PETRICHOR

Something had gone seriously wrong in her garden. When the roses unfurled, there were sometimes faces at the centre. They had a surly expression, and looked as though they might spit. Their thorns were like razor wire. When she came to examine her lilies, each of them bore a truss of lily beetles, bright red creatures that were like flying Smarties, and which devoured the flowers in the bud: when they opened up,  there was nothing there. And her prize lupins and delphiniums were covered in blackfly, which left a sticky residue. She fancied she could smell it. Worst of all were the dahlias. She decided to dig one of them up because it was performing so badly, but when  she sank the fork into the tuber, a terrible shriek rent the air. Perhaps the Mandrake was not a mythical creature after all. 

 

What could have gone wrong? No good invoking the Great God Pan, or going to war armed with pesticides. Perhaps the sickness in her garden would burn itself out? Maybe these creatures in the soil that looked like miniature pythons would shrink back and become earthworms again? The question was, how to bring that about? By active intervention, or by doing nothing and waiting to see what happened? All her instincts were in favour of the former (she was a combative type of person) but just for once, she thought, let’s see what doing nothing will achieve. Let me break the habits of a lifetime. 

 

She sat with her back against a tree. The sky dimmed, the sun went away, it came back again next day. Towards nightfall on the second day, a heavy shower of rain began. It fell and fell and fell. She did not dare to move, but sat there with the water pouring down her. She knew she looked like a living fountain. When dawn came, the rain gradually ceased and the earth seemed to steam in the sun. 

 

The scent of the rain on the earth was like nothing she had ever known before. Sweet, balmy, a little sharp. The garden was on a slight slope, and she saw that little rivulets  were running down. They bore with them all the noxious pests that had devoured her garden. The blackfly, the mandrakes, the little serpents were now corpses, and they were whirled away down the hill never to be seen again. They were compost now.

 

How odd it was, though. Whose agency was this, at whose behest had it been? Not hers, for sure. For the first time in her life, she had done nothing. And doing nothing had made something happen. The rain, the sublime petrichor, the noxious predators had come and gone. She might be able to begin afresh.

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |