Silva Sanguinara

The Zoological Society of Lucerne had done a good job, taking the unused park near the centre of the Village and transforming it into a tropical garden. They had walled in heat and humidity, and also hoped to wall in crowds.

The purpose of the Core Enhancement Scheme was to make the downtown area more attractive. The Village had been creeping towards the Highway, and there was a danger that within ten years Lucerne’s vibrant centre would become deserted and its commercial district would be a highway strip mall. This was of great concern to Lucerne’s citizens, but not enough to stop them spending all day in the highway coffee shop.

Something needed to be done, and the Botanical Garden hit the Bull’s-eye. Individuals, couples, and families flocked there. They loved its colours and warmth. Insects were attracted by the moist forest, and they in turn drew birds.

Whenever Danny walked through the Botanical Garden he felt like he was in a fairy tale. Fresh green papaya and banana trees made his eyes smile. Sweet smells of miro-Tahiti flowers brightened his nose. Spiders spun webs which held jewels of dew in sunshine. Flashing blue and green hummingbirds whirred around his head. Did they think it was a source of nectar? It was only a matter of time before one hovered beside his ear and poked its long beak in. The garden seemed a painting by Henri Rousseau; the only thing missing was a dusky beauty from his brighter period, or a stealthy tiger from his darker phase.

A man in a green suit approached him. As he drew near, The Gardener tipped his top hat and said, “Good morning, Danny. It’s a beautiful day.”

“It sure is,” said Danny. “Every day here seems like paradise.”

“We do our best,” said The Gardener, smiling. “We do our best.” He turned off the main path onto a side trail.

This was the great joy of the Botanical Garden – there were almost as many trails as days of the year. You could try a different way daily. Danny turned off the main path and came to a patch of stunted palms with hairy fringes, and fine white fabric wrapped about their tops. They looked as if they were wearing tall fat turbans set with bright jewels, which upon closer inspection proved to be red and green information tags. The red ones said Silva Sanguinarus, and the green ones said, Silva Sanguinara. They must be males and females of the same species, thought Danny, but they seemed more dead than alive.

Some children ran along the same trail as Danny and were surprised to find him there. One said, “Mister, we play hide and seek here. Is that okay?” He said go ahead and headed back to the main path. He heard loud counting, then squeals of laughter and the inevitable shouting and crying.

Danny saw The Gardener in the distance and set off down a trail towards him. He was tending giant cacti – spiny phallic monsters with lush pink flowers that attracted wasp hordes. They didn’t seem to sting him though.

“Where do Silva Sanguinarus come from?” said Danny.

“Don’t be sexist,” said The Gardener. “They wouldn’t come from anywhere at all if it wasn’t for Silva Sanguinara. Males and females must travel together or they won’t grow.”

Danny didn’t like his smart remark. The Gardener continued, “I’m just teasing. They are a recent addition to the collection from Polynesia. They are very delicate when replanted so we cover their tops with cheesecloth. It protects their hearts.”

“Their hearts?” said Danny. “Trees have hearts?”

The Gardener smiled as he heard the children screaming, and said, “Have you never eaten artichoke hearts or palm hearts? A plant has a heart. It’s the centre of its consciousness.  If it is damaged, the plant dies.”

“What about in winter? How do they survive? Does the cloth protect their hearts?”

“We hope so. That’s the intention. But the Silva Sanguinarus and Sanguinara are a bit different. They bloom in winter with huge crimson flowers. They are a vital part of the Core Enhancement. Many people in Lucerne suffer from Seasonal Disaffective Disorder and the number of suicides is climbing. We hope that people taking winter walks will be cheered up by seeing the flowers and feel brighter inside.”

“That’s great,” said Danny. “I feel quite down in winter. I’ll make sure I come to visit.” He left the garden whistling, and walked home carrying spoors of Silva Sanguinarus and Sanguinara on his shoe soles. They had been released by the trees when he’d entered the side trail. Their hearts missed the iron-rich red soil of their homeland, and hoped that this weak human would kill himself violently this winter, and soak their spoors with blood. And then the Village, scared by another death, would plant even more of them to cheer people up. This had proved a fine method of propagation. They were evolving.

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5 Responses to “Silva Sanguinara”

  1. I think this is first class, and nicely written. I can’t imagine why the votes verged on “average” – maybe because of the rather macabre ending? Maybe just the word “violently”? Food for thought.

  2. This is fantastic, and I absolutely love the last paragraph – despite having read a number of your pieces, and knowing full well that you favor the slightly apocalyptic end of things, I was still surprised. One detail for accuracy, though – spoor refers to animal… leavings… of various sorts that you could use to track the animal, and spore is the word for non-seed plant reproductive material.

    • javedbabar Says:

      Glad you liked the piece, and thanks for the correction. The eagle-eyed elder who kindly proofreads my pieces never misses a comma or semi-colon, but missed that one! Come on Sir Bob, pay attention!

    • I suppose in creative non-fiction you can change Sanguinaria (BloodROOT) to Sanguinara, and change the flower from white to crimson. Pursuing the digression, Dihydrobenzophenanthridine oxidase, extracted from the plant, could be used for non-violent suicide, enhancing the causal relationship. Interesting side-effects of 2012 stories.

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