Growing Infection


The children turn so fast. Daisies, poppies, dandelions. She’s sitting in a meadow, runs her hand through the grass. Tears roll down her cheeks. Two days ago she played hide-and-go-seek with them. The five Maklen children. Now a patch in the field.

She looks at her arm, a blossom breaks the skin. New since this morning. Small, not yet open. She breaks it off. Feels only the subtle vibration the action causes, but no pain. When she woke and sat up in bed she felt multiple points of resistance, then heard tearing. Thorns had grown from her back in the night and clung to the sheets. She could only laugh and think Yeah, what’s the point in getting up? But get up she did.

The Hekinstein’s on their morning walk, hand-in-hand. Joel Hekinstein says they’re becoming redwoods, Judith says maples. It doesn’t seem to matter too much, the elderly last so much longer than the children. They’ll be trees, no one over fifty has ever become anything else. It’s the middle years, between the early twenties and the mid forties that go in so many directions. Some transitions last years, skin becoming bark in patches, blood slowing, hair changing. Melanie Yeets became a pine, took seven years. But for every Melanie there’s a dozen George’s. George became a laurel, as did Tiffany, Megan, Sarah, Dylen, and Cooper. Probably a few others she’s forgetting.

In her palm a thorn grows through skin, she stares at it for a time. Closes her hand, hard. Smears blood across her palm as she unfolds her fingers. Of all the things that might have happened to humanity is this so bad? When she tries to imagine what it’ll be like to be a rose bush she thinks of a book she read in school,The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. About a French man that suffered a massive stroke that left him afflicted with Locked-in Syndrome. He ‘wrote’ the book by dictating to a nurse through blinks of his left eye. Taking more than a minute to write one word. Working four hours a day the whole book took ten months to complete. Will I be locked in? she wonders. What will I see when my transition is finished? What will it be like to be a rose shrub? Will I feel the wind? How does a flower feel? Does it? Will I hear bees come to visit me? Will it tickle to feel them play in my pollen? She pushes her consciousness towards the part of her becoming a plant, but it’s like a wall. It feels like trying to walk into the side of a mountain.

The tree that was once her friend feels warm. “Hey. I—” she stops. Talking to a tree? Why? “Because you used to be my friend. Maybe you still are? I’m going to be a rose. We joked about becoming poison ivy, getting on people and causing them to burn. But you’re…” she looks up into the branches of the tree that was once her friend. “You’re gorgeous. I hope you can hear me. In a way I know you can. But what does a tree hear? Does it feel the sound of my voice? I know you can’t answer me, but maybe—” a pine cone drops onto her head. The instant it happens she winces, slaps the tree’s trunk. “Hey, come on.” As much as she wants to think that was Melanie responding she can’t help shake the idea that it was just a pine cone falling from a tree. Maybe it’s what I want it to be, she thinks.

A rose bud growing from her shoulder unfolds, its sweet scent wafts through the air into her nose. She wonders how much longer she has to experience smells as a human. Then she smirks, a human doesn’t grow flowers. But what is a human? A question with no clear answer plays in her mind as she heads home.