The trees sighed a silent warning, and the leaves rustled in alarm. A man approached a garden which did not belong to him. His gait was steady, smooth, nonchalant. Upon his face danced a predatory smirk, and his eyes were colder than the frigid winter air. It had not snowed yet, despite it being late into the season.
He exhaled a shaky, delighted breath upon seeing the flower bed, filled to the brim with sundry roses freshly blooming. He knelt beside them and absorbed their sweet scent. An icy wind blew; the roses shuddered. His gaze locked upon one singular rose, in the throes of her flowering. Her petals were more vibrant than the rest, stained with a shade of red as dark as blood.
He began to sing sweet praise to her, showering her in the music of fraudulent love. The rose, aware of his manipulative intent, shied away from the man, and shrunk into herself. He tried once more to allure her, yet failed once again. His impatience and frustration growing, he plucked her from the earth.
An icy wind blew, and the roses gasped.
He confined her to a glass case with no water and no soil. She observed her surroundings only to see colorless cement walls surrounding her transparent cage. She screamed, but her voice made no sound, for she was merely a helpless flower. With every passing hour, the man came to observe her beauty. He pressed his fingers to the glass and sighed deeply. She felt vulnerable, what with the way his eyes undressed her, longed for her.
He was gone for long stretches at a time. For this, at least, she was thankful.
And then one night the man could no longer bear his desire. He approached the glass case once again and lifted the top. The rose shrunk back in fear. That night, he took his first petal from her. When he finished, he left her in the glass case to weep, silent and alone.
He plucked her more frequently with each passing night. When he had first begun, his touch had been gentle, apprehensive, almost, as it always was with all of them. But like the others, his confidence grew with her, until his grip became firm and restrictive. And he violently tore apart her dignity.
The trees sighed a silent warning, and the leaves rustled in alarm. The man abandoned her bare stem along his walk to the garden, letting her plummet to the earth she no longer believed to be her home. Upon hitting the ground, she woke to find her form translated to that of a young girl. In the distance, she could see the man’s figure receding. On trembling legs, she followed him; she could not allow the annihilation of another flower.
The nectar from her petals still tinted his rough fingertips. He reached the rose garden and placed his knee upon the earth. He sang sweet melodies to the flowers, attracting some and unnerving others. But the roses noticed the color on his fingers, the scent of rose on his shirt. And they spotted the girl standing behind him, bold in her bareness.
An icy wind blew, and the flowers growled in unison.
The man was oblivious to the girl’s presence, believing her destroyed and thus removed from his troubles. He reached down to pluck another rose and felt something pluck back. A thorn lay wedged in the skin of his thumb. Blood bristled from the cut. He looked at the flower, incredulous, enraged. He attempted to rise from the ground and stalk away from the garden, yet he found that his knees were trapped in the mud, and the ground seemed to be swallowing him whole. He screamed when he realized that his fingers were suddenly rotting, turning to dirt. He fell into the flower bed as his legs became one with the soil. The roses descended on him, armed with their thorns. And the man was awash in red sap. His flesh disintegrated; his teeth browned. Horror flooded his mind the moment he saw the girl, suddenly standing over him. He cried out in desperation.
She laughed at his torment. Laughing, endlessly.
Until there was nothing left but a diminishing mound of dirt, a flower bed, and the girl.
She approached her sisters, gave each of them kisses while they embraced her. Overwhelmed by exhaustion, the girl collapsed to the ground and fell into an undisturbed rest. The roses cried for her. And it began to snow.