Of Flowers Growing In A Potter's Field
This is a story by J. Royal Miller (He/They).
(A photograph of J. Royal Miller.)
"I go by Royal! I'm a Lighting Designer and Actor out of Maryland, and have always been passionate about flash fiction and the like! My main hobby since my memory begins has been running/playing in TTRPGs, and what is fictional writing if not an offshoot of that? While I don't have much of an online presence, I plan on publishing and writing more works non-professionally as time goes on. Keep an eye out for me! :3c"
Content warnings for this piece include: Discussion of decomposition, description of decomposition and the innerworkings of the human body, death, grief, discussion of suicide, description of drowning.
Now, without further ado, enjoy "Of Flowers Growing In A Potter's Field" by J. Royal Miller.
Of Flowers Blooming in a Potter’s Field
Please, lend me your ear, and allow me to explain what follows. You see, I am dead.
Take a moment to understand this, please.
That’s enough time, thank you. I am dead. You are now intimately aware of this truth. A few thousand years ago, I fell to my death, down a flooded trench. It was a laughably human error, of course. My foot was simply too heavy for the rock to hold, and I conked my boney head on the precipice of a horrible pit. I lost consciousness almost immediately. According to those that lived in my gray matter, I’ve been told I died a completely painless death. Isn’t that nice?
I’m getting ahead of myself again. This has simply been something I’ve wished to compile for a while, and my excitement is boundless, you see.
The crevice I fell into, over the next countless years, dried out. Eventually, it became a lake, then a pool, then a bog. Over this time, my body was host to a myriad of communities, from which I have been allowed to keep some sort of log. The following is simply a collection of logs from those that lived within me, be they simply passers-by who partook upon my delicious calcified stem cells, or more permanently hosted into my sponge-like cardiovascular chutes.
If you have the time, please allow me to spin this tale for you, of what my body became in the absence of me. Perhaps, if you have any questions by the end, we may discuss more about what may become of the both of us, be it my lifeless self, or your curious mind.
There is no better place to begin than at those flooded depths.
The Pre-Cognition Era
Log by: Me! What a surprise!
I have sunk. My mind blares like an alarm, begging me to breathe, to stand, to keep fighting. I am so, so tired. I feel my kidneys twist to deal with the sudden change in pressure, the coral pressing into my back finding purchase between the blades of my spine. My eyes are open, I think, else what I’m seeing is delirium. I see heaven. Not in clouds and golden arches, and certainly not with a theological jackpot waiting for me beyond. It’s so much more. It’s the shimmering light, heavier than the sky but lighter than the ground. It’s fish, only visible in panopticon-al spotlights sparkling their scales like a dress on a runway. It’s the rocks, perfectly suspended to keep the crevice wide, yet not so open as to let the world seep in. Above that lies my life. Was I above heaven this whole time? Was I fighting for survival in a world beyond happiness? Perhaps, were I to sink beneath even the ground, I’d find an even greater heaven. One of sedimentary arches, with angels made of worms and maggots. Why was I so disgusted by worms and maggots? They live all the same as we do. Perhaps even more than I.
I cannot see anymore. I believe I am dying. I have no regrets. I am saddened by the loss I will inflict upon my friends, but even that may bring them closer together. My time is over. The last bubble of air escapes my lungs, yet I am already in paradise.
I know I had said that they said that I had died painlessly, but it looks like what I said counteracts what I had said they had said to me. How funny is that!!! I just love reading old works. The next era was a time after, I believe. Still flooded, but some of the water had left.
The Underwater Room
Log by: The youngest of the Eels.
I finally found a home! Long time slithering here, and I think we lost ol’ Sammy on the way, but it all paid off in the end! I’m living large down in this weird white choral, with Ma and Pa right here with me! Well, kinda. They stay inside most of the day, but that’s cool! I meet with the neighbors sometimes, and they’re real nice. I like to pop through these two big holes in the coral, cuz it’s the highest point on the reef, and I like to feel big. Sometimes, when I get a little messy, Mr. Shrimp comes and helps clean my teeth! He says he lives by the “feet”. I don’t really know what that is, but he does a really good job, so I’m okay with him. Sometimes, when the school passes through, I hear them say all sorts of stuff I don’t know. Something about losing room, and “Marshematics”, with pluses and minuses. I like eating from school when they get too close! Ma says I need to pick my meals better. I'm writing this to Sammy. I miss you! It’s not as fun with you gone. Pa says I need to be strong, and not cry about it, but sometimes I get a little sad and think about you and how much I miss hanging out with you and laughing at the weird bugs like that sea pig we saw and how you were always more slimy and it made me so mad and i'm sorry i cant tell you it’s okay you were slimy and i liked your weird slimyness. If you find this, please come home. Ma said you passed away.
Can you pass back?
He lived in my skull! That’s so cool, right? Well, let's keep going, as this next one’s one of my favorites. They’re so silly! The water had lowered to around a couple hundred feet deep now, so a non-insignificant amount of years had passed.
Log by: Langy Isopaul, scribe of Head Researcher, Frank L. Isopatrick.
Take a note, Langly. This is a treasure trove here, yes it is. This here is an untouched specimen of cultures passed, Langly. Look at- come here you slow buffoon. Look at this discoloration on the coral. Watch as I rip off a piece of the dead bit here- yes! Oh that is certainly bone. This is a pre-cognition era beast, Langly. Look at how it was adapted- these pathageways- Passageways, what have you, here in the marrow, this could fit an entire thoroughpass of our colleagues. No, this is not just history, this is potential land, Langly! See, whale falls are a wonderful thing for the bigger neighboring cities, no? When you’ve just set up your world, and then a generation's worth of commerce and food lands right on your doorstep, well you’ve struck it big! But this, this is no jackpot in the general sense. See these sturdy bones? They’ve already made meal of the marrow, but the empty, calcified depths, Langly come here. These dank depths of bone are perfect, come walk with me.
Ohhh yes, this is beautiful. We should be nearing the head now, Langly. Look at the bacterial buildup in the shoulder here, this is remnant of an uncleaned stress packet, that’s what this is. Oh yes, I’ve seen this before. Follow me, let us investigate above.
My oh my, the academy is going to eat this up! The gray matter here, you see it? This used to be a hub of neuro-electrical activity Langly- the stuff of dreams. This primitive form garnered consciousness from zaps and zips in the mushy bits here- it’s astonishing it’s untouched! They must have been having some dark thoughts, sours the mind to think of such things as you live. No no Langly, not a bit of flavor there. All the better for studying! Oh how marvelous… gather the caravan, we’ll be staying here for a bit.
I never got to meet these two, but they did such a wide berth of research on me after I died. Apparently, all that hopelessness and depression really did a number on the tastiness of my brain! But would you believe it, all the inaction and dysfunction made my body taste just impeccable, hence the quick de-fleshing.
Ah. We’ve already gotten through this much? Dear reader, you have done me a great service staying with me this long. Allow me a short while longer to tell you of the final state before we are now. This is the marsh, when my head had just begun to crest above the water, and my chest was aglow with the lights of a bayou city.
The Echoing Ribbit
Log by: Poet James Hopson.
I sit now, atop the bridge of our host, and wonder of my place in the world. This world, that stretches out indefinitely above in rocky walls, or that lays in the wet of our city, in conversation and cry of joy or pain. Who am I? Not in the physical sense, of course. I am a frog, a proud Hopson at that, though perhaps the writing degree was a bit much. But I mean… who am I? Why is it that my impact on the world feels so negligible while I walk, and yet when one dies it calls like an echo towering high into the endless rocky sky? I wonder, does fame beckon death, or does death undue beckon toward me for release, to know if people care the way they care once one dies.
My best friend died, some two weeks ago. This may be overly personal, but you must bear with me. When he was buried, the eulogy was to a man I had never met. They spoke of virtue, of kindness and holistic love. Of passion, and interest. They hung pictures of a tadpole I met in elementary. They played songs we listened to when we had first begun to read. And yet, when I looked into the leaf wrapping this stranger, I saw him. My compatriot. A vitriolic, spiteful old toad, who spent hours at night getting drunk and raving about the state of our world, of the one who came before us. He lost all love for the world, else I assume his death would not have been by his own hands (though they continue to call it a “Workplace incident” and not a suicide.). People adore him in death. People despised his ugly, real, admirable, loveable self in life.
Did our host know this pain? Of wondering if death is only a mask to wear for others to self-servingly grieve over you. If love is malleable, adjustable for comfort and not for anything beyond. Perhaps they knew what it meant to wish for death, not as a reprieve from life, but as a reprieve from the people within, even if you love them dearly.
Or perhaps I am waxing parenthetical on the corpse of an ancient giant, and had ought to get home before I am worried after. Goodnight, dear friend. I hope to speak on this with you in the morning.
Thank you for staying with me. It is always most compelling to read these capsules, people who lived on through me. James feels as a dear friend, even if in life we would never meet. Does that make sense? Do you feel kinship with people who look after you, ignorant of who you are?
I apologize, dear reader, if this has been heavy. I love to hear what people have done with what I once wasted. It has become so many things, so many homes and hobbies, and all without me. I hope, in the event I am given a chance to try new things, I will know the scope of a life. You are not in control of it, after all! None of us are. But we foster little people to come take little pieces of it, and in return give little logs of their time with our life.
Dear reader, please live a good life. Dear reader, please die a good death. And, if you would, dear reader, please allow me to read all about it when next we meet.
This story was written by J. Royal Miller.
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