When the action begins, the girls are driving through the backwoods of Georgia on a road that Lisa claims is "'not even on the map!'" The shortcut around Atlanta was Meagan's idea and the other girls blame her for their predicament. Lisa and Kristin don't do anything to hide their disdain for Meagan, talking about her as if she wasn't there. As they enter a swamp and the road deteriorates, Lisa spots an old plantation house and decides to stop and ask for directions. The girls are spooked by the creepiness of the house and a front door that seems to open on its own. A man, whom Meagan describes as "a creepy version of the chicken guy" [Colonel Sanders], appears in the doorway out of nowhere. The man assumes they have come to see his garden despite Lisa's protests.
“Garden?” Lisa echoed. “Who cares about a stupid garden? We need directions. Do you know how we can get back on to Interstate 85?”
The man smiled gently, as if humoring the most foolish of notions from a truly naïve intellect. “Certainly, I know the way to Interstate 85,” he said. “But wouldn’t you like to see my garden? It’s really quite extraordinary. Right this way.”
The girls follow the old man to a beautiful garden behind the house.
It’s like… it’s like the Garden of Eden, Meagan thought. But, she reminded herself, even the Garden of Eden had a snake in it.
The girls feel drawn into the garden. The old man warns them not to go past the forget-me-nots. Meagan spies the forget-me-nots along the path, places her hand around a cluster, and warns the other girls.
“You would know what they are, you dweeb,” sneered Lisa. “I don’t care what Colonel whats-his-name said. I want to keep going.” Rolling their eyes and giggling, Lisa, Kristin, and Samantha walked passed the little blue flowers…
Shocked at their disappearance, Meagan accidentally picks the spray of the forget-me-nots and decides to follow her "friends." After passing through the portal beyond the flowers, she finds the three girls wandering aimlessly on a hill in the countryside and discovers that the three have forgotten who they are. The bottom of the hill is surrounded by dark-looking trees that come to life and drag Lisa, Kristin, and Samantha away. For some reason, they leave Meagan alone.
The trees had looked at her hard for several breathless moments, but they left her alone. Stranded in a strange, terrifying place, her friends violently captured, Meagan felt more truly helpless than she ever had in her lifetime. Still clutching the forget-me-nots, she fell to the ground and wept. Exhausted and emotionally drained, she slipped into a deep, numbing sleep.
When Meagan awakes, she discovers that she has been "captured" by a different group of trees, the Broadleafs, who are at war with the Hemlocks. The Broadleaf leader--King Teninbaum--tells her that forget-me-nots are a powerful herb and saved her from the Hemlocks who will ultimately throw the other girls into the Dreadmire and consume them through their roots. Teninbaum agrees to help Meagan rescue her friends and an army of Breadleafs sets out to battle the Hemlocks.
The story demonstrates the power of the forget-me-nots to preserve and restore memory, but it's not clear why the Hemlocks fear it. And why the Broadleaf's do not use the power of the forget-me-nots in their fight against the Hemlocks? Some clarifications on these points would fill in a hole in the plot of an otherwise very rewarding and enjoyable story.
As you might suspect, forget-me-nots have an interesting history in folklore and legend and are of course associated with remembrance. Here's a tidbit from Wikipedia's entry on Forget-me-nots:
In 15th-century Germany, it was supposed that the wearers of the flower would not be forgotten by their lovers. Legend has it that in medieval times, a knight and his lady were walking along the side of a river. He picked a posy of flowers, but because of the weight of his armour he fell into the river. As he was drowning he threw the posy to his loved one and shouted "Forget-me-not." It was often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love.
To learn more about Wayne Thomas Batson and his writing, visit his blog at enterthedoorwithin.blogspot.com. Also, see my reviews of his novels Curse of the Spider King and Venom and Song.
Photo Attribution: By Sedum Tauno Erik (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.