“So is that all there is to it?”
“Nope, that’s it. You just have to make sure that whatever flowers you come across are well kept.”
I nod at Navan, showing understanding for my task. Make sure to keep the flowers alive, but if they die, all I have to do is listen and be considerate. Sounds easy enough.
“Oh, let me fix that for you.” Suddenly, Navan kneels down and starts tugging down at the end of my pure white gown. “Just gotta make sure that you’re ready to go,” Navan cheers. With one final tug, he gets back up and starts to go over his own gown. I don’t understand what he’s checking for. Our gowns are made out of simple cloth and go from our necks to our feet, and no matter how much they rub against walls or floors, they never get stained. I could let him know all of this, but I see no point in stopping him from doing what he likes.
“Are you ready to go, Navan?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be, Taris! So, you take the right and I’ll take the left?”
“And remember, don’t let the size of the field intimidate you. It’s okay if you miss some flowers. Our job is to monitor and help those that we’re able to, but the overall responsibility of the flower isn’t in our hands. We’re nothing more than a safety net.”
“A safety net…”
“Exactly! Good luck out there!” Navan lets out a final cheer and starts to make his way out into the infinite field of flowers. I don’t see the need to travel outward though, there are plenty of flowers for us to watch here, but again, I see no point in stopping him. Navan’s joy is infectious and I’d hate to try and take it for no reason.
I take a look to my left and my right and stare into the soft yellow abyss that stares back at me. It’s nothing to be intimidated by, but it makes me wonder if there’s anything else out there other than flowers. I mean, I like flowers, but there has to be more to life than just flowers, right?
The golden abyss puffs up and down with a storm of clouds shielding its surface. I hear that some angels that first arrive here assume that the abyss is going to close in on them and consume them, but apparently, it’s the opposite. It stretches out further and further, whether you’re moving or not.
I think that it has a nice feel to it. Disorganized, yes. But overall, it has a comfy aura to it.
“Hey, Taris! Why haven’t you started moving yet,” Navan calls out to me.
“I’m just fixing my gown!”
“Oh, okay! Don’t be afraid to wander around here! No matter how far you go, you’ll never get lost, okay!?”
“Okay!” No matter how far I go, I’ll never get lost… We’ll see about that.
I turn around and start walking in the opposite direction of Navan, beginning my journey through the flower field. No angel has to go through with this, but they say that it’s good for grounding ourselves with the “reality of life”. Some angels get carried away with the luxury they have here, so they end up taking more than they should, then they end up getting removed entirely.
I’m not sure what the realities of life even are, but it if prevents me from getting sent down under, then I’m all for it. Besides, in between the flowers are soft patches of deep green grass, coated with a soft golden mist. It makes the bottoms of my feet feel so nice, but I have to remember that I have work to do here.
Right now, I’m surrounded by bright yellow lilies that stand strong on their own, not a single one of them showing signs of death. Their color is a perfect match with the golden clouds, running through the sky like a river. I scan the flowers ahead of me, not seeing much to be worried about.
I wonder if there are some angels that go through here and don’t see a single dead flower. That’s probably just my wishful thinking, but this field in front of me is well kept.
“Oh! Hello!” Suddenly, I hear the high-pitched voice. I look up to see a dark skin woman in the same white gown as mine, towering over me with a generous smile.
“I’m sorry if I startled you, but I wanted to know if you just began your journey through the field?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Oh, that’s great! I’m a little surprised that someone as young as you was interested in the first place. I just wanted to tell you that things can get pretty boring out here, but don’t let that call it quits on your journey.” If I’m remembering correctly, we’re able to leave the field at any point in time. All we have to do is kneel and pray, and we’re back to regular ol’ heaven.
“I won’t quit. My friend gave me some advice before he went his own way.”
“Oh, really? Why didn’t he come with you?”
“I wanted to be alone, see things for myself.” For some reason, when I tell her that I want to be alone, her face scrunches up and her lips begin to droop.
“Fair enough, good luck on your journey,” She exclaims, slapping a smile on her face. The woman walks off in her own direction, allowing me to return to my solitude.
Things can get boring out here… I guess I can see why she says that, but I don’t think that I could get sick of this scenery. Maybe was accompanied by some other angels that didn’t see the point in this and left. I’d ask but I don’t want to bother her, it’s her own business to deal with.
I resume my steps, amazed by all of the lilies. It’s amazing that every single one is—
“E—Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you again.” From my side, the woman returns, her smile missing from her face. “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but why do you want to be alone for this?”
“I wanted to be alone because I wanted to see this for myself and form my own thoughts.”
“Oh, okay…” The woman stares me down, looking bothered by something. Maybe even a little frightened. By what? I’m not sure… “Do you mind if I ask you another question?”
“No. Go ahead.”
“Did you choose your angel presence to be your child body, or did you really pass away young? It’s fine if you don’t want to answer.”
“I passed away young.”
“I—I see. I’m sorry for intruding, I was just curious.”
“So, you’re positive that you want to go on this journey alone? I must warn you that even some of the eldest angels don’t come back the same. Some of the world’s struggles are too much for them to handle.”
“I talked about it with my friend. All I have to do is take care of the flowers in need of help. But if a flower dies, all I need to do is listen and be considerate.” Unexpectedly, a smile returns onto the woman’s face.
“That’s the most we can do without interfering in worldly affairs. I wish you luck on your journey. Go as far as you can and don’t give up.”
“I won’t. Good luck to you too.”
I don’t know how long I’ve been walking, but I know it’s been for a good while now. I haven’t seen any other angels since that woman, and I’m still in the same sea of yellow lilies. It makes me question whether I’ve actually been walking forward or not. Just to make sure, I lift up my gown and watch my feet carefully.
“One. Two. One. Two…” I count my steps, watching my feet sink into the soft tufts of grass under me. So, for certain, I’m walking forward. I guess this is what she meant by things can get boring out here. I like the feeling of the tallest lilies brushing against my skin but seeing the lilies lower to the ground makes me feel a bit bad for them. There are some patches with only tall, some with only small, and some with a mix of both. It’s a little annoying to traverse through if I’m being honest.
While watching my footsteps, I catch myself stepping on a small bunch of yellow lilies, my foot completely covering them. I remove my foot as fast as I could, and they all sprout back up like nothing had happened to them. I could’ve sworn that I had killed them, but I guess not. All of their petals are intact as well.
I thought flowers were supposed to be much more sensitive than this…
I look around to see if there are any angels nearby. Once I deem the coast to be clear. I smash my foot on the lilies, dragging it across them as hard as I can before I pick my foot up. Again, they’re completely unscathed. It’s not that I want to hurt the flowers, but it’s odd that my foot didn’t even phase them.
Navan didn’t say anything about these flowers being different from regular ones. All he said to do is take care of them, but I don’t see how’d they need me if they can withstand that. Maybe these flowers are stronger because they’re in heaven… But if they’re so strong, then why do we need to take care of them?
My best guess is that they’re strong because we take care of them but thinking beyond that will make my head hurt.
I kneel down, wanting to put these flowers to the test. I do a quick look, making sure an angel doesn’t sneak up on me, and I get to work.
I set my hands on the petal of one of the lilies and begin to pull. The petal doesn’t come off easily… actually, the petal doesn’t come off at all. I start to put all of my strength into pulling, but not even the flower’s stem bends. I know I’m not that strong, but I can’t pull a flower out of the ground, really?
Before I hurt myself, I put a stop to my antics and stand myself up.
“You can pull as hard as you want. You’re never going to get it out of the ground.”
“O—Oh. Yeah, I’ve figured.” Catching me off guard was a girl the same height as me, her blonde hair gold, and her skin a pale white. I could’ve sworn that no one was watching me…
“There’s no need to be scared. I was just as curious as you on my first visit out here.”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself; I’ve never seen flowers this sturdy before.”
“These flowers run off more than good soil and water. They’re their own special breed.”
“Really? They look like regular lilies to me.”
“Don’t focus on what they are, it’s how durable they can become,” The girl says, nodding her head. “It could be a tree that falls over from the grace of the wind or grassland that stays green throughout the most severe droughts. In here, the foliage is sustained by a force that’s more powerful than any other.”
“And what force would that be?”
“You’ll figure just like I did. I’m assuming that you’re really as young as you look?”
“I see… It’s a shame to see souls like you make it to heaven so early. You never had a chance to understand what living life was even about.”
“I could be upset about it, but it beats burning six feet under.” The girl’s eyes widen as she lets out a strong laugh.
“Ha! I guess you’re right about that. I chose my presence to be myself from my youth in hopes of relating to those who really lost their lives young. I’ve always been told that I’ve been driven by the inner child in me, but there’s something different about you.”
“And what would that be?”
“First off, you chose to come to the flower field. In all my years, I’ve seen very few children enter here, and the ones I did see chose their presence to be that way, or they were with someone older.”
“How’d you know those kids were really kids?”
“I just walked up to them and asked, you’re the first that’s said otherwise to me. But you present yourself in an oddly mature manner. A very stern look, short and simple answers. Even if someone doesn’t tell me they’re really a child, they have certain mannerisms that give them away. The biggest one is rambling; children love to do that.”
“It seems that you do too.”
“Oh! I’m sorry, sometimes I get carried away. Trust me, I’ve lived quite a long life and have been an angel for a good while as well. What would be the sense in an angel lying? I like it here, where the temperature never goes above three-hundred degrees.”
“I don’t think that you’re lying. Don’t worry.”
“Good! I don’t think you’re lying either. And even if you were, your curiosity gave you away anyways.”
“Didn’t you do the same to the flowers on your first visit here?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“You’re saying that you’re older than me, but my curiosity gave me away to be a child. So, you’re saying you have the intelligence of a child?”
“What!? No! What kind of wrap-around was that? Yeah, I’m older but sometimes I need to get my hands dirty to learn. Are you trying to shame me for learning?” After puffing her cheeks, she crosses her arms and pouts her eyebrows at me. There’s no way she isn’t a child. What adults act like this?
“No. I was just drawing a conclusion. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
“Well, I don’t appreciate someone younger than me trying to insult my intelligence. But, I understand stand that you didn’t mean to do so. While you’re out here, make sure to reflect on this conversation. Think before you speak. And if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” She says, her voice dropping into a serious tone. “Keep that advice close to you, or you’ll regret it.
“O—Okay, I will.”
“Great, good luck out there!” Without hesitation, the girl prances away behind me, heading elsewhere into the field.
If I don’t have anything too nice to say, don’t say anything at all…
The reign of the yellow lilies has ended, replaced by towering sunflowers. I didn’t expect the flowers to be so organized with each other. It makes me wonder if they have a way to communicate, but that wouldn’t make sense. Flowers can’t talk, and them being in heaven isn’t going to change that fact.
The sunflowers are so much bigger compared to the lilies. Some lilies are small, some are tall, but all of the sunflowers are taller than the lilies. The wreaths of the sunflowers are massive, the soft brown color glowing with health. Despite the size of the wreath, all of the sunflowers stand tall, the stems having the strength to stand up on their own. I never thought I’d be so captivated by the strength of a flower. Their stems should be hanging low to the ground… but they’re not.
I grab a stem and give it a quick shake, and it reacts like a stone pillar. I can’t but wonder what makes these flowers so strong, and why do I need to listen and watch my words? Flowers can’t talk, and there are no one’s feelings that I have to take into consideration. Navan only explained how to take care of the flowers if they were in need of help. There’s a lot that he didn’t explain, but I guess I’m at fault as well. I could’ve just asked him to elaborate.
But even with his explanation of taking care of the flowers, I’m starting to question what the point of this even is. All the flowers are fine. I know I was told to be patient, but it feels like I’ve been out here for ages now.
I set one knee on the ground, intertwine my fingers, and bow my head onto my hands. I start to think deep thoughts on getting out of the flower field until an overbearing whisper rained into my ears. I open my eyes to see a grayed-out sunflower with wilted petals, struggling to grow out of the ground. Its wreath is as big as the fully grown ones, but its stem doesn’t reach past my knees.
A faint white mist lifts off of the flower. The mist is weak, but there’s enough for me to notice it.
I start to remind myself of the process that Navan went over. I take shuffle my body over to the flower and press my hands on the center of the wreath, close my eyes, and focus on positive thoughts. Navan told me to focus on things like “Life is worth living, despite its hardships.”
I use that thought as a road map and keep my mindset positive. “Life is worth living… life is worth living…” I keep humming those words to myself, trying to put Navan’s advice into practice.
“It wasn’t my fault! I—I was taking good care of her!” A terrifying echo screams inside of my head, knocking me out of my conversation. My eyes catch sight of the wreath, white mist pouring into the air, the petals turning a deep black. I grip the wreath again and start to focus.
“It wasn’t my fault! It wasn’t my fault!” The power of the voice makes the back of my eyes pulse in pain. It makes them want to pop out, but I keep my eyelids tight, positive thoughts fighting against the opposing voice. “I wasn’t able to be there for her. I failed as a father and now she’s gone. I… I don’t have anything else to live for. I should’ve got to her school on time. That’s all I needed to do, and I couldn’t do it. I’ve never been able to do anything right a day in my life. It… really was my fault.”
My hands refuse to get off the flower, but there isn’t a single thought of my own traveling through my mind. It’s only the voice. “No matter how hard I try, I can never make up for the mistakes that I’ve made. I’m sorry, Teresa. The most I can do for you now is give you what you’ve always wanted…”
The sunflower bursts into a large puff of smoke, trapping me in its presence. Suddenly, I see the figure of a person. They’re only a hazy outline of one, but it’s prominent enough for me to tell what it is. The figure gets on their knees and lets out a blood-curdling scream, ripping my eardrums apart. It’s so loud that it’s preventing me from moving. If I dare remove my hands off my ears, then the screams of the figure will rip scars onto my brain for sure.
Just when I think I can’t take anymore, the smoke poofs away, my eyes catching sight of the lush green grass and the single dead sunflower.
It’s not the same as a regular dead sunflower at all. It looks like it’s melted away into a pile of gray and black.
“So, you chose to say nothing… Interesting.” I whip my head around to see the same pale little girl from before. “Why didn’t you say anything,” she asks, her face void of the happiness she carried previously.
“Wh—What do you mean?”
“Why didn’t you say anything? I’m not saying you’re wrong for keeping quiet, I’m just curious as to why.”
“I don’t know. He started to scream at me and I got scared. I was told to listen, so that’s what I did.”
“Was the screaming loud?”
“So, you weren’t warned about how aggressive some can be?”
“No. What do you mean by that?”
“I see… If you were told then you might’ve been scared out of doing this…” The girl scratches her chin, clearly caught deep in thought.
“Wait, are you following me?” Abruptly, the girl grabs my arm and pulls me off the ground with impressive strength.
“No! Everywhere looks the same here. How could I possibly follow anyone around with all of these flowers? It’d be impossible!”
“You went the other way… but now you’re—”
“What was the man yelling at you about?”
“Oh, uh, he was yelling about something not being his fault, then he started talking about how he wasn’t able to be there for someone, and that he failed as a father.”
“Jeez…” The girl whispers, setting her palm on her forehead. “Out of all the flowers you could’ve come across…”
“Out of all the flowers?”
“Okay, long story short, there are some angels that witness the more… positive aspects of death, but there are some that see its ugly side. I really don’t understand why you’re out here alone.”
“I did come here with someone, but we split up once we got here.”
“Wait, why? How old were they?”
“He’s an adult and I expressed that I wanted to be alone for this before we got here. All I was told to do was to take care of any flowers that needed help, but if they died, I just listen and be considerate. So, I listened to the voice. I didn’t think interrupting him would be very considerate.”
“So, he didn’t warn you about the things you can see out here?”
“No. I’ve only heard little snippets from other angels. Things like grounding ourselves with the reality of life. I’m not too sure what that means, but that’s one of the biggest things that stuck to me.”
“Well, you’ve seen it firsthand. As much as I want to explain it to you, there’d be no sense in doing that. You’ll get more out of this if you learn on your own. All I’ll say is that you shouldn’t take your life in heaven for granted. I don’t care if we’ve passed on. As angels, we still have to carry ourselves a certain way, we still have to struggle with our own insecurities. It’s nowhere near as bad as it is down there, but I haven’t felt dead a single second I’ve been here. You’re alive here, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” The girl turns around with an intimidating glare in her eye. I understand that she’s trying to help me, but I can’t help but feel put off by her.
“I’m… alive…?” I don’t know what to make of what she said, but I’ll keep it in mind for now.