2017 minus 41: Pointed Conversation

Posted: 21 November 2016 in 2017 minus, elephantwords, fiction
Tags: ,

Some more fiction for you… As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.



Long after the last visitors had left for the day, in those hours after dusk fell but before night commenced, they summoned him. He entered the big room, wiping the sweat from his forehead and cursing. They ignored the former, and didn’t care about the latter. As long as he came when they called, that was all that counted. He was taller than many, this man who constantly sweated and swore, but all of them gathered could remember taller, though none less diligent. He had inherited his role, as had his father before him, and that man’s father before him, and so on going back as long as there had been plants here, long before Kew Gardens existed.

The man took off his coat and casually dropped it carelessly upon the path. All present noted, however, that no part of the coat covered anything green; the man would not make that mistake again. Not after the first and last time. He stepped over one of the short runs of chicken wire and prepared to lay upon the cacti. This was a part the man disliked intensely, yet those present cared little for his preferences, and to be truthful, even the man knew the discomfort was as nothing compared to the unpleasantness of the communication.

As the thousands of pinpricks entered his skin, the plants around him moved; ferns covered his extremities and the man felt a rush of warm air as the door to the carnivorous plants was pushed open. He could smell the unpleasant odour but he knew they were merely there as guards, protectors for the president of the gardens. He looked up as the stag fern stretched out to him, covered his face and received his report, then gave him further instructions. No, the triffids had not been found yet; yes, there were some plants not native to the UK intended for bedding shortly; no, the amount they paid him was not enough, but would have to suffice.

Later, when the man had gone, once again the old arguments commenced, but as always the president had the final word. The private investigator of the plant world would continue his duties, and the plants would endure.

Soon the lights would come, and the water, and the plants – even the carnivores – would be happy.

Until they were not…

© Lee Barnett

See you tomorrow, with something else. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

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