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Thank you for being a friend

by Kelly Mintzer 10 months ago in Short Story
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Plants are good for the soul.

The marigold entered, a sprout, uninvited to the bog, but it came with excellent manners and perfect grace. Rob had felt a tremor on its arrival, a delicate shift in the air through his home. And though the shift was a matter of moments and degrees, he wore it like a brand-Rob, it turned out, was not a fan of change. He had never known that about himself. He had never needed to. The bog was the same, ever was, ever had been, as was intended. He didn't really know why, he just had a sense that the earth was kept appropriately beneath his feet by virtue of same, steady and still, never asking for more or settling for less.

But the marigold, you see, had different plans. It stretched its delicate stem towards the sky, littered with dark clouds, the slow, ready smog of Rob's respiration, in and out, again and again, as ever, as ever, as ever it'd been. Rob tapped the thick of his nail to the rhythm, he found comfort in the repetition of 3s, a certainty that one follows the next, and same, and again, just as the first, so is the last. Same was important. Same was safe.

Same was most certainly not the little sprout staring at him, leaves waving on the breeze.

Something, you know, would have to be done.

Rob stomped out of his hut, the warm, wet clay of the bog filling the webbing between his toes. Shoes were for adventurers and dancers, and he was not terribly disposed towards either of those pass times. Sure, he could keep an ok beat, if the situation called for it (he assumed, at least. The situation had never called for it), and he suspected he'd be quite good at an adventure, should he ever decide to pursue one, but he had no intention of finding out. It was not a certainty he needed.

He considered a good old fashioned stomp to the marigold, quick, brutal, and over too fast, but the idea of the strange little unwelcome guest being stuck to his feet (he was certainly not washing his feet, in the middle of a day, on a Wednesday, of all things, if you could believe, and also if you couldn't) gave him both heebies and jeebies, and he frankly had no extra space to house either. Instead, he reached down, and grasped its thin stem, ready, willing and able to pluck, despite it being an altogether new action, it was one that was necessary to restore equilibrium, and equilibrium was necessary for balance.

Rob appreciated balance. It's what kept him upright, after all.

But the moment his coarse thumb grazed the marigold's soft epidermis, a gentle little whisper blew ice on his skin. He had never before felt the presence of another's voice directed towards him, focused towards him, intended for him. He felt his whole being burn with the thought.

Nothing in this world had ever been made with Rob in mind. And he had accepted that quite a long time ago.

"Well, not nothing", said the voice, "after all, here is me!" And Rob recoiled from the cool, sharp giggle.

He had never spoken. He had never needed to. There was never anyone there to listen. The villagers threw their stones from a distance and left without making or requesting a comment.

All of which is to say:

Rob had no idea he could speak until he responded to the marigold, on a Wednesday, at 1 in the afternoon, for those inclined to consult a clock.

"Why are you here?" he said or thought, who knows for sure, and more who cares, what matters is simply that suddenly, certainly, there was communication.

The marigold sighed. "Oh who even knows? I wasn't and then I was suddenly here, and now I am, and isn't that nice?"

Rob didn't particularly think it was nice. The marigold did not belong in his bog.

"Well, it's our bog now", the marigold said, so apparently yes, communication was a little less defined than he thought. Rob raised his eyebrow. Apparently he would have to be careful about this whole "thinking" thing. Adapted as he was to living by instinct, Rob had done more thinking in he past 15 minutes than in however many years prior.

"That seems silly", the marigold said. "How else do you communicate with your friends?"

Rob shrugged. "I don't have any friends."

"Nonsense, you have me."

"And who or what are you, little monster?"

The marigold stretched its delicate spine. "I'm not a monster. I'm a marigold."

Rob raised an eyebrow. "Well that tells me nothing."

"I am a flower", the marigold said, the "obviously" the loudest unspoken to ever scream through the bog.

"I still don't understand what and why you are."

The marigold popped a brand new petal. "I'm here to grow, you goofball. And to be your friend."

"Well, I've never had a friend before."

"Never?"

"No. The townsfolk are not fans."

"Then I don't like the townsfolk."

Rob smiled, despite himself. This was an awful lot of change, and change was not a cause for smiles. And yet, there it was, involuntary and immediate, curling his lip, grinding his teeth.

"Well, don't worry too much. They only usually come by once a day to throw their rocks."

The marigold held itself haughty and high. "Then I will keep you safe."

Rob gently brushed his hand over the marigold's little petals. "Thank you. I feel much better now." And he realized he meant it, just as he said it. It was nice having a friend, even if only for an afternoon. And maybe the townsfolk would crush the marigold, and he wouldn't have to worry too much about change after all.

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that..." the marigold whispered.

Rob nodded. "I'm going in for my nap now."

The marigold nodded its little head in the wind. "Rest well. I will stand guard."

Rob did, in fact, sleep relatively well. He dreamt of screams and cries and pleas for mercy, and found the whole thing awfully pleasant and fun. What a silly dream, he thought, of a growing shadow, moving in quick, fatal strokes over soft, bleeding ground.

He stretched his long arms, his long legs, and those strange appendages never given to name, two sets of limbs were plenty, thank you very much, Rob's decision to have more shouldn't be rewarded with proper nomenclature.

He scratched his distended, rumbling stomach, and thought he might go out to catch a rabbit. He wondered idly if the marigold needed fed, as he opened the door and wandered into the bog. Before he could grant the question much quarter, he felt the cool of a a brand new shadow falling over his face, his arms, his legs, and all of the etceteras he carried along.

The marigold stood huge, resplendent and proud. Its leaves were speckled with wet clots of blood. Its petals were slick with marrow and memory. Bones littered the ground and hung from the trees, the the peat squishing through Rob's toes was sticky and sanguine against his skin.

The marigold brushed a huge leaf against Rob's face.

"I kept us safe."

Rob looked up, nodded, ok. Well then.

Maybe a little change was ok.

Short Story

About the author

Kelly Mintzer

Writing weird, dreamy, horror adjacent stories, with a terrible sense of humor since '86, y'all.

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