Words... Flash Fiction... Forever Flowerless
This was one of my earliest flash stories. It won a flash fiction contest run on the Absolute Write forums.
"My roses are forever flowerless. You know that, of course. I was the one who hid from the truth."
I was activated in a kitchen. This confused me, as I was certified for garden use only. The window over the sink revealed more familiar territory. A dense forest of pine trees spread out as far as I could see.
"Are they my charges?"
"No Jeffrey, you'll be looking after my roses," my new mistress said.
Mistress did not look like the humans at the factory. Her white hair flowed down her back. Humans never kept their hair loose in the factory, as it was dangerous. She was very brave to allow her hair freedom.
"Do you have another robot to look after the trees?"
She smiled. "They mostly look after themselves."
Mistress beckoned to me and hobbled out of the room. She led me into the walled garden filled with rose bushes.
"The first thing I want you to do is talk to them. Let them know you're here."
"Why?" I asked.
"Always be polite and explain things. Everyone deserves that at least, including roses."
"Does everyone include robots?"
She laughed. "Yes, robots too."
It was rare for a human to speak to me like I was someone. If there was any chance the roses understood, I wanted them to know they were someone too.
I was watering the damask rose when I saw the seedling. The differences between it and the damask seedlings were small, but a robot notices these things. Mistress was interested in new types of rose.
"This won't hurt. I'm moving you somewhere safer." I dug the seedling up and planted it in a pot.
Tiger was watching me as I approached the seedling area.
"Do not touch the pots," I warned Tiger.
I was unsure what purpose Tiger served in the garden. He spent most of his time sleeping under bushes or licking his orange fur. I pushed him away as he tried to sniff the pot.
The latest seedling was special for another reason. Mistress had said that the next seedling was mine. I labelled the pot Jeffrey's Rose and placed it with the others.
My rose outgrew its pot in a few days. I planted it in the space between the white and red centifolias. I always watered that row first, so the rose would know it was mine.
As I approached my rose with the watering can, I noticed a stem lying in a patch of blood. I was concerned that Mistress or Tiger had scratched themselves, but reasoned that I would have been called if there was a problem. I reached down to move the stem off the path.
The stem darted forward, coiling around my wrist. The thorns scraped against the metal, but they were not tough enough to scratch me.
"Bad rose!" The stem snaked back into the bush.
My rose was the first plant to react to my voice. I decided to ask Mistress about it the next time I saw her.
I continued along the row, inadvertently watering Tiger in the process. He hissed and arched his back.
"It was your own fault," I informed him.
I felt out of place filling Tiger's bowl with food. I should not be in the kitchen. Mistress did not like it when mud was trailed through the house. I wasn't sure how to avoid it, as she'd failed to find a carer for Tiger before she left. Tiger was a nuisance, but he was still someone. I didn't want him to die.
It turned out to be a good thing that I was in the kitchen. Parched rose seedlings were on the windowsill. Mistress liked to raise a few herself.
"Did she tell you where she was going?" I asked as I watered them.
I did not expect a reply, but I wished they could talk back. Mistress had not returned for days. I wanted to ask her about my rose's behaviour and goats.
I had laid a trap for the goats. Lacing metal objects onto string, I'd created a basic alarm system. The tops of the walls were covered in it. There was no way a goat could sneak in now. I knew it had to be goats, as the missing rose bushes were eaten down to the roots.
My rose had spread into the empty spaces and the first buds were forming. The goats had not touched my rose.
The buds exploded at dawn. Thousands of tiny spores catapulted across the garden. The spores writhed and swarmed over the walls.
Tendrils tried to grab me as I examined the remains of a bud, but I swatted them away. The bud did not look like it had ever contained a flower. The insides were covered in round depressions, just the right size for one of the spores.
My rose was not going to flower.
I laid Tiger down on a towel by the sink. Once the wound was clean, I bandaged his paw. He was shivering, whether from fear or loss of blood, I was unsure.
"You're going to recover."
I tried not to raise my head. I wanted to avoid the view from the window. The surviving trees bore gashes on their trunks. Curling around them were my roses.
I stroked the fur on Tiger's head. His trembling lessened. Mistress's roses would never have hurt Tiger. They would never have hurt her.
"I know you can understand me. You know what you've done. You're an invasive weed. But you're also someone, and you deserved to know why it came to this."
I pulled the cord on the hedge trimmer.
"Goodbye, my roses."
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