In support of the kickstarter for BOOKS & BONE, I played a game on Mastodon where people could name a plant to me, and in exchange I would write a toot-sized (or tweet-sized) spooky-sweet encounter. The encounter was not necessarily related to the plant.
Here are the results. I hope you enjoy them!
Image by Sunflair, under Pixabay License.
You try the door handle, but something pricks your fingertip. You hold up your hand as blood wells, strangely thick and dark.
There is no sign of what hurt you, and you enter easily.
Blood drips on the table as you set down your keys; it splashes and spreads into a plate-sized plane of red. In it, you see the reflection of someone unknown yet familiar, like someone forgotten from your past.
‘You’re doing great,’ they whisper.
You clean up. The wound heals. All seems to be well.
A black cat darts across your path on your way out; a black dog watches silently from across the park, owner unseen. Birds flap outside the office window.
All day, you feel the weight of eyes upon you, the sense of being watched, the prickle of unwanted attention.
When you return home through the pouring rain, you find a mass of animals huddled on your doorstep. A cat, thin and hungry. A dog, whimpering. Three black birds, their feathers sodden.
You bring them inside.
The mist came quickly during your hike and now you are lost and cannot see. With it came voices; voices laughing. Voices warning. The words are hard to make out. The cold is penetrating.
You walk more briskly, eager to escape the haze and leave its whispers behind. At your next step, you feel hands pulling at your coat, your arms, your hair. They drag you to the ground.
There, you can just make out the edge of the cliff before you.
‘Take care, darling,’ someone whispers.
You find yourself in an unknown alley.
The wind picks up as you turn to leave, buffeting you back, a warm wind with the smell of meadows. It catches rubbish and newspapers and crisp packets and whirls into a multi-coloured column, towering over you.
‘Lost,’ it says mournfully, in a sound like rustling grass. ‘Lost.’
You reach out to it and feel the warm wind wrap around your hand. You lead it to the park, where it drops the rubbish and joyfully rushes away.
‘Home,’ it sighs.
You find it at the edge of a path. A pile of pebbles like a thimble-sized cairn, a daisy laid in front of it. As you watch, a the grass beyond it stirs. A mouse emerges and scurries in front of it. It drops another daisy from its mouth and sits there, head bowed, nose twitching.
You return to the path often, but never see the mouse again. Only the cairn, and fresh daisies, and a sense that the world is larger than you know.
You are walking through a forest at sunset. You round a tree and yelp as you walk into a small child in a bedsheet.
‘Ooooh!’ says the child.
You ask if they are lost and look for parents, but cannot see anyone else around.
The child waves its sheet-covered arms, and oos at you again before fleeing.
You follow out of curiosity and a vague sense of responsibility.
It leads you to a cemetary. It passes through the fence as if it were not there.
‘Oooh!’ They wave and fade away.
You find a picture book at the end of your bed. It looks well-worn and is utterly unfamiliar. A puppy wags its tail excitedly from the cover.
You find yourself reading it aloud, smiling at the rhymes and the illustrations.
You set it aside, curiosity overtaken by tiredness, and turn out the lights. Just as you pass into sleep, you think you hear someone sigh, ‘thank you.’
When you awake, the book is gone, but your home looks brighter, your plants more vibrant, and you feel refreshed.
You find an ornate mirror in your attic, but the reflection is not your own. A woman in red gazes back, just as astonished.
You show it to others, but none can see the woman. The woman claims to have done the same.
Curiosity gets the better of you.
You find yourself talking to her, learning of her life. She asks about yours. When you’re done, you both feel better for the conversation.
When next you pick up the mirror, only your reflection looks back.
Your garden begins to bear strange fruit. You find a red gem tangled in the roots of a shrub, a gold coin sprouting from a flowering cactus, a pearl held in the mouth of a flytrap.
You wonder if someone is playing a trick on you, but if they are, nobody owns up. After a time, it becomes normal to find an occasional treasure among your plants.
One night, you dream that your plants whisper in the night. ‘She takes such good care of us,’ one says. ‘It’s only fair.’
You stay home from work, laid low by a shivering, heaving fever. Blankets hugged close then thrown off, a bowl beside you on the bed, and a terrible ache for company.
You dip in and out of sick dreams and sweaty sleep, too weak to care for yourself and hoping it will pass quickly.
You have a vague sense of a gentle touch mopping your brow, tying back your hair, rubbing your back. It comforts you.
When you recover, you try to thank whoever cared for you, but nobody will admit to it.