by Kate E. Lore
We came to see the Amorphophallus titanium. We came to see the corpse flower. It’s one of the largest unbranched flowers in the world. It’s six-foot-tall. It blooms once every 7-10 years. It smells like death.
“So is it like… fertilized by scavenger animals that come sniffing around wondering where the road kill is?” I asked. My girlfriend elbows me in the ribs. Somehow this is, apparently, a stupid question. I was half joking, part speculating, part guessing. The conservatory employee pretends he didn’t hear me. He glances sideways then away. I can see sweat dripping down his face. In his defense it is hot here in the greenhouse.
And they arn’t wrong, as far as I know, it does smell bad. The bloom itself is an ugly thing. It looks like something only Tim Burton could love. The petals are thick, like a cow’s tongue. They are dark and big, looking wilted long before the bloom had even started.
Everyone keeps leaning in as close as they can. They’re pushing at each other. Fighting to be up front as if this thing were the pope. People took pictures, scribbled down notes. One guy used a cue tip to take a DNA sample.
I stood back and watched them.
“Is this a reverse representation of life? The ugly bloom? The peak of growth backwards?” A man asked right before sticking his whole head inside the bloom. He wanted to hear it from the inside someone else explained.
“Will this give us insight to the mysteries of the universe? Will we at least understand life, death, the experience in between?” A woman asked. The plant sucked the man inside like a straw, then swallowed him down like a snake. The woman who had asked the next question voluenteerily climbed in after him. She pulled her arms up, crossing them, as if she were going down a water slide.
One by one people from the crowd stepped forward. One by one they went inside searching for answers. The plant grew six feet, seven, eight, nine, ten. It got too big for the table too big for the room.
At last I found myself standing alone before it. The plant towered over me. Its vines reaching out for me greedily.
I step back and shrug my shoulders.
“I already asked you a question.”
Kate E Lore is a queer, neurodivergent, she/they, born to a single widowed mother and a writer of both fiction and nonfiction with many publications including Black Warrior Review, Longridge Review, Orsum, Bending Genres, and Door is a Jar.