The Fall of the House of Rosewater
>In the whole of Seaford township, there is no family more respected than the Rosewaters.
>An old money family with roots in the founding of the town, to say the power they hold over the town is immense would be an understatement.
>And serving them for the last few generations, is my family.
>My mother worked as the family cook, just as my grandmother did, and my uncle Cavendish worked as head butler just as my grandfather did.
>My entire childhood was that cavernous mansion, with its marble floors and stately oaken banisters.
>And of course, them.
>Melinda Rosewater and her husband Arnold had been blessed with two daughters, twins, Mary-Anne and Anne-Marie Rosewater.
>Two girls who from the moment of their birth seemed to function as one entity.
>They cried at the same time, wanted to be fed at the same time, played with the same toys and eventually came to love the same man.
>That being me.
>From a young age I would play with them, games of tag, hide and go seek, many, many tea parties and their favorite game, House.
>A version where both of them were my loving wives, using their wealth to ensure I never had to work a day in my life, free to pursue a life of domestic bliss with my twin brides.
>Needless to say, Arnold Rosewater did not take kindly to his daughters making overtures to the plebeian son of the household cook.
>The beatings I received from him made me come to hate the whole Rosewater family, and my mother who allowed that rich boor to brutalize me so.
>Yet, my obvious resentment did nothing to dissuade the girls.
>They kept their insistence that one day, I would be theirs and they would be mine.
>Though I resented my mother’s lack of a backbone when it came to defending her son, she was diligent in saving her earnings to ensure me a quality education.
>On my eighteenth birthday, she revealed that she had secured me a position at a respected University, to the delight of my Uncle, his young daughter Margaret, and the twins.
>Though all Mr. Rosewater could muster was “Good Riddance”
>During my last night at home, I was met by the twins. Leading me out into the foggy forests surrounding their manor.
>I’ll never forget the night spent with them, or the promise they made me.
<“We’ll wait for you, Charlie.”
>“T-take as long as you l-like.”
<“We’ll turn away any suitor.”
>“S-sabotage any arranged marriage.”
<“Until father dies.”
>“A-and we can be together.”
>That was four years ago, and while I did come home on holiday, I’d been infrequent in my visits in advance of my bachelor’s thesis.
>I received frequent letters from my mother, and the twins, but in recent months they had dried up.
>That is until a letter came from my uncle stating simply that my mother had taken her own life, that I should return home.
>The sun seemed eerie in it's brightness as I pulled into Seaford station
>Coming to greet me was the familiar oiled hair and waxed mustache of my uncle
>"ah, Age has been far kinder to you than it has to me, Nephew."
"I only hope I look half as good as you when I hit your age, Old Man. That said, it's wonderful to see you, Uncle."
>The old man flashes a grin and pulls me into a one armed embrace.
>Though I expected a hug, it wasn't him I thought would give it.
>Something is off.
"Where's Maggie, Uncle Cavendish?"
>His eyes grow distant for a moment before snapping back to clarity
>"Ah, Little Margaret is feeling ill, she told me to give you a big hug just from her. I'll take you to see her when you conclude this business with your mother."
>The carriage ride into town was dour, my uncle filling me in on most of the details.
>One day, no one could quite tell why, Mother was seized by some mania that drove her to rant and rail against the Rosewaters.
>Unable to calm her, Cavendish had locked her in the servant's quarters.
>Forgetting that a small caliber revolver was secreted away, owned by my grandfather.
>Within the hour, she had died of a single gunshot to the head
>A similar story was told by the police when I arrived at the station
>Mostly, Cavendish and I stood around filing statements and paperwork
>The only odd thing was when the coroner began to approach me.
>"Are you Mr. Charles Durham, son of Mrs. Natalie Durham?"
"Yes, that is me."
>"May I speak with you in private?"
>I nodded, following him into an unused office.
>A cigarette was offered
"No thank you, could we get to business? I have a funeral to plan."
>"I know, and that's what I want to talk to you about. The official case file says your mother committed suicide, but the autopsy discovered something."
"What was it?"
>The coroner holds up a small plastic bag, inside is a small red and white mushroom. He places it on the table and brings out a petri dish containing what looks like mycelium and fungal roots.
>"The red and white ones we found inside her, growing in her stomach and lungs. Uterus was clear though."
"And these... roots?"
>"Scrapped those off her feet, almost like they were growing to root her to the ground."
>"These don't match any mushroom that's ever been identified. It ain't fly amonita, deathcap, or anything else."
"Are you saying my mother killed herself, because she was becoming a mushroom?"
>"Of course not, that's ridiculous. But the Rosewaters have some freaky plants up there in that greenhouse of theirs. Whose to say she didn't breath those spores, have the mushrooms grow to the point breathing drove her crazy with pain and made her decide to end it all? As for the roots, feet grow fungus all the time."
>"You should know, Mr. Durham, there's been lots of stories about the Rosewaters been spreading around town. They haven't been seen in six months, just that butler Uncle of yours."
"Why haven't you spread this around?"
>The coroner shifts his eyes from right to left.
>"The Rosewaters still hold a good deal of clout. I say something and bad things could happen. I'm not going to cross Arnold Rosewater until I'm sure I have actionable dirt on him."
>We share a glance, almost conspiratorially.
"Thanks for letting me know this."
>"Of course, have a nice day, and sorry for your loss."
>I rejoin my Uncle as he loads the dogcart with groceries for the manner, procured while I was speaking with the coroner.
>We continue our silent ride
"How have the Rosewaters been, Uncle?"
>"Oh, Fine. Master Arnold is still a drunken lout, Mistress Melinda is still an idle rich trophy woman, and the girls..."
"Something happen to Anne and Mary, Uncle?"
>He tugs at his collar, adjusting the cravat her wears as part of his uniform.
>"Miss Mary and Miss Anne have heard of your coming and wish to see you when you arrive."
"That didn't answer my question, Uncle."
>"I know, but I do as I am told. Such is the duty of the head butler."
>He says nothing more as the mansion comes into view.
>Old and stately as it always has been, a sense of nostalgia permeates the atmosphere.
>Hearing the creak of the oaken doors of the main foyer stokes even more memories, almost to the point I expect two blonde little girls to greet me from the top of the stairs.
>Or perhaps my niece will run into my arms as I spin her around, just like last Christmas.
>Instead, the Foyer is as silent as a tomb.
"Mr. Rosewater!, Mary!, Anne!, Maggie! Where is everyone, Uncle?"
>"Ah, as I have said, Margaret is in bed sick, I can take you to her later. As for the Master and his family..."
>He once again adjusts his cravat
>"The girls await you in the greenhouse, near the tea tables."
>I try to speak but he raises his hand and mouths the word "After", before bidding me to follow him.
>As I do, he leads me through the dusty halls of the main manor.
>Halls I know all too well
>Eventually, we reach sunlight as he walks me under the trellises and arbors heavy with ivy, morning glory, and other climbing plants.
>Finally, we reach the glass doors of the greenhouse, a window into the floral menagerie that has always been the pride of the Rosewater family for as long as I can remember.
>As I walk toward the tea plaza, I pass a familiar face
>A dazed looking Mr. Rosewater, sitting in a chair in just his unmentionables
"Are you all right, Mr. Rosewater?"
>He doesn't respond, he just keeps staring at a large curled floral bud.
"That's a big flower, where did you find it?"
>He still does not stir
"Where's Mrs. Rosewater, Mr. Rosewater?"
>At last, the lout gives some indication he's listening as he raises a finger to point at the man sized bud.
>Perhaps my mother's death has driven him mad, maybe I just don't care.
>I leave him to his delusions.
>Walking me through, I see Cavendish motion toward a table set with only one chair.
>Standing across are two figures, both of them wearing flowing dresses with large hoop skirts and long sleeves, their outfits complimented with sunhats and long gloves.
>I almost don't recognize them, until one of them speaks
<"Ah, hello Charlie."
>"You've grown so much since last we saw you."
<"You look even more handsome than before."
>"That is to say..."
>Their voices sync as they say in unison
<"We missed you."
"I've missed the both of you so much, I'm glad to see... at least some of you."
>They glance at one another.
>"D-do you not like our dresses?"
<"I think he's hinting he'd rather see us out of them, Annie."
>"Mary! Y-you're incorrigible!"
>Something is odd, normally, with their father nowhere in sight, the girls would have tackled me to the ground by now, laughing and giggling as they pile on top of me. But now, they just stand there unmoving.
<"Come have a seat, Charlie."
>"Would you like some tea?"
<"We've made it special, our own blend."
>"We'd love to hear your opinion on it."
>My unease grows, but manners compel me to take the proffered seat.
"Thank you, but no. I was never really a tea man."
>The left figure (Anne Marie judging from the timid movements) pours me a cup of amber liquid.
>Sliding it across to me, I bring it to my lips, about to take a sip until the words of the coroner come into my head.
>The rumors about the Rosewater family.
"Ah, too hot. I guess I'd better let it cool."
>I can see the pair scowl at me, but eventually it softens to the familiar smiles.
<"How was college, Charlie?"
>"D-did you meet any girls?"
"Of course not, I still remember our promise."
>That earns me a blush from both of them
>"O-of course, how could we forget."
<"You forgot, sister, I didn't."
>"I did not!"
>Their bickering intensifies to the point they begin moving around causing a sloshing noise to emanate from near their feet.
>Such a racket that I can't help but mutter
"What in the world is that noise?"
>They do not hear me, consumed with their argument.
>I glance down at my feet and see the same amber liquid in my cup pooling at my feet
>At first I think I must have spilled my drink, only for me to check under the table and see...
>Green legs, rooted into a large flower, it's what's been concealed under the tablecloth and their skirts.
>I rise and look at my hosts, they haven't noticed me.
"Ah, well, I'd love to stay but I need to put my things in my room, not to mention I need to see my cousin, Uncle Cavendish says she's ill."
>"O-oh, how terrible."
<"I hope she gets better."
>"J-just one thing, Charlie."
>I don't dare hesitate lest I let them know I'm onto them.
>Instead, I walk steadily across the table to place myself between them
>They extend their arms, beckoning me to come towards them.
>Instead, I lean forward and lightly wrap my arms around their waists.
>The only unfortunate thing about this situation is that me leaning forward leaves me open
>Open for the sisters to push together and squeeze my head between their breasts.
>Trapped in this marshmallow hell, a sickly sweet smell enters my nose
>A scent most enchanting, filling my head with visions of flowers.
>Visions, and desire.
>A desire to smell them, to look at them, to... mate with them?
>No, this is some foul trickery.
>Breaking the embrace, I quickly turn to leave.
<"Come back soon, Charlie."
>"W-we'll be waiting right here if you need us."
>Without any further goodbye, I rush through the greenhouse
>The chair where Mr. Rosewater once sat is empty
>Instead, the large bud appears to be moving, pleasured moans eminating from it's leafy interior.
>This has become madness.
>Rushing back into the manner, I begin searching for my uncle.
>"What is it, Nephew?"
"What the fuck is going on, Cavendish?"
>"I'll thank you to refrain from using such language."
"Don't change the subject. You know something."
>"Something about what?"
"Don't play dumb, I saw Mr. Rosewater, he looked out of it and he said a plant was his wife."
>"Ah, grief does things to the mind, Nephew."
"Then where is Mrs. Rosewater?"
>He again reveals his tell, adjusting that damn cravat
"What about the girls, I saw under their dresses."
"Not like that, I was looking under the table for something and I saw their legs. They were green, Uncle. Green and attached to a big flower."
>"Ah, perhaps you were delirious from travel, I have heard hallucination is a symptom of fatigue."
>He's dodging my question, it's time to go for the throat.
"Where's Maggie, Uncle?"
>"I've told you, she's in be-"
"Then take me to her."
"Let me see my cousin, Uncle."
>"I, I can't, she's contagious, you see."
"That's not what you said before, you said she was fine for me to see."
>Sweat is pouring from his brow.
"Were you not expecting me to come back from my meeting, Uncle?"
>"N-no, of course not. It's just..."
"Yes, it's just what?"
>His eyes are going crazy darting to and fro.
"WHERE'S YOUR GODDAMNED DAUGHTER, CAVENDISH!"
>I turn my head towards a side hall, the lamp light casts the shadow of my cousin, her braided ponytail trailing behind her and a long strand of hair sticking straight out.
>A sickly squelching noise starts as the shadow begins to move forward, no leg movement is caught in the silhouette, just her torso gliding like a ghost
>She rounds the corner and the first thing I see are the vestigial eye stalks sticking straight out from her forehead.
>My eyes wander down to the true freak show.
>Where her legs once were, now sits the body of a giant slug trailing slime across the marble floors.
<"Don't be angry at Papa, Charlie."
>Overwhelmed at the sight before me, I find myself quickly rushing to meet the floor.
<"I, I killed him."
>"Don't be silly, girl, he just fainted."
<"Fainted? I knew it! I'm a freak, a monster!"
>"No, no, he's just not used to seeing you like this. You're not a monster, you look like one but you're still my little girl."
>Sitting up, I witness my Uncle stoop to pick up his daughter, even though it ruins his suit with her slime
"What, what is this, Uncle?"
>"A curse, my boy, a curse on everyone in this damned place."
>My uncle explained everything, a snowy haired stranger with eyes like the Devil who came to the Rosewater mansion selling rare flowers and plant life
>Specifically, a flower that called to women in love with the same man, a flower that would ensure that the three of them would never part.
>The girls were the first to change, falling victim to this love triangle flower
>After that, the stranger began to take over.
>Melinda Rosewater tried to oust the intruder from her home, but ended up a permenant fixture in her own garden, endlessly seeking carnal pleasure with her husband.
>A combination of exhaustion and dehydration producing the dazed Arnold Rosewater I saw earlier today.
>Maggie tried to run, to warn the town about the goings on in the manor house
>She was too slow, and this was the stranger's ironic punishment for catching her.
>My mother was last, so strong willed that she actually managed to harm the stranger, causing her to retaliate with her most potent plant
>A strange mushroom she called Ma-tan-go.
>Mother was stubborn though, she died human.
>Her suicide scared the stranger, mortified her, causing her to flee.
>"And now we are here, with me as the caretaker of this home. Witness to the fall of house Rosewater."
"This is crazy, Uncle."
>His face falls, a tear slides down his cheek
>"Of course it is, it sounds utterly impossible and yet I must believe it.I hold the proof in my own two arms."
>Maggie wraps her arms around her father's neck, putting her cheek against his.
<"Don't be sad, Papa. Like you said, I'm still your little girl."
>Something he said strikes me
>A flower that calls to those in love with the same man
"They did all this, they doomed their family line, for me?"
>My feet begin to move on their own, past my uncle and towards the greenhouse.
>"Nephew, what are you doing?"
"I'm keeping a promise, Uncle."
>His eyes widen
>"NO!, I'll not let them have you. Those harlots took my daughter, they took my sister, I'll not let them have you too."
"There's no life left for us, Uncle. You'll never be able to live anywhere else with Maggie looking like that, and I can't live knowing about all this."
>"Yes you can, just leave and let me hold back this madness."
"No, I leave and they'll bury the town out of spite. It's better I give them what they want."
>As I leave the manor house, I find myself on the hill overlooking the town.
>Clouds are gathering as the wind picks up
>Cavendish still chases after me, Maggie holding on for dear life
>Eventually he sees something that causes him to pause
>A group of townswomen, marching in unison dragging a small cart.
>Large red and white mushrooms sprouting from various places on their bodies.
>On the cart is the biggest mushroom I think I've ever seen
>And attached to it is.
>"Natalie? Dear God..."
"Mom, what happened to you?"
>She looks up forlornly, her lips moving soundlessly, until the crowd parts to reveal a village girl who begins speaking for her
<"They kept growing, not even death was an escape from becoming, from becoming this."
>"Natalie, sister, what have you done to these people?"
<"I didn't want to, but I couldn't stop it, these poor people."
>Her face, and the faces of the people she is controlling turn to anger
<"You should have burned me, Cavendish, burned me before I became this."
>His face falls, and he quickly turns to address his daughter.
>"Go inside, Maggie."
>He sets his daughter down, she inches toward the house with surprising speed.
>When she is gone, my uncle collapses to his knees.
>"This town's finished, all of it is doomed."
>He keeps repeating this doom-saying, even as the spore controlled horde march forward to bring my mushroom mother closer to him. I don't stick around to see what happens next.
>I enter the greenhouse as the last rays of dusk fall through the glass
>The bud from earlier has opened, revealing the floral being that must have once been Melinda Rosewater, reposing with her husband.
>A large flower grows from her head, and her extremities have turned a shade of green.
>Upon catching sight of me, she doesn't even move to cover her exposed breasts, instead giving me a placid wave as I slowly walk past.
>Finally, I reach the tea plaza once again.
>Standing before me, in all their glory, are the beings, no, IS THE being that was once Mary-Anne and Anne-Marie Rosewater.
>Their skin is an inhuman shade of green, their golden locks are now streaked with pink and white. All around them flows the same amber nectar they offered me earlier today.
>Looking down on me, they begin to speak.
<"So, I take it from the commotion outside that you know the truth?"
>"I told you we should have been truthful with him, Sister. He probably hates us now."
<"That remains to be seen."
<"Do you hate us and wish us death?"
>"Or do you realize that all of this, ALL OF THIS, was for you?"
>I stare the two of them in the eye.
"I realize it was for me, I knew you loved me but I didn't know how deep the obsession went."
"You doomed your family line, doomed this entire town, all for me?"
>The plant women begin to look guilty.
<"Well, when you put it like that..."
>"You make us sound like heartless monsters."
"Heartless? No. You're monsters with a heart, which may just be even worse."
>The two look back and forth between themselves and me.
>"You still haven't given us your answer."
<"Will you kill us?"
>"Or spare us?"
>I give a deep sigh, ruminating on all that has occurred.
"You two have sinned, brought calamity on countless people. But you did it in my name, which means I share the blame."
<"Does this mean?"
>"You're letting us go?"
>They jump back as far as their flower will allow them.
"It means I'm making things right."
>I approach their floral nest, disrobing as I go.
>By the time I reach them I am as naked as they are.
>Looks of utter joy adorn their faces as I step into the syrupy nectar bath.
>Sinking further in, the smell from earlier assaults my nose.
>My senses dull, as timid Anne-Marie takes the honor of our first kiss.
>Not to be outdone, the bolder Mary-Anne takes the honor of first grasping my member.
>Beyond that, everything is a blur of hedonism and debauchery.
>Copulating with them, watching them copulate with each other while we waited out the refractory period, a daze of degeneracy unseen since before the Lord rained fire on Gomorrah.
>After what seemed like hours, but could have been minutes or days for all I know, we finally sink down into the syrupy bath.
>The girls rest their heads on my chest, looking up to plant one last kiss on the underside of my chin.
<"Well, sister, how do you feel? For me, I feel... fertilized."
>"Oh come on, that's barely a plant pun, Mary. Human impregnation is called fertilization as well."
<"Oh, well, Lah de da to you too Ms. Botanist."
>"No, if you want to make a pun you should have said, "I feel positively... pollinated."
<"Oh ho, well then, let's let our busy little bee get some rest then."
"I'm, I'm not a bee."
>He's right, bees visit different flowers, he just has us."
<"Well then he's our little bee."
>They pause and look up at me.
"Any other way."
<"That's the spirit, Husband."
>"Give it a few weeks and it'll be like we're triplets."
>The town of Seaford was nearly abandoned following a night of extreme storms that battered the town.
>Many fled, fearing destruction of their homes in the massive squall.
>Those that remained were mostly men, women were never seen in Seaford after that night.
>Rumors abounded about man sized mushrooms walking the forests at night, bearing the faces of the missing women, thought this was never confirmed beyond a strange local custom of men entering the forest at night and not returning home until dawn's light.
>The Rosewater family nearly entirely disappeared after that night, their manor being minded by their faithful butler Cavendish Durham.
>Though even he had odd rumors surrounding him, like the rumor that those who peaked through windows of the old mansion could see him talking to a giant mushroom bearing the face of his late sister, or walking the grounds with a slug girl that bore resemblence to his daughter.
>But for the Rosewater family themselves, nothing was ever heard from again.
>Except a curious case at the state university, where a strange woman with green tinged skin walked into the library, introduced herself as "Annabelle Rosewater-Durham" and deposited several long overdue books, apologizing on behalf of her father, one Charles Durham who had dissapeared decades before.
>One brave soul who penetrated deep into the grounds of the Rosewater manor, claimed to see a whole slew of children, the odd green girls and more human boys all arrayed around a large flower, where Charles Durham and two green women held court over their offspring
>All this begs the question, if such weakness can bring about the fall of a town as old as Seaford, and a family as august as the Rosewaters, what chance to we stand?