Possibilities – a short story

The campus was unusually busy, Levi noted as he fought his way over to the maths building. He had almost reached the large double doors as someone caught his sleeve. He turned sharply and made to jerk his arm away, but his breath died in his throat.
“Guess who,” whispered a familiar voice.
“Shiloh,” he gasped. “You can’t be here.” She chuckled lazily and pulled him closer. He could smell the minty scent of her chewing gum and a hint of jasmine perfume.
“Why not?” She batted her eyelashes at him coquettishly. “I’m just another boring student on the boring campus of a boring uni.” Levi could feel beads of nervous sweat breaking out on his forehead, thankfully obscured by his curly fringe.
“Well, technically…” He began, but seemed to think better of it. “Look, Shiloh, it’s not that it’s not lovely to see you, it really is, and I’m so glad you’re keeping well, but, I, uh, I really have to go.” He gestured vaguely towards the maths department with his free arm. “I’m running a bit late, actually, so uh,” Shiloh cut him off.
“Run away with me.” Levi’s mouth gaped, and he stopped his half-hearted effort to remove his sleeve from her clutches.
“What?”
“You heard me. Run away with me. I don’t mean forever, so you don’t need to look at me like that. I mean today. Now. Blow off your lecture – I mean, come on. I bet you’ve memorised the stuff already anyway. I want it just to be us this afternoon; I want us to forget about all that shit. The past can go fuck itself. We could do anything, Levi. Please?” Shiloh’s eyes were imploring, looking up at him from under a fringe of dark lashes. God, he’d missed her. But he couldn’t forget. Before he could formulate a response, she was speaking again. Her words were tumbling out like a waterfall, fevered and intense as if a dam had been broken. As if this were her last chance and she feared that it would be cut off prematurely, like an amputated limb.

“Anything, Levi. It could be like old times. Remember that? Nothing could stop us. Absolutely fucking nothing. The possibilities are endless –” She pulled his sleeve harder, urging him to look at her. “Let’s go to the train station, get on the first one to arrive. We don’t even need to know the destination – just get on and ride. Or fuck it, we could go to the airport and get a plane to anywhere. Figure it out from there.” Pausing for breath, she looked up at him with an expression of wild hope. Truthfully, he thought, her eyes looked slightly crazed. “It doesn’t have to be big, Levi, if you don’t want it to be. We could go to that coffee shop you like, you know, the one with the taxidermy and the hot chocolates with enough marshmallows to give you diabetes? Or we could spend the whole afternoon in the park we found when you were in first year. I have a bottle of whiskey in my car, we could drink that and watch the leaves drop off the trees. Just talk. It’s been ages, Levi. I know you want this too.”

He did. Oh God, of course he did. But he couldn’t. Not with her, not again. It would kill him. Her bright blue eyes bore into his, challenging him. She was close enough for him to see the faint freckles on her nose mapped out like constellations. She was everything, both too much and not enough, and he had to turn her down. The moment stretched out for what seemed like millennia, until the clock tower shattered it.

“I’m so sorry,” Levi choked past unwilling lips. “I can’t – not again.” Ripping his arm away, he turned away and trudged up the steps. She didn’t try to stop him.

Daily Prompt: Or

Vegetal

Plants are fundamental to our existence on Earth. They produce the oxygen we breathe, provide the basis of our entire food chain and regulate our water cycle. However, for something so fundamental, they can be incredibly deadly.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of poisonous plants in the world. On average, 2.4% of the US population is exposed to poisonous plants every year. In 2007, the Guinness World Records awarded the title of ‘World’s Most Poisonous Plant’ to the castor plant, Ricinus communis. It is a flowering plant in the spurge family, and it is indigenous to the south-eastern Mediterranean, Eastern Africa and India. It contains the toxin ricin, which when ingested can cause nausea, diarrhoea, tachycardia and seizures – eventually culminating in death. A dose as small as five beans can be fatal to an adult, and when purified, a dose as small as a few grains of table salt could be enough to kill. Death usually occurs within three to five days.

Despite its toxicity, the castor oil plant is commonplace around the world. Although it is only indigenous to more tropical climates, it has been planted extensively as a decorative plant in parks and other public areas throughout the world. However, this is no reason to worry. If the seeds are consumed whole, they may pass through the digestive tract without releasing any of the toxin. The by-product of the plant, the castor oil itself, is not poisonous. It has a wide variety of uses and has been used by humans throughout history. In fact, use of the castor oil plant dates back to 4000BC and the Ancient Egyptians, and castor beans are often used in order to make jewellery such as bracelets and necklaces to this day.

This is just a single example of one poisonous plant among many, many hundreds of others. However, it serves to emphasise the point that although plants are a major part of the reason that our existence is possible, they are not always completely beneficial.

Image credit: https://smallhousebiggarden.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/20140425_121225.jpg

Daily Prompt: Vegetal

‘Tricky’

Tricky: adjective
1. (Of a task, problem, etc.) requiring care and skill because it is difficult or awkward. 
2. Deceitful or crafty.

Having recently started my second year of uni, I find the word ‘tricky’ to be particularly pertinent. Our first module has just ended in a fevered flurry of hand-ins – one especially hectic week required the completion of two lab reports, coursework and maths exercises, along with four group and two individual essays. However, this is not a bad thing. I flourish on ‘tricky’. Yes, it may seem overwhelming on the face of it – deadlines loom over your head like storm clouds on a sunny summer day – but that feeling of satisfaction, of sheer accomplishment, when you complete it all. It’s unparalleled. Those neat little to-do-list ticks, the ritualistic closure of all the tabs in your internet browser. Challenges are what I live for.

Everyone has a bit of trickiness in their lives, and what people find ‘tricky’ is unique and can take many, many forms. Fights with siblings, mental health, choosing a flavour of yoghurt – there is a broad spectrum of ‘tricky’. The term can be both incredibly banal or very severe, depending on context. That’s the beauty of it. In fact, it’s the presence of ‘tricky’ makes those small victories that much sweeter. After all, in the words of Moliere: ‘the greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.’