|Flowers Blood by Yanxchan|
In tribute to all of the beautiful gardens I've visited this year, here's a story from my short story collection, Splintered Door.
The Invisible Flowers
© Vapid Press
Have you ever noticed how you can sow the seeds of discontent? That friendship blossoms whilst love blooms, and compassion falls on stony ground, even as everything comes up roses?
The world is full of flowers.
Tall poppies and shrinking violets.
A vast, invisible garden.
In time immemorial, my great ancestor was the goddess Flora, married to Favonius, the gentle summer wind. I have been charged with tending the garden of mankind. I walk among you, yet you never see me. I live at the end of your street, work in the office above the shop where you buy your baguette. I go to the same school as your daughter, write the books your son loves to read, and bless the bottle of scotch that your grandmother hides at the bottom of her umbrella stand.
I was born from the white asphodel, seventeen hundred years ago. I have watched so many changes since. Ideas that have matured, tall and strong; others that have grown crooked. My pockets hold more seeds than there are numbers to count them. Seeds of delight, of strength, and of honour; seeds of destruction, chaos and cruelty.
I guard your nature, but it is not my job to weed it. How could I? Who decides whether a plant is desirable or not? Is it simply whether it falls on my land or yours that makes it a weed? All flowers are precious to the insects and the birds. Even Voodoo Lilies, which breed naught but bluebottles, are cherished by the robins who feast upon them.
Not everything is merely the value of its self. Each plant is rooted in a far-reaching ecosystem of ideas and understandings.
The scent of thought is subtle.
On occasion commeth a rare flower. A Witch of Atlas. One born into such loveliness that all the world is transfixed by her. And always, it is a her.
There seems no reason to it. She can be born of stony ground, barefoot in the desert, or into privilege and position. No specific star announces her birth; no natural disaster follows her death. She simply is.
It is just such a new breed of flower that I saw in her. And in her, I saw my downfall. The end of days.
Seventeen hundred years is a very short time in the life of a god. Not as short as the lives of Man, which run to decades. Or those of trees, which run to centuries. Certainly not to the flowers of thought which spark and bloom and die all within a single second.
But to gods, it is short. To the Universe, it never even happened. And gods must reflect their purpose.
My purpose is to tend the flowers, so I myself must understand them – the intricacies of their life cycle – and reflect it within my own nature. I, too, must grow tall. Reach towards the sun. Pollinate, procreate and perish.
I am divine, but not immortal. She is mortal, yet also divine. She the stigma, I the anther. Fused, we are the sun. All other plants shall strain towards our light, and from it I shall be born again. Unremembering, yet knowing of my purpose. I shall rise once more, as a bulb in spring, to cultivate a further thousand years.
I said before that my job is not to weed. This is true of normal times. But think! Had you a garden of infinite acres, across which a wild meadow blooms, yet only one Jade Vine – well, would you not seek to protect it? Like the Middlemist Red, would you not house it in glass and lavish upon it your every waking thought and affection?
She is singular.
And so I am charged with her care, until such time as we are one.
From the day of her birth, I knew the world was somehow changed. Twice before this feeling came, but each time the promise of spring brought only dark clouds and decay. Those two shoots withered on the vine of their early years, never maturing.
Yet perfection lies dormant in the world. Its fine silk mycelium woven as a cloak of potential beneath humanity. Given the right conditions, unbelievable things may occur. Perfection cannot die, though its patience be infinite.
As is mine.
And neither is perfection pure; her germination a testament to cross-pollination. A dazzling Passion Flower strangled by Bindweed. He held her down, unleashing his seed in a burst of Morning Glory. What he left behind, even the birds would not peck nor scratch. A fertile field turned to wasteland. Barren in the soul; washed away by the flood and void of light.
Each of her petals fell, one by one, even as her daughter grew in height and strength. Eventually she closed in on herself. Those leaves she could no longer raise to protect her child from spring rains, browned and fractured. Her flesh, like all flesh, returned to the earth from whence it was formed, and went on in its turn to form the shapes of many other plants – those hungry for life. And somewhere, deep at the core of her, that original seed which had germinated, that spark of brilliance that had been her love of classical music, of string instruments, that formed her philharmonia – that spark, released of its roots and branches, rose like a moth towards the moon. A susurration in the summer breeze. A memory of one who had lived and died amongst all this life and death.
Yet this rare Camellia remained. Never did she cry. Never did she taint the fresh waters of Heaven with bitter salt. The sun smiled upon her and she smiled back with equal brilliance. None who looked upon her could love her less than their own lives. For our ability to love ourselves is the measure of our capacity to love at all.
Not all attention is wanted. Creeping Vines that seek others to climb, oppressing them beneath tangled ideas. Stink Horns that spew nothing but foul thoughts and phallic iconography. Bittersweet, with its beauty and its charm masking deadly envy. Worse still, Mistletoe, all the time feeding off the lifeblood of others – drinking their sap dry to feed its own greedy promotion.
Thoroughly unpleasant growths.
At sixteen, my Dancing Plant had attracted the attention of a Venus Fly Trap. One who lures women in before closing its trap. Crushing them lifeless with its jaws. These plants spawn from marshy beginnings. Children of fleshy thirst, at home in the swamps of humanity, nurturing a killer instinct.
His name was Harrison. Her form tutor.
He would scatter seeds of knowledge, tend ideas to fruition, and harvest their fruits for posterity – all the time digesting the lost and imprudent.
Plants feed off decay, the carrion of creation.
He was a hunter.
Like all others, he recognised the beauty in her, and was drawn.
I watched him setting his trap. Pulling his jaws so wide that all you could see was his smile. Mortal eyes could not focus on the fangs suspended above that second mouth. He crept around her interest in literature. Rooted himself in her bookish world. Provided her with papers and articles. Sunned her with praise and encouragement. Invited her home to his lair, to view his own collection.
She would see him Friday, on her way home from school.
I watched him in the kitchen, sharpening the pruning shears with which he would cut my precious blossom from the Tree of Life.
With meticulous care he laced his bed with brambles, their sharp thorns ready to bloom blood-red roses from her delicate skin. He prepared tea, succulent with Night Scented Stock, to soothe her to sleep. All around the room, his thoughts whirled like humming birds, never still for a second.
I feel no anger, and I feel no pain. Those are your dominions, not mine. The art of life and death requires neither – it is a simple construction, all being told. Fly Traps are ten a penny in this botanical bedlam. Of her, there is only one. No diligent gardener would pull up a Ghost Orchid to save a Nettle.
I reached deep within my pockets and pulled out sweet seeds of sorrow. Standing behind him, I breathed in his scent: citric and zesty, sharp like a razor’s edge. I scattered the seeds above his head and watched as each blossomed and faded. A firework display of endangered thoughts.
He paused, then reached forward to soap his hands. His grip slipped on the tap as he turned it and rinsed.
I waited and watched.
Did this man have no regrets in his life? To grow so twisted upon this rock of ages, had nothing caused his form to bend? Some abandonment, rejection or repulsive act?
None of my seeds took root.
With every moment that passed, I felt her Lady’s Slippers stepping closer. Soon, she would be at the door – standing in his yawning gape.
I could not allow it.
In desperation, I dusted the floor with every species of pepper plant: annuum Cayenne and Peperoncini, baccatum Lemon Drops, frutescens Tabasco and scorching Chinese Habaneros. The kitchen grew alight with heat and colour. Beads of sweat appeared on his brow as each burst into bloom.
Feel these flowers growing. Know that you stand within my private garden. Know that I will break your spine and use your composted remains to feed my own desires. For I am nature, truer than your own.
Fleetingly, it seemed to work. He stood in the centre of my spice field. The crotch of his trousers twitched, his own mind sprouted fragrant red lilies. He wanted to reach down and satisfy himself. The trap would spring too early, his dark seed spent. She would come and go from this valley of death like a lacewing, ignorant of just how close her end of days had come.
Go now, to your bed of thorns. Pierce yourself upon them and return cowed, like a Sensitive Plant, leaves closed across your heart. Fold yourself, oh narcissistic Narcissus.
The peppers withered and dried, and with them his urgency.
A knock at the door.
He readjusted himself and followed a trail of ivory Virgin's Bower to the entrance.
Peering through the peephole, I watched a bouquet of purple flourish above his head. The petals fell invisibly to the floor as he reached to turn the key.
There she stood, my Welwitschia in the desert.
“Come in,” he smiled.
I scattered a handful of fragile foreboding beneath her feet, but the seeds were crushed before they could flower.
Before my eyes, I saw his Nightshade thrive; intertwining tendrils of death taking possession of this delicate Dianthus.
I tried to plant revulsion in his soul, that he might change his mind and send her away. My propagations proved futile. His roots ran deep; his stem rose slippery and strong.
So little time left.
Imagine your entire rose garden lost to blight, with no hope of ever seeing another bud bloom.
I reached down beneath the earth for that cloak of perfection.
My nails bled with the effort of pulling it forth into the light.
The blood of a god, mingled with perfection, is magic beyond any power known.
The ground shook.
An insidious, insectual buzz began to rise.
Beyond the window, Lightning cracked her tongue and the Erinyes screamed in righteous indignation.
His face froze. A chill, core-deep; the harshest frost of the human soul.
Feel winter and be afraid.
Not a single thought blossomed in his brain.
I clutched the fabric of perfection, enacting flawless justice.
His eyes glazed. His hand raised to his struggling heart.
He opened his mouth to scream, and a river of blackfly erupted. They swarmed across his face, forcing their way into his eyes, his hair, his nostrils.
As he fell, I released the cloth and the world shifted into its obvious form.
I had tended the garden. I had weeded. I had removed the troublesome plant from my spray.
Triumphant, I turned to Her.
She trembled in disbelief. A feathery chime sounded as from the bells of a Wild Hyacinth.
I held out my hand to her, but she stepped away, frightened.
A second more and her body separated into a thousand perfectly formed butterflies – every colour of the rainbow.
“No!” I cried. “No!”
But it was too late. A river of blackfly on the floor, and an ocean of butterflies in the sky.
All that remained of my rare Koki’o was a simple apple seed.
Of him – a gnarled, silver twig.
I plucked the seed from the floor and studied it in a beam of light from the emerging sun.
I should plant her in new soil; water with love and tender attention.
But where? Who could ever sow such a precious seed in this vast garden of wild imaginings?
In ancient times it was believed that if a woman swallowed a butterfly in a goblet of wine, she would bear a child. If I swallow this seed, would she grow within me? Would I give birth to myself reborn?
I placed her on my tongue, closed my eyes and consumed.
All of existence dissolved.
Within the infinity of everything that is and has ever been, I feel primordial stirrings. The beginning of ends. An energetic whoosh of air as Nataraja lifts his foot high above the cosmos. The wind of creation in motion. A breath before the final dance. The frenzy of a million Dervishic devils spinning uncontrollably through time and space, bringing into being that which has always been possible, yet never realised.
I feel myself soften. The hard edges of awareness fray.
In swallowing the seed, I have become its husk. Within me, something of immense proportions grows. As it expands, it sheds my brittle bindings. It overtakes me; consumes me. All that I have known is broken down to fertilise its unstoppable advance.
Saved by perfection, born of unspeakable beauty – she becomes me and, in doing so, she destroys me.
I could no more resist her than survive the molten Phlegethon. She flows forth to every extremity of the Universe.
As I fade to oblivion, I weep for my end of days. I see myself evolve into something greater than anything I could contain. Like all life, mortal and immortal, I craved this metamorphosis. Every caterpillar holds within its heart an unquenchable desire for flight. Yet, in taking flight, I ruin myself. All I can do is watch the entirety of my potential fulfil itself without me. Discarding me as debris, whilst setting sail for a land that I have always wished to see.
I sink beneath my own sorrow.
If you enjoyed that, you might like to check out Splintered Door. Roughly described as 'dark fairytales for adults.' You can pick it up as an eBook at Amazon, Smashwords and Libboo for under two quid. If you head to the Amazon store, you can read another free sample.
You can find more of my free short stories and recordings on my website.