01 Feb I Discovered Plants Can Talk Yesterday. They Delivered a Warning
When you work in an office, you get used to the whispers. Whether it’s Jim from the cubicle next to you trying to calm down an overreacting customer, or it’s Kathy catching up with the latest office drama, it becomes part of your life.
You drone through the day completely unaware of the whispers that surround you, the low tepid poison slipping through your veins. They don’t get to you anymore, the whispers bothered you when you started but now they are just a part of the landscape
I was like that too. With the whispers I mean. It didn’t take me long before I just started to naturally block them out. Jim and Kathy could have been in a shouting match on any given day it would be unlikely for me to even notice. It wasn’t until recently that the whispers managed to grab my attention once more.
So you get used to the whispers, right? So much so that they seem detached from the people causing them. That’s why it didn’t seem odd to me that I was hearing whispers in the office when I elected to stay late to get ahead of paperwork. As I always did, I sat in my little square and shuffled through sheets of paper to double-check for mistakes.
It didn’t occur to me for quite some time that I was still hearing whispers. Small little secrets drifting into my ears like pollen. You can never make out the words when you’re not paying attention and I wasn’t. Up until the alarm I set went off. I set alarms because I have a habit of zoning out when I work and completely missing when I intend to leave.
My pocket buzzed and a soft ringtone filled the office space, the tone echo through the empty floor and still pockets of air. Reaching into my pocket I slid my finger across the alarm notification and I stood up expecting the office to be silent, as I was the only one there. When I stood up though I could still hear the faint chiming whispers.
My neck swiveled in curiosity, scanning each of my surrounding cubicles for the source of the unfamiliar voice. I felt my nerves building up as I tried to remember if anyone else had stayed behind but I specifically recalled the boss telling me to make sure I locked up when I left.
Gray square offices, each of them vacant and dark. It was late and the light was no longer spilling in from the once beaming sun. The office was dimly illuminated by overhanging fluorescent lights that had gone into some kind of power-saving setting. Only the lamp on my desk and a small creek of light from the hallway would be able to guide me.
What bothered me the most is that the whispers didn’t have any discernible direction, it felt like words were spilling in all around me. Whenever I tried to focus on what the words were it felt like another sentence would overlap them making the other unintelligible. Like a circle of people were standing around me spouting complete nonsense.
Backing away from my desk I entered the aisle and tried to peek further into the various work stations. Only various knick-knacks and papers populated the cubes. Slowly, trying not to seem panicked I paced through the office, trying to pin down the location of the voices and making up reasonable explanations in my head.
Maybe someone left a radio on?
Maybe a phone is off the hook?
Could it be the PA system acting up?
My ability to rationalize the situation put me enough at ease to take a leap of faith and open my mouth. “Is someone else here?” The intensity of my voice managed to startle me, I had been straining to hear the whispers so the booming echo in the empty room nearly threw me backward. I couldn’t help but let out a brief chuckle in embarrassment but when I quieted down I discovered that the office did as well. The whispers had stopped.
Somehow their absence managed to put me more on edge. Whatever was making the whispers, whether it intended to or not, had responded to my question. Someone was there but I didn’t know where or who and my heart started pounding harder in response.
My eyes were getting used to the dark away from my desk and I could see the room around me a little clearer but it offered no relief. Just the same gray carpet I dragged my feet across every day, the same littering of various potted plants that sat by the windows and at various points throughout the office.
The air was so still. So I couldn’t help but notice when one of the plants lining the window momentarily rustled. Carefully, listening for any movement, I walked closer to the plant. It wasn’t anything special, just the mundane kind of plant a beginner would purchase and forget about until it’s green leaves wilted to brown.
When I reached the plant I just stood in front of it and watched, expecting to rustle the same way, to replicate the event so that I could rationalize it again. So that I could tell myself an air duct had turned on or something like that. Instead, the whispers began again, growing in volume as if whatever was speaking was rapidly becoming less shy.
I thought I must have been working myself too hard. Standing in front of that plant like I was trying to intimidate it, but it was hard to ignore. The whispers still came from all around me but the loudest ones were coming from the very same plant I was starring at.
I could feel my body go flush and the pin-pricks of my nerves firing off ran across my body like a wave. The voice was unlike anything I had heard before, certainly wasn’t the low monotone of Jim or the nasal whine of Kathy’s no. This voice. The one that knew my name, was without a doubt coming from right in front of me.
Have you ever taken a leaf and put the edge of it up to your lips. When you blow out just right it will make a whistling noise. It sounded like that with the rustling of wind running through treetops mixed in with it. It’s hard to accurately describe just how bizarre it felt but it was easy to distinguish that it wasn’t the voice of a human.
“Who’s there?” I nervously replied. My voice was shaking and sounded unfamiliar to me. The plant in front of me began rustling like it had before and soon enough the plants next to it were as well. I assumed the plants all around the office had started shaking because I could hear what sounded like leaves falling behind me.
“Do not be scared, Matthew.” The drawn-out whistle of words sounded again, this time slightly to my right. The noise was the same but the pitch of it seemed a little lower, the plant that spoke this time was a different one with thicker leaves.
Don’t be scared? That’s exclusively what I was. My left foot began to move on its own as if some fight or flight responds was taking me over. Backing away from the line of plants sitting by the large windows I heard the one’s behind be shaking violently. It was like a canopy in the amazon was being pushed around by a hurricane. “Don’t run.”
It was then that what I assumed were words meant to calm and console revealed themselves to be cruel and intimidating. “There’s much more of us outside you know?” That, that was a threat if I’ve ever heard one. If this was some horror movie I would’ve thought it was so stupid, how could anyone be afraid of plants? Just stomp on them.
I guess it’s hard to know how’ll you’ll react to something until you come face to face with it. I mean we laugh at people running from serial killers in horror movies but how well would any of us fair against a maniac, honestly, I’d be pretty screwed. So like a dog awaiting orders, I stopped, remembering that to get to my car I had to walk through a patch of grass.
“The earth is dying Matthew. Time is limited.”
Words that felt less threating sounded from behind me, one of the miniature trees that were only a few feet away. “I’m so sorry,” I responded, not thinking. It’s not a huge secrete that our civilization is slowly killing our planet so I couldn’t only assume that was what the plant was speaking about. At this point I was just ready to listen, I didn’t know how the plants could harm me but it wasn’t something I was intending to discover.
“You’re sorry?” My ears tingled from the whisper. And then- the plants began to shake again all in chorus. The noise, the rustling of treetops I was hearing started to sound something more akin, to laughter. “You misunderstand.”
Those words were whispered right into my ears. Like someone, hand put their lips to the side of my head and spoke. There was no breath but I could feel it, something was right beside me standing just to my left. “You should feel no sympathy for the trees Matthew.” The voice was no longer the whine it once was. It was raspy and firm and so close to me, I didn’t want to but I had to look.
My curiosity pivoted my head like tendrils were wrapped around it. The pale shimmering of moonlight pressing through the panes of glass illuminated the thing next to me. A mimicry of the human form, a bundle of leaves and branches all contorted into a humanoid shape. It was hollow, I could see beams of moonlight penetrate the mass of green and land on the carpet.
It was as tall as me and although various spots were completely vacant of vegetation, the plants had somehow shaped themselves into a human. One that could move and speak as I did. Behind the human plant was trails of dirt were the thing had dragged out of all the potted plants while I was focused on the ones by the window.
“The trees care so very little for you, we care so little.” The plants that made up its head shifted around as if imitating human facial expressions and muscle movement. It did a disturbingly good job at mocking how a human’s lips move. It was obvious why. We buy these plants and decorate our workplaces, our homes with them. They sit and watch us every day, listen to us speak and go about our lives. We never stopped to think they might be listening.
The bright green colors on the things face began to alter into that of a dying plant. Subtle browns appearing in curated parts of the thing’s body until it was satisfied with its imitation of skin. “Trees burn Matthew.” I stared into its eyes, or rather the vacancy of plants that represented its eyes. It was becoming clear the plants didn’t intend to console me. Messages aren’t always delivered in kindness.
“Fires ravage a forest. Crops die from the lack of rain, but do not be sorry.” The plant’s face shifted more, something like a smile, I think it was a smile. It was silent, staring at me waiting for me to respond. For me to engage it.
“Why not?” It’s what it wanted me to say, what it was leading me to ask like this was some script it was playing off of. The human mockery lifted its arm and started rubbing two of its fingers together. The fingers were comprised of thin dry roots that looked more like veins that a fully formed finger. It did this for only a moment before a small red glow appeared between the roots, a red flow that grew into a bright ember.
It caught on the dry roots and soon a small fire enveloped the things hand, it was spreading across the thing quickly as if it hadn’t been watered in days. As the smoke rose from the ever-expanding fire I watched the thing mouth its final whisper to me before the shape dropped to the floor leaving a pile of green on the carpet.
“Run!” I heard a voice boom, the shame whistle cry as earlier coming from every direction again. It was enough for that fight or flight reaction to take over completely and before I knew it I was sprinting through the isles. Passed the empty clay pots that ones housed the green plants. It was like I was watching a slide show, my office became the hall, the hall became the elevator until I had made it to the lobby.
Not even stopping to think about it I rushed across the patch of grass thankful that my parking spot wasn’t too far away. Hearing the grass crunching under my feet I half expected the blades to wrap around my ankle and pull me down. But I made it to the car before I had to worry about freeing myself from their grips.
After fumbling with my keys I slid into the driver’s seat and rested my head backward, closing my eyes I tried to calm myself. I hadn’t needed to run like that before and I couldn’t tell if it was the effort or the fear that had me so winded. With a few deep breaths, my heart rate started to slow and my hands stopped shaking.
Looking down I put my key in the ignition and turned it, the car hummed to life and the rattle sounded like the sweetest song I had ever heard. The headlights kicked on and I looked up ready to start pulling out of the parking lot.
The lights from the front of my car landed over the field that I had just run across to escape. My relief halted at that moment. Watching the blades of grass twisting higher and higher created stark shadows behind them until they had twisted into a familiar humanoid shape. At least a dozen of those plant creations stood in the field, looking out at me.
I would have thought that they were going to attack me, I would have expected them to flood over the car but they didn’t need too, they already delivered their message. The next day I would come back to work, no trace of a fire or any evidence of what happened that night. All I had was the final whisper from the plants.
“Trees will regrow
Humans, will not.”