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Short Story 30

Still Small Voice

Poison ivy grew through the fence they said was impenetrable. It was one of those anomalies no one understood or really tried to understand. There was a general lack of knowledge about when the wall was built or how it came to be, and now this thriving lifeform that managed to penetrate the unknown was an homage to the structure’s existence, a highlight against something perfectly inanimate.

A woman stands before this wall while others walk past. Her eyes are fixed against its cold harsh surface and on the poison ivy growing menacing and beautiful from beneath it. She’s different then all the others, just as this singular plant is different.


She didn’t respond to the voice, her eyes trained on the plant.

“It’s beautiful isn’t it.”

“It will hurt you.” A slender whisp was her voice against the world.

“You think so.”

“Yes, poison ivy can make you very sick.”

“Is it poison ivy?”

Her fingers tensed against the hem of her sleeves, her arms pulled in wrapping tight around her form, “Yes it is.”

“I see.”

A strangled sleeve was raised to the eyes of the woman, quickly she dabbed away a begrudged tear.

“You know, not everyone sees this wall.”

“That’s ridiculous, how can they not see it?”

“Because to them it does not exist, they never built it. To some there are many walls, and their lives are led through a maze so vast it is only possible to live with because they have built it over time and have known only a very short while without it. Some even begin to have theirs constructed before their birth, and many more do not know where walls are to be built and so they construct them haphazardly.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“This wall was built by you.”

“That’s impossible, next thing you know you’ll be saying I am the reason the poison ivy is growing.”

“But you are.”

She wanted to look at the person speaking, but she couldn’t manage to. In response to this stimulus, she wiped her nose unceremoniously on her right sleeve and then bound her arms so tightly about herself, her fists became a pressure against her ribs.

“How did I?”

“You ask, but you still don’t want the answer.”

“Why would I ask if I didn’t?”

“Maybe I should say that you are not ready to understand the answer. You see you built this wall a long time ago and had faith in it though the foundation was poor. Behind this wall is a truth you didn’t want to accept. One that I could explain but you wouldn’t understand. Behind this wall things have been growing, evil things to eat away all the truths and good things. And now it is leaking out from beneath the silty foundation and coming out to the other side.”

“But why?”

“Because you can’t accept what you’ve done without destroying yourself. Every decision made here comes at a cost. Sometimes the exchange is good and sometimes it is bad. The poison ivy is a reflection of the decisions you’ve made.”

“But why didn’t it stay on the other side of the wall all this time and only now show itself?”

“Because there is still an amount of conscience on this side that must be eaten. Because you’re not truly happy with the decision you’ve made. But over time the poison will grow, and if never fought, will eat you up.”

“Why did it begin to grow in the first place?”

“You have the answer to that, you just don’t want it.”

“What do you mean?”

No answer came to this question. They stood side by side watching the poison ivy slowly growing from its place, not understanding or knowing how or why it did so.

“Do you know… what caused it to grow in the first place?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Will you tell me?”

“There is no need for me to, you already know yourself.”

“But I don’t.”

“You do, you just don’t want to know.”

“What do you mean?”

“The truth hurts. It’s easier to pretend you don’t know the answer then to acknowledge it and have to admit you were wrong. Blaming others is also a good treatment. Demanding acceptance, though you have more than enough. It is always everyone else’s fault save your own.”

“Hey, your name… what is it?”

“I don’t have a name here, I was never given one.”

“Why not?”

“Why not indeed.”

“That’s sad.”

“It might be and yet it would have been just as sad if I had one.”

The sense of the person beside her grew more tangible. The feeling that they were close enough to touch and yet just out of reach, the nearness of their voice an illusion of the ear. An illusion causing her body to respond as if they were there.

“Would it?”


“But if you don’t know their name…”

“What, if I didn’t know your name… would that change things?”

“You know my name?”

“Of course, I do, does that surprise you?”

“A little.”

“It shouldn’t.”

The color green of the leaves was highlighted by the rich red thornless stems. The harsh shadow of the wall poured over, but it didn’t stop the plant from growing. It merely put energy behind crawling toward the light.

“You really have no name?”

“One was given to me in another land, but you wouldn’t understand it even if you could hear it, and as I said I was never given one here so I cannot share it with you.”

“Why wouldn’t I be able to hear it, you’re standing right next to me?”

“Because you don’t want to… or should I say didn’t want to.”

“Past tense?”

Her body moved at the sudden absence and found no one there beside her. The owner of the voice now gone, too far away to hear, or see. Her weeping grew to something more tumultuous. She knew she faced only two decisions and the battle to choose swallowed her soul, eclipsing it in grief. In the late breeze, the poison ivy swayed back and forth as her heart burned and so too the desire to remove the wall and her own suffering. To tear out the plant with her own hands even if it hurt. To see that face and hear that voice.

But she knew no matter what she did she would never hear them again while she was here. While she lived. And that she knew too, was her fault.


Thank you so much for reading everyone!!

Prompt Sentence: Poison ivy grew through the fence they said was impenetrable

Word Count: 1088

©DecemberKnight 2023

Special thanks to LuckAlex Turcu from Unsplash for the use of the image!

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