Hector thought the first one was a dandelion, but it appeared to swivel its head and stare at him before going under the mower's blades. Hector turned to look.
Just a splash of wet on the green grass. Hector didn't know what to make of it.
When he turned back around, a newly planted sapling was dead ahead. He wheeled the zero-turn-radius mower sharply and narrowly avoided disaster. He glanced up at the office windows to make sure no one was looking.
The back of the research facility loomed above him like a concrete fortress. He wasn't sure what went on inside the building, but the people who walked through the front entrance looked like doctors.
Another of the dandelions appeared up ahead. Hector aimed directly for it. This time, the dandelion not only turned its head, it blinked! Hector got a good look at it before it disappeared beneath the mower's carriage. It was no dandelion. It was a human eye sitting atop a fleshy-looking stalk!
"Ay, Dios mio!" Hector gasped.
He scanned the thick mote of grass that stretched between the building and the outlying woods. It was flat except for a slight rise in the middle where a large underground pipe deposited wastewater into a woodland stream. Along the rise stood a small army of the bug-eyed blooms.
"Pequenos diablos!" Hector revved the mower's engine.
He cut across the lawn, not caring how it looked. They would thank him later, referring to the doctors inside the building. Obviously something had leaked out into the wastewater. Hector couldn't remember what his boss had told him about the work they performed there. All he knew was it was top-secret government-type work. Stuff scary movies were made of.
But Hector wasn't scared. He hit the clot of fleshy flora at full speed. A viscous spray hit him in the face; some entered his eyes.
He blinked, momentarily blinded. When he opened his eyes again his vision was slightly clouded, but he could still see. And what he saw frightened him.
Every few feet a yellow-eyed, swivel-necked sprout sprung up out of the grass. Each hooded orb was ringed with petal-like black lashes. Wherever Hector looked the eyes turned and stared back at him. Blinking. Watching.
Hector cut across the grass in a deadly game of connect-the-dots, mowing them under, leaving a trail of gooey mulch in his wake. But he couldn't mow them down fast enough. They popped up two and three in places where one had been just moments before.
And if that wasn't bad enough, he was now having vision problems. One moment he was on the mower, the next he was at ground level watching the mower hurtle toward him. And there were voices in his ears, a multitude of whispers speaking as one, entreating him to not be afraid, to join them, to lay down his arms…and legs…and torso…and be free…
It wasn't due to the startling vision he'd just experienced; it was something much worse. The mower's gas gauge needle had dipped below E. Somebody must have tampered with the fuel line.
Men in white lab coats now lined the windows of the facility like department store manikins. Some held clipboards. Others held movie cameras.
Hector gazed across the growing sea of yellow. Don't worry, they whispered, they will be next.
The mower sputtered and stalled, and rolled to a halt.
Hector felt the world tip, and his life passed before him in the blink of an eye.
Kurt Newton tries to let the story dictate how long it wants to be. Sometimes that means a very short story, sometimes it means a novel. One thing for sure is he's written a lot of them -- both large and small. News about his latest can be found at http://kurt-newton.livejournal.com.