Lisa Belmont sipped her tea as she stood in the cool autumn air. She stood on her large back porch that overlooked a ample backyard. A six-foot wooden privacy fence surrounds the new property allowing her two large Swiss Mountain Dogs to run freely, bolting from one side of the half-acre property to the other. She breathed deeply, taking in the fresh aroma that often floated on the fall breeze.
She had missed days like these, since her childhood. She went from a country girl to a city woman through college, landing a job downtown in a Law Firm. She spent the past five years living in a loft apartment with a view of the river, and the city across it. Now, married and wanting to start a family with her husband Kevin, she - no they - opted to move out of the metro area. Not wishing too sacrifice modern conveniences by moving back to whence she came, they chose a nice split-level home in a wooded rural area not but twenty-minutes from downtown.
She sat down on her new porch swing, still sipping the Earl Gray, with a touch of honey for added flavor. Lisa was enjoying the display that Laurel and Hardy where giving in the yard. The two Mountain Dogs were a new addition to the family; she and Kevin, both dog lovers, instantly fell in love with the Swissies at the shelter. This was their first morning to gallivant around the lush green grounds. Lisa also noted that it was only her third morning and a first for the weekend. Again, she sipped the tea, all day she had to spend in her new lavish plot of grass.
There was work to do, leaves to rake, weeding around the house and the two oaks. Lots of trimming, the real estate company only mowed the lawn no edge trimming, especially along the house and fence. Particularly, she was not looking forward to the fence in the rear of the yard. A tangle mess of ivy vines invaded the fence line, enveloping nearly ten-feet of the barrier. Growing up in the country taught her a few things if not two, and knowing what Ivy could do to a yard, fence, and even a home was one of them.
This was her first agenda; destroy these weeds before they ran rampant throughout the yard. Before she could do so, she would need to get ready; she smiled, the privacy offered another benefit, she sat here in her pajamas. She stood and entered the kitchen through the sliding door. Kevin was there, wearing a pair of jeans and a tee shirt he was obviously ready. He stirred his coffee with a butter knife, and then tossed it in the sink.
“Well sexy,” he said, “ready to dig into our first day of actual ‘Yard Work’?”
She sat the cup near the sink, kissed her man and withdrew with a smile. “You won’t be callin’ me that in about two hours.”
“Sure I will, all covered with mud and dirt, yep, you’ll still be sexy.”
“If you say so,” she walked out the room. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Fine, I’m going to start the weed whacker.”
It only took her a few minutes to toss on some jeans and a tee shirt depicting dolphins and a moon setting. She seemingly pulled a small elastic band from nowhere and twisted back her long black hair into a ponytail as she returned to the back patio. With one quick twist, her hair was up and out of the way. Slipping into her shoes, she noticed Laurel was hunkered down growling at the back wall.
She looked around the yard, there was only one dog, Hardy was nowhere in sight. The fence came in on each side of the house, prohibiting access to the front unless you used the gate. Maybe he followed Kevin out through the gate to the garage door on the side of the house. God, then he would be miles down the road by now. She watched the gate swing open and Kevin enter the yard alone.
“Hey, sweetie, did ya see Hardy?” she asked as she kept an eye on Laurel, now barking at the fence.
“No,” he answered as he put on ear protection and started the gas-powered trimmer.
The loud whine of the motor did not distract Laurel; he was fixated on the fence. Hmm, she thought, what does he have cornered? She bent down picked up some gardening gloves, a small gardening spade, and a bottle of spray weed killer. She marched across the yard, stopping and putting her equipment on the ground next to Laurel. The dog did not stop even as she knelt and patted his head.
“What is it boy? What do you see?”
The dog stopped, looked at her with sad eyes, and whimpered. Then abruptly turned his head back to the fence and began growling. She stood, looking at the ivy, putting on her gloves. Something was gleaming off it in the sunlight, something dark. Lisa stared at the ivy wall for a moment, it seemed to shiver, and then looked down at Laurel.
“Where’s Hardy?” she asked, knowing the dog could not answer. The baying ceased, he looked up at her and locked his yellow eyes to hers, and his expression contained sadness, as if he was suffering a loss. He again whimpered a few times then turned his head to the ivy and just glared. No growling, no barking, not even a whimper, Laurel just gazed at the wall.
“Hardy?” she said as she turned toward the fence.
Laurel barked once, not altering his stare. Lisa bent down, holding her posture very erect. Her eyes scanned the ivy, repeatedly as she felt the ground for the shovel. Something drove her to fear. There was an unnatural air about now; a weight was hanging over the sky, urging her to go back. She was unsure what she was truly afraid of, was it the fact of the dog missing? On the other hand, what exactly was the gleaming substance on the ivy? Instincts told her to retreat, logic dictate she advance. She was torn. She sighed, as she stood up tall, gripping the small garden shovel as if it were a weapon.
She started to take a step forward, Laurel whimpered. She stopped again, looking down at the large dog. He simply looked at her and then looked at the wall. She rolled her eyes. “Sorry,” she said, “you’re just a dog and it’s just a plant.”
She huffed, turned, and marched to the wall. She was being ridiculous, what, was this some kind of mutated flesh eating ivy? She laughed at herself for even contemplating it for a moment. She reached the wall and stared down the ivy as if she was standing in the old west facing off to a gunslinger. She gripped the shovel tighter in her right hand. Okay, take the plunge, she thought.
She grabbed the leafy evergreen plant near the top of the fence and gave it a good tug, using all the weight she could muster. It seemed almost to fight her, pull her back toward the fence. She backed up a step, letting go of the vine. Lifting the shovel, she was going to use it as an axe; she nodded to Laurel and gave the ivy a “Fuck You”.
As she pulled out on the ivy with her left hand, she paused. Her green and white gloved now stained a dark crimson. She rubbed her fingers together, moving the still fresh blood. Yes, she knew it was blood, but it was not hers. Slowly she lifted her eyes up to where her hand had grasped the vicious vine. Blood covered the green leaves giving them a purplish hue. Hesitantly she reached in moving the leaves and vines apart; working her way to the fence, she did not make it.
Her gloved hand got hold of something firm, she yanked, and it gave a snap in return. Lisa slowly pulled it out; she noticed she was beginning to shake uncontrollably. Not a lot, just enough to frighten her. She was getting nervous, but she had to know. She pulled out the bloody stump of an animal’s leg. The paw was intact, but he flesh stripped away from the femur itself. She quickly let it go; her right hand instantly covered her mouth. She backed off the fence, tears in her eyes. She knew it was Hardy, the coloring matched. She dropped to her knees. She wanted to scream, but she could not, she could only cry.
Before she could stop herself, another feeling swept over her. Anger swelled up taking control and in an instant she was up and charging the ivy wall once more. She heard herself scream out, cursing in vain at the plant. She reached it, grabbed at the ivy vines, pulling, tugging, and slashing with the shovel. It seemed to retreat from her, it also hissed, or sound as if it had.
Something tightened around her ankle, then wrenched her, knocking her backward to the ground. It was dragging her up the wall; blood was running from her lower leg. The pain was unreal, unlike any she had endured. More vines of ivy were crawling from the wall through the yard toward her. She knew then that it was the end; all she could do was scream loudly and try to pull away.
Something zipped past her vision, it was large and it was Laurel. The dog tore into the vine that held her fast. It chewed and tugged at the vile unnatural entity. Dark ooze shot everywhere, coating both in a black thick sticky substance. The dog continued his ferocious attack, and with a renewed sense of hope and vigor, she sat up, grabbed the weed killer, and started spraying. More vines reached out, others shied away from the spray.
Another vine was tearing up her leg, shredding her jeans easily, and then drinking the flesh from her calf. She screamed as she chopped with the useless shovel and sprayed the chemicals everywhere she could. Laurel was now being entangled, vines wrapped around his neck and chest. He did not give up the fight; he chewed and chomped his way to her tangled foot.
The roar of the weed-whacker did not sink in until she saw Kevin madly waving the whirling blade over her head and then carve into the advancing ivy. Again, vile black ooze flew everywhere, covering her, Kevin, and Laurel. A shrill like whine vibrated from the attacking vines as it began to retreat from the madman wielding a gas-powered yard tool.
Once free, she pulled herself back from the fence as far as she could, Laurel followed, limping. Kevin hacked at the vines, forcing them to retreat halfway up the six-foot fence. As he was screaming insanely at the animated vegetation, she examined her wounds. Her left leg torn up, her ankle cartilage was visible. It was all she could do to keep herself from passing out from both pain and the sight of it. The yard now covered with her and Laurel’s blood. Lisa propped herself up with her arms behind her.
Kevin ran back to her, tossing the trimmer to the ground. He nearly gagged as he looked at her legs, then his big brown eyes looked into hers. “Oh my God, we need to get you to a hospital,” he screamed.
“We need to go to Lowes,” she said, she was dizzy and in a daze, she watched the ivy recede up the wooden barrier.
“We need a stronger weed-killer.”