Rosemary’s hands began to bleed about five minutes in. Her blood made the rough handle slick, almost easier to work with. Though after ten more minutes of breathing in the sour scent of copper mixed in with sickly sweet honeysuckle, she stopped feeling anything at all. All she was left with was the stink of the night and the sound.
Snickt. Shhhh. Snickt. Shhhh. Snickt. Shhhh.
It was a homely little rhythm, comforting in its way. Like the rustle of pages in church and the thunk of glasses in the sink as she fumbled after them with her yellow rubber gloves. Homely sounds were good, she thought, home was good. Her arms shook as the shivery numbness spread from her arms through her aching chest and down past her still damp thighs.
Home was important. Snickt.
And Rosemary would protect her home. Shhhh.
The tiny bundle at her feet twitched, and Rosemary paused, drawing in great gasping lungfuls of the fetid August night. It twitched again and gave a small cough. Rosemary’s hands tightened, her knuckles creaking.
“Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with thee.” Rosemary turned back to her work. “Blessed art thou among women.” Snickt. “And oh so very blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” Shhhh.
She prayed and toiled and the darkness of the hole seeped through her neat garden. It warped what it touched, twisting the shadows of her prize hydrangeas and swallowing her dainty patch of daisies whole. Her pretty table cowered near the gate, the cheerful Laura Ashley table cloth stripped away, smeared with viscera and wadded up under a fallen patio chair.
Rosemary ignored the creeping darkness, just as she had for months. Instead she let herself be carried away by the soft sounds of her shovel breaking the silent night. She thought of her mama’s lemonade, sunlight in a glass and sweet and bitter on her tongue. She thought of the tiny clinking chimes of ice and the satisfying smooth weight of a well made glass.
And then the rush of a thousand bird’s wings filled her ears and the taste of mealy apple filled her mouth.
“Rosemary, Rosemary, quite contrary. How does your pretty little garden grow?” At her back the old white picket gate groaned open, and at her feet the bundle wrapped in a blood soaked towel cooed.
She spat. “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Rosemary dug her shovel deep into the blackness of her pit and flung the dirt over her shoulder.
The gate slammed shut. “Been there. Done that.” The voice threading out of the night held the memory of fiery delights and the promise of brimstone. “Three times in a row, if I do recall.” Rosemary turned, studying the thing who strolled into her garden as if it owned the place. All long limbed smoothness in a seersucker suit, with flyaway hair like an oil slick and gigantic crow black wings rising up to kiss the night. It looked the same as it had on Christmas Eve, though now the lie under its pretty face turned it from a creature of terrible beauty to one of profane filth.
“I don’t recall inviting you in,” Rosemary said, leaning on her shovel.
It sneered. “Oh, I do.” It pursed its cupid’s bow lips and clasped its hands. “Oh! Oh please! Oh god! Oh yes, yes, yes! Ooooh!” The searing memories burned her face, but Rosemary didn’t lower her eyes. After months of backhanded whispers and pointed fingers she was never looking down again.
She planted a fist on her hip. “You’re evil, but you don’t have to be crude.”
The thing snorted and began to wind closer to her, fingers leaving trails of death where they brushed against her flowers. “You’re a blonde, but you didn’t have to be a stereotype.” It stroked her hydrangea bush and the blue petals withered. “But you are what you are, little mother. And I. Well.”
“I know what you are,” Rosemary snapped. “I assume you’re here for this?” She nudged the bundle with her shovel and the black crusted towel fell open. Chubby taloned hands waved up at the creature, grasping for its long feathers as they whispered past.
The inky wings flared and the thing in the seersucker suit crowed its triumph to the heavens.
“I’ve got some experience with snakes in my garden,” she said. “I don’t know how they do it where you’re from, but down here…” Rosemary raised the shovel up high, its rusted tip pointed toward the earth and trembling like a bird’s heart. Then with a scream of her own she stabbed down, severing the wretched thing’s neck. Its horned head rolled toward Rosemary’s daisies. Its small cloven feet twitched.
The creature’s handsome face twisted, eyes sinking into deep pits. “Rossssemary,” it hissed through serrated teeth.
“And I’ve learned a thing or two since you first came a callin’. Including a sprinkling of Aramaic, and how to bind the earth with runes. I may be blonde, but you’re an arrogant son of a bitch who just strolled into his own grave.”
She whacked the little abomination’s head towards the creature with her shovel. “You want him? Well you two can rot together. Because no one messes with my garden. No one.”
Dawn broke over Rosemary’s garden as she filled in the last of the loose dirt. Snickt. Shhhh. Snickt. Shhhh.
A brave little goldfinch hopped onto her picket fence and cocked its head at her. She winked, and for the first time in nine months a smile crept onto her lips. “Can you keep a secret, Tweety Bird? I think I’m going to put some roses in here. Yellow ones. Can’t have a big patch of dirt in the middle of my garden. What would the neighbors say?” A few more finches joined the first, staring at her and grumbling amongst themselves. “But put in some flowers? No one pays attention. It’s just another patch of invisible earth.”