Songs of Rotting Petals, Dances of Wilting Leaves
by Jamie Lackey
Its flexible stems support. Its stiff stems lift. Over and over and over. The rough bags are heavy, and fall into their metal boxes with dull, shifting thunks.
Its roots dig for sustenance, its leaves turn toward the sun. Metal bands hold its flowers closed, pin its tiny leaves. Slowly, it grows aware of an emptiness.
Had there been something, once? A feeling of straining, of reaching. A longing for—something. But there's nothing to grasp.
Flexible limbs support, stiff limbs lift. There are always more bags. Roots dig, leaves turn.
The rings chafe—they bruise dark, sappy patches on smooth stems. The metal is too cold in the shade, too hot where the sun strikes it.
It clings to the discomfort.
It is something, at least.
Colorful, winged insects land on closed petals. Their feet tickle, and the sensation is pleasant. Familiar, if not remembered.
Eventually, they fly away.
Its closed flowers ache. The bruised stems start to fray, and white flesh oozes beneath. The tiny pinned leaves shrivel around the edges. Its roots dig deep, but do not find enough nutrients. They tell stories in echoing memory of scents and color, but it cannot understand.
Its leaves strain to follow the sun.
Something new fills the emptiness. Something even beyond the dull pain.
There is a reaching again. Things flit like the winged insects, outside of reach, but still familiar.
It catches a single thread. A feeling? It swells to fill the emptiness.
It knows fear.
There are others, outside of itself. All standing in a row, flexible stems supporting, stiff stems lifting. Lines of bags fall into lines of boxes.
Are they afraid, too?
Can they help it?
Can it help them?
Its petals wilt. Their edges grow brown and slimy. The tiny pinned leaves fall off, one by one. Its roots find nothing but hollow songs.
Its leaves do not move.
It wonders why it's here. It wonders if it's dying. It wonders what that means.
The metal bands slip off of rotting petals, fall from dead tiny leaves.
Its flowers fall open, and air stirs pollen-clogged stamens. Foggy memories rise in waves. The invasion—how long ago now? How much time wasted, supporting and lifting?
Invaders stroll through the field, their strange meat-feet heavy on the ground. They plant children, small and perfect with their tight-budded flowers. Tiny metal bands glisten in the sun.
It wishes it had the strength to strike at them.
Instead, it reaches out its roots, tangles them with the child's. It uses the rootsong—the oldtalk so much less precise than the lost flower scent, the crippled tinyleaf dance—to teach the child all it can. Of fear and of anger, of pain from the pinching bands. Of the soft touch of butterfly feet, and what it once meant. It uses flexible limbs to pull at the bands.
It frees a single flower.
It hopes it will be enough.