Last summer, I went on vacation to Shanghai, China. I attended several flower shows and visited the national parks there in search of something to photograph. The flowers were stunning, especially in the summer months. There were plantations in the parks which presented a wide range of colours and varieties.
On the last day of my vacation, I attended a flower show in which the seeds were sold at half price compared to the norm. Sat behind one of the display stalls was a weird old lady dressed in traditional Mongolian clothing, a long furry skirt, dreadlocks and a pointy white hat in the middle of July. She wasn’t even sweating. Everyone else was wearing perfectly normal clothing, so you couldn’t help but notice her. Perhaps it was her way of attracting attention to her display.
On the display was the most prepossessing, beautiful bunch of yellow flowers I had ever seen. The petals were ruffled around giant, round yellow centres. The flowers were about three times the size of every other flower in the whole exhibition. The English label read ‘Super Daffodil’ under some large Chinese characters. I wondered why, since they didn't look too much like daffodils - they were yellow, that was all.
I looked up a few greetings and compliments from my travel guide’s phrasebook before doing what every foreigner eventually does in a conversation abroad, and asked her whether she spoke any English.
“A little,” she replied.
“Why are your flowers ‘super’?” I asked.
“You…” she pointed at me. I nodded. “No… sun.” She pointed at the sky. Then she pointed at the flowers. “It only needed the… the… the lag. No, no, sorry… the leg.” She pointed at a desk lamp, which was positioned next to the flowers, the beam of light shining onto their petals.
An attractive super-flower which I could use to lighten up the house during the dull British winter months where the sun never came out; at half price (so it was actually marginally affordable), and duty-free packaging. All I needed was some animal shit, water and a desk lamp. What a great deal it was! I felt guilty for making life difficult for the old lady.
“Ok. Xie xie.” I thanked her in mandarin, though she looked more Mongolian than Chinese, then purchased a packet of seeds which came with a free flower pot.
My one year old daughter and my wife came to greet me excitedly at the airport when I returned.
Upon my arrival back home in Britain, I planted the seeds immediately, carefully following the step-by-step English instructions on the back of the packet despite the terrible grammar. It was still warm, but it would turn winter after the seeds fully germinated. With this super-flower, if what the old lady said was true, I could literally put it in a cupboard with nothing but a candle and it would grow perfectly fine. I tested it out, and positioned it in the living room with a lamp for company, giving it water and fertiliser when appropriate.
The flowers opened soon after germination, and it survived well during the winter months. On a cold January day, my wife had gone to work and told me to look after our daughter Claire. There was no beer left, so I decided to pop around the local bar quickly. I strapped Claire solidly to the baby buggy and gave her favourite story book and bottle to her, also turning on the children’s programme on the TV in case she became extra bored.
It was raining outside, but I couldn’t be bothered to bring an umbrella and sprinted my way across the roads to the White Stag with my hood up. My mates were there and after taking a few shots, I decided to stay, chat and play pool. Around two hours later, I returned to the house with baby food for Claire. My wife hadn’t yet returned.
I was shocked to hear Claire screaming as I unlocked the front door. I bolted inside and saw in horror that her hands, arms and face were all bleeding. Blood stained her clothes, her hair, even the buggy. Specks of blood also resided along the walls and on the floor. The skin around her eyes was pink and cracking like an old lady’s. She seemed to have scratched her face and arms raw with her nails.
“Hurts, daddy, hurts!” She yelled.
I called an ambulance immediately, then my wife, as I hurriedly bandaged her sores, wondering what the hell caused her to do that to herself. There were even scratches on her legs and feet – pretty hard to reach there whilst constrained in a buggy.
We were both pretty shaken after that, and sort of lectured her on self-harm, but not in the way you’d expect. Naturally, my wife blamed me for the incident, and we vowed to never leave Claire on her own again.
A year later, I had a phone call from my wife’s company claiming that she’d had an accident. After speedily checking up whether the phone number was legit or not (and regretfully, it was), I strapped Claire up in the buggy again and drove to the scene. I knew I’d promised my wife never to leave Claire on her own again, but this time it was urgent; moreover, it had been a year already. Claire was already two years old, and it was unlikely anything bad would happen this time. I left her my spare mobile on the dining room table next to the buggy and set up the phone so that she would call my number if she pressed on the green button.
“Claire, if you get scared or anything goes wrong, just press this button to call daddy, okay?”
She nodded, and with half my heart at rest, I sped away.
I arrived at the scene fifteen minutes later, and it turned out my wife was alright, but she had a broken arm which would require surgery and a cast. Nothing more. Relief swept across me and as I drove home, I received a phone call from Claire. She was probably missing me, or was hungry again. Smiling, I picked up.
"Hello Claire, it’s daddy. Mummy’s okay, you don’t need to worry, alright? Daddy will be home in five-"
A bloodcurdling scream leapt out from the speaker. I shuddered, suddenly extremely terrified.
"Claire, what’s going on? Claire-"
Another scream, and crying sounds. Then gargled, demonic panting, like that of a giant hound.
“It hurts daddy, HELP ME!”
Another low demonic gargle scared me stiff. Holy shit. Had I accidentally changed the channel to a horror movie instead of the kids’ programmes? Claire made a continuous clanking racket.
Gurgle gargle. Whatever was Satan was speaking again.
“Claire? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” I screamed. I stamped on the pedal.
“DADDY!” The line was cut off.
Shrill cries could be heard as I unlocked the front door. As I unlocked it, I remembered that same terrifying moment a year ago when I smashed into the house and discovered that awful sight.
I dreaded being faced with that same sight once more, but this time it was even worse than I could ever have anticipated.
Whatever happened last time, it had happened again.
I was faced with Claire’s extremely disfigured body, and blood was still seeping out everywhere. Her eyes were gone, leaving two large dark red voids in her head. Her nose, ears and lips were also missing, patches of bone stained pink and exposed on her face.
The flesh and skin still left on my baby’s tender, lifeless form was almost detached. Chunks of flesh actually lay in clumps on the floor around her, some with tendons still attached to the bones. Her organs were clearly visible, gouged out by some unknown force, and what looked like her liver and spleen were in her lap. Her clothes were completely stained and torn, so that I could see her ribs.
She lay in her buggy whimpering softly, her arms occasionally twitching in extreme pain. I tried to imagine waking up in the middle of open heart surgery – that’s probably what it felt like, but everywhere. The primordial human instinct to call an ambulance kicked in.
As I yelled frantically into the receiver, I noticed a distinct trail of blood drops, crawling across the floor from the buggy to the dining table. The drips lead to the flower pot, in which the yellow ‘super-daffodils’ resided. I peered in, and to my consternation, the bulb of the flower seemed to move. As if the huge round thing inside it was closing up, like a shell. I saw a hint of the edges of something spikey and serrated before it finally resumed its original, innocent form.
Suddenly suspicious, I began prying it open with my bare hands as I continued to speak to the cell.
Something moved again.
Then one of the bulbs opened up and snapped at me in fury, making me jump back. My fingers started to bleed but I resisted, and in terror, resorted to trying to pull the monstrous thing out using all my strength. It didn’t come out of the soil, but the whole bulb detached itself from the petals and its neck stretched to twice its original length – enough to reach across the room.
All three bulbs opened like Venus Flytraps and started to snap at me. Along the edge of the halves were not just one, but three rows of tiny dagger-like teeth, stained with blood. Like a piranha’s, or a shark’s mouth. In my panicked frenzy, all I could remember was that on both instances I left Claire alone, I had not watered the plants.
And on each occasion they had been watching me. Waiting for me to leave.
Written by Rinskuro13