2019-04-14 18:00 fiction reel

ReeL Sweet

She heard something in the brush. She stopped short. Why did she stop short? It didn't sound familiar. Had it rolled. Normally little feet. There it was again. She scanned over the foliage. Leaves were settling, a twig balances against a small rock, swiveled with some unseen agent of momentum. Then she heard the same sound behind her. She turned quickly. Again, nothing but traces of passage. Was it circling her? She looked in two separate 180 degree arcs.

There.

The husk was covered with fine hair and trembled. It bolted to one side of her, moving faster than she could follow. But she saw it come to rest, wrapping spring-like stalks back around itself, maybe protectively, and exhaling air through several membranous flaps that stuck back down with gluey imprecision. It was aware of her, probably attracted to her heat and her sweat. She stared at it and it froze. She took a step forward carefully. It shuddered slightly but did not move. As she took another step she slowly reached around to the back of her belt and withdrew the short, very sharp knife. Still it did not move. She kept her eyes on it, concentrating, and she held the freed knife behind her back.

A little closer.

She had seen them before, from a distance, in clumps, they climb up the trunks of Shrub crops, clustering themselves around the tops. They must've been Shrub pollinators, she thought. And new. This is how fast the Shrubs worked, growing and evolving. She might see these for a few months then never again. She slowly crouched down. There was no movement now, she could detect no life. Playing dead, as much as a plant needed to, if it was that. Something in-between like all Shrub things. She imagined plunging the knife into it. Splitting it open like a melon. Sweet. Fruit smell, a tang maybe like grapefruit. Then it rustled. She held the knife tightly, her hand beginning to slick on the grip. Her muscles were contracted and tense. Then it let out a noise, she could see the flaps open and there was a sound like a mewing, a helpless noise. She backed away, causing it to contract. Again it mewed. She put the knife back into its sheath. She stood and watched it. It made a small movement towards her, crying again. She didn't know what to think, did it want something from her?

She turned, back the way she came, there was work to do. She went a dozen steps when she heard it behind her, this time letting out a sharper, insistent call. Christ, she thought, it's following me.