Brady, bartender by day; cheater by night, should ever be treated favorably for his actions?

I don't know what will come of my idealistic wondering when the time finally comes because I've never tried before; the apprehension has simply been too strong up until I met him.

And oh? What's that?


Whistling.

Nonchalantly strolling along the path towards the woodland trail, is the very man I need.

Of course.

In my haste to deal with my problem, I seem to have briefly lost focus. The brazenly sinful bartender has the vice of smoking to deal with too; the subtle shaking of his hands indicating the underlying addiction.

The universe has grounded me once again; showing me that I am indeed required to do this.

I slip my elixir back inside the handbag, feet following along behind the unaware Norman; watching his hands shift from pocket to collar. He's walking towards the treeline, the concrete turning to vibrant greens mixed with the gnarled brownness of the trunks as, surprisingly, he decides to take his break further into the woods than usual. His black shoes take him beyond the border and into the wooded shroud, passing the usual spot.

I know why he does it, but I don't usually see him descend in further than the edge. It's his happy place from what I've gathered; a brief respite from his stressful reality. Stressful due to his own influence, I might add.

Further in we go, the rustle of leaves and dirt under my feet remaining unnoticed; I keep my distance and follow slightly to the right instead of directly behind.

Finally, we reach a small clearing; a huge log lies lengthways across the span of the small break in the thick line of trees surrounding us both.

From behind a particularly thick trunk is where I currently stand, waiting for the right moment.

Buzzt!

"Hello?"

I almost jump out of my skin.

"Oh, no Faye, I'm on my break, no I'm not smoking."

I silently sigh, allowing myself to ease out of the tense stance I have adopted. Of course he'd be on the phone to her.

"So, how're you?"

"Aww, I'm glad, I'm having a good day too, rather slow at work though."

I don't have time to listen to this any longer; this droll diatribe is ridiculously unengaging.

I begin to grasp my left glove, sliding it slowly off my hand; keeping it ever so steady as I do. The black leather unshrouds my hand, and my skin is revealed. I pull a face of revulsion; It's not pretty, and it's worsened since I last went without taking a swig from the tonic. Toxic green pulsing veins are visible on my skin, churning and raised as they flow all through my hands. Similarly coloured pustules seem to bubble slightly as they grotesquely claim the surface of my flesh; clinging like leeches. My very skin is a sickly, pale teal, stopping at the top of my wrist, the concoction I drink the only thing preventing its' advancement.

The small tendrils of teal that seem to be starting to creep show me what I've been feeling already. It's growing increasingly untenable as time goes on.

The other glove comes off, the state of the right no better than the left.

My focus then shifts back to my environment, beginning to fully process the phone conversation meters away from me.

"Hmm, wait, you can't be serious?!"

He seems elated.

Well, he won't be soon.

I step out of the treeline, and feign a fall, crying out theatrically as I do so.

He whirls around, eyes concerned instantly.

"I-I'll call you back in a second!"

He drops to his knees to comfort me, arms trying to find mine. I'm sprawled fairly dramatically, and he has to lift me up.

"Miss, are you alr-"

He sees my hands.

I ignore the revulsion clearly visible on his face; he backs away to what he assumes to be a safe distance.

He recognises me, I see it in his eyes.

"Oh my god...I think you're sick miss.. I'll call an ambulance!"

I hold my hands out to him, not ashamed anymore.

"I am sick, Norman. I'm sick of you pretending you're of the empathetic sort."

The man gives me a look of bewilderment.

"How-how'd you know my name, we met today, I don't remember giving you my name!"

I don't reply.

I simply thrust myself forward, arms snaking towards him. He yelps, making to run, but I'm already upon him. I pounce, throwing him to the ground with the momentum of my jump. We tussle on the ground, a mad fight for dominance as we grapple. My hands reach around his neck, gripping it as hard as I possibly can. He begins to gasp, the shock and pain of his windpipe being pressed on stopping his struggles temporarily.

I squeeze harder, the green in my hands flowing faster, more erratic; the bulbous pustules begin to burst, leaking a viscous liquid, dripping onto him.

I grimace, the pain is quite intense for me, but the adrenaline is getting me through this.

Suddenly, he jerks from under me, throwing me off him. I'm reminded that his strength supersedes mine; this could be dangerous.

"I-I'm..I'm gonna kill you.." He breathes heavily, staggering towards me as I try to scramble to my feet.

He reaches me, throwing me against a tree, arms raised, ready to strike...

And then stops.

His eyes widen in utter terror; he begins to stiffen.

I hear a sickening crunch as what sounds like his entire spinal column begins to stretch and shift.

His eyes convey absolute agony, but it seems he cannot speak. This shift begins to change his position to be impossibly straight, like his entire backbone has just been stretched upwards. He looks at me, tears running down his cheeks as the viscous liquid on his neck seems to fizz and dissipate; fully disappearing inside of his skin.

I stand up, intrigued by what I have just started.

His arms start to jerk and twitch, gaining bulk as they force themselves outwards, his entire skin beginning to darken; slowly but surely turning from creamy caucasian to darker brown.

More and more snaps can be heard, a silent scream in his mouth with every one. His bones start to shift under his skin, protruding and twisting, turning that same brown colour as they start to rupture his arms like germinating seeds. I wince, this isn't exactly what I'd imagined. I knew it wouldn't be pretty, but this is rather brutal.

Oh well, no turning back now.

The metamorphosis continues, the erected bones beginning to grow even longer, spiraling and meandering as they settle into what seems to be their final position. They sprout little buds on their ends, and darken fully, skin and bone seeming to convert to a more rough looking material, brown and hard. It looks rather beautiful, If I'm honest.

His arms are fully converted now, almost symmetrical in their gnarled, twisted glory. His torso seems to be the next to change, hardening and twisting slightly and growing upwards, towering over me now; a good nine feet off of the ground now. That same brown colouration overtaking his chest as it rips his clothing away, revealing hardening flesh, the very DNA seeming to change in front of me. I almost feel pity as I stare at him; the pleading in his silence is deafening. He's becoming something gorgeous, though; I can tell.

That fact makes it worth it.

The colouration has overtaken his torso completely, and begins to widen. More wrenching can be heard, whole structures being reformed as a thicker, wider frame is created from his midsection. I then begin to recognise that the material this is is bark.

Oh, my mother, that sly woman. That coveted, wretched old bitch.

I pace around the changing man, looking at him up and down; inspecting his every inch as I ponder to myself. It's starting to become clear now; my mother's vision might actually make sense. Norman's eyes follow me desperately, silently screaming at me to rid him of the excruciating pain he's going through.

I couldn't even stop this if I wanted to, I don't know how. And besides, I have to know what this means. I'd expected my touch to kill him, not do this.

His torso has become a sturdy trunk, hard and solid. I watch as his legs and feet begin to force their way into the ground, digging wildly at the soil. Wrenching and writhing, his dirt-ridden soles burrow their way deeper and deeper, until they're no longer visible. From here, only his waist is still above ground, and my morbid curiosity wonders what's become of his legs below the surface.

Eyes wide with terror, bloodshot and weeping, the man watches as his waist begins to change too. My own gaze follows his, to where what seems to be a base is growing. His hips expand, stretching to extreme proportions, clicking and scraping as it too becomes bark.

Only his head remains, hair soaked with sweat, eyes sunken and face red. He's close to passing out.

I must capture the moment.

"Wait there Norman, let me find your phone, I want to remember this."

I drop to my hands and knees, rooting around the area for the man's dropped mobile phone. The cracks and snaps I can hear behind me are largely ignored; it's probably his legs.

The background noises rise in intensity, and I make a face of irritation as I continue my search. Gosh, that man never did have any manners. If this phone hunt takes too long, I might not be able to document it.

There it is.

My hands finally lay themselves upon the object I seek, lying in a bush nearby.

Returning to my feet, I thrust the phone out towards him, hoping to see a dishevelled face on the camera screen, but I am awestruck with what I see.

In place of Norman Brady's wretched body, is a thing of beauty.

A mighty apple tree has blossomed in full; the last vestige of his head has formed into the powerful essence of a tree. Large branches twist and turn, bearing shiny red fruit on its' vibrant green leaves forming a bush-like canopy around me as I stare. I cannot fathom its' beauty. I raise the mobile phone, and it emits a short flash as I take my first picture.

I created this, my hands forged this goodness; this purity. I begin to ponder once again as I reach with careful hands to pluck an apple from the Norman-tree. I note that my hands don't seem to adversely affect the fruit, the healthy red glow seeming to intensify as I take a bite.

Absolutely scrumptious.

A crisp taste, with juicy sweetness and a subtle dash of bitter aftertaste to even the flavour out.

And as I finish swallowing, a sense of enlightenment washes over me, my thoughts finally culminating into their apex. I understand.

My mother's vision; her ideology. This tree in front of me, made by my touch. This is immortality. A rebirth, returning to nature in its' purest form. I may finally have what I've wanted for so long. I feel myself begin to tear up a little. No, I must be strong, there's still so much to be done. There are so many to be purified before the greed my mother showed me is gone.

And as I leave the secluded refuge in those now blessed woods; newfound knowledge in my mind, I feel a vibration coming from my palm. I glance at the phone in my hand, and read the message that's just come through.

Three unanswered calls from Faye Green.



Written by ZugZuwang
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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