Today we’re sharing a short story written by Sammi Lee titled “Flower Mouth.” The author is extremely talented and pens with a moving, enthralling writing style that is completely captivating.
Note from the editor: This is one of my favorite short stories I’ve edited, ever, and I hope it speaks to everyone as much as it did me! It’s absolutely incredible and, in my opinion, really gives off Anne Elisabeth Stengl vibes.
She didn’t want to get better – not if it meant hacking off her magnificent flower, severing it from its arachnid roots embedded within her throat. The stark-black creature stabbed its dozens of hairy legs into her esophagus to suspend itself, always twitching its fangs to express its starving nature. Upon its bulging back sprouted the deep green stem of its flower that stretched up the girl’s throat and blossomed in front of her lips. Its little lavender petals fluffed into a circular shape that brushed the bottom of her nose and covered part of her chin, and its fragrance smelled rich of fresh vanilla cake and newly cut grass.
One insignificant moment, she pretended not to notice the tickle of a baby spider’s legs against her lips, but the very next, the bug had nested inside of her, filling every moment thereafter with overwhelming agony that burned from her throat to every inch of her body. Before it rooted, it was merely irritating. She tried to scrape it out with her fingers but would hesitate just before she reached it. She’d gag, quit trying, give up a little bit more, and the bug would crawl down a little bit further. It eventually planted itself at the base of her throat and spread its roots throughout her insides. Feeding constantly off the words trying to travel up her vocal cords, the spider subtly swelled in size until it pressed against her, clogging her air, wriggling, hissing, and it disturbed her so deeply she’d sob and scream with no uneaten words left to call for help. Yet, she hardly dwindled on trivial chronic miseries anymore. They were simply necessary payments to keep the gift it gave her.
Her frequent tears watered the seed buried within the creature where her flower has now sprouted from. How soft its petals felt against her lips, how comfortably its steam rested above her tongue, and how sweet its intoxicating perfume constantly streamed into her nostrils. Why shouldn’t she let the arachnid steal just a little from her? It was worth it. Compared to her paper-white veiny skin, straight yellow hair, dull droopy face, and overall small and homely appearance, it surely had to be the most beautiful part of her. She would turn her head this way and that in the mirror of her parent’s bathroom, fawning over its beauty and details revealed best in the warm orange light specific to that room. It was humbling to imagine such a perfect thing belonged to her and could distract others from her hideousness.
The deeper her love for the flower grew, the deeper its roots reached throughout her insides to her heart, stomach, and ears until it had begun to tear cracks in her skull. It hungered for full control of her mind, but only had partial influence through little whispers that seeped into her head. When it did speak, she found she couldn’t focus. On those days–if she was at home–she’d slip out the side door and cut through the backyard to a bike trail that wrapped around a vast lake and walk a little ways around before turning back. By that time, the voice would’ve calmed down, though lately, it had been persistent even after.
That afternoon, the air was damp and smelled of autumn’s promise to visit soon. Through her screen window, cicadas hummed and bright sunny rays slept on her school work. A sporadic voice pecked at her thoughts. It asked her what she had done to deserve the punishment of studying in a silky song, but then tore nails on a chalkboard as it hounded her with what was the point anyway. The noise dripped through the cracks the roots made and pooled in her mind until she decided to venture on one of those walks and empty it in the lake.
Bits of gravel and sharp twigs along the trail pricked her bare feet, but she treasured the dull pain, as it would tug her distant spirit back down to earth for a brief moment. The usually calming rhythm of her steps had so far only increased the creature’s restlessness. Every bit of life surrounding her and dwelling in her mumbled worn out and hopeless clichés. Murky water swished back and forth and suffocated her brain. She debated stopping for a short rest, maybe closing her eyes, when…
“What an ugly thing.” A far-off voice stated.
A low hiss purred in her throat. No one dared mention her flower. No one stared. No one asked. No one even seemed to mind that she could no longer speak because of its roots devouring her words. Yet, she sensed whoever spoke had to have been referring to it. She paused and whipped her head around to find the culprit.
She never paid much attention to who she passed on the trail, but she wondered how she could’ve missed feeling the magnetic pull between her and this man. He sat crossed legged on a beat-up bench with an arm resting on his knee and holding a book. His shirt and jeans were plain enough to make the rest of his simple features pop. Yet no matter how long she studied his face, she continued to see new things in it, as if details were constantly appearing and shifting along the surface of his skin that gave no hint to his age or solid characteristics.
Biting down on the steel like stem, she narrowed her eyes at the stranger.
Jerk. What does he know? Relaxing in the shade and holding a book just to make people think he’s smart, he probably thinks his own words are the most important thing in the world.
Her thoughts perfectly echoed the spider’s screaming, even though the man’s words had actually started to soak into her, if only in the slightest. Though she had to tear her planted feet out of the ground to do so, ignoring the pull she felt towards the man, she turned and took a step away from him and his entitled opinions.
“I’m actually having a little trouble with the passage I just finished. Maybe you could help me,” he smiled. “If I’m not too big of a jerk to be around.”
How did he–?
The girl shifted her weight uneasily.
He backtracked, “I hope you didn’t think I was referring to you as ugly just then. What I find ugly is that, that thing clinging to you.”
She wrapped her fingers around her neck as it throbbed and the roots in her tensed. Honestly, she wouldn’t have minded if he called her ugly. She was ugly. Her pretty flower agreed. The fact that he was referring to her flower was what actually infuriated her.
“Something so hideous shouldn’t even be near a beautiful child like you. I’d much rather hear you sing and see your smile. It also doesn’t seem–”
In a whirl, she stomped back down the path and left the man in her dust. The towering trees drew closer and darker the further she marched.
What a disgusting jerk. How does someone grow to be so rude? He had the nerve to act friendly to me after practically grinding my flower into the dirt. Practically…he did. He soiled my perfect, perfect flower just by looking at it. He doesn’t understand beauty. He couldn’t appreciate it. People who can’t accept real beauty are just rotten, evil, soulless, morons.
The sewage in her head boiled. The ear-piercing whispers turned her thoughts of him blacker and blacker until they were charred with hatred. As she trudged on, however, she slowly noticed she was getting close to the point in her walk where she would normally turn around and head back. But if she did, would he still be waiting for her?
Stupid! I should’ve turned and walked the other way instead. Now I might as well walk a few hours all the way around to avoid him. I can’t believe I didn’t think about that. Stupid. God, you hopeless, stupid, moron.
Familiar tears slipped down her face while she shamefully turned and began shuffling back–knowing she was too weak to try going the long way. There was no end to the scorning from the creatures of many voices, reminding her how much more valued her flower was above her.
Horror of all horrors, he was right where she left him. The tips of the roots under her skin curled in anger, and each pat of her feet drawing her closer echoed in her ears. He was enthralled with his book, unable to tear his eyes from it like she couldn’t tear her eyes from him.
Won’t he even glance up at me when I pass by?
She slowed her stride when she reached the bench, but he hardly blinked to acknowledge her existence.
Rude. I can’t believe you.
“Oh, sorry,” he peeked up at her. “I could’ve sworn you wanted nothing to do with a moron like me?”
You called out to me first.
He smiled patiently. “And you came back.”
Not by choice!
“I think you chose to start this conversation.”
She shifted her weight.
I don’t talk to people anymore. How can you hear my thoughts?
“Your thoughts?” he repeated. “Are you sure they’re entirely yours? I hear other voices in there too.”
A hiss like she had never heard before, low as rocks being grinded by a garbage disposal, came from the spider as it squirmed.
What do you want from me?
“I already said,” he closed his book and uncrossed his legs, standing about three inches taller than her when he got up and his knees straightened. “I want you to be free to use your voice. I want to see you smile. But, what is it you want?”
I want you to apologize and leave me alone.
“I wasn’t talking about me. What do you want for yourself?”
To be rid of you, sung like an out-of-tune chorus in her mind, making the agitated roots slither inside her body and tear it up until her eyes watered. In that moment, a wish from her heart begged loud enough to be just barely audibly behind all the other thoughts.
Pain. I want the pain to stop.
He stepped closer to the girl, his face now somber and his wise eyes tinted with pity, though they still seemed to shift constantly like the surface of water on a lazy river. His friendly voice took on a serious shade.
“Are you in pain?”
She wanted to answer immediately, but her own voice was drowned by the others telling her no. He couldn’t be trusted. Waves crashed against her skull until she was dizzy. Her throat pulsed and grew numb. Steadily, she nodded. The man reached his fingers up to her flower. Its roots in her arm made her clutch his wrist to protect it, but her hand shook so terribly and deep down she didn’t want to stop him. He plucked a single purple little petal and watched it float to the ground.
“I’m sorry.” He paused. “It must be eating you alive by now. You’ve been alone like this so long. I wish you would’ve come to me sooner, but would you accept my help now?”
His words managed to triumph over the racket inside her, but she couldn’t understand what he meant by saying he wished she had come to him sooner. Had she passed him on this path before? She managed a slight nod, hoping her eyes could answer him better. He picked off another petal.
“You want to be rid of this monster and the pain it’s causing you?”
At last the noise tied itself into solid voices again and exploded.
No! I can’t live without it! You don’t understand. The pain is only a small part of it, really. It’s so beautiful. It’s the only special part of me. I can’t let you take it. Please, just show me how to live with it for now.
He picked a third petal. “Living with the pain isn’t truly living. I can promise you it will only get harder from here until your life is paralyzed at the foot of hell’s gate.”
But I– I can’t be rid of it. It’s mine! It’s my fault. I let it in. I fed it. I love it. I don’t deserve some stranger coming and taking it away for me. I don’t want to!
His gaze had been fixed on the blossom but now raised to meet hers, his universal eyes deeper than the bottom of the world. “Claire, do you want this intruder to rule you the rest of your life? I’m not saying ending it will be painless either. No, it will be twice as painful. It may take time for you to rebuild your life without it, and even then, there’s no promising it won’t come back. It will come back, and you’ll have to battle it again and again and you’ll fail and ask for help and I’ll come running back to you and you’ll start all over again.
“It’s not easy. It’s not a simple perfect path when you’re chasing after a truth-filled future. Do you want that chance, Claire, do you want that life?”
All the soreness of her muscles, her dry bones, mushy mind, and her punctured throat, grew voices of their own and begged for a second chance. She couldn’t wrap her head around what he was telling her. Why was ending it going to hurt? How could it come back? But the voice of her heart cried out to let him in, and she nodded with tears flowing. He smiled ever so softly, as if her answer truly delighted him.
“Have faith in me.” Was his only advice before he wrapped his fingers around the thick stem and tugged.
It was just a little tug and already the creature wailed and the roots clung tighter to her. Her eyes widened. She couldn’t imagine something so morphed with her body could be separated, but the man did not waver. He took her hand that still gripped his wrist and held onto it.
Then like a crack of thunder he commanded, “Let go of her!”
In one swift motion, the roots slithered from her skin and the arachnid came trailing after the flower. Its root-like legs shriveled and shrank and passed through her mouth. She gasped for air, but could not find it. It passed right through the dozens of channels that had been dug in her by the creature’s roots. She pounded her hand against her chest and sucked in more air, but it seeped right out of her shredded lungs. Holding the tangle of roots in his hand, he pressed his mouth against the girl’s and breathed life into her: the first full breath she had taken in years. It was fresh as a newborn’s and sealed the holes.
When he let her go, the world around her sparkled with new colors. She opened her mouth to speak–she wanted so badly to thank him–but no words came. She touched her throat and swallowed, tensing from the pain still lingering from the wound left by the spider.
I can’t speak. Why can’t I? Isn’t it gone now?
The man only smiled. “It won’t come back to you all at once. Have a little patience. Remember now, celebrate the days you don’t have to suffer, but be cautious. It will come back. But when it does, call it what it is.”
He lifted the carnage to reveal the once magnificent flower now turned black and crispy, its petals turned skinny and pointed, twitching like the legs of a dying arachnid.
“Nothing more than a weed.”
About the Author
Sammi is a high school senior writing her way through life. In her free time off dance and school, she’ll be laughing with friends, listening to music, cross stitching, playing the piano, playing with her cats, playing with her cats on the piano, and watching anime. Short stories and poetry are Sammi’s favorite and most familiar forms of writing, but she hopes to try tackling something bigger one day. Writing and storytelling is a long-time love of hers, and she plans to continue filling her future with new creations out of this passion.