Prompt: sentient temptress peaches
A troublemaker appeared in the night, their favorite time, and brought only one possession. Alas, it was a thing that hated being possessed, that tried with all its might to escape and spread. The troublemaker had other things on their mind. They didn’t care if the village they passed through suffered, so they shook their grasping possession off their hand and left it upon the fertile soil.
It was like a small wrinkled stone, tipped with one green filament. It used that lone filament to burrow into the ground, to explore the cool earth in what was left of the night. It didn’t have too long, for everyone rose early, and that ground was soon covered in footsteps of all sorts: the slapping and slipping of children, the tapping of dainty women off to choir practice, and the clopping of uncooperative goats being dragged to pasture.
Among them were the footsteps of Delilah, a young woman of auburn hair and a distant stare. She didn’t hate the village for its smallness, its narrow streets and minds, but she did feel cramped. Each morning, when rising out of a dream, she flinched because she assumed she would break straight through the ceiling.
She’d read a story like that once, and it had lived in her dreams ever since. In it, a girl much like herself, but perhaps a little more irreverent and negligent, went to a strange land where she popped just about everything laying around into her mouth, and all because little tags told her to. Some made her shrink and some made her grow.
Delilah was on her way to purchase a baguette from the baker, something to tear up with the midday stew, the most recent gigantic dream in her head, when she ran into something. That something was soft, so there was no harm done. It merely bounced out of the way and snapped off its stem. She caught it before it hit the ground.
Delilah cradled it when she realized how delicate it was. A peach! Their land was far too high for peaches to grow; they died when the evening winds came through and occasionally brought light frost. Its patch of yellow practically shined. She saw on it ten different yellows, all from lush plants at the height of their lives and the thickest of their leaves: sunflower petals, pears, buttercups…
Her attention turned to the tree it had fallen from.There were other fruits, not hanging quite as low, but they were apples. How had a peach grown from an apple tree? She smiled to herself. Someone must have just placed it in the branches as a joke. She smiled at the peach and told it she was sorry it had gotten so lost. Then she shined it on her sleeve and prepared for a bite.
“I’m not lost,” the peach said; Delilah’s mouth hung open. “You are lost if you don’t know me and my friends. We’ve been all over the world, and you’ve been… well, it looks like nowhere.” Delilah scurried off to a stone well and sat on the side facing away from the main road.
“You can talk?”
“Only if you can listen, heehee,” the peach giggled. “We grow wherever we want. All trees welcome us. We’re very friendly. How about you take that bite? I’ll show you some things.” Delilah thought about it for a moment. It was just like the girl in the book: something practically begging to be eaten, promising her experience impregnated straight into its juices.
She brought it close to her lips. She would just ask it a few questions first, just whisper them to its fuzz… A hand shot in from the side and snatched the peach away from her. It tossed the fruit down the well and then grabbed Delilah by the scruff of her neck, pulling her off the stone and back to her feet.
“What are you doing!” Madam Causic screamed at the girl. She was a vulture-like woman known for her tailoring skills and the habit of cutting girls’ hair as punishment for rudeness. “Don’t eat that!” She whirled around and shouted at the whole village. “Nobody eat any of those nasty peaches! Temptresses! On the wrong trees! Surely you all must realize! They come from the devil! They seek to tempt us as they tempted Eve!”
“That’s right… We do…” Delilah heard the peach whisper and bubble from the bottom of the well. “And Eve was so happy…”
The town was preparing for their harvest festival, but the mood was soured by the sweet skin of the peaches, showing itself every chance it got. It was outside Delilah’s window in the morning, growing in a maple, always turning its yellow side to face her. It was in the bushes when she bent down to pick up a book she’d dropped, telling her that you could store far more knowledge in flesh than paper.
The villagers picked as many as they found, wearing thick gloves as if they were thorns, and tossed them into ditches, ponds, and fire pits. They simply kept growing, even crowding the regular crops off their stems, forcing them to harvest early. The festival would simply be music when it arrived. The dancing would feel weak and pointless without any bushels to jostle.
Delilah heard their chorus in the evening before the festival, and tried to dig it out of her ears with her fingers. She ended up running far out into the fields, thinking no peach could grow so low to the ground. Surely the bugs and moles would be upon them in minutes. She stopped when she spotted something’s burrow. That spot was safe, thanks to whatever forager lived down there. She sat, stared at the falling sun over the hills, and breathed deeply.
They were just dreams. The big things the peaches kept teasing her about were just lies. She couldn’t help but think about them though. Did thoughts like that go away once you actually used them? Or did they just get worse? Would her whole life be knowledge-seeking if she allowed herself a little of it? Delilah gasped. That was it. She realized a life like that would be grand, always growing in a way that couldn’t be seen. She could walk down the street like anyone else, not draw an eye, and still be a hundred feet tall, and still know the things a hundred people knew.
Something unfurled from the burrow: a vine. It was meant for watermelons, but that day it bore only a peach, perfectly balanced half an inch off the ground. The vine offered it to her. She plucked it and stared into the yellow.
“You will grow,” the peach told her. “Heehee. You will grow in exactly the way you want to!” The sentence was barely out of it before Delilah shoved the fruit into her mouth, taking half of it one bite. Oh, yes. The peaches had been around the world. Their juice had secrets from the shores, the islands, and peaks higher than her village’s that she never knew existed.
It was gone in a second bite, all its knowledge a part of her now. The pit grew a tiny green tendril and wrapped around her finger. It wouldn’t let go until they were somewhere new, until she took it to a fresh land where they would both be called troublemakers.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by SingingKazoozes during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!