The Yellow Rose of Bucharest

                Ron, the freelance photographer, woke to a letter slid under his door. In it a one-way ticket to Bucharest, and a note that read: “WE REQUIRE 12 PHOTOS OF THE YELLOW ROSE.”

                He knew not why he dressed at the beck of this note, nor why he hurried so to catch this flight. And in the air, the speed with which he heeded the call worried him, as did the identity of the unknown benefactor. A yellow rose? In Romania? What flower could be worth all this trouble?

                The plane landed under a dark sky at half past noon, the sun hidden by clouds. There were no more directives. No hints to go by. He wandered lost from Henri Coandă International into the unsightly day, camera strapped around his neck, but no subject for it shoot. He happened upon a taxi stand and slouched into the back seat.

                “Where to?” The cabbie said in accented English. Then he saw the camera and grinned, though it did not touch his eyes. “Ah… Yellow Rose?”

                “Well, yes, but how did you-” Ron began to no avail. They were already off, the cab zipping through the roads, tires lightly kissing the pavement. The pecks of amorous lovers who impatiently nibble at each other’s ears, eager to be done with foreplay and on to more serious work.

                “Where are you taking me?” The question fell on deaf ears over the road of the man’s engine, the cabbie now focused on his task. They sped by too quickly for the photog to appreciate Bucharest’s streets, to waste his camera’s memory on the sights and colors of the city. Its mix of modern and neo-classical architecture rushed by him unseen. Buildings adorned with doric columns made neighbors with austere concrete structures. Quiescent parks draped in subdued greens and trees slowly withering in the gray acquiesced themselves with bustling malls and polluted city thoroughfares. All of this passed, unbeknownst to him.

   His camera was meant for one subject, and one alone.

                Suddenly they stopped. This was no arboretum, where one might expect to find a rose, but an industrial park, drab and dead.

                “This is it.” The cabbie explained.

                “What? Where am I? Who hired you?”

                “This is it.”

                “But I have to know why I-”

                “Get. Out.” The look on the cabbie’s face spoke clear. He did not smile now, and did even less with his eyes. The implied words struck like bullets: This is the end of the discussion.

                So the photographer stumbled out, and the cab sped into the afternoon gloom. Before he could pay, before he could even collect his luggage. As he made his uncertain way forward, the door to a nearby warehouse swung open as if to whisper Enter…

                And so he did. Inside was darker still. The air buzzed. A subvocal hum resonated throughout its interior and now his soul. Ron shuddered though it was not cold.

                “Hello? Is anyone th-”

                The lights flickered on. The warehouse, it was empty except for…

                Except for…

                A tower of light, yellow light. A pyramidic monolith. Not a flower, but a pinnacle. A rose, but also more. It breathed, it beat, like from within it a heart pumped golden ichor. It pulsed, and with its pulses shifted the luminescence within. Ron knew. Somehow it was alive. He knew. Somehow it spoke to him. Not with words, but a language of absolute clarity. And he understood what he must do.

                Raising his camera, the shutter clicked loud in the silence.