The acrid smell of disinfectant burned Detective Morgan's nose as he entered the morgue, pushing through the swinging doors quickly. He approached the medical examiner, a rather plain-faced blonde in her mid-thirties, who was still hunched over the body with her back to him. She heard his footsteps on the floor and did a half turn to greet him. Her nametag said Pauline.
“What the hell happened to him?” Morgan demanded. The medical examiner sighed and stepped away from the body to give the detective a better view.
“Compacted,” she said with a frown. “Legs crushed almost into dust, lungs punctured at multiple points, arteries severed completely.”
“Compacted?” Morgan repeated. “Like a car compactor? You think this is some kind of message from the mafia?”
“No,” Pauline said, leaning against the table. “I've seen mafia victims that come out of car compactors. They don't look like this.”
“What do you mean?” the detective asked, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
“Well, when they crush somebody the victim is usually seated, or laying in the trunk. This guy... He was standing straight up. And the way all the blood was forced into the top half of his body, it looks like he was forced into a drain pipe. He had to have been under enormous pressure.”
“So they hit him with a pile driver,” Morgan said dryly.
“No, look at his head.”
The whole body was a nightmare — what was left of it anyway.
The bottom half was pale and looked... loose, like a pair of pants that were too big. His legs were a mashed pulpy mess with bone fragments poking through the skin all over. Further up at the stomach, the skin started to turn a bright pink and there were several lacerations above his belly button. A rib extended through the sternum.
His head was the worst part; the four to five liters of blood coursing through his body had been forced upwards so hard and so fast that his cranium had simply exploded, skull fragments pushed outward like a flower in bloom with bits of brain at the center.
“What the hell is even capable of something like this?” Morgan asked, his voice hoarse with fear. He made the mistake of looking at the victim's face; in addition to his head blowing open, the pressure had ruptured his eyeballs and as the detective stared down at him, it looked as if he were crying blood. Nausea built up and Morgan turned away in case he was going to vomit.
“Honestly, I couldn't tell you,” Pauline said, looking over the body to see if she had missed anything. “What I can say definitively is this was not a mistake.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” the detective said, wanting desperately to leave. “I'll call you if I have any further questions.” The medical officer nodded and Morgan tried not to run from the room.
Once past the double doors, he rushed to find an exit and barely made it outside to the parking lot before the lo mein he'd had for lunch resurfaced. He stood there, bent slightly at the knees, and waited for the nausea to pass. When he felt like he could stand without dry heaving he lurched over to his car. A male nurse stood at his own car, two spaces down from Morgan, and he raised his eyebrows in concern as he saw the detective fumble with his keys.
“You okay to drive, buddy?” he called out, watching the older man cautiously.
“I'm fine,” Morgan said thickly, covering his mouth to burp. “Just had some Chinese that didn't agree with me.” The nurse nodded and opened his car door. Morgan opened his own door, then turned back around with a random thought. “Is there anything you would suggest for —?” He stopped talking and stared; the nurse was gone. The car door was open but the nurse was no longer there. Morgan rounded the vehicle slowly, confused. His heart pounded in his chest and he gaped as he saw the nurse's car keys on the ground. Something rustled in the trees surrounding the parking lot and he stifled a scream, then drew his weapon and hurried forward before he lost his nerve.
The small dense forest outside of the parking lot was dark but he refused to pull his flashlight out so he wouldn't give away his position. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the little bit of moonlight that made it through the trees. Something moved ahead of him and he raised his gun. Whatever it was, it was big. He bit his lip to keep from making a sound and moved forward. After a few long minutes, the smell of rotting flesh met his nose and he knew immediately where he was; there was a river close by, full of the toxic waste that was dumped by the government factory a half mile away. He could smell the polluted water so he knew it wasn't far off.
He started moving faster, trying to get to the river before the nurse and his abductee. In his haste, he tripped over something sticking up out of the ground and went down hard. His weapon was lost in the darkness. Morgan swore and pushed himself to his knees, brushing dirt and leaves from his wet hands.
“What the...?” he muttered, taking a whiff of his palm. He recognized the smell of blood right away and looked down; the nurse was wedged in the ground up to his chest. Morgan could see the dark hollow sockets where his eyes used to be and bits of his own scalp lay across his face, blown outward by the pressure on his skull. This time the detective abandoned all traces of stealth and pushed to his feet screaming. He ran blindly through the trees, unsure of where he was going. Crashing through the brush, he came out into a large open field and stopped; there were rows of people, all wedged into the ground like the nurse, all dead. All blooming.
Something moved on his left and he turned, not wanting to believe what he was seeing. It looked like something was pushing through the trees, bending them out of its way as it came closer to him. Then he realized the TREES were moving towards him.
Their trunks were bundled together to make one large creature with long spindly limbs covered in vines and dead leaves. Morgan stood frozen as it stepped towards him, the roots protruding from its feet, meshing with roots pushing up from the ground to stifle its footsteps. It reached down and vines wrapped around Morgan's shoulders tightly, lifting him into the air.
He stared at the creature. It didn't have a face but the leaves around its head fluttered first in one direction, then the other, as if it were breathing. Morgan could tell it was sizing him up. It held him off to the side, like it was thinking, and for one foolish moment the detective found himself hoping to be released.Without warning, he was being rocketed downwards. His stomach loosened its contents again as the ground swarmed up towards him. He felt a dull crunch in his legs but felt no pain. There was warmth on his cheeks as his eyeballs burst. Somebody was trying to choke out a scream but it sounded like there was something caught in their throat. Morgan realized he was the one screaming through his own blood. His ears still worked and as his body drew one last ragged breath, he heard the creature make a drawn-out raspy noise. It sounded pleased.
It had a beautiful garden.