Someone has left a flower in the silence between moments, that secret place where you long ago learned to go to hide from the world. A place which you had always thought only you could access.
Because, well. It's inside your mind. Right?
The flower is pale, almost immaterial. It looks like a pencil sketch.
You gingerly pick it up and sniff.
It doesn't smell like anything. Which does make sense—smells have always been the hardest things to imagine with any sort of accuracy—but it's still a bit disappointing.
When you emerge, once again unwillingly immersed in your too-large portion of the world's fury, you find none of the calm that you usually carry with you from the silence.
It's quite the opposite—your mind's careful clockwork thrown into disarray, rattling against your skull.
The flower looms over you. It is the focus of all your churning thoughts, the calm center of the whirling maelstrom of your mind; it is everything that is wrong with the world, this final intrusion into your last bastion of hitherto inviolable privacy,,,
You're pretty worked up about it, is the thing.
It's thoroughly ruined your day.
Maybe your entire week.
When you next dare to venture into that place which should be quiet, when the alternative of staying in the world grows too intolerable, you find that the flower has been ... not replaced, not exactly. Elaborated on.
The sketch filled in with gentle watercolors.
It smells like rosewater and ginger
Just a hint of spice, just enough to tickle the edge of your nose; just enough to make you want to smell it again, to try to understand it—so you do.
Time is strange in the silence between moments. It stretches and ebbs. You have spent eternities there with only the blink of an eye passing outside.
That is not what happens this time.
You return to your body to find yourself on the floor, concerned faces all around—odd expressions for people more used to showering you in frustration and disdain. Blood trickles from your nose, from a cut on your head. Half an hour later, as you leave with promises to see a doctor ringing hollow on your tongue, you hear once of them whispering. In a few days everyone will know that you nodded out at work.
The truth doesn't matter, not when you're such a deserving target.
Arriving home, you find perhaps the worst thing you could reasonably expect to find sitting innocently at your doorstep. You almost step on it, crushing it beneath your heavy shoes, but something stops you; and so you spend most of the evening glowering at a flower as it sits, slowly wilting, on your table.
You manage to get all the way through bandaging your head and eating dinner without even thinking about smelling the flower. Anger makes you bullheaded. You’d punch anyone who says that you’re cute when you’re angry, but you totally are.
Once you think about it, though, all your willpower drains away.
It smells just like the one inside your head.
This time you do not wake to worried faces and drying blood, but to the soft comfort of your bed and an alarm clock screaming for attention. The flower is nowhere to be found—but in the shower, you find raised lines in the center of your chest, stretching down your sternum and curling down towards your hips.
A perfectly sketched rose, petals and thorns and all.
Just like the one inside your mind.
You take the day off. It’s too last minute, but you have a ready-made excuse in your head injury. You can feel rumors spreading like snakes across your skin, but how much worse could things get, really? A day of rest is what you need. Then you’ll be fine, this weird rash will go away, and you’ll be able to take on the world.
Everything will be fine. Besides, you have a pint of ice cream and a borrowed netflix password.
Near the end of the pint and halfway through the third episode of that old trashy sitcom that still brings you back to happier times, you think to check on the other flower. You vow to yourself that you won’t be so foolish as to sniff it this time (because even if you’re having some sort of mental breakdown—which it has to be, right? Stuff like this just doesn’t happen, no matter what you’ve heard on social media. Certainly not to you—there’s no sense in being careless).
The moment you step into that quiet place, you realize that your vow doesn’t matter.
For the flower has grown. No more a mere cut thing, left abandoned on the floor—its vines stretch deep into the fabric of your mind, thick and thorny. Its bloom is a massive splotch of color, filling your mind with its twisting layers of petals, with the drooping heaviness of its pistil, the fluffy dusting at the tip of each of its many stamens.
Its scent pervades your mind. You don’t know how you failed to notice it sooner.
(While you are busy realizing that it is already far too late, the raised lines on your chest are changing. Pigment bursts out from them, filling the flower’s petals, each one unlike the ones by it; the lines sink down into your skin, leaving behind thick black lines. Somewhere deep within your chest a light ignites, shining through the stained glass panels of your new mark, flickering in time with your heart.)
You fall to your knees, and something about the flower shifts: its attention is on you. The force of it—of the mind behind it, the thing for which the flower is simply a tool—is crushing. It does not need to peel your mind back, to try to understand you, for the flower already does; and the flower knows just which levers to pull to make you do whatever its mistress wants.
Today that is to prepare the world for its coming.
To plant flowers, and to give them to the deserving.
Just think of the things it could do if it was properly in the world. The minds it could crush. The rewards it could give you. The promise of the moisture in the flower within your mind (the flower that is now more of your mind than you might care to realize), the echoing bloom between your thighs. Think of all the people you could share this reward with; all those crushes and friends, how pretty they would look adorned with your mistress’s mark.
The garden will spread, and you will be its most ardent worshiper.
It can’t be any worse than things already are.