rise back to
Antia came over while Ven was at a ladies' luncheon and Florentin led her to the back, through the outer garden, to the greenhouse. "Just think," he said into her happy silence, "that in the deepest jungles are miles of land that look like this very room."
She absorbed the richness of it and said, "Ooh, I wish I could go back in time and see the whole world covered in flowers."
Florentin smiled and said, "We share the same dream." He was behind her, looking at some petals—trying to figure out if they were edible—when they moved, and the butterfly took off.
Turning back to his guest, he put himself to the task of guessing her age—he could never ask, would have to deduce it from her remarks.
Antia seated herself on a branch and said, "Though if time travel is possible, somebody from the future would have visited us by now."
He said, "Maybe they have, but they're not believed," or he said,
"What's so great about this place? I wouldn't want to visit it," or he said,
"Maybe time travelers aren't human. There are a lot more things alive than you'd think."
And then he added, "Why do you look younger when you put aloe on your skin?"
Antia just laughed and said, "What a silly idea!"
They sat under a small fountain and talked, and clearly she was a child. A flower landed on her lap and Florentin put his face to it, nuzzled through lace and petticoats, outer and inner petals until he could nip the center of the bud. Antia gasped, clenched her hands in his hair.
They took it from there.
The heat of the glass house was sufferable when they undressed, he'd suffered in this room before, he'd suffered a lot. It was pistil and stamen, a sprout shooting upwards, the two of them rooting deep into the ground until they entwined and formed some strange hybrid of scream and moan. There was the wilting and unfolding, and finally only the silence of growth.
all like to be
made of glass
, hiding in the
ing we were
Vanity Florentin found himself, one night, in a chapel, an old one, with a bell and everything. Lying down between the pews, he could see the shadows of the night-guard fall on the stained-glass windows, the shape of a shotgun clearly visible in outline. There was another one on the other side of the building. Santo Nino de Atocha looked back at him, older than the child's face pretended—Florentin was surrounded by these stained-glass people, but could not bring himself to worship them.
What was there to worship? The wealthy, drowning in anthemon, thought themselves gods, immortal, the ones to be praised. They'd gather their flowers, grow younger and compliment each other, while vying for the best looks, the lowest age. Keeping down with the Joneses. But Vanity was slowly learning. The anthemon was there for everyone.
Levitating, shining, bleeding, the stained-glass people watched the shadows with him, until his Cohorts pushed a dumpster downhill into the churchyard gate. The watchmen pursued. In their absence, Florentin stalked from grave to grave, cutting the flowers growing from corpse and rotten coffin, or collecting the tokens that wealthy mourners had left behind—these were the valuables protected by ten rounds of 12-gauge shot in the hands of two men in three eight-hour shifts. He took them all, and went home.