Challenge: Corrupted Seed (and other things)
I haven't been writing lately which, in all honesty, isn't the strange part. What makes it worth noting is that I hadn't even noticed that I wasn't writing. Usually, the knowledge of my failed attempts (or lack of attempts) is a constant, grating knowledge weighing down my every thought and action. I play video games (Horizon Zero Dawn <3 ) and the thought pesters. I read a book, and anxiety swirls. Dusk falls, night rises, and I sink into self-loathing at the wasted but pleasantly relaxing day.
This time I didn't even notice my lack of ambition toward chasing a dream I've had since middle school. Why? I was probably having too much fun.
I did need the break, though. Writing anything was becoming a painful process for me. Every word was nails driven through my fingers.
It's back to being mostly effortless now. (pfft)
So, I have another story for your delight. This one, like the last, is based on a dream I had. Actually, as it's recorded in my journal both these dreams occurred on the same night though this one I've kept much closer to the original content.
Get some tea. Settle in, and dive into...
Two women sit at a small table outside a café shop. One drinks coffee, the other, tea. The one drinking coffee is an outsider, anyone can see that. She wears silver bracelets on both narrow wrists and a tasteful but impractical fitted blue dress. The other, a café worker, is still in her apron. The stranger in the blue dress carries a notebook that fits in the palm of her hand, and a pen she rapidly clicks on the table.
She’s collecting local stories for a paper somewhere out of town. Its noon and a Sunday so the lazy ring of the church bells shakes the windows. The church tower is the tallest building in the village and it is visible on every block.
The café worker waits for them to stop before putting down her tea to begin telling a peculiar story. One she’s been told, and her mother had been told, and so on.
“A boy rides toward home on a rusted bike that has been in the family for generations. He’s far from town, but the church bells clang soft through the full green trees. The path is narrow. There aren’t many people who live so far out. They are afraid.
“The ride is long and heavily shaded by foliage. He makes it back before noon, his basket still full of vegetables from the garden. No one buys anything from them.
“The boy’s grandfather is in the garden, hunched over in his dirty overalls with the garden hoe by the cabbages. He stands straight and wipes the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand when the boy props the bike against the wooden garden gate. He looks once and only once at the full basket and spits into the dirt.
“The old man doesn’t understand. Their soil is good and their crops are plentiful and rich. Still, the people will not buy.
“The boy goes quietly inside to store the vegetables in the cool basement, and the old man continues his toiling in the garden. He’s not terribly old, but old enough to start worrying about the allotted amount of time left to him. He woke up feeling bruised and rotted like a bad fruit. Toiling away all day in the baking sun was changing him faster.
“It was past noon when the boy came outside to see the grandfather laying on his back, falling apart but still alive. The boy runs to him. “Don’t worry I’ll take care of you.” And he picks up handfuls offlesh and buries each one in the garden. Plants spring up from the mounds instantly, but every bud and bloom are corrupted and rotted. The grandfather is still alive, nothing but a moaning head.
“The boy picks up the last handful of flesh and says, “I’ll put you in a pot, don’t worry.” Next season a strange plant grows from the pot and the boy has a younger brother to raise.”
Finished, she brings the now cool tea to her lips and shrugs into her drink.
“I’ve no idea what he did with the head.”
The stranger had stopped writing when she mentioned the buried flesh. Now, she stares. Her lips don’t seem to know if they are smiling or frowning. They move from one position to the next. Her eyes are the same, humored and uncertain. Most outsiders look the same way the first time they hear the warning.
The café worker slumps in her chair. “If you take the narrow road far out of town you can find the farm. There’s an old man and a boy there like there’s always been. No one ever sees a mother.”
“Are you suggesting—” She twirls and points her pen. Her features settle into humor. “You’re joking with me, right?”
The café worker shakes her head. “They grow from the earth there. People who eat their vegetables become weaker and weaker until they die. People die to make that food, so no one eats it.”
“They grow out of the earth?”
“Grow, wither, and die.”
“Why did the old man grow rotted in the garden but not the pot?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he was a bad seed. Now I have to get back to work.” She stood. “Go up the path. You’ll see them there but don’t eat anything that grows from that dirt.”
Hours later, the stranger comes out of the trees. There’s very little but a fenced garden, a small wood cabin, and a rusted bike leaned against the gate. An old man stands in the garden, hoe in hand and sweat on his brow. He looks up when she comes closer, pen and note book ready.
“I’ve heard interesting rumors about your farm.” The old man looks her over once, grunts – a very unamused and unimpressed sound – and goes back to his work.
She stands by the gate, looks at the house and the bike and the garden fence. Everything is the way the café girl explained. The boy comes out of the house. He carries a basket of strawberries. They are bright and large. She’s never seen such beautiful berries before. He comes to a halt when he sees her. Maybe he is shy.
“Those look delicious.” She smiles, takes one, and pops it in her mouth.
Much later people see her in town, carrying a pint of beautiful berries. She gets on her bus and goes back to wherever she came from. No one ever saw her again, but the fruit the boy brought to town next market was brighter and more beautiful than ever.