This story is in response to the Flash Fiction Challenge: “Roll For Your Title” on Chuck Wendig’s blog, terribleminds. The base of the challenge was to generate two random numbers (mine were 5 & 6) and then see what title comes from those numbers.
Dead Girl’s Orchid
Planting day. The pods were prepped for their seeding. The village coroner delivered them to the farmer. The coroner, a small middle-aged man, spoke again of his daughter needing a husband as Philip checked them. Philip only nodded shyly, knowing that the coroner’s daughter had no interest in him. It was okay though. He was used to his quiet life, living alone after his parents died several years ago when he was eighteen.
Today he had three pods to plant. An old couple had died together, cuddled in bed when a storm ruined their house. He would place them in the giant tree grove. Elderly people usually grew into trees. The longer they walked on the earth, the more likely they would grow to become a permanent fixture upon it.
The third pod held a sixteen year old girl. Suicide. This one perplexed him. Though he sowed seeds since he was a boy, Philip never had to plant a suicide. He had no idea what kind of plant she would grow in to. Her name and coding were inscribed on the organic casing. No epitaph of love from family though. Did no one care for her? Had she been alone too?
Sadness struck him like a pitchfork in hay, sharp and deep. What does suicide do to the soul seed? He decided that he would not plant her in the forever gardens, with those who died at a young age.
No, he had someplace special in mind.
The morning sun soared. After the coroner left, Philip loaded the pods of the old couple onto his tractor and fired up the engine. It roared in the quiet, and he hauled them to their resting place.
The grove was thick with every tree imaginable. Philip had researched the ones he did not know out of curiosity, wondering what it meant about the deceased person’s soul. Common trees, like maple and oak, were aplenty as this village was full of simple, hardworking people. But there were some interesting ones sprinkled in. Tropical trees revealed the person’s soul once held something more colorful than life in the village suggested.
He whistled as he passed under the flourishing dogwoods. The planting was easy and peaceful. He also checked on recent seedlings to make sure that all was well with them. Birds swooped down from the puffy-clouded sky. Once finished, he realized as he drove back on the tractor, there was still time left for one last dig.
Every day he tended the special garden where he had buried her. It was close to the house, visible from the front windows. He had planted normal flowers in bountiful arrays, even placing a low bubbling fountain nearby, but he left a large empty spot for her to grow. Then he waited.
Her flower was haunting. Unlike anything he had ever seen before. Fragile and white, it dangled like a ghost from its stem.
After his eyes opened each morning, he came out on the cool, dewy grass to make sure she was safe. When the afternoon storms raged, he braved the lightning and held a cover over her petals. At night, as the cicadas chirped and fireflies danced, he whispered goodnight to her.
A ghost orchid, he discovered after researching one afternoon.
But the orchid was not going to last the season. He closed the book and sighed. She was so much more delicate than he realized. Nothing like the other plants and trees that he cultivated for the earth. Unless he did something about it, she would only bloom this once. His heart broke that she would be gone again so soon.
He left a message for the coroner to visit the farm the next morning. No doubt the coroner would think Philip was interested in dating his daughter and wanted to talk. Philip though believed there was no one for him. The village was too small and growing up around the soul seeds, he knew he could not truly trust a person because he did not know what they would grow in to.
As dusk stole the last of the daylight, he knelt by the ghost orchid and whispered a promise. He traced his fingertip across a petal, and the entire plant quivered. Then he slipped back into the house, keeping it dark as he rummaged through the kitchen before heading back outside.
The coroner pulled up the farm house late the next morning. Already the sun felt warm on his neck. As he walked up to the door, he noticed the flower garden that Philip gave special care to. He had asked the young man once who was buried there but he never said.
Now the coroner stopped as he saw Philip’s body crumpled among the blooms. He cried out in horror. Philip’s wrists were cut open, and his blood spilled to the earth. A butcher knife glinted nearby.
He shook his head in grief. The suicide girl had also slit her wrists. He realized now. She grew as the exquisite flower next to Philip.
The coroner knew the way of life, death, and earth. Farmers of the soul seeds did not get planted like normal people. As people became plants, those of farmer decent became the caretakers of the plants. Even after reincarnated. When Philip’s parents died, they both came back as bumblebees. Able to fly from flower to flower, pollinating as they went.
After he took care of Philip’s human body, the coroner came to the garden to watch the suicide girl’s flower. Day after day, he waited. A new farmer and his wife took residence, and they indulged the coroner his moments in the garden.
At sunset, he saw a fluttering. A giant moth, something not seen in that region, with an impossibly long proboscis. It hovered near the orchid before feeding on the nectar and pollinating the flower. The coroner watched in silent fascination.
Philip had found a way for her live in continued beauty.