I sighed, this wasn’t how I wanted our coffee date to go. It was supposed to be a light catch-up, so we could talk about our jobs and our kids and just about anything but this.
But she’d asked me if I was planning on traveling anywhere, and it just came out.
“It’s hard to say. A lot of little things that maybe don’t add up to much,” I said, fiddling with the swizzle stick in my macchiato.
“She had a group of friends that would go to the movies every week, she barely goes now. She came to the family get-together two weeks ago, but she only stayed for about half an hour. She’s gotten into gardening and clean eating.”
“You’re right, it doesn’t sound like much.”
“I know, but she acts different, too. More reserved. I don’t know.”
An errant lock of hair had somehow escaped my messy bun, and the wind blew it into my face. I brushed it aside and tucked it behind my ear. Emily and I both felt more comfortable in the coffee shop’s outdoor area.
“Do you think you’ll go?” Emily took a sip of her chai latte.
“My branch of the family tree pretty much never does. My cousin was the first in a while. But Echart really wants me to come visit.”
“And Echart is your…dad’s cousin, right?”
“Second cousin, I think.”
“Well I’d say go if you want to,” Emily said. “The Interior is beautiful this time of year. I’d be worried if it seemed like your cousin joined a cult, but otherwise…”
I shook my head. “No, it’s nothing like that.”
“Have you asked your cousin what happened when she went to visit?”
“She just said if I wanted to know, I had to go there myself.”
“What do you mean, a hole?” Thon stumbled but caught himself, struggling to keep up with his longer-legged sibling on the steep grassy slope.
Dahlia slowed to a trot and then stopped to look back. “A hole. Or a window, or something.”
Thon caught up to her and stomped his front hoof. “You’re not making sense. The sky is empty. You can’t have a hole in something that isn’t there.”
Dahlia twitched her whiskers imperiously. “You’ll see when we get there.”
Thon’s ears flattened in annoyance. Everyone thought he couldn’t understand things because he was too young, but how could he when nobody would explain anything?
“I’m not going all the way up the hill if you won’t say what you mean.”
Dahlia continued up the slope, tossing her next words over her shoulder at him. “Well go back then, if you’re going to be such a kitten.”
Thon scrambled up the slope, grumbling to himself. He was not a kitten. He was almost ten years old, which she knew perfectly well. It wasn’t his fault his legs were so short.
Angrily crashing through a clump of poufy-flowered grasses, Thon was rewarded with a spray of pink pollen in his face. Thon sneezed and shook himself. He frowned and looked around in time to see Dahlia disappearing behind a stand of aspen trees.
With a mischievous grin, Thon bent down to grab the base of one of the grasses in his mouth, and yanked it out of the ground. He continued up towards the grove, holding his head high to keep his prize from dragging on the ground. The fluffy flower would lose some of its pollen on the way, but there should be enough left to make pelting Dahlia with it worthwhile.
When Thon passed the grove, he found Dahlia standing on a rock at the top of the hill. She stared quizzically at the sky.
“See?” she said.
Thon didn’t see. It looked perfectly normal. Except for one patch where the sky was a slightly different shade of blue, and the clouds didn’t match up. It was like looking at a wall painted to look like the sky, but there was a window you could see the actual sky through. Only they were both the real sky.
“That’s weird,” Thon said. Or at any rate, that’s what he would have said if his mouth wasn’t full of plant material.
Dahlia turned to look at him, to make sense of his garbled statement. Thon was about to pounce and attack her with the flower when a roar split the sky. It was the loudest sound either of them had ever heard.
Thon ducked his head down between his front legs to block his ears, but that didn’t do much good. It just kept going on and on, like an angry waterfall.
The two creatures ran for cover in the trees. They didn’t notice the small, bird-like object crossing the odd-looking patch of sky. If they had, they couldn’t have imagined the chaos going on above.
In the cockpit of the Boeing 787, the pilots were struggling to understand why they had made landfall several hours ahead of schedule, and why the coastline looked nothing like they had come to expect after several years of flying the route from Houston to Sydney. What was worse, they had completely lost all GPS navigation, and could not raise anyone on radio.
To the great relief of everyone involved, after about five minutes the 787 found itself flying over the Pacific Ocean once again, and the sky above the hill where Thon and Dahlia hid amongst the trees was once again quiet.
Hi everybody, no short story today, just a short update. I’ve published a guest post on Ryan Lanz’s blog, A Writer’s Path. It’s full of tips on writing from other writers. I’ve added my two cents on how to find your creative “flow.” Check it out here.
I thought it was over after I threw out the strange orchid. It wasn’t.
For the rest of the day I kept to the guest bedroom, trying to pretend the whole thing hadn’t happened. I was psyched about the job opening in my old classmate’s firm, and so I cyber-stalked him and his colleagues and their competition. Just to get a good sense of what I was getting into.
I also kept putting resume’s out other places, just in case. It wouldn’t hurt to have more than one offer on the table.
When I eventually had to come back downstairs for food that evening, I found my sister staring at one of her houseplants. It looked like there was an odd sprout in it, but I wasn’t really familiar enough with the flora in this house to know whether or not it was unusual.
She wasn’t petting it, which was good enough for me.
The carpets seemed to have acquired a greenish tint in places. Maybe from the dust the orchid puffed out when I took it too the garage. I vacuumed, and that helped a bit.
It didn’t get better. It was never got as bad as it was that first day, but the house was steadily getting greener and fuzzier. I told myself it really wasn’t that much different than it had been before. Maybe the furniture had always been growing mossy stuff.
I vacuumed twice a day to keep the worst of it out of the carpets at least, and got rid of anything particularly orchid-like growing in the other houseplants. None of this seemed to bother my sister, either the growing things or my interference with them.
She didn’t leave the house, or answer the phone. I had to remind her to change clothing and feed herself, but she would if I told her to.
It was all beyond ridiculous, but it was temporary. The meetings with my former classmate and his colleagues went fantastic, and before I knew it, I had an official job offer and a start date. I was getting my life back.
It seemed like an eternity but finally the morning came. I carefully lint-rolled every bit of plant material off my work clothes, and reorganized my favorite briefcase.
I hustled downstairs, aiming for the front door. Fluff and dust kicked up in my wake. I would have to re-lint roll myself in the car. No matter. I opened the door to leave.
“Are you going?” said my sister.
My sister stood by a tall potted tree fern that was now dripping with something like spanish moss. She hadn’t said a word to me unless I spoke to her first in days.
I scratched at my arm. “Yes. My new job starts today. I told you that.”
“Are you going to leave me?”
A queasy knot settled in the pit of my stomach. I could leave. In fact, I had already perused a few apartment listings, and contacting landlords to arrange viewings was on my to-do list for next week.
But what about her? She wouldn’t leave, I knew that. Or if she did, she would take it with her. Her clothes already had fuzzy greenish patches, and her complexion was pale and sallow.
“No,” I said. “I’m going to stay here with you.”
I closed the door, and we walked over to the couch. A big potted hibscus tree sat in the middle of the room. It’s flowers were huge. They’d once been white, but now they were light green and dramatically splattered with dark red spots.
Dust hung in the air, visible in the rays from the window, and almost seemed to shimmer.
My phone rang from my purse by the front door.
The dust looked like krill drifting in the ocean currents. I sat on the couch with my sister and thought about whales swimming through the living room and sifting pollen out of the air.