Derrick Rose opened his eyes and was initially surprised at where he found himself. Then, as his eyes became adjusted to the scene in front of him, the feeling of surprise dwindled and was replaced by…what? Anticipation? Expectation?
A lush garden path, overflowing with flowers of all varieties, stretched forward from the bench he was seated on. A bright sun was not obscured by the small clouds which dotted the sky, but the leafy branches of a grand oak tree lent him a pleasant shade. He was in the garden of Father Injury, the cousin of Father Time who had a hand in many, if not all, of humankind’s medical maladies.
In the distance Derrick could hear an upbeat whistled tune. The source of the melody was doubtlessly Father Injury himself, for he seemed to harbor much enthusiasm for the task of tending to his magnificent garden. Following the direction of the sound, Derrick followed the hedge-lined paths this way and that, sometimes getting closer, sometimes seeming to get further away…or was Father Injury simply moving around as Derrick himself was?
Finally, Derrick rounded a corner and found himself in a small open area, ringed by willows, at the center of which was a fountain. Father Injury, in his white tunic, was facing away from Derrick, hunched over a rose bush which he was tending to.
Derrick cleared his throat to announce his presence, startling Father Injury. Contrary to the old man’s fatherly demeanor on Derrick’s first visit to the garden, the next words out of Father Injury’s mouth were frazzled and harsh. “How did you get here? I did not invite you!”
This question caused Derrick to pause and think. The last time he had been to Father Injury’s garden, it had been because Father Injury himself had summoned him there. That wasn’t the case this time. Had he transported himself to this alternate dimension through sheer force of will?
“It doesn’t matter,” Derrick replied. “I am here now, and you will answer to me.”
Father Injury scoffed. “Ha! This is my garden, not yours. I do not answer to anybody.”
Derrick could feel the rage welling up inside of him, but with it, a certain kind of cold certainty as well. He had come to this place without first being granted access by its keeper. In that sense, it was now his garden just as much as it was Father Injury’s. “You ruined my career,” he snarled. “But I came all the way back. And now…” Here Derrick paused to collect, as his voice threatened to waver with anger. “I will ruin yours.”
Father Injury had the audacity to laugh at this statement. “Haha! Nobody can harm me in my realm.”
With a roar, Derrick charged at Father Injury, who stood his ground, sincerely believing himself to be invulnerable. However, the old man’s stoic attitude changed once he was tackled to the ground. “Hey! Stop that at once!” he commanded in a voice that was suddenly much less authoritative.
Derrick paused his attack and pretended to think. “No, I don’t think I will,” he answered, before rearing back his fist and bringing it crashing into Father Injury’s face.
Father Injury moaned in pain, but the punches kept coming. At some point, the leather-bound book of injury records had tumbled out of his pocket; Derrick picked it up and, when he was sure that Father Injury wasn’t going anywhere, he started leafing through it to find an empty page. When he found one, he rudely smashed it in Father Injury’s face. “I guess we need a new entry in here…for you,” Derrick said gloatingly.
Father Injury was crying and shaking his head feebly, but Derrick was persistent. He found a pen in another one of the tunic’s pockets and forced Father Injury’s hand to grip it. “Write it, old man. Write your own name in your cursed book.” Father Injury still didn’t comply, so Derrick took his hand again and moved it himself, so that Father Injury’s name appeared in the list with all the others. Father Injury’s tears had become more intense as he was subjected to this embarrassment which demonstrated his newfound impotency.
When Derrick next looked up, he noticed that the trees around him were losing their leaves and withering. A cold wind was blowing where not even a summery breeze had been before. The fountain behind them had cracked in two, causing pools of murky water to spread across the glade. “No…my garden…” Father Injury sobbed, seeing all these things happening but being powerless to halt the terrible regression. “What have you done to my garden?”
“Don’t worry,” Derrick answered savagely as trees toppled around him and a violent rain began to fall. “It will all be finished soon enough. Your reign has come to an end.”
Father Time tried to curse Derrick, but his voice had failed him, and he seemed to be growing older by the second. His skin withered, then fell off entirely. Soon, there was nothing but a skeleton left, and even that, too, crumbled to dust in the dirt of the ruined garden.
It was over.