Dreaming in Thorns

by H.C. Marr

How long I slept I will never know. How long I slept, with only the breath of the wind through the stems to stir me; only the nodding heads of the roses, heavier than wet silk, to brush against my skin. Sleeping, while year upon year they grew closer, closer, crawling upward month by month.

I was not unaware of them, where I slept in the endless dusty light of summer filtered by their leaves; I knew them when they came. In the first thirty years, they stole in through the windows, woody stems winding sinuous-slow, great dark-spotted snakes of vegetation coming crawling across the floor to twist their way around the legs of the chairs and up the doors of the armoire, coming crawling across the floor to steal and slither up the curtains of my bed. I heard their rustles and their sighs, the dusty drag of leaves, the slow unfurling of runners and tendrils as they came.

It took them thirty years to be brave enough to touch me.

I was aware of them — twisting, hovering, stretching out thin acid-green spiraling tendrils towards my hair, hesitant and wavering. So slowly they came, in slow and shivering plant-time, stealing towards me, and their scent came with them, honey and pepper and iron, the night-winds of the south, lovers’ skin, the taste of silver, the wasp’s dance, the wet of sex and rot. It was their scent that touched me first, long before the petals, long before the thorns, twining through my dreams like slow roots penetrating soil.

Before they touched me, I knew time. I do not know how long I have slept, since the roses touched me.

Wet silk, yes; wet silk and wet skin and the slide of lovers, softer than touch, softer than flesh. Heavy heads brushing against mine, against my face, petals drifting down to feather my lips and drift away on the breeze that never stops blowing, stirring the roses, making the leaves and the blossoms hiss and murmur and speak. The powder of their pollen dusted me, gold as the sunlight that in this room does not end, and I breathed dust and gold and honey. And after the blossoms, the stems: the bright sucker-tendrils planting at last their fingers in my hair, twining greenly, deeply through the gold, to hold me.

First the blossoms, then the stems and, with the stems, the thorns.

I have dreamed a year, a hundred years, a thousand, in the embrace of thorns, in sunlight, and the endless breeze stirs us together, lifts my hair with the leaves of the roses whose blossoms shiver with my breath.

Once they found the courage to touch me, they grew quickly; the feather-tendril touch in my hair firming to a grasp as all the sinuous snake-bodies of the stems curled close around me, wrapped me in their muscular green-scented touch. The lightest scratch, the thorns; a scratch, a pinprick, a delicate tracery of pain. Until they grew bolder, my twiners, my coilers, my stealthy sunlight creepers and embracers, and for a year or a hundred or a thousand I breathed the summer wind, and the sunlight, and the honey-iron-and-pepper of the blooms, and blood.

Close-coiled, together, we breathed in silence in the sunlit room, red as sunset, golden as the dawn.

When he came, he could not separate us. We had slept too long together, my roses and I; we were not any longer distinct, were not woman and rose, were not sleeper and creeper, blossom and beauty, flesh and thorn. Deep-twined and inseparable we were, in creeper and blood and tight-wrapped sweet-agonized flesh, held fast, caressed, and penetrated. We were a horror to him, as he stood dusty and bleeding as we were in the sunlight of our room, smelling of sweat like the roses, smelling of salt like the roses, like iron and the distant, rotting winter.

Cut, cut, cut: do they say that he woke me with a kiss? Cutting and cutting, that was what he was to me: steel and severance and endings, prying apart flesh and flesh, gouging, drawing out thorn-lovers from the embracing of my skin, driving wakefulness in.

I did not want to wake.

But it is done, and he has done it: done his cutting and his tearing-apart, opened the long cold way through the embracing stems, so that a clear bare path lies wide from my room to the winter. He has trampled them, all the tender delicate greenness of their shoots, and the thorns that pierced me are broken beneath his boots. Now even the light is fading, and the breeze is fitful and smells of snow and mud and wakefulness and endings. He has left me with a wound, a hundred wounds, a thousand, left me as mottled as a rose-stem, and I no longer know if the taste on my lips is my blood or his.

He has left me here, amongst my severed roses, in the broken embrace of my thorns.

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