Each of us will carry the seeds. They say we will know when to plant them. They say we must keep them safe.
My sister never wanted to be safe. She wanted to know things. It must have been unbearable not knowing what the seeds were for, because one day she swallowed hers one by one. They buried her for shame on the edge of the woods with a stone too small to cover her.
Most days now I go there when the crows gather before dusk. They watch me, flapping and croaking in the trees. I tell them about the day my sister got her sachet of seeds, how she dangled it in front of me, back and forth like a hypnotist’s watch in the room we shared with clenched spider corpses and blossoming mold. When she pretended to throw it out the window, I shrieked, and she put her hand over my mouth, laughing, resting the sachet on my forehead. I could just barely feel the tiny kernels while I breathed against her fingers.
My sister always smelled of forbidden things. Strawberry lotion and cinnamon gum and different kinds of smoke. Somehow she’d gotten to know the boy on the farm at the end of the road, over two miles from our farthest fencepost, and she claimed but made me promise not to say that he would take her in his rumbling truck to the town where you could find just about anything you’d ever imagined. And where no one carried the seeds.
One evening the crows cackle in unfamiliar rhythm as I approach my sister’s too-small stone. Sprouting from beneath the granite, a tongue of green trembles. Days pass, and a leaf unfurls, then two and three, till soon there are so many that the wind passing through them sighs just the way my sister used to when she stared out the window and I would ask her where she wanted to go, and she would say, Everywhere, everywhere. And when the plant’s buds burst into delicate stars, they smell of her shampoo.
I tell the crows about the night she snuck back into our room with that pearly bottle, a scent like the tropics, all sunshine and coconut. It comes from a store – a drugstore, she’d said and pulled a pair of chocolate bars from under her shirt. Even though they’d melted with the warmth of her skin, the taste made both of us cry until we’d licked the wrappers clean.
I don’t need to tell the crows why I do what I do next. I pick a leaf off the plant that grows from my sister’s grave. And then I eat it whole.
Each day I pick more and more, and the plant grows and grows like all it wants to do is feed me. I start to hear her, as if the roots have reached right down into what used to be her mouth. Only there are no words – just the language of cells changed into other cells, memories that could never be explained but that lived as flesh lives. A knowledge that cannot be known unless it becomes the body.
I am so hungry for it, so hungry for her, for the expanse of all she knew to consume my own unknowing. Bit by bit, she sows it into me. The deep smell of rivers. The freedom of bare feet on a dashboard. The sweet, brittle foam of milkshakes and the icebox dark of a movie theater in summer. The unexpected buoyancy of earth.
But there is always more and more I do not know. I eat and eat and eat.
Meanwhile they say I am getting tall, I am getting strong, my bones no longer puncture my skin. They say that soon I will be big enough to carry the seeds myself. But I am no longer waiting for that.
Above my sister’s grave, the flowers are turning to fruit. Perhaps they will taste like her kisses, cherry lip gloss and cloves. Or else like soil. Or death. The crows and I keep watch, waiting until they are ripe. I promise I will get there first, I will pluck and devour them all. And then she will tell me everything.
Erin Calabria grew up on the edge of a field in rural Western Massachusetts and currently lives in Magdeburg, Germany. She is a co-founding editor at Empty House Press, a small press publishing writing about home, place, and memory. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize and was selected as a winner for The Best Small Fictions 2017. You can read more of her work in Sundog Lit, Split Lip Magazine, Wyvern Lit, Third Point Press, and other places. She tweets @erin_calabria.