(Won the St. Louis Writer’s Guild micro fiction contest 2003.)
We found the young man wandering aimlessly in a department store, and we lost him when he willingly set foot in front of an approaching eighteen-wheeler, and the sad part is this: we told him the plants predicted it. Whatever we were in normal life tends to intensify in anti-life, and Adrian was one spooky guy to start off with.
But we, the collective, go on, gatekeepers, watchers of the two worlds colliding in the new millennium. Some argue it’s the second coming of Christ, a time when the Earth will be restored to Eden, but others say it’s the advent of our thousand years of darkness, as if we haven’t been living that already. And now the breakaway spirits, separating from their bodies, rebelling against modern medicine’s heroic saves, are amok; our spirits are amok. For various reasons, they have torn away from us, the collective, and we are alone without them. We are misfortunate, yes, but our reward is that we can hear the plants.
The fizzing and popping started in late autumn, a noisy chattering within the foliage. Leaves vibrated, flowers became more intensely aromatic, trees caused the ground to rumble. The plants beckoned us like lovers, and we understood. The plants gave us answers. Alas, we don’t know the questions, but we continue to puzzle through it.
“So what you’re saying is this,” Adrian had asked, sighing deeply. He was so tired. “You’re saying my spirit has been trying to take flight all my life, and that’s why I have all these constant brushes with death?”
“The plants say so,” we told him. The collective was shaky then, uncertain. We’d never approached anyone before who was so resistant. Usually, the soul-less ones we found were grateful for the understanding, for a welcoming group who could explain away their disquietude.
“So, essentially, it wants to go into the light? And this big truck is the next catalyst for its escape, this truck which is my fate, really, asserting its will? Or maybe, my renegade spirit demanding freedom?” We could answer him in no convincing way. We’d seen his savage spirit causing havoc; it had even visited one of our dinners, angrily tipping over our glassware.
“It’s part of the great change,” one of us ventured.
“Oh yes. The great change of the earth. When plants talk. And spirits cut loose.” He smiled then, laughed hoarsely. His nervous fingers stopped twitching.
The next we heard of him was on the front page of the newspaper: “Local Man Struck by Semi.” Adrian had walked to the designated place and time, he’d waited for the hapless driver to come careening down the road, and he’d casually stepped out in front of the truck, smiling and waving to the horrified driver.
The plants laughed at us that day, like schoolchildren in their excitement, mocking us with their taunts, the ‘I-told-you-so’s.’ We’re just the collective, I’ve told you. We just keep looking. We can’t figure out the questions.