““Dreams are sweet until they’re not, men are kind until they aren’t. Flowers bloom until they rot and fall apart. Is anybody listening? I open my mouth and nothing comes out, nothing. Nothing gonna wake me now.”
Camellia reached towards the black marker by her bedside table and slowly drew another line next to her pillow on the wall. This was the first in the next group of five, meaning that another week had passed, not that she had been counting. She sighed, staring at the many markings. Some were in red, others in black, depending on what markers she could find. Her surroundings were dull, as usual, with a beige undercoat of paint on the walls, peeling off to reveal the bare white of plaster. It was cheap material, but still strong. She couldn’t break out if she wanted.
On the right side of the room, there was a small window. Camellia had put the curtain over it the night before so as not to let the light in while she slept, but in the mornings she typically would open it up to let the bright atmosphere back into the room. Longingly, she stared out the window, with its broken plaster framing. The sky was bright, and the clouds were all in different shapes. Each and every thing through the window was always different each day. Someone changed it for her, though she didn’t know if it was to taunt her with the outside world, or a gift out of pity.
Camellia didn’t really know much about her surroundings at all. She knew she was somewhere in the sky due to the window’s outlook, and she knew that if she were to count the tally marks again she’d find that she’d been there for at least two years, but she didn’t know how she got there, or what her purpose was. All she knew were the flowers and herbs growing through the plaster foundations, and the small window that showed her glimpses of the world.
She knew that before then, she was someone. Now, she was just another rotting flower, only one that appeared human.
The tally marks had been there since the beginning - not on the wall, but in her mind. Something came to Camellia the day that she was brought to her little castle in the sky, something that told her she’d be there for a while, if not forever. So, she picked up a marker from the tiny dresser next to the strange bed she had woken up in and drew a shaky line on the wall, a line still visible to this day, symbolizing something she didn’t yet know.
If Camellia knew who she was, maybe the line would mean something. Maybe the ticking of the clocks in the outside world would register with her, and maybe she would know something other than plants on the ground. But alas, Camellia didn’t know who she was or what she was meant for, and so the complete absence of time surrounded her, coveting her, all except for the little tick marks on the wall, holding tight to each day. Something possessed her to draw the marks, and so she did.
Maybe it would help her later.
Once, she even counted them. Two years. Two years since she had drawn the first mark. But that had to be months ago, right? There were so many marks, and no time to count them all again.
Despite that, two years. Two years lost in time itself, with only marks on the wall and budding flowers to keep her company.
But still, flowers bloom until they rot.
Camellia knew she was somewhere in the sky, because the windows always showed her at equal level as the clouds. Why she was in the sky, she didn’t know. How the flowers grew up there, or what she did to get herself trapped in the clouds were all mysteries. Sometimes, she remembered glimpses of what could have been recollections from her past - not quite memories, just knowledge. She remembered a thought she had once about old stories, stories just as lost in time as she was.
Stories about gods and goddesses, but people, too. Specifically, the ones who were trapped. Circe, Calypso, Prometheus, Sisyphus. How she knew them all, she didn’t know. But she did know them, and they were there in her head. Especially Circe and Calypso.
Young woman trapped on islands only found by the great explorers. The only difference was the last part. No one was there to find Camellia.
Sometimes she wondered - was this why she was trapped? Was it some sort of curse, like the old stories? Had she truly done something so wrong that this would be her punishment? Or was it that there was something wrong with the society she was from that kept her from breaking free?
Or maybe it was neither, and she was just going crazy over time. Perhaps this was some sort of hospital, and her mind imagined the clouds and the sky in the windows to keep her busy. But hospitals have nurses and doctors and other patients. Perhaps it was a prison of some sort, but prisons have inmates and guards. And prisons didn’t have camellias growing through the rotting plaster.
Camellia had no idea why the flowers blooming through the ground were the same species as her name, but they were. Somehow, she knew that they were camellias, just like she somehow knew that they shared a name with herself. Both realizations came to her on that first day, when she drew that first shaky line.
The flowers that grew were pink, but Camellia didn't know if it mattered. She did know, however, that the petals and stem of the flower died together when the flowers wilted, unlike most flowers which died separately. But these flowers never decomposed, they just sat there unhinged as they wilted, while others continued to sprout.
She sighed, as she glanced through the window. Today’s image was hot air balloons drifting through the sky. Camellia thought of them as bouncing on air, though they passed smoothly past the pure white clouds. She wondered what those clouds felt like sometimes, with their bouncy nature and soft colors. Of course, they were different from the grey clouds that she imagined as rough and choppy based on the way they drifted through the sky.
One of Camellia’s favorite scenes to see was the dark clouds, because despite not being able to touch them, she could still feel them. She could feel the darkness and cold wrapping her tightly through the plaster walls, and the loud noises they must give off when the sky cracks like broken glass. She could feel it all throughout her body, and it made her feel alive, if she even knew what that was like.
The balloons continued to drift through the broken sky with it’s pillows of clouds, as Camellia turned back towards the ground. Confused, Camellia frowned. The flowers peeking through the cracks in the floor were all dying, stem and all. Slowly, she looked up, glancing at the walls, surprised to see that they were all completely bare, no scratches or tally marks in sight except for the first tiny, shaky mark from day one, two years ago.
Realization dawned on Camellia as she stared down at the flowers. She didn’t know if the color mattered, but she did know that the petals and stem of the flower died together when the flowers wilted.
And she was a Camellia, after all.
As the last tally mark started to fade away, so did Camellia, as she wilted with the flowers.