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by Sebnem Sanders

Ivy fascinated Ivan. English, with prominent white or yellow-green veins. Boston, with a reddish bronze colour in the spring, and bright, deep green during summer, turning to shades of scarlet, purple or orange in autumn. Yet, the Virginia Creeper was his vestal virgin, with five separate leaves joined at the centre. Just like a human hand, as described in its Latin name, Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Parthenocissus meaning “virgin ivy”. Why virgin, Ivan didn’t know, but he liked the connotation.

Ivan was a loner who never got married or had any lasting relationships. After his retirement, without a partner or close friends, he spent all his time gardening. A lifetime passion and hobby became a way of life for him. Despite his lack of formal education in horticulture, he was a natural with green fingers. The two-storey stone house he had bought in the countryside boasted a greenhouse with various exotic plants. Orchids, ferns, flowering cacti, and even different kinds of Passiflora.

His dream of covering the house with vines and creating his own “Ivy League” was a task he had been working on for the last couple of years. He had planted the Virginia Creeper in the front, and it had reached the roof, crawling along the sides of windows. Last year he had trimmed the shoots around the apertures. This year he wanted to experiment and try something else.

A long, hot summer predicted, he wanted to attempt a display that had never been done before. To let the Virgin into the house, he opened all the sash windows. As he watched the euphoric rise of the stalks up the walls, he teased them indoors.

By mid-summer, the Vestal Virgin had covered the walls and the ceiling of his bedroom and continued to creep along the floor towards his bed. Each night he trod carefully between the fresh growths and fell asleep, hoping she would visit his bed.

Ivan watered the ivy every evening and sprayed its leaves, embracing his home with a special hose-head that left a moist mist on the plant. Now that Virginia had covered all the windows, he no longer needed blinds. He left the lights on in the front rooms to induce growth all through the day.

Loneliness had crept into his soul like ivy, but he preferred the physical contact with this plant to a state of mind he wanted to forget. Ivan’s house became an ivy jungle. His bed, a mattress of fresh leaves the Virgin laid for him each night. Ivan took pictures of the progress and felt victorious with the knowledge he had achieved something no one had done before.

The Virgin and him, in close encounters, yet the Virgin still too coy to wrap her arms around him. Ivan waited patiently.

The night before the autumn solstice, while the temperatures lingered around ideal summer levels and Virginia’s leaves had turned to a dazzling shade of scarlet, Ivan lay in her arms and wished to be one with her. This time, the Vestal Virgin conceded. She teased his body with her long fingers, and wrapped her arms around him. First softly, then passionately, she squeezed with her all might, and they became one. Ivan saw beauty, pleasure, love and passion all at the same time.


A police officer viewed the scene and wrote in his notebook. Man suffocated by ivy in his own bed.

Sebnem E. Sanders’ flash stories have appeared in The Drabble, Sick Lit Magazine, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Spelk Fiction, The Bosphorus Review of Books, The Rye Whiskey Review, CarpeArte Journal, Yellow Mama Webzine, Punk Noir Magazine, Flash Fiction Offensive, The Cabinet of Heed, as well as two anthologies. Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, was published in 2017. More information can be found at her website where she publishes some of her work: https://sebnemsanders.wordpress.com/