By Ed Crane
In a forgotten corner, in the abandoned gardens of the decaying pile named Gallows House, there’s a place as dark as night. There, the great Oak executioner which gave the house its name once stood, and beneath its malignant outstretched arm, thirsty stands of Mandrake grew.
Three centuries passed since any man met his end on a noose of ragged rope, where murderers, thieves and rustlers donated desecrated seed. The oaken slaughterer long ago took employment shoring crumbling walls and the habitués of this blighted setting scraped survival on inferior sustenance. Un-growing and un-dead in execrete soil.
It was over a century since the house was occupied until capitalist money bought grandiose restoration. In those necrophobic days, the hanging-corner lay fearfully undisturbed.
On a bright spring morning, Imogen Smythe-Jones, wife of successful banker, Adrian, decided to clear the dismal overgrown corner. Her manicured hands, enclosed in soft leather Town and Country gardening gloves, tugged the eldest of the Mandrake clan from his ancient seat of residence.
A deafening voice screamed out, paralysing Imogen in dread.
‘You dare to raise me from my bed? A deathly task shall be thy reward!'
Imogen’s gloved hand held a gnarly root shaped like a man with outstretched arms, twining legs and a Priapus erection. A twisted sneer and hypnotic yellow eyes formed upon its face.
‘Feed my family will be your eternal burden. Bring semen from a hanging man, open up the body to feed them his dying blood. Grind me down and use my juice to spring your cunning trap.’
In her ultra-modern kitchen, Imogen, moving like a puppet, insanity pulling her strings, she began her murky chore. Soon, Mandragora, washed, peeled and pureed lay waiting in the fridge ready to work his demonic magic.
Rebecca prepared Adrian’s favourite evening meal. Pot-au-feu, but with an additional ingredient: a tablespoon of Mandrake’s carcass.
Held in sentient paralysis, Adrian felt only terror as his wife with the manic strength of four men carried him to the darkening corner and slipped a noose around his neck. A beech tree of two centuries had grown near secret site. An overhanging branch, as strong as iron replaced the gallows arm and the Mandrakes called to Imogen,
‘Feed us semen, feed us blood.’
A lightly knotted cord, for slow asphyxiation guaranteed her husband’s departing ejaculation, welcomed by the leaves below and the Mandrakes called for more.
A diagonal strike with a Sabatier blade cascaded death’s last gift on ravenous vegetation, but when Imogen saw the blood soaked entrails, madness left her.
Plunging the knife deep into her chest she fell dead from Mandragora’s curse.