Hothouse of the Black Orchid



Frenchmen liken it to lightning, a coup de foudra.

Never sure of why or how, it didn't seem to matter. Debts needed payment, Karma & Company, collector.

No clear memories clouded the scenery of floating people and events. Mostly self-delusion or illusion, with allusions to confusions of old standing. But they couldn't persist. Prostrate was the condition without intermission.

Naive thinking and wise meanderings had brought about the present filled with empty things. Such a thing was she, darkest of the minions of his nature, manifesting in strange sinews of weakness on a street of reams to come. Clad in striped culpability hip to ankle, aging pulchritude's shallow prison, Geisha pallor served to enthrall that part of dalliance makes for bloodless terror.

Booted though bootlessly bereft of soul he, at the corner of indecision and peril, poised to shed the faint glimmerings of poise itself.

'Kept', a sham of essential manhood, within a silken shroud, beclouded of mind, of sentience itself save carnality's version—he would wear this mark willingly. Sterility knew contagion there, at the pulsing death of conscience.

"Actually, they're Western boots" he corrected; the rock-steering siren had dared to consign his lizard-skin Eighties power footwear to some knockabout cowboy's wardrobe.

"Oh, I stand corrected" she oozed, surveying him for potential potential. A chance encounter, she sauntering toward him and their mutual friend, his hostess, a matronly castoff from a former nightclub mogul gone to some government hotel for transgressions reminiscent of that favorite battering ram of the Sovereign, 'the power to tax, the power to destroy'; apparently, he had given certain authorities particular relish in demonstrating its verity.

A pedestrian venture to the corner deli for milk had launched a brand of chaos theretofore unknown to mere disorder; he was to be librettist to her psyche's cacophony.

Somehow surviving in a nuclear winter-like cloud he had carried with him ever since being overcome at Ground Zero by the Dissolution Bomb, Marsden found himself in Manhattan on some hopeless business his failing law practice held onto by sheer force of habit.

He was essentially broke, staying with a friend of his first-strike opposite. At 130 pounds, he was a wizened wanderer in the marginal territory known as anorexia, a self-imposed result of foolish guilt over the end of a relationship best described as having all the romance, and convenience, of incest. She, his latest experiment in self-delusion, he would learn on first glance at her cold hands and the scars seeming to attach them to her slender forearms, was mere days from her latest attempt at murder for one.

Two runaways, as in trains, sharing the same track.

In an ever-expanding universe, where degree and speed of separation of material clusters within it seemed to continually grow, they were colliding, neither one seeming to regard 'antimatter' and its dramatic potential as anything other than their mutual agent of wished-for demise, an end that just didn't 'matter'.

Supernovas are so rare that they are history's evidence of the Godforce's effectuation of seeming major policy decisions, the subject of both, way beyond mortal ken. Personal histories aren't too different among the willingly forgetful, major events keeping their faint glow.

Abandonment was the theme of theirs, differing only in its direction.

For Layana, if that was her name, it had begun with a refugee mother, living in the camps of Albania after Hitler's suicide whose putative husband had disappeared, feared dead, officially; he had been a freedom fighter and the result of his alleged heroism had been squalor for his fellows.

No matter, she had found another, also a fighter, 'Jimmy'. The child learned quickly and well about Mars' progeny, his transience, especially while next to you,'loving you.' Her philosopher stone was cold, strange alchemies having taken their fractal course in space-time; It came to rest in grateful substitution for what others called a heart.

"I'm very fond of you . . . " Was the refrain of Its keeper; no prizer of love and its trappings, amusement was her revenue and expenditure, and a 'profit' was always shown.

"That sounds a lot like how I feel about dogs and baby ducks . . . " Marsden riposted, feeling the sting of a rehearsed parry.

Damned by the faintest praise, a final thrust was called for.

"I suppose you're right . . . after all, it is a four-letter word," a palpable strike, despite her having been very much en garde.

"Is my young stud angry with me, dar-ing?" She never used the 'l', like some failed Garbo impersonator; he concluded that it must have been those years in London, both as a child taught to haunt the enemy, and, later, on Half Moon Street.

The door closed automatically, in seeming emulation of its momentary, now departed passerby. Staring into the silvered-rectangle of glass suspended directly above him, like some Clarkean monolith for cosmic voyeurs, he was aware of his absurdity: a 'kept' man of a keeper of bipedal specimens, the sole attraction of a private zoological experiment in which the subject was both wild and docile, Barnum's freakish permutation, extrapolated from all the blind alleys and detours for destructive work he loosely regarded as his—its—life.

Six months since the electrical voltage from below had discharged and found him its target, he was feeling captivity with strange detachment. The reflective ceiling helped promote the sensation, the observer becoming the observed, only in a way that would cause Siddharta himself to adamantly declare Buddhism a fraud. Risking that conjured possibility, 'I am the reflection of my reflection' ran Koran-like through his maddening brain. A neural storm regurgitated random phrases and images without any correlation except, maybe, that they lived, however briefly, in the same head. Dreaming. The necktop dreamtrack went as follows: 'How can I observe my own dreams? There is no 'I', except the one 'I' have created—that's right, so I = I proves this refractive theory,' a tautology that he was certain had occurred to him alone in all space-time.

"What the— !" Marsden screamed, head butting the silhouette hovering blurrily over him.

"Oh, sorry dar . . . " Layana started.

She rubbed her forehead routinely, he was strangely numb.

"Come join me in my bath, hmmmm?" was the one-size fits all reprise; he preferred to engage on dry land, shaking off the pale overture of appeasement.

"Where have you been?" was his complaint, treated by her as a greeting.

"Are you sure you won't join me" she Dopplered her voice warping with departing distance en route to her elaborate inverted ablutionary altar.

As they lay there that night, their psyches inhabited variant universes: hers on a haj to mercenary Mecca, his a dead end designed by Mobeius himself, with a proposed exit under construction by Sartre & Co.

"If you leave me, I'll die, you know" he heard her ultimatum clearly, though her overhead reflection was immobile and asleep. Was it a waking dream?

"Did you hear me, daring?" he decided to reply in his head only: "Yes, yes, but what made you say such a thing?"

"After all I have given you, you would abandon me, just like that; I know I have not seemed too attentive but its only my function, you see, most of them only want passive enjoyment, to view my petals" her eyes were now open, yet her mouth did not seem to move.

"We're both dreaming the same dream" was his best surmise. "And, by the way, that's a very colorful rationalization, 'dare'-ing mine" he added sardonically.

Now her mouth was moving in the reflection: "Do you know about orchids, daring? It is said that there are 25,000 natural species, prized all over the world for their beauty and variety more than any other flower, and the rarest of all is black. . . or, should I say, is thought black, no one's even seen one in years" she was now sitting up, her naked too symmetrical breasts casting vibrating shadows across the bed as she spoke, her reflection above remained immobile.

Reason had failed him along with the usually unreliable data from his eyes; his pulse was way up.

He would try again to locate the time/space he used to know: "Where do you get all this?" his peripheral vision now confirming the disparity between the mirror and its subject.

"The botanical gardens in London are spectacular, daring; the curator was a business friend, an admirer, you know, and taught me all about them, the orchids, the Greeks named them, they're very life-enhancing, especially for the genitals . . . " she informed, her reflection above only growing hazier, somehow darker.

"Does that include malakas like me?" he teased, trying to cut the tension with his reference to their word for queer.

"Daring, you mock me; that's was only when you angered me, silly boy. You see, the orchid's male components—orchis means 'testes', my love, are carefully enclosed so as to avoid self-pollination, unique among the flora of the world; no, w— they guard their 'man' very closely, so as to spread their true essence everywhere among other partners, all in the name of beauty" was her latest trancelike offering, again, not reflected below, but only in her reflection.

"You're starting to scare me" he blurted, seeking eye contact, having gently pressed her head against the pillow behind her; he found no dark pupils, only spaces where her eyes should be. "Are you all right. . . Layana . . . what's happening?" he pleaded.

Moments passed; he glanced upward to see her ersatz reflection, a prodigious dark floral presentation, seemingly growing larger by the minute.

"You see, daring, my 'pollinius', you must be with me, enclosed within my petaled structure, for beauty's sake . . . " her mouth had become a vortex of four petals unfolding. He looked again at the mirror above—it had become somehow convex, with lattice-like architecture, encompassing now the entire space that used to be their bedroom suite. His body from his feet to his waist had become enshrouded by a cocoon-like casing; he struggled to move his legs and knew that he had none.

"We'll awaken, together, now!" he urged upon her, now looking at her former head upon that pillow and seeing a shadow from above; the labellum of her floral display, now nearing the top of the warm greenhouse the room had become, cast a eerie headlike shadow.

"Come . . . come into my bosom . . . " Her now disembodied dulcimer voice had become a high-pitched siren song.

The 'room' was now completely dark, or was it that he had no eyes with which to see; he ceased to perceive, only to sense his envelopment within something greater, something in charge.

The throng was growing for the annual orchid show in Her Majesty's Royal Aboretum; of particular note this year was, for the first time in modern memory, on display an oversized orchid, a rare Black Orchid, more robust than any other species there evinced.

The End


If you enjoyed this story help us reward our writers for their efforts. Make a small donation to support Writer's Cramp. Every little bit helps.