Tag Archives: fiction

Gardening Against the Future



The plant was a sickly purple-green. It had wobbly knobbles everywhere, broad leaves, and a great big flytrap mouth. It grew in a cowering shape, looking up at her from its position on the floor.

The little girl wanted to touch it.

She touched it.

It opened its mouth and screamed in pain. Then it collapsed. Upset, the child kneeled and cradled its head. Once this attention was received, the plant immediately started complimenting her and begging for money for its gardener bills.

The exasperated gardener approached. “Who touched that damn thing!” She said, one fist balled angrily on her coveralled hip, the other leading a hose.

The child screamed. She collapsed. She started complimenting the gardener and begging for money.

“You want to act like a plant, you’ll get treated like a plant,” the gardener said. She took the little girl by the shoulder and watered her thoroughly.

The girl stopped complaining and made gurgling noises instead.

When she considered her lesson well administered, the gardener pushed her back in the direction of her mother. “Learn to read,” she said. “Save you a world of trouble.”

The child tottered away, coughing and gasping.

The sycophant plant had seen what just happened. It huddled obscenely at the gardener’s feet in fear until its stem gave out and it collapsed completely.

“Oh, oh, oh,” it said. “You’re so strong and patient, won’t you help me up?”

“Ugh. I’ll get something to help stake you up,” the gardener said. As she headed toward the supply closet, she questioned her life decisions. Plants were getting to be too much like people. Why couldn’t she just garden roses? Roses were beautiful. They didn’t whine or moan or beg. They didn’t even think.

Sure, there were roses in this garden. But they had to be defended by increasing measures from the floral predators. Genetic engineering had gotten really out of hand here. The garden was a noisy place. The plants got into a lot of arguments.

She unlocked the shed and popped the door open. A slight resistance and then a tear. Oh no.

One of the plants and migrated into here and was rooting across the door. She knew which one it was before she even saw the tattered ficus leaves.

“Wandering Masochist! How many times do I have to tell you. You have a home.

“But I like doorways,” the Masochist said.

“You don’t have to torture yourself like this. You have a home. Go where you belong. You have supportive friends there.”

“I don’t want to.”

“If you don’t want to… then isn’t that all the more reason to do it?”

The ficus’s leaves turned upward cheerfully at that, and it wandered off. Hopefully it would go where it was supposed to be, but she doubted it. It was sure to find a new doorway to root across and wait for the tearing roots again. That thing…

She grabbed a stake, a few ties, and a towel, then locked the door behind her. She stuffed the towel under the crack in the door. That might keep it out, for a little while at least.

On her way back, she tripped over the Deciduous Package Hauler, who, for lack of a job, had grabbed a handful of Panic Pansies and was attempting to haul them to the other end of the garden. She stopped to free them from its clutches, then gave it the stake to deliver to the Sycophant. Package Haulers were working plants, bred for factory life. They struggled in a lush botanical environment.

Letting the Hauler go ahead, she paused to take in an abundant overgrowth of peaceful pink blossoms. Beautifully formed, quiet, unassuming plants. She hung her fingers on the chain link fence before it, careful to avoid the electrified wiring. The fence couldn’t keep out their perfume.

Life used to be simple, back when she gardened with her grandfather. They would pull the biting weeds and spend a guilt-free evening watching them writhe instinctively on the burn pile. They would give graham crackers to the Ghost Cactus. It loved chewing on graham crackers. And as for the roses, all you had to do was plant and water them.

When she sighed and let go, she turned back to work and saw with a shock that the Orange Lynx Fungus had been watching her. Its eyes were dark spore holes, its teeth black drips. It knew the fence was electrified and had been staying away, but now that it had seen her touch the weak spots in the fence, it was sure to figure out a new way in. This thing’s life ambition, it would seem, was eating roses.

Along with everything else in the world.

So what if roses were things of the past. So what if they could no longer hold their own against a rapidly changing environment. She would remain a gardener here as long as they, too, remained. She would protect the roses, even if she could only ever see them through an electrified chain link fence, through razor wire, through impact-resistant terrarium glass if it came to that.















Sitting at the kitchen table by the window, smoking and watching out the open window. The screen had long since been torn away, by animals, perhaps. The scent of a dying fire on the cool evening breeze carried from the city: a primal, inviolable, deeply human smell.

I’d just come from there. My work for the day was done, and there was nothing to do now but rest.

They said the cigarettes had given me cancer, and cut out my larynx. Them. Doctors. Hospitals. People whose profession was to help you live. It all sounded so phony. Laughable, even.

I hadn’t wanted to go, but my husband had pleaded and begged me into it. In the end, I went for him.  He wasn’t afraid of what he called my paranoia, but he was terrified of losing me to cancer. He might have been naive but he was kind, and he loved me, and I could never say really say no to him; not when it mattered.  So they weren’t the ones who took my voice. I had given it as a gift to my husband, to stop his tears. After all, I still had hands to write, feet to run.

Now he was dead, too. Taken away by the same men in white, in an ambulance. Halfway through dinner, he’d fallen down. I hadn’t been able to protect him after all.

I tamped out the butt of my cigarette and lit up a new one, breathing deep. The sunset’s pink light caught the edges of the dissipating cloud over the city.  It was a beautiful evening. They couldn’t touch that.

A laser focused over my heart. I pretended not to notice, gave the marksman time to aim, and took one more long drag, relishing the flavor, the last thing left to me.

Aim well, bastards. I’ve already made my mark.













The Cursed Diamond

Criticisms welcome.



Rhia hefted a bauble in her hand, enjoying its cool weight, then held it up to the light to appreciate the scintillating jewels embedded in it. She wondered vaguely how old it was.

“Come here,” Joe whispered, beckoning her with one hand. “I found a good one.”

Joining him, they marveled at his find. It was the biggest diamond either of them had ever seen, as round as a quarter, with its own display case and sign.

“Legend says that the Morgan Diamond is cursed,” Rhia read aloud.

“Well,” Joe said. “We’re cursed already. What’s one more?”

She smiled darkly and helped him break it out of the case.


Three months passed. They had sold almost everything, but the Morgan Diamond was too easily recognizable. It had gone into the safe at their new private beach house, waiting for the perfect laundering opportunity.

“We have got to get that thing off of our hands,” Rhia said over a late dinner.

Joe grunted acknowledgement, irritated.

“I’m serious, Joe. I saw a man at the market today, I thought he might be a detective watching me.”

“You see detectives everywhere. How can you be so sure?”

He had been far away and she was nearsighted, so she wasn’t able to get a good look. He was the same medium build as Joe, but paler, more angular. She’d decided he was a detective because of his small round sunglasses and a long beige coat. More than anything though, it was the way he had been watching her, a burning stare that had easily crossed the distance between them. She’d never seen anyone as terrifying as that man.

“I can’t be sure exactly, but I’m not willing to stake a prison sentence on it. I don’t even care if we sell it or not at this point. It’s evidence and we’ve got to get rid of it.”

“You want me to throw away a ten million dollar diamond, are you crazy? We just have to wait for the right buyer, one we can trust. You have got to relax.”

He wasn’t listening to her again. Frustrated by her inability to articulate her fears, Rhia threw down her napkin and got up. “I’m going for a walk.”

“Goddamn,” Joe said to her back as she left. “What is wrong with you tonight?”

She went down to the edge of the black water and watched the waves carry their white crests to shore. The sound didn’t wash away her thoughts like it usually did. So she meandered absentmindedly along the shoreline, her mind tense. Raising her eyes and looking ahead to the horizon, her gut lurched.

There he was again.

She froze. As a woman, her best course of action was to run. As a thief, running would make her look guilty.

Ultimately, her curiosity and her ego got the better of her. She could always rely on her quick lies and dirty fighting to get her through any sticky situation. If he had proof against them, he wouldn’t have to stake them out like this. She walked toward him.

The closer she drew, the more details became apparent. He stood knee deep in the surf, looking out across the ocean, heedless of his wet clothes. Was he wearing sunglasses even now, in the dark?

No. Those weren’t sunglasses. Her mind just hadn’t been able to comprehend it before.

He had no eyes.

What she had taken for a beige coat was actually a tattered, sodden bathrobe. It looked as if its color and thickness had been thinned by relentless saltwater.

She knew with sick certainty that he was dead.

Stopping where she was, she slowly, quietly backed away. 

The man watched the surf. He never moved, never acknowledged her presence. When she got far enough away, she turned and ran back to the house. Panting and shaking, she burst through the door. Joe. She needed Joe.

But Joe wasn’t home. They’d just had a fight. He probably went out to sulk at a bar somewhere.

She climbed the stairs and looked out the window toward the beach. The specter’s pale figure was still there, still watching the horizon. He hadn’t disappeared. It wasn’t her imagination.

Rhia took some deep breaths and tried to calm herself down. People. She would be safe with people. Then she remembered that she’d first seen him at the market, mixed with people. Everyone had unconsciously walked around him. People wouldn’t make any difference; she was the only one who could see him.

Ghosts always want something, right? He was scary, but maybe he wasn’t evil. What could he want?

As if in answer, her searching gaze landed on the Morgan Diamond. It shone black in the darkness. Cursed. How she and Joe had laughed.

She picked it up, turned it over in her hands. It felt cold, heavy… cruel. Could the apparition be a previous owner? What did he want her to do?

He had been looking at the ocean.

Inspiration struck her, and she knew what was necessary. Curling her fingers around the diamond, she took it down to the beach. He was still there, standing in the surf, just within her sight. Always within her sight.

Wading out into the ocean, knee deep as he had been, she lifted the diamond in her hand and gave it one last longing look. It was such a beautiful and rare thing, their trophy for that evening, one of the last times she and Joe had been really happy together, poor and hungry for the thrill of the heist.

A strong wave tugged at her knee, pulling her off balance and back into reality. She sighed. It wasn’t worth her life, or her soul, or a lifetime of hauntings. Gripping it firmly, she threw it as hard as she could out into the surf. For such a troubling thing, it made a very small splash.

Rhia studied the figure of the ghost, but nothing about him changed. He remained still. He watched the water.

It had been the wrong thing to do. She had projected her own desires onto the haunting, and thrown away a fortune for nothing. Dejected, she listened to the waves for wisdom, but they held no comfort. Joe would never forgive her for this; she would never be able to explain it to his satisfaction.

As she started to turn back, the water surged and pushed her feet out from under her. She fell backwards into the cold surf. The undertow pulled her down, down. She fought against it, but which way was up? Black water rushed against her ears. It was taking her. She couldn’t breathe. Everything was so dark. Her lungs spasmed painfully against the frigid salt water.

The last thing she saw through the darkness was a white face with hollow eyes, watching her sadly.


Joe came home, still very drunk. He had spilled tequila on his clothes, so he changed into his robe. Rhia wasn’t here. Was she still angry? That wasn’t like her. Every time they had a fight, she was always here when he came home, ready to accept his apology.

Something was wrong. She should be here. Something was very, very wrong.

She had last said she was going to the beach.

He stumbled down the stairs and out of the house. The stars lit his way.

“Rhia!” He called. “Rhia! Are you out here?”

A black heap on the beach ahead. Driftwood? Worse?

He broke into a run. It was the right size and shape. It was Rhia.

She was cold. She had drowned and washed ashore.

Something glittered in the sand next to her. He picked it out. The Morgan Diamond. A cursed jewel. The one he had stolen to impress her.

This was his fault. He hadn’t been here. He’d gone out drinking like an ass. He only ever thought of himself and this was the result. She couldn’t be dead. He should have been here, should have been here. His partner in crime, he was always prepared for them to go down together. How could he face this world of enemies with no Rhia to stand by his side?

He had to change it. But what could he do now? He had come looking for her too late. She was so precious; he should have stayed near her.

He would join her. He deserved worse. He would join her in the ocean.

Sobbing, he waded out to the water in his beige robe, as deep as he could, diamond in hand, and made a pact with it. Let the same curse take him. Let the water take him, too. Let the sand fill his throat. Let the crabs eat his eyes. If only he could go back, to be there with her. He could warn her about the diamond, about the water. If only he could have been with her. Let him have this day again. Just to be near her. He would give anything.












The Restaurant

Today I burden you all with some flash fiction.



The dying man couldn’t believe his eyes. Another hallucination? Broken as he was, he couldn’t help but pull himself toward it, hope strengthening his limbs.

His eyes ached from the bright, unforgiving landscape, and the sand had worked its way into his deepest joints. His skin was thin, hard leather. This place had turned him into a living mummy.

But hope lay ahead. After an eternity, he reached the threshold, where a waiter in a fine tuxedo politely held the door for him, the epitome of timeless old world culture.

The guest dragged himself through the proffered opening and felt a sudden blast of restaurant air conditioning roll over him like the breath of a benevolent god. He wept dry grateful tears.

“Table for one?” The waiter asked. The man’s graceful manner said he watched the desert eat men every day, and it was no excuse for poor etiquette.

The man opened his mouth to reply and found that his voice had shriveled away. He nodded instead.

“Would you care for help to your table, sir?” was the next question, delivered formally and without judgment.

He managed another nod.

The headwaiter gestured down the hall where two more waiters stood like polite statues. They came to life and aligned themselves on either side of him, supporting him under the arms.

“After me please,” the headwaiter said, and swept into the dining area. The sick man was helplessly carried along in his wake.

“Please take a seat,” the headwaiter said, gesturing at a table for one with a white tablecloth and an array of shining silver cutlery laid out, precise as surgical tools.

Once the man was propped into place, the headwaiter began to speak.

“Our menu has recently changed. The special tonight is a salad niçoise with quail’s eggs, seared sea bass with shallots over a lemon–”

The man cracked open his mouth. Every breath raked the back of his throat like sandpaper. Forcing out words felt like he was trying to exhale a handful of thumbtacks.

“Water,” he croaked, then broke into a weak coughing fit. It was torture; he’d have coughed up blood if he’d had any left.

“Please,” the waiter said, offended. “Allow me to finish. Our menu has recently changed. The special tonight is a salad nicoise with quail’s eggs, seared sea bass with shallots over a lemon risotto, a cold cucumber dill soup, lobster rigatoni with a creamy champignon sauce, and for dessert we have a cooling tiramisu gelato.”

For the first time, he looked his shabby guest in the eye. “However, we ARE a rather exclusive, fine dining establishment. I am afraid I will have to ask you for payment up front.”

Did he even have his wallet on him anymore? The man felt his pockets and was relieved to feel a familiar lump of leather had made the journey with him. It was amazing to him that such a thing could hold value for anyone. What could be more important than water?

With shaking hands, he pulled out the wallet and attempted to work a credit card free. They wouldn’t budge. The desert heat had fused his cards and his wallet into one solid, multicolored blob.

“This is a common issue,” the waiter said. “you don’t happen to remember your card or checking account number?”

The man shook his head.

“That is fine. We are happy to accommodate. You may use our phone to call your bank. If you don’t know their number, you can give us their name and we will look up the number for you.”

The man geared up to speak again. “First… National…” this much speech was all he could muster before breaking into another weak coughing fit.

By the time he recovered, the waiter had looked up his bank, dialed the number, and was waiting politely to hand him the phone. The man accepted it and pressed it to his ear.

“Welcome to the First National Bank phone tree,” it was saying. “Please wait until the end of the recording and listen to all of the options as our menu has recently changed…”