πŸ“… Published on September 22, 2021


Written by Charlotte O'Farrell
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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I hate Friday nights. Lately, I just hate them.

I rolled a six this time, so I can breathe easily for another week. I turn away from the poor suckers still rolling the dice. I can’t watch.

The only sound in the room is the small crack of the little die on the floor and sometimes sobbing. It’s as if none of us dare to breathe. It’s round 12. Only three people left in the group huddled together on the ground, waiting to see if they’re this week’s sacrifice.

We’re gathered in a former lobby. In more normal times, we met socially, watched a game, or just hung out with our neighbours. There’s a pool table in the middle and a TV mounted on the wall. There are tables and chairs dotted around. This used to be a cosy place. Now it smells like death and shame.

Silence. Crack. I try not to turn around, but I can’t resist. There’s a small, relieved exhale from the guy I used to pass in the communal laundry room. He scrambles to his feet and moves away from the two remaining potential sacrifices.

The unlucky last two are both women. One lives a few doors down from me, in apartment 48. She used to have a couple of kids. Neither of them came down to choosing the sacrifice this week, but we all know better than to ask why. Her eyes are streaked with tears. There’s something dead in them now.

The other lady is in her seventies. I know her by sight but not by name. Maybe it’s better that way. We used to nod at each other casually in the hallway, back when life was normal, when things made sense.

“I’m sorry, dear,” she whispers to the young mother.

“Don’t be. I don’t care if I die,” croaks the other woman.

There’s a long pause. Then, finally, the mother leans forward and grabs the die. She throws it.

Several of us 20 or so spectators lean in. Finally, she’s thrown a four. The tension is almost too much to bear.

The old lady leans forward. She clasps the die with shaking hands. It seems to fall in slow motion.

It lands on one.

The old woman puts her hands to her mouth and makes a small noise of pain. Two strong guys have already grabbed her, one under each arm. It’s better to do it quickly. It’s kinder not to allow them to attempt to escape. Like the hangmen of old, we’ve perfected the process to minimise suffering, but it probably looks like soulless efficiency to an outsider.

She struggles. She screams. She cries about her grandchildren and how they’ll miss her.

After twelve weeks in this hellhole, we’ve heard it all before.

The old lady is no match for the guys holding her. I notice they don’t look her in the eyes as they drag her along.

They reach the wall. Plants are growing all along it now, from the ground to the ceiling. There isn’t a single part of it that isn’t covered in vegetation. But these aren’t like the plants you’d see in normal times. They’re biggerβ€”thicker stems, covered in thorns as big as elephant tusks, and growing madly over one another. And then there are the suckers. Large green and red openings covered in spiky teeth-like growths; they look like monstrous Venus flytraps.

As the old woman gets closer, the suckers sense her. So they open and close and begin to sway, like a predator sizing up its prey.

“Please!” she screams, a final, futile cry.

The men throw her into the greenery.

One sucker instantly grabs her face, muffling her howls of pain. Perhaps that’s a blessing. Another grabs her arm and pulls her in. A third wraps itself hungrily around her neck.

The plants hold her fast, like a lion holding down a deer.

I try to look away, but I can’t. I’ve watched every one of these horrifying rituals since we got stuck here, and they never stop being compelling in a sick way. The strange slurping noises from the plant as it sucks in its victim. The slow crunch of the bones as the tough-as-nails stems crush them to powder and ingest them.

Soon, my former neighbour will be nothing but a thin, gossamer outline on the wall of greenery, nothing more than a snakeskin that has long been shed. But we’ll be safe for another few days. The plants have eaten, and until Friday, we’re all in the clear.

We have seven more days to work out a plan to get us out of this place. We still like to pretend there’s hope, you see. None of us like to admit that the longer this goes on, the less likely we are to be rescued. And the plants don’t have any intention of letting us leave. They cover every surface on the outside of the building and have been encroaching inside for weeks now.

* * * * * *

Three months ago, this would have all seemed like a crazy fever dream.

These apartments were never anything special. I moved here three years ago when I was 28, having broken up with my long-term girlfriend. It was supposed to be a temporary thing. Live in the city for a while, close to work, close to friends. And when I met someone new, hopefully, I’d get a place with them before long. But the next house move, like the new girlfriend, never materialised.

There is a mixture of folks here. Some are lifers, like the woman I just saw devoured by the killer plants. Others are fresh from a break-up or divorce. A few have just graduated from the university, got some soul-sucking entry-level job in the city centre and want somewhere convenient to crash for a few months. There are even a few families – or there were before the plants came. They seem to like kids most of all. Perhaps they’re more manageable to digest.

At first, none of us minded the weird shoots growing up the side of the building. It gave the old grey shithole some character! So we didn’t give it a second thought until the end of the third day when we woke up to the things covering a whole wall.

Our little apartment block became a mini tourist attraction that day. I can still see the people outside, smartphones held up, snapping photos. It was fun at first, but they soon got on my nerves with the constant noise. Finally, we made the evening news.

I went to bed early that night, having drunk a little too much. It’d been a hard week, you know? So I just wanted to rest.

Anyway, I didn’t get much of a break. I was woken up to the sound of my neighbours shouting at each other. Now, that wasn’t exactly unheard of in these apartments, but this argument made me sit up in bed. The voices didn’t sound angry or drunk. They sounded scared. And they were coming from all sides.

At first, I thought it was still dark. But it didn’t take long until I realised the truth. Plants blocked out all the windows. Thick, thorny greenery covered every inch.

Rubbing my eyes, I stumbled into the corridor. Someone had put the light on, so at least we could see. But, instead, everyone looked equal parts pissed off and terrified.

My neighbour, Sally, ran up to me.

“Carl!” she shouted, holding up her phone. “I can’t even get any signal! What the fuck’s going on?!”

She was always dramatic, always shouting about something. Since we had that one-night stand a year ago, she’d been angry at me more than once or twice. But this time, it was justified.

Arguing among ourselves about what must have happened, or if this was just some big dumb prank – a pretty high budget one if it was, I remember thinking – we walked up a couple of stories and banged on every door.

Soon there was a gang of us, about twenty people who lived in these apartments, going from room to room. And there was not a single ray of light anywhere. Nobody had any internet access or phone signal. So we were completely cut off, sealed off in a tomb of vegetation.

There was an Army veteran who lived above me. I only knew him to say hello to; I didn’t even know his name. When I saw him, he usually had sunken eyes and the look of a guy who hadn’t slept for a while; I’d wondered if he had some drug issues. But on that morning, he looked more alive than I’d ever seen him: he had a job to do at lastβ€”a mission.

“Wait here,” he barked when we got to his door.

He disappeared inside for a few moments, then came back with a full-blown machete. I didn’t like to dwell on why he had it in the first place.

“Let’s go to the ground floor,” he said.

We all followed. What else was there to try? You don’t get rehearsals for stuff like this, you know. So we felt like we’d been dropped into some surreal play without a script to guide us.

We stopped off at a few more of the apartments and picked up weapons to hack at plant material on the way down. Nobody had anything quite as cool as Army Guy’s machete, of course. But we thought it was better to have a few kitchen knives than nothing at all.

We reached the lobby area, a band of confused and still-slightly-sleepy apartment dwellers. I had a Swiss army knife I’d had since I was a teenager. Most of the tools in it are still unused, but the main blade was blunt from my brief time as a hobbyist carpenter when I was 19. I’d made a pretty neat wooden table back then, but damn it, I regretted the damage to my knife now.

Still, it could have been worse. Some of the people there had nothing; I saw one guy with a butter knife!

The main doors to the lobby were glass, so we could see the weird plants engulfing our building more clearly than ever there. The roots were thick and gnarly. Some of them had evil-looking flowers at the ends, covered with suckers like they were from an octopus. I’m no botanist, but I knew I’d never seen anything like this before, in real life or anywhere else.

I exchanged looks with Army Guy. He seemed bewildered.

“Has nobody got any signal?” I asked around. Everyone checked their phones. Nothing. Then I had a slightly retro idea: a landline. There was one behind the security desk on the other side of the lobby. I jogged over to it and tried it. Damn, just a dial tone.

“Did the plants cut the phone lines?!” exclaimed a young woman cradling a baby in her arms. “How is that possible?”

“More like they grew through them and snapped ’em,” replied Army Guy. He held up his machete. “Looks like we’re doing this the hard way, then.”

We all stepped back. This was his moment, and honestly, I’d never seen him happier.

“Good luck,” I muttered to him.

He shook his head.

“I don’t need luck.”

He ran towards the glass doors, picking up a fire extinguisher as he went. He threw it into them, smashing them into thousands of pieces and setting off the building’s alarm. Then, without hesitation, he jumped at the wall of vegetation, machete high above his head, screaming like a man possessed.

At the first whack, a green shoot grasped his wrist like a rope. It tightened, pulling him towards itself, making him drop the knife. He screamed as it grasped him even tighter, cutting off the blood supply to his hand and eventually snapping the bone. I’ll never forget that sound.

Four of us ran forward and grabbed him, being careful not to touch the plants. I grabbed him around one leg; another guy grabbed him by the shoulder. We pulled together, but our strength was nothing compared to the force the other way. I felt myself dragged across the floor by the impossibly strong greenery, reeling in its prey.

The Army Guy yelled out loud, asking for help from anyone, from God even. It was all in vain. His agonising screams only stopped when the green stuff pulled him in far enough to smother his mouth.

A prickly branch brushed my fingers. It was only then that I let go, falling backward. I watched as the monstrous mass devoured the man bit by bit, relentlessly feeding. The sound was sickening. After watching in horror for what felt like hours, I realised everyone around me was screaming.

If only we’d known that was only the beginning. Damn it. Sometimes I think if I’d known that it was just the start of this hellish isolation, this garden-covered equivalent of being buried alive, I might have just thrown myself into the killer bushes behind Army Guy.

It took about two weeks for us all to realise we weren’t getting out. The plants had started to infest the inside of the building now, and we could barely keep them at bay. In the first few days, we heard signs of rescue attempts outside. There were sounds that we assumed were loud cutting tools that would blast from morning till night on one side of the building, die down, splutter, then disappear, presumably beaten by the sheer hardiness of the plants. Once, we heard a helicopter overhead. They sprayed liquid on the building – some sort of industrial-strength weedkiller, judging by the smell – which actually seemed to hurt the thing. It didn’t grow the next day again and didn’t eat anyone for a couple of days. But they never tried that again, and that was the last time we heard any sign that the outside world remembered we were here.

We held out three weeks before we started our macabre Friday night offerings. We knew by then this thing would never stop eating us, would never stop growing. Someone was going to die. This was the only fair way to decide who.

It’s a strange thing, seeing hope dying out in a whole group of people. Some lost it within days. We even had a couple of suicides; they knew they weren’t getting out, but they didn’t want those damn killer plants to eat their corpses if they could help itβ€”one woman set herself alight. “Good luck eating charred human, overgrown weeds!” she’d written in her suicide note. I had to admire such weaponised pettiness.

* * * * * *

There’s always a weirdly subdued atmosphere on Friday nights, post-sacrifice. It’s like the opposite to a real Friday night, in the times before we were trapped in this growing, breathing mass grave.

I’m sitting in the basement alone, smoking a cigarette. I didn’t smoke before all this started, and I hate to admit, I took it up to deal with the stress. Army Guy had quite a stash in his apartment. Unfortunately, it’s running low now. So here’s a tip from me: don’t start smoking at a time when you’re trapped somewhere with a limited supplyβ€”Scratch that. Just don’t start smoking at all. It hasn’t helped.

I want to be alone, but I don’t want to go back to my apartment just yet. I don’t want to see the visions of the latest dead people’s faces rushing through my head, staring at a long-silent TV screen and longing for normality. For life. For space to breathe.

“We’re running out of food, you know.”

Sally’s voice startles me. I spin around to face her. She takes a little look around the dingy basement and turns on a flashlight. We lost electricity about three weeks into this nightmare.

“Seriously? Already?”


She comes and sits beside me. She’s a shadow of the person I knew before. Hair messy, eyes always wet with tears. I probably look just as much of a mess.

She takes the cigarette off me and takes a drag before passing it back. Did Sally smoke before all this? I don’t remember.

“Carl, there’s not even a week’s food left. A week is probably pushing it, to be honest.”

I exhale strongly. I can’t think of the words for a few seconds. I don’t have the strength to cry or anything like that.

“I would suggest resorting to cannibalism,” I joked weakly, “but the plants have a corner on the market. We’re their stock.”

Sally bows her head.

“If we’re going to make one final attempt at escape,” she says, “tonight is the time.”

Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. Weird really. I’ve been facing almost certain death for weeks now. So you’d think I’d get used to the idea. But it turns out we can never really get used to the thought of our bodies being slowly ingested by monster weeds, by the image of overgrown Venus fly traps sucking out our nutrients from our skins while we’re still alive.

And we will die. Of that, I have no doubt. If our other million escape attempts didn’t work, neither will this one.

“We’ve got nothing to lose, right?” she says as if reading my thoughts. “So I figure we just burn the fuckers. Burn them down. If we get out, we get out.”

It’s a sign of how hard the last few weeks have hit me that I don’t argue. In fact, I feel elated. No more living this strange half-life, locked in, waiting to be some mutant plant’s next meal. In half an hour, I’ll either be free or dead.

We gather everyone together. Tell them the plan. Some people cry; most seem relieved we finally have some end date.

As we gather up all the lighters, I swear the plants seem nervous. They’re moving differently like they sense something. Their leaves are bristling as if there’s wind outside. Maybe there is; we haven’t been able to tell what the weather’s doing for weeks.

We make our way down to the lobby againβ€”the place where the plants claimed their first victim. Sally takes my hand and damn it, it feels good. Maybe being close to death makes affection seem even better.

Someone hands me a bottle full of alcohol. They’ve stuffed a bit of wet cloth in the top; I’m not sure they’ve ever seen a Molotov cocktail except in films before, but I assume it’ll work.

I take out my lighter. I’ve had this refillable one for years. I press it between my fingers for a few moments, then light it up. The cloth explodes in flames. Then, just before they touch my fingers, I hurl it right into the middle of that writhing mass of greenery. I swear, the thing screams. Its tendrils flap everywhere, thrown into confusion.

We run towards the small opening that’s burned into the plants, shouting like a suicidal army.

Flaming offshoots fly towards us. One grabs a young man by the neck and drags him into the flames. One whips by our legs, nearly tripping us; I jump it just in time.

Sally’s hand slips from mine as we near the wall of green. I hold up my arms to shield my face and throw myself into it with all my might. I feel the lick of the flames against my coat. I keep pushing forwards. Hesitation is instant death.

Just as I’m sure I’m trapped, I feel the most glorious sensation ever: fresh air. It’s like jumping into a swimming pool on a boiling day, only better.

I push again, and the burning plants flail weakly at me as I escape, spluttering.

I collapse to the street outside, breathing in great gasps of air. Sally arrives beside me, shaking with horror, and falls face-first to the street.

Three other survivors push through behind us. The sounds of the remaining victims being crunched into plant goo fills the air.

It’s mid-morning. And I look out over the city. One thing I always loved about this place was the view.

I expect to see rescue helicopters, doctors, and the press. Anyone. Instead, I see a city completely overtaken with mutant plant growth. The entire city is trapped under an oppressive blanket of green. There’s no sign of any human life anymore.

There’s silence.

I climb shakily to my feet. Sally tried to shout my name through coughs, but it caught in her throat, damaged by all the smoke.

I ignore her. And I step back towards the plants that have eaten most of the people who lived in these apartments. I don’t have the energy to fight, and life under this green hellhole doesn’t appeal to me. After seeing what we’re up against, I no longer have the strength to resist these demonic plants.

I reach out my hand. An offshoot strokes it as if enjoying the taste at last. Plants need to eat.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Charlotte O'Farrell
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

πŸ”” More stories from author: Charlotte O'Farrell

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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