Flash fiction I wrote in or before 2016
My skin is dark and made of soil. Gravity keeps the dirt packed solid against my bones, always slightly damp and never leaving residue on what I touch. Still, most people avoid me because of it.
Tonight at the supermarket, a woman stares at me, across the aisle where I’m stocking shelves. She has liquid black hair like a waterfall of ink, and I can tell she wants to touch me, the way her mouth is agape.
She walks over slow, not looking at my face, probably full of questions about my roots. I’m not prepared to answer, but I don’t have a choice. Soon she gets so close that I can feel her breathing oxygen into my soil, inhaling my earthy petrichor.
“Have you always been like this?” she says to my arms, one hand curled against her chest as if concerned. “Is it a condition? Must you be watered?”
She hovers her hands over my arms and it makes me nervous; she’s a cold kind of beautiful. Her fingers are curled into loose fists like they are holding seeds, and my pulse is visibly rumbling beneath my fine, top layer of dirt.
I don’t want her to touch me, but I do.
When she looks into my eyes, I see her eyes are not eyes at all, but eerie, dark holes in her face that seem to have no end.
As I stare into them, trying to find their end, she smooths her palms along my soil, slow and soft.
Then she stabs her fingers, sharp, into my dirt.
And then I feel seeds, dozens of them, slipping from her fingertips and burrowing in my arms. My body absorbs them as if it has a choice.
“Meet me here tomorrow,” she says, pulling away her hands. They are covered in my dirt and as if I have a choice, I work here tomorrow. She runs off without another word, a flurry of hair, skirt and wind, leaving me alone in the aisle.
On the walk home, I feel the seeds dragging themselves down deeper. I can’t stop seeing her face, and the more I picture her – the endless flow of her hair, the empty pits of her eyes – the more painful the holes she left in my arms become.
Once inside, my energy drained, I feel the hard shells of the seed coats break apart, the roots crawling out and spreading through my body. They latch, parasitic, around my nerves and vessels, draining my blood as if for nutrients. Finally, sleek stems coil out from my surface, multiplying quickly, leaves fluttering in the air.
Humiliated, I watch it grow: a tangled web of vines that starts to flower into finicky, blue forget me nots. I know now that I can’t return to the store, and this is what it means to be dark and made of soil: everything that touches you gets in.