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Article
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Fiction
Friday Features
Friday Fiction

Fiction | The Offering

brush your peached rind {soft as earlobe} across my lips

tremble my hand down your spine, skirting the vascular axis of you

 

I first met your clone before I met you. They were cross-legged and feeble-spined beside me, only just visible against the chipped green lacquer of the bus stop bench.

 

I asked if they needed my help—water from my canteen perhaps? I unscrewed my bottle in anticipation, gestured in their direction.

 

Wind tunneled down the street and they moved away from me, shifting further down the seat.

 

i feel you shiver-shift against my pillowed fingerprints

feel the warmth of me slick your skin {dew-licked and humid}

 

I walked to the gates of the Botanical Gardens in my formal pleated shorts, purchased especially for the occasion. I wanted this experience to be memorable. I wanted to impress.

 

My inner thighs were already slimed with sweat. The glaring sun stung my eyes and glinted off the Garden Official’s golden badge. As I approached him, I perched one hand above my brow to shield my eyes and the other I offered palm up, arm outstretched.

 

All life is worthy, I said and the words stuck to the back of my arid throat. He repeated the phrase and placed a dried leaf in my hand. I noticed his reddened cheeks were pimpled with the shadow of his brimmed raffia hat.

 

And the cycle continues, he said.

 

I curled my fingers toward me and crushed the puckered leaf in my palm.

 

And the cycle continues.

 

When the Official unlocked the gates, he was close enough to my face for me to catch the onion-brine of his sweat mixed with the smell of blood and bone.

 

I glanced one last time at his frame, almost expecting to see fungi spreading and stretching across his neck. Almost expecting him to register the stubble on my chin and tell me I was no longer welcome in the land of the holy.

 

Remember, he said, voice as dry as gum leaves under foot. No touching.

 

you mimic breezes as you murmur {of longing} and i grasp-bruise

your veins, devouring your dulcet moans with my mouth

 

I switched on my earBud as the soles of my strappy sandals crunched down the gravel path. Immediately, I could hear them: their bristling roots extending sound waves under soil.

 

Without translation, their conversations were the soft crackle of peeling eggshells with your bare hands. With an additional (and more expensive) earBud feature, you could hear them whispering languages, water rinsing over broken seashells.

 

I wandered for hours, listening to their murmurs, their poetry, their dreams. What do plants dream of? Half moons and blue rain, soft breezes and rainbow sunsets, bubbling rivers and purpled daybreak.

 

It wasn’t until my feet were pinched with pain and my cheekbones softened from no longer clenching my jaw, that I saw you.

 

You: your stems perfectly proportioned and sturdy; leaves fanned and pressed against one another, causing skin to shift against soft off-green skin; petals bursting with colour and ruffling in the wind.

 

And as I stared, eyes grounded on your branching muscular frame, in my ear I heard you echoing: hold me.

 

i feel your margins shift {curl to clutch my arm} you tell me

i taste like the velvety flesh of succulents

 

I moved to one of the many benches opposite you, sat and watched as one of your leaves curled up at the edges, concave, like burning paper.

 

You were beckoning!

 

My lips twitched as I smiled for the first time in maybe a month. I carefully looked around me before leaning forward to whisper, I can’t, you know I can’t.

 

Over the last decade, the distinction between plants and animals had blurred, and the former had been declared sacred. Botanical gardens were now sites of devotion and worship. A civilian could be punished if caught simply cupping a flower in their palm to smell it.

 

Yet of course, not all life was afforded the same privileges: farms were exempt because their plants were silent, the ability to communicate bred out of them.

 

In response to my refusal, your leaf uncoiled and drooped, hissing out a sigh.

 

our moving tensing bodies are swollen {in worship}

i gasp air and growl softly, deep in the guts of my throat

 

I sat with my elbows pressed against my knees, my hands clasped and resting on my forehead. Guards patrolled the grounds nearby, unaware you were serenading me.

 

In prayer position I listened to the seductive colours of your voice, as you sang about obligations clashing wet and wave-like with the urgency of touch, of wanting.

 

My earBud sat feverish in the crook of my ear, hot from overstimulation and the day’s humidity.

 

Your song thrummed through root tips and shivered the ground in front of me, trembling up my shins and grazing my leg hair.

 

Thank you, I whispered, tasting each word on my tongue.

 

budded nipples brush reddened petals as i elongate

my arm, my body twisting with your spine {as i hold you}

 

The next time I visit, I stay the night. As visitors shuffle toward the gate and guards pack up for the night, I crouch in the corner of the chapel. The air is muggy but I’m shivering from nerves and my legs prickle from lack of blood flow.

 

When I finally stand up, brushing rubble and leaves from my skirt, the Sun has set and the Moon glistens through the glass sunroof.

 

I tiptoe around altars of greenery, listening to the soft inquisitive murmurs of flourishing leaves and coiled vines, sun-tilted flowers and bulging stems.

 

I try to slow my breathing as I walk down the path to meet you but every intake feels like smoke catching in my throat. I haven’t felt this alive in years.

 

When I finally glimpse your outline around the curve of the meandering path, I notice your back is to me, your leaves slack and open, waiting.

 

In offering.

 

I draw in breath sharply and the sound reverberates through the slumbering garden. With your stalks taut and outstretched, you slowly turn to me.

 

i touch your shortest branch and you whisper, take me

i use my fingernails to pinch and wetly sever a part of you

 

{for myself}

 

 

Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

 

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Rae White is a non-binary transgender poet, writer and zinester. Their poetry collection Milk Teeth (University of Queensland Press) won the 2017 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry. Rae’s second poetry collection Exactly As I Am will be published by UQP in July 2022. Rae is the editor of #EnbyLife, a journal for non-binary and gender diverse creatives.

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