Jimmy rounded the final corner, ribs aching sullenly but fuck that shit, if he had to stare at the ceiling like a good little boy one more minute he was going to snap. Eagerly he pushed back the simple latch, shoved the door open –it stuck weird- and staggered as a blast of soft, humid air washed over his face.
The end of the hall opened on to…a garden? But there was a roof, all glass squares and plastic sheeting and slats…he could see the sky, a weird aqua through the tint. It was muggy out- in here. Humid. But he couldn't have been taken that far, it was only…what season was it, anyway? Jimmy couldn't remember. Cities didn't really have seasons, but the fourth of July hadn't even geared up with all that patriotic bullshit so maybe spring?
It was certainly spring in here…Pots of wildly bright flowers and trays of earth and tender sprouts clustered along the winding central walkways, tables and shelves scattered at what looked like random all over, lifting bright bursts of a particular color or just more soft green out of the tangled riot at knee level. Jimmy swallowed hard, brushed some hair out of his eyes. This was insane. It was fucking insane. Like real life could come up with something like this? Flowers and shit were like…dandelions. Roses, daises. Tulips, maybe. He'd seen those. But this, this was like in sucky movies, where you know everything's going to turn out fucking perfect anyway so why bother seeing it? Where the happy hero and his stupid friend save the day. Fucking right.
God damn it, he was dreaming and he'd have to fucking wake up and get to the end of the hall all over again. The first time took too long as it was. Jimmy scowled and kicked at a stack of what looked like bags of dirt. Who would bother to put dirt in bags? Didn't it just sort of…exist? Bagging dirt! Next thing he knew they'd be bottling air, wouldn't they? Like those stupid bottles of water idiots bought because god forbid they'd get toxi-whatsists in their precious perfect bodies, the hippy freaks. Pfff.
"There you are."
Jimmy glanced up sharply as Eddy approached, a weird little shovel-thing in one hand, a smear of dirt across one cheek.
"What?' He asked, defensively. "I'm not going back to that stupid room again, man."
Eddy frowned at him vaguely. "What? Oh. No, never mind, just get me one of those bags and follow me, okay? I was just coming to get you- there's so much to do that always seems to need two more hands than you have and now I've actually got them."
"You. Bag. Now." Eddy had already started to head off again. Jimmy eyed one of the bags. It smelled…weird. Not like dirt- thicker and richer. Sort of marshy.
"My ribs hurt." He called. "I don't think I should be carrying shit like this."
"So go back to your room."
Jimmy scowled and picked up one of the bags. It was heavier than it looked. Not so heavy he couldn't carry it but almost…he staggered after the man down the path- through more ridiculous flowers- and was finally given a nod and a vague gesture at a thickly-built splintery wooden table.
Jimmy dropped it with an all-too-audibly-relieved grunt- only idiots thought you couldn't hurt in dreams. He'd heard someone say that once, that all you had to do to know you were in a dream was pinch yourself and it wouldn't hurt- hah, try having one of the ones where there was something growing in your head and the only way was to peel the skin back, inch by agonizing inch, feel the slick tender skin of the empty inside of your skull. Try having one of the one's where the monster actually catches you and say that you know it's a dream because it doesn't hurt. Jimmy figured that you'd just know, if you were in a dream and bothered to think of it, like now- idiots just never bothered. Maybe they were too stupid.
Eddy made a little impatient noise and jolted Jimmy out of his thoughts.
"Perhaps you should go get some more rest." Eddy said, eying him. "You don't look so good."
"Fuck you." Jimmy snapped automatically, leaning gingerly against the table. Took the opportunity to look around more. It would be cool if he remembered this…hah, he could tell Eddy. He could say, you had this big-ass gay glass room outside full of all these beu…full of gay flowers. What kind of dude had a big glass room full of stupid gay flowers?
"What?" Oh, he'd muttered that out loud. "Shut up."
"You asked." Eddy shrugged, slitted the bag of dirt open with a smoothly efficient swipe of the weird little shovel. It was more like a big pointy spoon. Looked like heavy steel, cast for weight and strength- looked like it could chew a file up like fuck and spit it out but damn, would that thing ever hold an edge.
"What's that spoon-thing you have?" Jimmy asked, curious.
"Trowel." Eddy grunted, pulling shallow trays off one of the freestanding shelves, laying them out on the table. "Help me lay these out."
Jimmy awkwardly took a few, tried to spread them out in a rough grid. Eddy nodded approval and flitted off with disturbing speed- the man moved awkwardly but he was quick, and barely brushed the plants he moved through- and before Jimmy had finished arranging the trays around the central flayed bag of smelly dirt Eddy was back, a handful of little white packets in one hand, two chopsticks in another.
"Poppies." He said, tucking the packets on the shelf they'd taken the trays from. "I really should be more organized- I had these over in perennials. Hah."
Jimmy grunted. Poppies? Those red flowers. No, orange. Maybe there were more than one kind. Didn't they make you…sleep or something? That stupid movie. Eddy was…growing…medical doctor. So maybe he was growing drugs or shit. Just his luck.
Oh, yeah. This was a dream. Not a bad one, either. Beat watching the ceiling. Jimmy took the trowel that was handed to him and watched as Eddy scooped double-handfuls of the dirt into the trays, filling each mostly full and roughly smoothing over the top in quickly efficient movements.
"-it's a little late in spring but I figured, probably won't hurt- I moved quite a lot of stock the other day and there's that one spot free now in the east corner that collects all the ambient condensation in the afternoon," Eddy paused to wipe at his forehead, leaving another streak of dirt, smiled gently, continued on. "-The little sprouts won't know the difference and there's always something rather funny about poppies in autumn, they're such a summer flower. Hope… well, those are daffodils, those are already dying. Irony, hmm? But I believe poppies are…"
Eddy glanced up, a strange consideration in his eyes. He wasn't wearing his glasses…It was humid in here, that would make sense. Brown eyes, brown like his hair, brown as the smudges of dirt across his face. "Consolation." Eddy said, turning the word over in his mouth thoughtfully. "Huh." A quick smile, a little twisted, and the man was off again, the bag almost empty. "Take a chopstick and start making furrows, will you?"
"Huh? Oh." Jimmy blinked, took the stick. Watched awkwardly as the man began dragging neat parallel indentations through the dirt, three to a tray and on to the next one. Gingerly tried a row of his own- huh. Easy, though moving his shoulders like that hurt more than he'd like. He finished one tray and started another. Might as well.
"Every flower has a meaning, you know." Eddy said casually. "I figure that maybe everything has a meaning, plants and rocks and people. But that's the way people just are- give meaning to things that didn't have it. You give something a name and it becomes that name, really. And in the begging there was the word and the word was God…" Another quick smile, dark as dirt. "Hah. Names. Man remakes the world every day in his own image…"
Jimmy shifted his weight, fingers tightening on the wooden stick. "That's…what? Bible? You're religious?" Fuck, not another freak- one more bastard ranting about hell and he was going to carve the man a new mouth in his gut.
Eddy laughed gently, almost embarrassed. Ran a hand through damp hair "Not so much in the strict sense, but yeah. You could say that."
Jimmy relaxed a little. "So…God? Jesus?"
"You could say that."
Jimmy grinned bitterly. "I'm going to hell, aren't I?"
Eddy frowned, balling the empty plastic bag up and stuffing it into the shelf. "I don't see how I should be able to tell. You don't seem like such a bad person."
Jimmy grimaced. Well, better than getting some long-ass stupid lecture on shaping up or shipping out. Down. Heh.
Eddy snagged a packet off the shelf and ripped the top open. He began shaking out tiny little flakes –seeds- on to the dirt, along the little ditches they'd dug with the chopsticks. So many of them… Jimmy watched, fascinated despite himself. Why so many of them? Maybe Eddy was going to split them up?
"Not all of them sprout," Eddy explained, doing the creepy mind-reading thing again as he saw Jimmy reach out to pick up one of the tiny little grains. "You have to sow a lot of them. It'll work out. Actually poppies are pretty good, you scatter them pretty thinly. Stretches out the pack."
Another little paper rip, another tray filed. Jimmy watched in silence, growing sleepy with the soft damp warmth of this huge glass room, with the quick repetitive pattern of packets. He fought with a yawn and lost, then glared at Eddy when the man raised an eyebrow.
"So why all these flowers?" Might as well ask. You rarely woke up during explanations…
"I grow them…take them into the city in the morning, drop them out at flower vendors. Bouquets. You know."
"The hours are pretty strange, so I haven't been around as much as I should have been. The vendors need to have enough time to set things up, so my morning pretty much starts at two. That's how I ran into you…" Eddy smiled, shrugged, ripped open a new packet. "I don't need much sleep…."
Didn't need was one thing, Jimmy knew, and didn't want was another. Judging by the dark circles around the man's brown eyes that the thick glass and distracting reflections hid, the man needed more than he wanted. That sleek, expensive looking coffee-maker was probably getting plenty of mileage…
"It's hard, dirty work, but so was being a doctor." Eddy said quietly, watching his own hands move quickly, efficiently, tired brown eyes distant. "There's no blood here. It's a good place, here. No death. No despair- you don't get life in hospitals, you know. You get recovery, if you're lucky and didn't fuck up and the case wasn't hopeless to begin with. Or you get death."
"Flowers die too." Jimmy said. Eddy glanced up, eyes with that same wild intent look.
"They're only flowers."
Jimmy looked away, uncomfortable. "Well, yeah."
Eddy broke his gaze with a short harsh sigh, ran a hand through his hair. "Should have pulled out when I started knowing the morticians by first name, huh? But flowers are better- simple stories. Harmless color. And they fade and die and it's not your fault."
Jimmy glanced down at the chopstick still in his hands, set it down. Resisted the urge to pick up that trowel. "I didn't ask for the fucking sob story." He said bluntly, testing.
Eddy smiled again, that twisted dirt-dark grin. "Well, that's life for you, Jimmy. You don't get what you ask for. Now go wash up and go back to bed, you've had quite enough exercise for today."
"But I'm already asleep, this is a dream."
Eddy paused, surprised. "What?"
Jimmy rolled his eyes. Bastard was clueless even in dreams. "Like some shit like this big glass room shit and these flowers could exist in real life?"
"Well, yes, they could." Eddy said, the surprise giving way to amusement. "You've never seen a greenhouse before?"
"Gee, let me think." Jimmy sneered. "How about no?"
Eddy shrugged. "Well, now you have. And I don't care if this is a dream, go away."