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  • First, a rose. Homegrown is best, but shop-bought works fine.
  • Wrap carefully in a blanket and soothe—the rose does not yet know your intentions, but it will. Keep thorns and leaves intact.
  • Go to a quiet, outdoor place. Avoid rain. Take the necessary equipment: the rose, the blanket, the shears, the vase, the embalming fluid, the cloth, the water (to wet the cloth), the machine, the Item (within the machine), the power outlet, the mirror, the kerosene, the lighter, the sledgehammer, the Polaroid photographs, the divider, the other flowers (posies/gerbera are best), the radio, the earplugs, the clasps, the cage, the canary, the tarpaulin, the recipient’s tooth, and your own tooth.
  • Lay the tarpaulin in a flat, dry place. Set out the necessary equipment. Be sure you are alone.
  • Put the rose in the vase, along with the other flowers. Arrange nicely, paying attention to colour, volume, the length and width of stems.
  • Tell the rose you are sorry.
  • Remove the machine from its holding and set up according to the instructions (detailed overleaf). Plug into the power outlet. When ready, the machine will let out a sound like a sigh, dejected.
  • Reminder: the machine is not a machine. It simply houses the Item. The Item is a machine.
  • Place the vase into the machine, holding in place with the clasps. Adjust as needed.
  • Pour the embalming fluid into the vase, filling halfway. Be sure to keep some in reserve.
  • The sky may become perceptibly darker at its edges, like a bruise. Ignore this—the sky is lying to you.
  • Place the caged canary nearby.
  • If the canary laughs like a difficult child, abandon the procedure.
  • Tell the machine you would like to speak to the rose. The machine/Item will facilitate this.
  • When the rose replies, its voice will sound far away. Common responses include: ‘What?’ and ‘How?’.
  • The other flowers will quiver, as if afraid.
  • With the tone of a primary school teacher, kindly and disappointed, recite the following to the rose: ‘These flowers hate you. They speak in undertones about you. They think you unkind. They think you unflower. Do not feel for these flowers. They would do the same to you.’
  • Common responses include: ‘We shouldn’t’ and ‘I don’t like this.’ The rose may sound worried or afraid, but never excited.
  • Should the rose sound excited, douse both it and the machine in kerosene and burn. An excited rose is a bad rose—home growth can help to prevent bad roses.
  • If, at any time, the rose’s voice sounds close to your ear, burn yourself along with all other equipment. This is not the rose, and it is already inside.
  • If given the desired response, recite the following: ‘Somewhere, in another place, you want this to happen. Somewhere, you are already this thing you are becoming. Somewhere, you are already this thing you hate.’
  • Common responses include: ‘Why are you doing this?’ and ‘I want to go home.’
  • The embalming fluid should begin to simmer.
  • Nearby clouds may cease to exist, or they may coalesce into a single cloud, shaped like a lighthouse. Should the lighthouse blare its foghorn, abandon the procedure and burn all remaining equipment.
  • With a rising sense of dread, recite the following: ‘These flowers hate you. These flowers hate you. These flowers hate you …’
  • Repeat until the rose groans and/or sobs.
  • The rose may writhe. Adjust clamps as needed.
  • The other flowers should now begin to wilt. You may hear screaming, but this is just the machine. Other flowers cannot scream.
  • Bear witness. The rose is changing, becoming other—words of encouragement are recommended.
  • The quickening should take approximately five minutes. When finished, only the rose should remain, the other flowers wilted to dust.
  • The rose may appear different. Common variations include, but are not limited to: firmer calyx, a strong smell of acetone, different colouring (beetroot, salmon, mauve), spots and/or abrasions, a general sense of wrongness.
  • Remove the rose from the machine.
  • Douse the machine with kerosene and burn. Destroy remaining fragments with the sledgehammer. The Item will be gone, having made its own way home.
  • Place the vase on the tarpaulin.
  • Be wary from this point onwards of the Other Voice. The Other Voice will most likely congratulate you on a job well done, before asking you to turn around. Do not turn around. The Other Voice can and has been known to impersonate police officers, children, politicians, lovers, God, the dead—documented cases describe it breathing against the neck, mewling like a wounded animal/pet, asking for forgiveness from beyond the grave. Remember: do not turn around. The Other Voice is lying to you and is not affiliated with Us in any way.
  • Place the mirror in front of the rose and ask what it sees. From this point onwards, the rose should speak without the aid of the machine.
  • ‘A flower,’ the rose should say (or something to this effect).
  • Place the canary in front of the rose and ask what it sees.
  • ‘A bird,’ the rose should say.
  • Using the shears, punish the rose. Cutting away stem/leaves/thorns is particularly effective.
  • The rose may scream. Roses can scream.
  • Tell the rose you are sorry.
  • Repeat: ‘What do you see?’
  • ‘A bird.’
  • Punish the rose until the required response—‘A flower’—is given.
  • If the rose begins to bleed, wet the cloth and dab.
  • Recite: ‘This flower hates you. What do we do with flowers?’
  • The rose will consider.
  • If successful, the canary will begin to lose its feathers. To shrivel, go white, shed its skin, become paper-like. Wilting.
  • Destroy/dispose of the canary.
  • Show the rose the Polaroid photographs. These should be of people, preferably strangers.
  • Recite: ‘What do you see?’
  • Prompt if necessary: ‘This is a flower, and this is a flower, and this is a flower, and this is a flower …’
  • Punish if necessary.
  • Once the rose has learned, stroke it about the stem or calyx. Punish the rose if it appears too proud of itself.
  • Reminder: to ensure the proper growth of a Poltergeist Rose, pleasure and pain should be doled out often and with little distinction.
  • Place your tooth into the pistil (or centre) of the rose.
  • Recite: ‘What is this?’
  • ‘A flower,’ the rose should say (if properly trained).
  • Punish the rose. Recite: ‘No. No. No. This is a tooth, you idiot flower.’
  • Punish the rose until it acknowledges that the tooth is a tooth.
  • The Other Voice may attempt to confuse the rose, insisting that the tooth is ‘a picture,’ ‘a canary,’ ‘moonlight,’ ‘a beach,’ ‘a person turning around,’ ‘the sound of city traffic,’ ‘your dentist’s heart,’ etc. Ignore the Other Voice, and do not turn around.
  • Once acknowledged, replace your tooth with the recipient’s.
  • Recite: ‘What is this?’
  • ‘A tooth,’ the rose should say.
  • Recite: ‘No. No. No. This is a flower.’
  • Punish the rose until it acknowledges that the tooth is a flower.
  • Place the divider between you and the rose, making sure it cannot see you. Whilst the rose contemplates the Tooth Dilemma, it may lash out at any and all teeth it sees.
  • Put the earplugs in.
  • Tune the radio to Our frequency (detailed overleaf).
  • Wait for one hour. Do not, at any point, attempt to listen to Our frequency.
  • Remaining behind the divider, gently place the blanket over the rose.
  • Douse remaining equipment with kerosene and burn.
  • Return home, keeping the rose hidden from family/carers/Others.
  • Place the rose in a dark room for three full days.
  • The rose will plead for light. Ignore the rose—it does not know what it needs.
  • The Other Voice may speak to the rose. It may tell the rose to resist, that it can fight this. It may tell the rose that somewhere, in another place, it is fighting this. Ignore the Other Voice—the rose cannot fight this.
  • Once the three days are up, the transformation should be complete.
  • It is now safe for your Poltergeist Rose to see your teeth.
  • Smile.
  • If you begin to wilt, something has gone wrong.
  • Take the Poltergeist Rose to your intended recipient. Give it to them as you would any other flower.
  • Speak with them. Ask them how their day has been. Ask them about their job/partner/financial woes. Remain unsuspicious.
  • Insist on placing the Poltergeist Rose in a vase yourself (‘Oh, let me, let me’). Fill the vase with embalming fluid.
  • Recite: ‘What do you see?’
  • ‘Flowers. Flowers everywhere,’ the Poltergeist Rose should say.
  • Place it somewhere prominent with lots of sunlight.
  • Leave the recipient’s house and wait.
  • There will be sounds/lights/phenomena from within the recipient’s house. Neighbours may notice. Whilst tempting, it is better to go about your life as normal while the Poltergeist Rose does its work.
  • There may be an investigation—the police will not suspect you or the Poltergeist Rose.
  • Once the matter is resolved, you may retrieve your Poltergeist Rose and use at your leisure.
  • Reminder: a Poltergeist Rose becomes more unstable with each delivery. If you see any of the following signs around your home—wilting/death of local pets, brackish/inky water in the pipes, stolen teeth, sightings of clouds shaped like lighthouses, aeroplanes flying into these clouds and disappearing—the time has come to dispose of the Poltergeist Rose.
  • When this time comes, thank the Poltergeist Rose sincerely, before placing it in front of a mirror in an empty room.
  • Close the door.
  • The rose will scream.
  • Tell the rose you are sorry.

J. G. Lynas writes weird and speculative fiction. His work has been published in Visual Verse and the North American Review, where it was selected as an honourable mention for the Kurt Vonnegut Prize. He is a PhD student, Wolfson Scholar, and sessional teacher at the University of Warwick. Twitter: @jg_lynas.
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