… Is the only possible explanation. Extraterrestrial, supernatural, parahorticultural—something freaky is afoot at Fencebroke.
Ebony Pearl is missing. She's a—was—a beautiful, unusual Rhododendron with dark, sultry leaves formerly planted about a foot from our front door. Then she vanished. Overnight. In her place, there is … nothing. No severed stem, no leaves, no hole in the ground where once her roots held tight. There is no evidence of a struggle. She was not dug up, cut down, ripped from the ground, or stricken in place. She was not in poor health, did not give any indication of dissatisfaction, malaise, or impending doom. She did not, as far as I can tell, even die. She's just not there.
It is as though she never were there. Like I had merely forgotten to plant something in that conspicuous 3x3 foot space I walk past on the way to my car every morning. Like the last year and a half's worth of fond gazes in her direction were nothing more than a recurring dream or drawn-out deja vu. Already her memory fades.
Did I imagine the whole thing? Did I ever have a rhody called 'Ebony Pearl'? Or is this yawning void in my garden indicative of some deeper, deleterious force at work in the fabric of my own being?
Probably not, but, you know … wow. What if?
And if she was, in fact, abducted—then by what hand? What agent's idiom could possibly include the surgical excision of rare plants from beneath a gardener's watchful eye. And to what end? Aliens probing for horticultural arcana in Fencebroke's borders? The astronomically improbable manifestation of quantum uncertainty on a macro scale right between the witch hazel and heather? Government experimentation in targeted teleportation run amok? Jealous neighbors? Rats?
Yeah, maybe just rats. They probably gnawed off the trunk just below the soil line and hauled off Ms. Pearl kicking and screaming into the night. Okay, fine, but 1.) How? 2.) Why? And 3.) What the hell, rats?
I'm getting kind of worked up about this Ebony Pearl thing. In my time as a gardener, I've killed lots of plants through neglect, ignorance, misfortune, and spite, but I've never yet lost one to … this. Whatever this is. I feel powerless, exposed, and confused. Not to mention paranoid. Didn't there used to be a plant there? How about there? Whatever happened to that cool Nandina I planted last year?
What if it happens again?
What if they come back for me?
That's it, I'm getting security cameras.