Steve was hesitant to enter the strange room. He could already feel his eyes start to itch and his nose was getting stuffed up. The outdoors never treated him kindly. Regardless, he followed Mr. Jones through the strong wooden door and into a new world of wonder. A strong breeze of fresh air took over the stagnant recycled air of the apartment complex.
Once inside, Steve noticed the ground was lumpy and uneven. He pushed his hand along the wall to steady himself, but immediately pulled back; the wall was covered in a rough tree bark. Studying the dimensions of the room, he was startled to see that even though everything was built like a normal apartment, that’s where the similarities ended.
The walls and ceiling were covered in moss, vines, and thick shrubbery. The floor was covered up by grass, leaves, sticks, and bushes. If there was a carpet, it had long been taken over by nature. Steve couldn’t believe his eyes. It was like he was standing in the middle of an indoor forest.
“Get your head out of the clouds, Steve, and get over here,” Mr. Jones barked.
With nimble steps, Steve sidled up beside Mr. Jones who was standing next to a couch that appeared to be carved out a huge hunk of wood.
“Watch your step, boy.” Mr. Jones pointed to the ground where countless creepy-crawly bugs scattered about in every direction. But Steve wasn’t concerned with the bugs. What made him nervous was who or what lived in this apartment. Many crazy ideas popped into his head. But nothing about this place prepared him for the “person” he was about to meet.
A mound of dirt and moss fell to the ground in front of the two men. A mass of twisted vines and other foliage curled and wrapped around itself to create the shape of a human figure. The shape was the only thing human about this creature, though. It had arms and legs made of flexible stems and twisting vines tied into a set form. Its torso was made of a smooth wood which splintered off into the vine covered appendages. A soft stalk-like neck rose out from the wooden torso and connected to a a plush of ivy leaves that made what looked like a woman’s face and hair. The hair was made from red leaves while the face was a light green.
Steve was left speechless at the sight. He had no idea how this being came to be or if it was even an individual. Mr. Jones nudged the nervous young man with a stiff elbow. “Say something,” Mr. Jones whispered.
“Uh… hi,” Steve managed to get out in a weak voice.
The plant creature tilted its head in a curious manner and through two clear orbs, looked deep into Steve’s eyes. Then it raised its arm and waved with a delicate flip of its hand.
“Steve, this is Ivy. Ivy, this is Steve.” Mr. Jones did his best to ease Steve’s nerves, but the young man seemed to ignore him completely.
An awkward moment of silence took over the three of them. Steve knew he had to say something but he couldn’t. He was mesmerized by the beautiful clear orbs the creature had for eyes. And the plant creature seemed to be just as transfixed by him. The world outside the two of them seemed to fade away—leaving only Steve and Ivy drawing each other closer and closer to one another. Steve felt himself lost in this creature’s presence. At that moment he would do anything for Ivy. He was her slave.
Mr. Jones quickly jumped in-between the two—breaking the trance they were both caught in. “I’m sorry Ivy, we really must be going now,” he said as he grabbed Steve by the arm. Ivy simply tilted her head in response and gave another delicate wave. The light in the room caught her hand at just the right angle and Steve could see a cloud of spores shooting into the air. But before he had a chance to react, Mr. Jones had taken him out into the hallway and had him pushed up against the wall.
“What the hell are you doing?” Steve asked, almost unable to control his emotions.
Mr. Jones answered with a barrage of heavy slaps across Steve’s face.
“Please, stop it!” Steve pleaded.
At that moment he would do anything for Ivy. He was her slave.
“You okay now?”
“What? Yeah, of course.” Steve wasn’t sure what was happening, but he realized he could no longer remember what Ivy looked liked at all.
“Good. I was starting to get worried.” Mr. Jones pulled Steve away from the way and began to straighten the young man’s shirt.
“What was wrong with me? I felt so weird.”
Mr. Jones’ places a gentle hand on Steve’s shoulder. “That was her pheromones. She put them in the air through a blast of spores when she waved at you.” He took a minute to choose his next words carefully. “It takes a little while to build an immunity to it. You never want to go in there alone until you do, though. Or else you will become her slave until you die.”
Steve didn’t know what to say. He was shocked and felt slightly betrayed. “Why the hell did you take me in there without warning me first?” He tried to keep his anger in check but there was still a hint of venom in his voice.
“I had to see how you’d do. Some people aren’t affected by her pheromones. But you… well, I never thought it would’ve been so bad.” He hesitated to continue. He didn’t want to scare the young man from taking the job. “It’s alright now, though. Once you’ve been hit with such a concentration of pheromones you’ll be immune for life. Now come on, we still have one more room left.” He finished with a change of topic to get Steve’s mind off what had just happened to him.
“Okay, whatever.” Steve still felt weird, but he knew things would probably only get stranger today. If he only knew what waited for him in the last room…