Flash fiction: Growing Pain

I asked Twitter to choose a story prompt, and this time the winner was a magical plant. Works for me! I’m starting seeds for my own garden right now, so I’m definitely in a plant mood.

Growing Pain

by Heidi C. Vlach

She was drifting toward the brink of sleep when the mandrake’s voice came again.

“Hey. Hey! Human!

No rest for the well-intentioned. Florence dragged upward from the night’s embrace, yanking her robe about herself as she stalked back to her greenhouse room, back into the smell of newly laid boards and paint.

Inside its rune-painted ceramic pot was the young mandrake sprout: draped with silver moonlight, its stem stiff and its spade-shaped leaves held high. Florence didn’t have to see its face to know what its pout looked like.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I’m too dry.”

Rubbing her aching eyes, Florence muttered, “You can’t be, I just watered you yesterday.”

“I’m the one with roots, and I’m telling you they’re dry.”

“This couldn’t wait until morning?”

“I might wither before morning!”

The plant was being dramatic: Florence had practically memorized the Beginners’ Guide to Magical Botany and she knew mandrakes were as tenacious as any garden weed. But she was going to humour it. She crossed the room on bare, silent feet and she pushed a finger into the mandrake’s soil.

“Feels damp to me. You aren’t confusing dryness for something else, are you? Mildew? Rot? Maybe regret for being so difficult with me?”

Its beady eyes flashed in the dark. “Mandrakes know more about mandrakes than apprentice humans ever will. Now, hurry up and water me. With fresh river water — I don’t want that chlorinated filth you put into your own body.”

“Honestly, this late at—”

“Do it,” the mandrake said, “or I’ll scream.”

And Florence didn’t want that, now did she? She left the greenhouse, sighing through her teeth, grabbing the empty water pail along the way. And she promised herself again that she wouldn’t rest — literally, if need be — until she was a plant mage.



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