On the discovery of a most marvelous species of Angiosperm, Sarraceniarafflesia taurua (Maraetoa 1863), from the Flitcroft Isles
by Fayaway & Hermester Barrington
Tiaé paused at the crest of the hill — at last! Wiping the sweat from her brow, she looked down into the valley. The insects and the heat were being driven away by the breeze, now. “It’s all downhill from here, Baron Farley,” she said, not looking back.
“Bah!” he said, leaning on his knees some ten feet down the trail. “You’d best hope that you are not leading me on a fool’s errand, girl, or I’ll give you again what I gave you last night.”
“Yes, sir.” He had caught her while she was watering the plants in the greenhouse, and with a few quick thrusts had planted his seed in her, as he had twice before. At least she knew the proper herb to still her quickening womb — and if her plan worked, it would be the last time she would need it. “I think you’ll be pleased, sir. My mother’s people knew this plant by two names in her native tongue — ‘maneater,’ and ‘honey sipper.’”
Still panting, Farley pushed past Tiaé and sat down on a stone at the trail’s edge. “If it exists,” he said, “its official name will reflect the generosity of my sponsor, Lord Bottomleigh.”
“Splendid idea! Something like Melosculum or Homovora bottomleighi — very dignified, sir! “
“Do not mock me, girl. Didn’t your ancestors once live here?” he continued, sneering.
“Yes, sir, but they were wiped out because they lived too freely. I know their lore through my mother, may she rest in peace.”
“Yes, I remember your mother,” Farley growled.
“The journals of my father also make mention of this plant, but he didn’t have time to follow through on it.”
“Yes, I’m sure that my cousin was too busy teaching you to read and write, skills wasted on the bastards of nobles.” Rising from his resting place and reaching out for her, he said, “Speaking of love children…”
“Best we press on, sir,” Tiaé answered, slashing a bamboo stalk just next to Farley, who jumped back. After five hours of cutting bush and carrying the supplies she needed for the night, her shoulders ached. Still, as she considered again her plan for revenge, she didn’t feel the weight, her sore feet, or the marks of his teeth quite as much.
An hour later, she knew they were very close when she sensed a thick perfume, not unlike patchouli, in the still air. “What is that stench?” Farley growled, holding a heliotrope scented handkerchief to his nose.
“That is the plant we are seeking, sir.”
“That is the most godawful foetor I’ve ever smelt. I hope that this discovery is worth putting up with this horror. “
“Right this way, sir, immortality for you is but a few steps away!”
The plant they were seeking was in a small clearing with only small herbs and grasses around it, the late afternoon light shining bright green through the leaves and trunk. The air was still, and so the scent was very heavy, she admitted, but she found it heady and pleasing.
“It looks like a relative of the Sarracenia of North America — impossible, in the South Pacific!”
In fact, the organism was very like a pitcher plant, the base or trunk about six feet tall and seven in diameter, but supporting a leaf like a lily pad covered with tiny tendrils, waving softly as if blown by a breeze. The base was a translucent light green, with two fleshy appendages or flanges running from top to bottom, perpendicular to the ground.
“It was a sacred plant to my people — our holy women would lie upon it in order to give themselves visions. Or so my mother told me.”
“And you should consider yourself lucky that we Britons put an end to such superstitions, and that you were raised in a Christian household, despite your pagan ancestry. I remember the horrid tattoos your mother had, round dots like love bites, all over her body. And then, your father went native, too, so that he could never appear in public again, and died here in exile. And now you, as I saw yesterday, have also succumbed to this practice…”
Holding his kerchief to his face, Farley approached the plant, and leaned against the barrel-shaped trunk, stumbling as if overcome by the smell. Tiaé began setting camp, watching him from the corner of her eye as he went about his business — measuring, taking samples, sketching various aspects of the plant.
Farley tapped the drum. “This trunk seems hollow? Odd,” he muttered. “Fleshy, yielding, rubbery, not plastic,” he went on, poking at the appendages with his calipers, “they seem to be a vestige of the growth process, and not —” The flanges parted quickly, then, releasing a gentle scent. “Ah, what’s this? Girl, it smells like that perfume that your mother wore, and —”
A pair of thick vines or tentacles slithered through the orifice and seized Farley. Squatting and half turned toward Tiaé as he was, he was already off balance, and her kick to his backside further propelled him into the plant’s embrace. “Bon appétit, sister!” she yelled, laughing, as the entrance snapped closed behind him.
Pouring herself a snifter of Farley’s brandy, she settled back against a palm tree, watching his silhouette beat against the drum of the plant. His shouts turned to screams and then silence, as he slumped to the ground. Soon the base of the drum, and then the entire plant, was tinted red as his blood, Tiaé assumed, was absorbed into the plant’s vascular system.
“Very sad for you, sir,” Tiaé sighed, “but I don’t think that this plant will honor your patron after all, but rather my mother, as I will write the paper that names her. I believe I’ll sleep here tonight, but first…” and, so saying, she disrobed and clambered atop the platform. Laying down upon the plant’s cool surface, she sighed as the plant’s tendrils embraced her, sucking at her flesh, soothing her bruises and creating new ones.
Hermester Barrington is a retired archivist, a non-Euclidean haiku poet, and a rogue protozoologist. His most recently published ficciones can be found in Fate Magazine, Underland Arcana, and Robot Butt. Fayaway usually works in temporary media only — sculptures of leaf and stone, impromptu gigs with the postpunkfolk band Medusa’s Greatgreatgranddaughters, and her own brand of unauthorized urban archaeology. Their next project is a monograph tentatively titled “Continuity Errors from Pornographic Films of the Golden Age Vis-à-vis the Mitochondrial Eve: A New(ish) Refutation of Time.”
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