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Flash Fiction

by Katharina Landfried

“They’re still drooping, but she’ll be better in no time,” Mia says as she sprays water on the fleshy foliage of her newest rescue. Crammed between a broken bamboo and a Dracaena with burnt burgundy leaves, it greedily soaked up all her care.

We stopped bothering with clothes. Since the air conditioning broke months ago and we upped the heating, condensation fogs our only window, hiding our exposed bodies slick with moisture, our pubes pearled with drops. Not that any of the people in the other apartment buildings pay attention to us anyway, most of the windows across are boarded up with blankets or curtains. A body could fall from the highest floor, unnoticed.

“You always manage to nurse them back to health, even the most doomed cases.”

She starts her daily rant: “I just don’t understand how people can throw their plants out like trash. Look at the blossoms on this one,” she says and points to the half-dead Hibiscus in the corner, “it’s beautiful despite the sun-burnt leaves, no?”

I smile and swat away one of the buzzing fruit flies. “Sure is.” The grapefruit orange of its petals bleeds into a yellow, blossoming bright amidst the endless green in this space.

Mia began collecting plants soon after I was released from hospital last time, dragging in any abandoned bundle she found on the sidewalk or hiding in dumpsters near our block. Soon, space ran out and we had to remove most of the furniture. The TV stand was replaced by an overgrown Yucca; a scraggly snake plant and an unkempt fig tree now live where the armchair and couch used to sit.

“You probably won’t be able to save all of them.”

Mia thinks about this for a moment and then nods.

“We should still get the mold removed.” Black clusters bloom in the corners, connecting at the center of the wall, above the metal racks stacked with seedlings.

“Do these peppers look ripe to you? I’m not sure but maybe we could try one.” She turns to walk into the hallway towards the row of pots she dragged there one by one as the living space filled with too much life.

“What? Oh, yeah. They’ve gotten to a nice red.”

Mia giggles and grabs the scissors from the counter, snipping the bent stem above the biggest one. She holds it against the subdued sunlight, turning it in her hand. “They would taste best in a salad, adding some color and sweetness.”

“Sure.” I drag in a breath as if inhaling steam through a towel. “That mold, though… It is spreading quite quickly. Maybe we could get someone to come by next week?”

“Radishes! We should put some radishes in the salad as well,” Mia says before disappearing into the bathroom, ducking between hanging baskets that hold the cherry tomatoes. Their vines release an earthy smell with every swing, flooding the apartment with it.

I sigh. “It’s not healthy, you know? Breathing in the spores.”

“You’re being dramatic. Let’s just wait a bit longer and maybe it goes away on its own,” she calls through the open door, a faint snapping sound accompanying her words. “Anyhow, we’ll be moving soon after the wedding, so it doesn’t really matter.”

The wedding. She hadn’t brought it up for a while, but it seems she’s still hopeful it will happen. “I told you we don’t need to get married.”

“What are you talking about?” She returns with her arms crossed in front of her chest, radishes rolling from side to side, skin sprinkled with soil. “You said we shouldn’t rush it, that’s all.”

“No, I said we should just stay together like now, no need to get the government involved in things.”

Mia chuckles. “It’s not about that, it’s about making a commitment, strengthening our bond and all that.”

Selfishly, I allowed her to take me in and nurture every part of me, but I never meant for her to grow roots in barren soil.

“What about the Persian cucumbers?”

Her eyes grow wide, regaining their sparkle. “They might be a little sour still, but let’s add one.”

This time, she closes the bathroom door behind her.

I stand, peeling away from the plastic covering the upholstery of the last remaining chair. Fertilizer crumbles press into the soles of my feet, scatter across tiles when my toes flick them. With both hands, I clasp the handle and pull on it with all my weight until the window squelches open.

The autumn air bathes me in ice. I lift my dripping curls so it can reach my neck with its cold claws. Filling my lungs without effort for the first time in a long time, I lift a leg onto the ledge, close my eyes, and let myself fall.

In the seconds it takes my head to hit the concrete below, I pray that Mia will find another, less hopeless, rescue.

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About the Author

Katharina Landfried, born and raised in the deep south of Germany, has always had a fascination with the uncanny. Shortlisted for the Fractured Lit Legends, Myths, & Allegories Prize and published in the Flashes of Nightmare anthology by Wicked Shadow Press, her writing explores the darker and disturbing aspects of the human experience. Katharina was recently awarded a Distinction for her Master’s in Creative Writing at Hull University. When she’s not writing, she’s busy entertaining her cats or watching the latest horror movies.