The Black Rose

The Black Rose

A Story by Tom Aubin

One morning, an old man discovers a black rose in his garden. The plant seems to have a strange influence on him.


Richard Cole was belonging to that category of men that think a lot, about the past, the present, the future, and everything in between. 
He was seventy-five, and had now what one could call a quiet life. 
His grand-children were almost never visiting him anymore, as well as his daughter and her husband. They had moved out last year. Baskerville and his disreputable high school was probably one of the reasons. Richard could not blame them. 
He had a saying that he used from time to time: “One’s life. One’s choices.”
Richard was living alone since his Joanna died, twenty-four years ago, and he gradually got used to loneliness. 
The days were pretty much the same: he was waking up with the sun, drinking his coffee while reading the newspapers �" his favorite part was the comic strip on page four �", and after breakfast he was taking care of his garden. Every afternoon his neighbor Helen would come for a cup of tea. They would talk about this and that, tell each other stories of the past. Finally, at night, Richard would sit comfortably on his couch, enjoy a nice book while glancing occasionally at the window to seek for the moon and the stars keeping it company. 
And one morning, as he watered his plants, a little rainbow taking form in the drops of water in front of him, his glance stopped on a plant that he had never seen before. 
A black rose. 
But the funny thing was that it was not faded. At the contrary, it looked overflowing with life. Straight as a soldier, exposing leaves of gleaming ebony where tiny drops of water stood still. 
Richard was contemplating it with a strange hollow feeling all around him. For an instant, without any reason, he felt a growing temptation of ripping it off. But he held his hand back, and kept watering his plants. 
That same afternoon Helen came to visit him, bringing a “home made” meal. According to her, you could call it like that as long as you were heating it up at home. 
She was three years younger than him, and even if at that stage of life people don’t really make a difference anymore, Richard still could, and sometimes to joke around he would tease her by saying : “You’ll see when you get old.”
Helen had no grand-children, but she had had a son. He had spent half of his life in jail, a life which had ended in his cell two years earlier. She never talked about it, and Richard never brought it up. Everyone has a sensitive spot, an invisible wound, and it is often safer to not scratch it. 
Richard and Helen talked for a while about their old friends, the ones that were still here and the ones that were not. Then suddenly, Richard felt the urge of telling her. 
“I want to show you something. It’s in my garden.”
He was already getting up when she grabbed him by the arm. 
“A black rose?”
Staggered, Richard sat back on his chair. 
“How do you know?”
“I found one at my place too, in the flowerpot near the kitchen’s window. I’m watering it every day, but I saw it this morning for the first time. It must have grown during the night.”
She paused, had a sip of tea, then added with a discreet smile : “I think I will rip it off. It does not fit with my flowerpot at all.”
“You should maybe think about it. It’s a bit… strange, don’t you think?”
She always had the same expression on her face, as if nothing could surprise her. Someone that did not know her might have taken it for senility, but Richard had known her for a long time, and she had always been like that. 
Richard thought that even if Jesus-Christ himself would barge in her kitchen while she was pouring her tea, she would tell him : “Did the Holy Mother ever teach you to knock?”
But it was part of her ageless charm. 
“It’s just a rose.” Helen said. 
That night Richard had trouble sleeping, but after an hour of flipping over and over on his mattress, the Sandman seized him and plunged him into a dream. 
He was standing in a field of black roses, spreading in what seemed like infinite darkness. His feet were on the ground, he could see them, but he had the impression of floating as he moved. His look pierced the obscurity, and he saw the silhouette, there, in the middle of the field. 
It was staring at him, but he could not distinguish any face. Richard could only see a hand, opening and closing, inviting him to come. Then everything got distorted, and he heard a familiar voice. 
Rip it off. 
Richard woke up sweating, but did not get up. He could still feel that floating sensation. His mind was completely empty of any thoughts. Strictly nothing. And actually, it was nice. 
The next day, he started his little routine, the dream slowly fading in his mind, and when the time came to go to his garden, he caught himself hoping that the black rose would be gone. But of course, it was still there. 
He was again thinking of that sensation he felt �" and Helen had it too, apparently �", the absurd temptation of ripping it off. He wanted to do it, so much that he could not think about anything else. Something was growing inside him, something that could talk inside of him, directly through his brain, whispering : “Rip it off. Rip it off.”
And the worst part was that he could not manage to tell if the voice was good or bad. 
Richard decided to stop thinking about it, and even sent a bit of water on it. He was not making differences with plants, and his garden was certainly big enough to welcome a new one. As Helen had said, it was just a rose. 
That afternoon, he waited. An hour. Two hours. She was still not there. Maybe she had been busy with something else, but normally she was telling him before. 
Thinking about it, Richard realised how the passing years had brought them closer together. It must have been ten years that they were seeing each other, almost every day. Always doing the same thing, but never getting tired of it. It was really great to have something so enjoyable that the pleasure taken from it seemed to last eternally. 
At five, still without any news, Richard decided to go directly to her place. It was a five minute walk, and he could not think of the last time he had been there. She was always the one coming. 
When he arrived on her street, he saw an ambulance driving off in front of her house, and had no time to shout them to stop. He ran to another neighbour, Garry Hart. 
“What happened?”
Garry told him, but he did not even have to. The tears at the corner of his eyes could tell the same story without words, and deep inside of him Richard could feel that he already knew it. 
“She had a stroke…” Garry said, strangled with tears. “According to them, but they did not seem entirely sure. I cannot believe it, Richie, I always thought she would bury us all.”
Richard did not reply, but discreetly walked towards the house, and looked through the window. He could see the flowerpot that she mentioned the day before. The black rose was there as well, lying flat on the dirt like a forgotten corpse. 
That night, Richard did not dream because he simply could not sleep. 
The next day he had some more information about Helen’s death. She had collapsed in her kitchen, early evening, and the firemen had found her on the ground, in front of her sink. 
In front of the flowerpot, Richard thought. 
The funeral brought almost everybody in Baskerville. Helen had no close family left, but everybody knew and liked her in town, and to see all the faces gathered for her, it was as if they were all part of her family. 
During the ceremony, Richard could not stop to think about the black rose. The dream was back, he could remember now. The silhouette in the middle of the field. She must have seen it too. She must have followed it. 
A year passed by, and the black rose was still in Richard’s garden. 
When Helen’s death was still fresh, the temptation of ripping it off was powerful. Sometimes, his arm was moving by itself, and only after a second he would bring it back with the feeling of walking out of a dream. 
“Rip it off. Rip it off.”
His family had come to visit him for three days that summer. They had a good time, but he had the impression that it was more a formality, an obligation for them than a real wish to see him. But again, he could not blame them. 
As winter arrived, Richard made his decision. His knees already started to hurt at the dreadful thought of the snow blocking his door and the glacial winds howling at night. Life was still the same, and he was not really unhappy, but his days were just meaningless without Helen. And that dream had to stop. He was not thinking of it as a nightmare, because somehow he felt fine standing in the field. But he was just having it too often. 
That night, he had no dream at all. When he woke up the sunlight was piercing through his window. He glanced at his clock, indicating seven-thirty. A smile slowly spread on his face. The first sleep-in since an eternity. Richard felt good, really good. 
The coffee had never tasted so nice. He watered his plants, taking his time, and with more pleasure than ever, without even noticing the smile that was embellishing his wrinkles. The smile of a child on an old man’s face. 
And then, after looking at it for a while, a little bit of snow on the petals, Richard crouched and faced the black rose. He had one hope: that the silhouette in his dream was Helen, that it was her voice he could hear each night, and that they would be together soon. 
“One’s life.” he whispered to himself. “One’s choice.”
Richard Cole ripped the black rose off the ground, tearing it from its roots, and followed the silhouette in the middle of the field. 


© 2017 Tom Aubin

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Author's Note

Tom Aubin
I originally wrote this story in French so I'm sure there are some grammatical problems from the translation. I would be really grateful if you point them out to me.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you will enjoy the story.

My Review

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You know how to captivate the reader's attention. Simple story but nice to read. I really want to know the black rose represents what? Et je suis sure que l'histoire en francais a aussi ete interessante.

Posted 6 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Tom Aubin

6 Years Ago

Haha thanks a lot, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.
I have to say that even for me the black.. read more

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Added on August 10, 2017
Last Updated on August 10, 2017