By Lex T. Lindsay
The office Ficus took its first victim on a Monday. It was Todd from accounting, the kind of guy who oozed used-car-salesman energy and told jokes in the break room that had everyone feigning urgent meetings. This, combined with the fact that everyone was in dire need of a caffeine drip, was perhaps why no one cared much when the tiny tree in the corner somehow swallowed Todd whole, leaving behind nothing but a scuffed black loafer.
Monique from IT had the strongest reaction out of anyone, looking up and quietly saying, “Well, you don’t see that every day.” She then pulled an empty potato chip package out of the fax machine.
The office reaction when the Ficus took Manuel from HR was much stronger.
“Yeah, Manuel who always brought in cupcakes. He had all those fun holiday ties.”
That was too far. Management called the custodial staff in, and the Ficus was taken out to the dumpster behind the building and was, like so many moldy food containers in the quarterly office fridge purge, swiftly disposed of.
The small tree was inexplicably back the following day, sitting in its usual corner near Jerry’s cubicle. It was Jerry who witnessed the next event. No one ever saw Angela from accounts receivable again. Mark from accounts payable immediately called dibs on her lumbar cushion and her paperweight shaped like a famous cartoon cat.
Mark also suggested the parking lot bonfire. At exactly 5 p.m., the entire building gathered outside, circling the Ficus like a pack of coyotes. There were rousing speeches, great cries for revenge, and several instances of ballpoint ink used as eye black before they turned the bottle of alcohol from the first aid kit into a molotov cocktail.
The Ficus was a pile of ashes by 6 p.m. Vindicated, people left, some discussing drinks at a chain restaurant, others entertaining the idea of just going home to ditch their bra and lounge around the house sans pants—the perfect evening.
By 7:30 a.m., when Rahul the assistant manager showed up to unlock the doors, the plant was back. He did not scream. Much.
The next victim was the receptionist, Chris. A rented wood chipper showed up by lunch.
The office tried everything. They mulched it. They chopped it into segments and buried them separately in parks, apartment yards, and flower boxes all around town. They asked it nicely to please stop eating people because it’s “very not cool of you, you know?” The Ficus always returned to kill again.
At lunch on Friday, they held a tiny memorial for their fallen comrades. After, they all agreed it would’ve been much better with some of Manuel’s cupcakes.
The weekend brought a brief reprieve.
Monday brought a hero.
“She’s back,” Rahul said, whispering over his breakfast. The CEO, Alyssa, had been out of town for two weeks, glamping in Hawaii and filling her social feed with photos of rich sunsets and black sandy beaches.
“Who’s gonna tell her about the Ficus?” Marjorie asked. Already that morning, it had eaten the postman when he dropped in. The office was now the proud owner of a bag of mail and a single oddly-shaped package that turned out to be a hundred live crickets—its own ordeal altogether.
In response to who would tell the CEO the news, there was a round of “not it,” “not it,” “not it,” before Mark finally huffed and said, “Aw, c’mon!”
Still, he did his duty, standing in front of her desk and quietly recounting the week of bizarre events. Alyssa barely glanced up.
“Bring it in here and put it in the corner.” She yawned. “I’ll take care of it.”
The Ficus started to wither by Wednesday, the leaves shriveling and dropping off onto the carpet in Alyssa’s office.
“How’d you do it?” Rahul asked. “We tried everything.”
“Same thing I do with every other plant I’ve successfully killed—water and sunlight.”
On Friday, they threw out the corpse of the small tree, tossing it and the pot into the dumpster out back. It didn’t come back that time. It seemed the strange ordeal was finally over. A new hire had even established herself as a purveyor of fine baked goods. All was well and full of carbohydrates.
The following Monday, the assistant manager of the travel company next door stepped into a cubicle in their accounting department.
“Hey, Tom, you got those quarterly reports?”
“Oh, sure, Indra, right here.” Tom moved to hand them over, but Indra was otherwise occupied, staring into the corner near Tom’s cubicle.
“So bare, huh?” she asked, and Tom could see why. It was bare—a blank white space lit by dull fluorescent light. Soul-sucking, really.
“Maybe we should put something there,” Tom said.
“A spider plant, perhaps? Or a peace lily.” Indra tilted her head to look at the space at another angle. But Tom knew just the thing.
“The office beside us just threw out a Ficus the other day. It’s on its last leg, but I’m pretty great with plants.”