Saturday, May 13, 2006

Chapter 1

I didn't revise this very much.

Chapter 1.

Hillary wasn’t her real name, although it was her given name. Instead, everyone in the patch called her Illy. This was not to be confused with her sister, Lilly, who’s not real name was Lillian.

Lilly and Illy were sister flowers. They had only just sprouted that spring, but in that time they spent so much time next to each other, talking and gossiping, giggling and laughing, that their roots grew entangled. Even above stem level it was difficult to tell exactly where one started and the other began. Sometimes they even spoke for each other, but they did not tolerate any other flower in the patch ever confusing them.

“I’m not Illy,” Lilly would say.

“I’m not Lilly,” Illy then echoed. Their voices sounded the same, especially in indignation.

“Lilly is a brighter shade of yellow, just by a hint,” Illy would say. And to that, Lilly would say, with a great deal of both exasperation and satisfaction, “Illy has a lovely yellow rim around her petals that you can see best on that one.” Illy wagged her petal with the slight yellow trim back and forth, admiring the way the shadow played off it. That was Illy’s favorite petal. Illy would tell the rest of the flowers that Lilly’s cup was slightly deeper than hers, to which Lilly would say that Illy’s petals were slightly rounder than hers. This could go on a long time because with each turn, Illy loved Lilly more and Lilly loved Illy more, and when that happens you don’t want to stop.

Much like you, the other flowers in the patch found it very confusing.

Caruso, who bloomed for many seasons past, said, “Oh, will you two sprouts just knock it off. You look the same to me. Always have and probably always will. Some of us were here when the tree was just your size. And we’d have been better off if we would have nipped him in the bud as well.”

Neither Illy nor Lilly particularly cared for Caruso at these times, but they always adored the other two flowers in the patch, Mrs. Scarlet and Mr. Azure.

Mrs. Scarlet did try her best to tell them apart, and would be terribly sorry when she got them confused. She would usually say, “Oh, you poor dears. I am sorry. So very sorry. It looks like I did it again. Now, you are Illy, and you have the brightest green green leaves and perfect petal position. And Lilly, your stem looks like it is as straight as, well I do not know what it looks as straight as, but anything else that looks straight, doesn’t look as straight, and your stamens are as long as they are elegant.”

To this, the two would blush and giggle, waving their long, elegant stamens about. Later they would compare their green leaves and straight stems to the others in the patch and feel very fine.

Each thought the world of Mrs. Scarlet, and each envied her color. Her red was of the fullest shade. It was a pure red, with not a hint of an adulterating yellow, green, or blue. At the base of each of her petals, Mrs. Scarlet had a bright yellow dot, as if left there by dew. When combined, each yellow dot formed a larger circle, perfectly surrounding her center. She had many petals, each one slightly overlapping with its neighbor, giving an impression of both fullness and delicacy.

Mr. Azure did not address Illy or Lilly by name, so seldom got them confused. The former fact was lost on Illy and Lilly, the other was a subject of great discussion. Mr. Azure seldom spoke to them at all. In fact, he rarely spoke to anyone in the patch. He usually watched the tree above them.

Mr. Azure was a simple and flat flower, and in his basic anatomy resembled Illy and Lilly. He had only 5 petals, the largest pointing down. The lower petal had a lovely central pallor that seemed to catch the reflection of the top petals, highlighting their perfect symmetry.

Both Illy and Lilly liked Mr. Azure principally because of his blue color. His petals were so blue that they seemed to have added depth and mass, even though they were as thin as the wings of a butterfly. The blue petals changed shades over the day, deepening and darkening. Because Mr. Azure hardly ever spoke, he never bothered Illy and Lilly while they watched his petals changing, which was something the girls often did.

Illy would say to Lilly, “Did you –”

To which Lilly would cut in, “see that?” Just at a moment when Mr. Azure’s blue became bluer than seemed possible.

His petals also changed as he bloomed from bud to full flower. And so every day he seemed a riper blue than the day before.

Mrs. Scarlet told them that Mr. Azure would become a deeper blue day by day until he began to go to seed, which was something that Illy and Lilly had not done before. Mr. Caruso told them the stories about going to seed, and also about the Mother, the Balance and the Harmony, and the seeds that brought need.

Both Illy and Lilly knew their seeds were also pale imitations, and would not entirely consume them, but the thought of going to seed frightened them. Shortly they would loose their petals, then grow monstrous seed pods, dry out, and then retreat into their own seed pod, deep in the ground where they would stay all winter, sleeping.

As it was now, Illy and Lilly barely ever slept. There was always something going on. And after something went on, there was that something to talk about. And after that, then they could always talk to Ms. Scarlet, or watch the blueness of Mr. Azure change as he silently watched the tree, or bother Caruso to tell them stories about winter.

Mr. Caruso had very good stories, which made him tolerable.

“One winter day I was sleeping, which is something you two will be doing quite a lot of come winter, and it wouldn’t do you any harm to do more of it now, so that the rest of us wouldn’t have to listen to you all the time. Yimmering and yammering. Oh so blue this, oh so blue that.”

Those were exactly the times when Illy and Lilly didn’t particularly care for Caruso. Each glanced at Mr. Azure, but if he heard, he gave no sign.

“So anyway. I was sleeping. During winter, sleep is a long thing, but it is also a light thing. You’re always just a second from getting up if something happens and just a second from falling deep into sleep if it doesn’t.

“That’s when Something happened. And it got me up, but I didn’t know what that Something was. It was a big Something though. On the ground. Standing on the ground I mean. Because then I heard that Something again.”

Lilly couldn’t stand it, “was it a rabbit?” Rabbits were very ferocious creatures. Caruso flatly refused to tell them any rabbit stories until the next season, “at very least, for your own good, and stop asking me!” which was something he told Illy and Lilly almost every day.

”It was a hoof. But it might have been a horn.” His voice dropped to a whisper, but it was such a loud whisper that anyone could hear. “That was the Something. And there was more. I could feel the hoof hit the snow. And start scraping. As it scraped at the snow, it came to me through the cold, hard topsoil. Soil during winter isn’t like it is during the summer. During the summer, it gets nice and loose, and your roots can breath. They can relax somewhat. But during the winter...”

“Caruso!” Illy and Lilly liked to keep Caruso on track. They were neither very diversionary.

“OK, OK. You’ll see. So what I was saying was that I felt that hoof, or horn, scrape the snow. And then scrape the snow again. It felt like it was directly above me. It sounded like thunder, but it felt like it was hitting me right in the face. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. And then I heard something even more terrible. Something I hope you never hear.”

At this, Caruso drifted off. He sort of bent up and his stem became even more crooked while his petals seemed even more disheveled and faded than ever.

“Caruso?” Illy asked. “What did you hear?”

“I heard munching.”

“Munching?” Lilly’s voice trembled slightly. “Munching on what?”

“On the grass.” Caruso answered. “There isn’t much grass out here now, but there used to be plenty. You’d have a tough time of it sometimes. The grass grew so thick it was hard to shoot your stem above grass level every spring. You’d hit air, but you’d still have to clear the grass. Blades of grass are nice to look at, but it is a fact that each one of ‘em does not have a thought in their heads. In fact, they are so stupid that...”


“Oh yes. So it was munching. The scraping sound was an animal that scraped away the snow. Once it got down to the snow, I mean, grass, down to the grass, it munched on them.”

“What sort of animal was it?” asked Illy, who was always adding to her already extensive knowledge of animals.

”Well. It was an eater alright. I’d guess it was a giraffalo. That, or a buffazille.”

“A buffazille!”

“A buffazille has a great big hoof on its toes and nose, so it might have been the buffazille’s nose that I heard, scraping against the cold ground. A giraffalo has two tusks that jut out of its jaw like wooden stamens. Then again, one must always consider...”

“It was probably a deer.”

Everyone turned. Mrs. Scarlet, who had been dozing, woke with a start and looked at Mr Azure. He was already looking back at the tree when Lilly asked, “I’m sorry Mr. Azure, but what did you say?”

Rather regretfully, as though he were very sorry to have spoken at all, he turned from the tree, down to the others, “It was most likely a deer. Deer come through here quite often, actually, over the winter. We don’t see much of them now because we live off their summer trails and bedding areas. They have hooves on their feet. They dig through snow to uncover grass.” He gave an apologetic glance to Illy and Lilly, “which they eat.”

Illy and Lilly pretended they didn’t mind. If they pretended hard enough, it almost made it true.

Illy asked, “Mr. Azure, why do you spend so much time looking at the tree?”

Mr. Azure looked up at the tree again. When he looked down, he did so like he was pushing a root under a rock, slowly. “Because we are in danger. We have a problem. I’m trying to solve it.”

Lilly said, “I don’t understand.” She said it like it was a question.

No flowers spoke. Mr. Azure turned a noticeably darker blue until Caruso said, “Well, you might as well tell them. They’re going to have to know.”

Mr. Azure spoke slowly, so he wouldn’t have to repeat anything, “I don’t want to alarm you, but Mr. Caruso is correct. You may as well know. After all, we are in this together. All of us, all five of us, have a problem. We are in danger. We are in so much danger that I believe we must solve our problem if we ever want to bloom again.”

At this, Illy and Lilly gave little gasps. Of the two, Lilly would later say she was more particularly horrified, having become so fond of being in full bloom over the spring that she was already looking forward to next year’s blooming, when she thought her color would come in at a more vivid yellow. Illy would silently half agree, because although she believed she was equally if not more horrified, she did agree that her own yellow was currently much more vivid than Lilly’s.

Caruso looked saddened and even more wilted around the tips of his leaves. “You’d better explain.” He muttered to himself, but no-one could hear him clearly, so no-one paid him any mind.

Mr. Azure prepared his explanation ever since he recognized the problem over the winter. He remembered winter fondly. Within his seed husk, deep within the earth, he could doze and think, without the constant bother of the other flowers. Nor did he have to consider the ever present threat of rabbits, caterpillars, and aphids. Yes, winter was a fine time to be half alive and half asleep.

It was during the last winter that the Terrible Thought struck him. It was so nearly like a nightmare that he would have called it one, if flowers had a word for nightmare. Since they didn’t, he called it his Terrible Thought. And it was simply this: there is the tree, and there are the flowers, both need the sun. The tree is between the sun and the flowers, which leaves the flowers in the shade.

In his Terrible Thought he saw the tree’s broad, terribly effective leaves catching the light, breaking the Balance between sun and leaf, blotting out the sun, and starving the plants below. Too little sun, too little leaf. He woke with the sudden realization that they could not store enough energy to survive the winter. And if not that coming summer, then the next.

During spring he watched the tree’s leaves fill in as shade darkened the ground. He estimated that even if they did not have one single cloudy day, they would not survive the winter with enough energy to sprout the following spring.

A bit of wind pushed into the flowers just then, swaying the patch. Each felt the wind, Illy and Lilly’s thin stems bending to absorb the pressure.

Mr. Azure continued, “Unless we solve the problem, we can only hope for the survival of our seeds. Our seeds, unlike us, can use the wind to get away from the tree’s shade and find a place of Balance.” Mr. Azure thought that this was important, that his seeds get far away to a bright sunny field. But he also considered himself important, so he thought and thought about their problem, failing and failing to think of a solution. “Harmony and Balance are disrupted. Too much growth, to little trimming, too little sun, too little leaf. To solve the problem we need to attain Balance, but how? Trimming the tree? Impossible. Increase the sun? Impossible. Increase our leaf sizes? Impossible.”

Mr. Azure had already told Caruso on the sly, thinking the old flower would have some wisdom to share. He didn’t tell Illy and Lilly that the old flower only pointed out that there was no more grass on the ground. As the tree grew, less and less sun fed the grass. Caruso remembered when the tree was new, and grass covered the ground, always speaking their grass nonsense. “Never thought I’d miss that endless chattering. Worse than the girls even. Completely mindless talk. Utterly boring! Grass talks about only one field you know, the field of grass related interests. Field! Ha! How tall to grow, how green to get, what is the best width, what is the best thickness. Constantly. I could never pay attention and could never completely not pay attention either.”

Mr. Azure hadn’t given any mind to the lack of grass all around them. It confirmed to him that he was correct. The tree was taking all the sun and the grass was the first to go.

Mr. Azure also did not share with Illy and Lilly the fact that Mr. Caruso immediately told Mrs. Scarlet, and Mr. Azure had to spend time answering her questions.

Now Illy and Lilly knew.

Mr. Azure concluded, “That leaves us with the following question, what are we to do?”

Mr. Azure was about to go on, but it was Lilly who surprised him with a question. At least, he thought it was Lilly, it might have been Illy. “Why don’t we ask for help?”

“Help?” Mr. Azure was so struck by this that he repeated himself, which was very unusual, “Ask for help? From whom?” He thought that he had considered the matter deeply.

“Sure, help,” said the other one, who was probably Illy, “We could try to get help from the tree.”

Lilly finished, “Up at the tree leaves, there is plenty of sun, and we could just ask the tree to let some sun through.”

That idea filled Mr. Azure with an immediate sense of possibility, a feeling he hadn’t had since theTerrible Thought.

“Mr. Caruso!”

Caruso had drifted off into his own thoughts during Mr. Azure’s explanation of the problem. “Uhh!” he said, as he snapped up.

“Illy and Lilly have an idea. We could ask the tree to share the sunlight with us. You know the tree. You were here when it was on our level. We need to know what the tree is like and how we should speak to him.”

Illy and Lilly blushed at Mr. Azure mentioning them.

“Well, that was many seasons ago. When that tree first came here, he was as small as we are. But boy,” Caruso looked up at the great expanse of the trunk and branches above them, “he’s grown. He was a reasonable youngster. A loner, cause he has no patch of his own, you see? We were actually something like mates. He was all alone, just a young sapling then, and I’d already been around the year a few times. We weren’t close like Lilly and Illy here, but close enough, considering.” Caruso drifted off again for a moment, remembering. “His name is Max, but you could call him Maximum now. Maximum! Ha!”

Caruso looked at Mr. Azure, “He knew he was in for big things from the second he got here. But he never was one to take advantage. He never stole our water, and I think he probably could have, as he got big, but not so big that I couldn’t talk to him. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind helping out an old friend. The problem is that we haven’t talked for seasons now. He’s gotten too big. You’d have to get all the way up there.” Caruso pointed up at the trunk as it entered the leaves. “This is all a mistake you know. He doesn’t mean to do this. He just doesn’t know about us. He’s grown so big he’s forgotten his roots.”

Lilly was excited, “Nime could help.”

“Yeah, Nime could help,” cried Illy, who was also excited. They first met Nime as soon as they flowered and seldom stopped talking about her since. Nime was a honey bee.

In general, bees move very fast, although it might be that flowers move very slowly. At the beginning of the season both Lilly and Illy made several friendly “hellos,” and to each the bee replied “Nime, Nime, Nime.” Only after the first few visits did Illy and Lilly make out that Nime was actually saying “No time,” but so fast that the words blurred together. By then her name was Nime.

Illy thought Nime had had the most beautiful yellow hairs and particularly admired her eyes, which were a golden color of a lovely metallic hue. Lilly admired Nime’s yellow antenna. She made a point of giggling when Nime’s thick feelers tickled her petals. As Nime drank her nectar, Lilly could feel the beautiful yellow hairs that covered Nime’s legs as they picked up and dropped off pollen deposits.

Illy and Lilly were upset each time Nime appeared to favor the red leaves of Mrs. Scarlet and the blue of Mr. Azure to their pale yellow. Even though they looked forward to Nime, her daily visits never failed to make them upset. Mrs. Scarlet comforted them afterwards, “Illy, Nime is spending more and more time with your nectar, you just can’t tell it. And Lilly, Nime could clearly see your yellow trim just as clearly as I can. I’m sure of it.” Illy and Lilly were slightly less sure of this when Scarlet got them confused.

Mr. Azure looked at Illy and Lilly as though he wanted to get back to looking at the tree. “Honey bees always work. That may be why Nime can never stay and talk. I’m not sure Nime can help us. She may lack the time, ability, as well as the inclination, even if she can understand us. We may be too slow for her.” He paused and looked up at the tree. “But I think we have to try.”


Blogger acumamakiki said...

Nice. I didn't realize I missed this storyline until I started reading again. I like knowing the beginning.

1:57 PM  
Blogger marybishop said...

I like it lots...better the second time around even...and you say you didn't do a big edit? It seems tighter to set up a good conflict and make fantasy seem real.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Doc NOS said...

Thanks. It might be a bit tighter, although it might be just less material. It is way to long and I'll have to chop it into two chapters.

4:29 PM  

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