The Flowers Are Ugly
There was once a dreadful infant, nestled motionlessly inside of a hollowed-out tree stump.
The surrounding forest was mighty and tall- it was only this lone tree that had been cut some time ago by a nameless traveller.
The stump had only felt smaller and smaller as the child grew. Its hairy back now pressed closely against the wall of this lowly chamber, tight grey skin itching from the terrible surface of the wood, infested with the same bugs it ate. The creature didn’t speak language or wear clothes. And until now, it had not understood what the constant hunger lying inside of it meant.
On that day, there came a noise from behind it- the footsteps of a large animal, but with too light a breathing for it to be the creature itself. Indeed, a man was riding the silent beast.
The man and his steed halted. It could feel his eyes burning into its wretched form. In annoyance, its quiet sorrow interrupted, the infant arose, using what little strength it had in attempt to scare the intruder off.
“Lost Sankai.” The man addressed the ugly thing with discretion atop his great black tortoise, giving it a name it didn’t recognize. “How long do you take shelter here?”
It understood, but could not reply. It groaned formlessly. Yet the man seemed to understand even so, in some universal way.
“You are lonely. You can’t grow up, can you?”
The creature looked down at its newborn body. Its fingernails centimetres in length, skin wrinkled and hairy, it hadn’t even considered such dreams before.
“I am a maker of impossible things. I wish to see why fate has bestowed upon you so hopeless an existence- or if there is any chance at salvation for your rotting soul.”
He carried the colorless ape atop his shoulder, shaking like a boat as the lifeless tortoise took its wide and solemn steps. In time they reached an odd structure, not resembling the ones the young “Sankai” had seen in its time.
“I am not from these grounds.” The inventor claimed, dismounting his creation. He pet the clockwork animal’s head, watching as it rested its artificial eyes. “I spend all my time creating falsehoods. Fake, approximate replications of nature and reality. My people- my Emperor- they did not understand. I suppose they had it too good already.”
Despite his dreary tone, he chuckled dryly as he led the infant into his residence. Setting the limp thing on his table, it looked around to admire his work- foreign sculptures, paintings, machines. And above it all, in the posts upholding the ceiling- there was sprawled a blue serpent.
Without its words, it gasped at the thing. This only seemed to trigger it. The inventor paid no mind as the iron drake slithered down to breathe on the child’s face, filling its lungs with a cold and scented air. Suddenly, as it made an attempt to cry out, the fateless Sankai spoke for the first time.
“ ʍą Ɱ “
He turned to the child with a smile. Finally it recognized itself. At last it was able to communicate the darkness within it.
He approached the poor thing, gently pushing aside the snake.
“My dragon heals the fearful and broken. Now even one like yourself can form the language I have learned to speak in these lands. In that respect… you can no longer be called a Sankai. Is this not true?”
“ Ϛa ղ ҟąì? “
“I should have known. For after all, why would even your own people teach an exile of their knowledge? Yes, you were a “Sankai.” You tried to call out to a mother, did you not?”
The creature didn’t know what a mother was, but indeed felt inside itself a certain painful longing for the word.
“Come with me. I believe I know where it was you first found yourself in this bastard world. Come.”
Atop the tortoise they went again, and to a village, filled with images the creature instantly remembered- the pagodas, slender trees, and gardens… the people. The fathers and mothers and children littering the land. Held in the inventor’s hands, it saw all these things both as if it never had, and yet also as if this sight was all it had ever known.
“Which one was yours?” The man asked forebodingly. “Your mother.”
As soon as these words were given to it, it indeed recognized her.
The woman in the pink kimono tending to her garden, belly swollen with newly growing life.
“Ah, I see. Another attempt.”
From the safety of the secluded trees, the creature bawled in an intense hatred. A boiling, livid longing for something.
A desire for a past and future.
Suddenly it wished to be held in its mother’s arms. And with that thought, it wished to grow up alongside its mother. And knowing this, it understood. Ultimately, it wished only to be able to become its mother.
But this would never happen.
“This is the unspoken fate of all Sankai. You are not permitted your humanity upon birth- instead, rejected as the people discard your diseased corpse. How you survived is a remarkable thing. Truly… truly wonderful. I’m sure you must feel as if you are now experiencing greater suffering than anyone else in the entire world.”
The creature cursed its existence.
“ ᵏⁱ… ɱҽ… “
“Yes. I have come to realize now. There is indeed… no place for you in this world. No place at all.”
After an eternity of agony that was the ride back, the orphan’s mind eating itself in shame and regret, it opened its eyes back on the inventor’s table, surrounded by the somber man and his three creations: a black tortoise, an azure dragon, and a blazing vermillion bird.
“This is truly a terrible mistake we live in.” He cried, yet his still face did not tremble. “Tell me, discarded child- what is your wish?”
“Ꭵ ᏇᏗᏁᏖ… Ꮧ ፈᏂᎥᏝᎴ.” It moaned in its suffering, throat burning.
“If you manage to speak, you will thank yourself.”
“ı ῳąŋɬ… ą ƈɧıƖɖ. I ῳąŋɬ… ɬơ… ɱơɬɧɛཞ.”
The inventor smiled as he understood.
“You are… the kindest thing this hell has ever produced. You wish not only to give yourself what you long for… but to carry on that wish to another. I pledge myself to you, blessed child.”
The foreigner bowed, his creations following.
“Come to see my most special invention.”
Holding the aching young thing in his devoted hands, he carried it to a space in between the boards of his walls. Prying it open with his dexterous fingers, he revealed a massive face lying behind it.
A pale cat, eyeless and open-mouthed, bore into the infant with its silent greeting.
“The tiger is cursed and has never shown to produce the results I wished it to.” He spoke. “However… it speaks to me. Each time I attempt to save a lost soul with its power… it asks to be fed. It longs… only for my flesh, it seems.”
He held up the grey creation, letting him speak to it on even ground.
“Today I will throw myself into its mouth as well, giving up my life, and the two of my best inventions- so that you may perhaps live yours. And I will also give you my first creation, my Phoenix- to carry you through the darkness of its stomach.”
He held the baby like it were his own, and pat its head like it was loved.
“Listen to me. You will be a mother. You will have a child. All you need do… is believe.”
He cast himself, and all his creations- along with the child, into the fangs of the great white tiger.
Finding herself in a sea of darkness, the child clung to her great red bird- and she flew away as far as she could. Deep, deep into this blackness… it was not long until she found a colorful world all her own.