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Archive for August, 2015

Snail

Snail

The Gardener, the lady dressed in light, came out of her house at dawn and walked her garden as was her habit, greeting every flower and animal by name.

A snail clinging to the top of a stalk caught her attention.

“What is this? You best get down before the sparrows find you and make a meal of you.”

She stopped and studied the snail. There was a wrongness about it. Something had stolen its mind.

“Ach,” she tisked, “I will not have the likes of you infesting my garden.”

She looked up into the top of the fig tree. A blue jay shook itself awake and swooped down to snatch up the snail, taking it back to its roost to crack the shell and dine on its innards.

The lady frowned. “I would not eat that, if I were you. You will be shitting worms before long.”

But she did not move to stop the jay or save it from its folly.

Once the snail had found its way into the jay’s gizzard, the blue jay took off, swooping low over the garden in search of other such morsels. Too busy looking down, it did not look up in time. A hawk plunged from the sky and hit the jay with explosive force, scattering blue feathers everywhere.

The hawk flew away with its prize, out beyond the edges of the garden. “Take it far,” the lady called. “I do not want that evil worm in my garden.”

Once the fear of seeing the hawk in the garden had passed, the sparrows flocked to the ground and gathered up the stray feathers, flying away to line their nests with colorful feathers.

Soon, it was as if the possessed snail had never been. The lady continued on through the garden, content,

****

Somewhere out in the world of men, an unhappy and confused man carried a bag of guns onto a train. Had he caught a brain worm, much like the snail?

Worms are very bad drivers when it comes to humans. The confused man fumbled and stumbled and tried to do what the worm wanted, but the Lady Gardener was having none of it. The guns misfired. Knives went skittering and got lost under benches. Much like blue jay and hawk, forces stepped in to stop him. Men who knew how to fight beat him into a bloody pulp.

And yet, no one died that day.

The Gardener tapped her teeth with a long, sharp nail, as she puzzled over this turn of events.

“Why did you save him?” she asked, lifting her eyes to the man of shadow.

He lifted her silver hair and planted a kiss on the curve of her neck. “Bloody minded little god-ling,” he said softly. his cold breath caressing her perfect skin. “You cannot kill off every human who displeases you. Who would you play with?”

“You.”

“Ach,” he said, shaking his head, a smile on his lips. “Not I. You terrify me.”

The lady of light laughed, turned into a dragon, and leaped into the air. The shadow man followed. They spent the day wave hopping and body surfing, the shadow man trying his level best to erase the mark on her heart left by the worm.

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The Gardener

The Gardener

People started to go crazy.

This, in and of itself, was not extraordinary. People had mental breakdowns everyday. But these victims just sat down, closed their eyes, and then got up happy, happier than their life conditions warranted. Happy and crazy. They would stand for hours watching the sky or contemplate a dandelion growing up out of the cracks in the sidewalk. They would look at a ladybug and then tell you they could see the Gardener in its eyes.

The Gardener, they called her, the woman they met behind their closed eyes.

Some stripped naked and splashed in public fountains. Some went on to quit their jobs. Some emptied their bank accounts and handed the money out to the homeless. Some went to work and claimed they were bee people or ant people or spider people, just doing what came naturally.

It happened to perfectly healthy people. To sick people. People on the street. People in their cars. People in their homes and apartments. Soldiers on the battlefield. Prisoners. Homeless. Sad people. People who had nothing left to lose. Suicidal jumpers on the ledges. Heroin addicts. Whole families, bereft by the passing of beloved ones, one by one, slipped into madness.

There was a theme. Contemplation. People would stop, as if in deep thought and while in that fugue, their minds would fall off the edge of reality. It was not some grand vista that set them off. It was little things. It did not have to be much. A bug. A rainbow. The wash of light on a wall. The sound of rain on the roof. The smell of new cut grass.

It seemed to happen to people from every walk of life on every continent. The CDC was called in. Homeland Security. WHO. Interpol. MI-6. The Russians refused to admit it was happening. The Chinese closed down all their news sites.

Eventually, when the strange plague did not stop, scientists began sharing information in secret, despite the wishes of their governments. The moments of transition were captured on public video all across the planet. One moment the people were normal and moving about, then there would be a flare of energy that barely registered on any sensor, and they were changed.

The scientists were stymied. They set their best people down to study the tapes but one by one, the watchers would close their eyes and lose their minds in a flare of energy.

The tapes were deemed too dangerous. They were locked away. The governments formed a consensus and all rumors of this strange disease was hushed up and news sources were jailed if they mention it.

****

The bee remembered vaguely that he had once been an old man sitting on a park bench missing his dead wife. Now, it clung to the petal of a purple cone flower, disoriented. The lady with the dress made of wishes and gossamer came out of the strange disjointed house and wandered the garden, plucking the faded blooms and saying hello to every flower, every bug, every snake, and every mouse.

“Oh, you are new,” she said, spotting the bee who had once been a man. “Trying to get your bee-legs, I see. Take your time. You will remember how to fly soon enough.”

Remember how to fly? The old man was puzzled by that.. He had never flown in his life. How was he supposed to remember it?

And yet, as he rested, things came to him. He remembered that flying was just stepping off into the void and letting his wings do their job. He remembered where the hive full of his brethren was. He remembered that this was the only house in this world and the only flower garden. He remembered that the further one went from the house the more the wild encroached upon its well ordered beds. He remembered every flower, every bud, every bug that hid under leaf and twig. He remembered how it was all interconnected, one to the other, plant and animal, bird and bug.

The old man who was a bee cleaned himself with his front legs. His back legs were covered with pollen. He had only just arrived in the garden and yet he remembered collecting nectar since dawn. He remembered that this garden, beyond the stone markers that marked its edge, eventually gave way to tall grasses, grasses that ended at the edge of the forest that covered the distant snow covered mountains in one direction and at the edge of the sea in the other direction. He remembered that this world was filled with creatures just like himself, who had left their old world looking for something better. Better meant different things to different people. He was bee people, now. There were bird people and hawk people and rabbit people. The mountains were full of wolves and bears and tigers as white as snow. The sea was full of monsters of every description, some fish people, some whale people, some dragon people. The sea was for the braver, more ambitious beings. He did not want to be part of that world full of teeth. It was bad enough being a bee with the birds and spiders and mantises wanting to eat you.

A shadow passed over the house. The great dark dragon patrolled the skies here. Dragons did not mind bees but the old man remembered spiders and thought it was time to go home. He stepped off the petal and his wings remembered flying. Home was just over there, in the corner of the garden under the apple trees that seemed to be in bloom all the time, even when there were ripe apples on them.

****

The bear woke in the world with the solitary house and the sea full of golden dragons. He sat on his haunches and shook his head as if a thousand angry bees were trying to crawl into his ears to sting him. The state he found himself in had him profoundly confused. He was supposed to do something but that thought was rapidly fading from his mind. He had been a soldier in the other world. A soldier with a mission. Now he was just a bear. He needed to go talk to the lady in the house.

Rising to his feet with a soft whuff, he set out to find the house. This new body was wonderfully strong and it filled his mind with new sensations. The world smelled …. delicious.

His nose led him to the den of a prairie dog where he used his great claws to dig open the burrows and eat the young. That took the edge off his hunger long enough to remember he needed to find the house. He continued on, nibbling on wild strawberries and wild onions as he walked.

Bear could not see as well as he could smell and soon he caught a whiff of something sweet tinged with the sharp essence of magic. The soldier in him scoffed at the idea of magic, but the bear recognized the signature of something powerful writing her will upon the world. He surged forward and began to gallop towards that smell in a ground eating pace. When the folds of the earth opened before him and the house revealed itself, he paused.

“What are you looking for?” asked the lady dressed in spider webs and rainbows standing next to him. Had she just appeared or had she always been there?

Bear whuffed softly.

“Is it the sweet taste of my honey or do you crave the magic that makes it real? There are plenty of hives back the way you came. Turn around. You are not allowed to forage in my garden.”

A growl rumbled in Bear’s throat.

The lady bent and grabbed him by the ruff under his ears. “Listen, Bear. You are new here. I shall warn you only once. Do not challenge the magic of the garden for it will rise up and un-make you.”

And with that warning, the lady was gone.

Bear turned and thought about following the smell of snow into the mountains. The lady liked to walk there when her work in the garden was done, dressed as an elk with fur as white as the snow. But the garden lured him on. He turned and breathed deeply, drawing in the smell of its magic. His mouth watered. He turned and shuffled down the slope towards the house that fooled the eye and did not want to be seen.

He had not quite reached the stone path that marked the outer edge of the fertile flower beds, when his claws clinked against a stone. It was just a plain river rock but he could smell the magic on it. Bear put his claws under it and tossed it aside. The Garden’s magic flared, hard and bright, and things shifted under the tall grass around him.

A bee who was an old man in another dimension buzzed around his eyes, scolding him. He sat back and batted at it. The shadow of something immense passed over him. The sound of wind on wing came close and then dissolved. It was then that he noticed the man dressed in spider webs and shadow. Bear blinked. For all that the lady was full of bright magic and sunlight, this one was the opposite. He was black where she was white. He was darkness where she was light. He was death where she was life.

“She did warn you,” the dark man said, amused. “I do not feel bad, doing this to you.”

Doing what? Bear felt strange. He looked down to see his feet turn into black smoke. The transition climbed up to his knees as Bear slowly lost the feeling in his body.

****

The old man, a recent widower, got up from his bench and crossed the park to Park Avenue. There he jumped up and down and waved his arms at the passing cars.

“Go back!” he shouted. “The garden is not yours.”

Somewhere deep in the bowels of a government facility in Virginia, the soldier, who had once been a bear, put his head down and wept for all that he had lost.

Bee

Bee

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