The Red Water Lily

At age 12 I found a red water lily floating in the canal close to my house. The colours were rich and vibrant, the deepest shade of vermilion I’d ever come across in nature. It was so vivid that it seemed unnaturally so, like someone had manufactured it in a lab and then placed it there for all the enjoy.

I passed that red water lily every day of the summer holidays. As the days wore on, so did my fascination with it. I found myself drawn to it, unable to take my eyes off it. Under my gaze the flower seemed to pulse with life, its petals deepening so that they appeared black until I blinked and suddenly they were red again. It was the only red lily in the entire canal. Unique. Special. Mine.

I spent my nights studying horticulture. Nowhere could I find anything about the red water lily, but I learnt all I could about the environments they grew in, what seasons they bloomed in, even how to grow my own. Our backyard had a tiny pond. If I could somehow steal the lily and transplant it into my own yard, it could be mine and mine alone. Forever.

Two weeks before summer ended I took the plunge, literally. I followed the lily’s roots down, careful not to disturb them for fear I might harm the plant. I knew they would be embedded in the canal floor, and if I could uproot them gently, the flower would be mine. The canal was deeper than I expected, and as my hands touched the bottom, I realised the roots weren’t buried there, but in the side. No big deal. I wrapped my hand around them, braced against the wall, and pulled.

Nothing.

I yanked harder. The roots were embedded deep. I scratched at the dirt, but rather than dislodging it, my fingers went through it. It wasn’t dirt. It was a hemp. A sack, to be exact, lodged in the canal wall. I let go of the roots and tore it open.

I screamed, water filling my nose and mouth and lungs. A gaunt white face stared back at me. The lily’s roots were buried deep in its neck.

The murder was never solved, and I never got my flower. I couldn’t stop thinking about it though. I dreamt about it, night after night, for years. It consumed me. The flower died once the body was removed, and its beauty with it.

I’ve spent my life trying to figure out how the flower got its unique colour. How the roots embedded themselves in the body, how they drew nutrients from it. I haven’t yet replicated the process, but I’ll keep trying. I discovered one vital piece of information from the police reports that I didn’t know as a child. The missing piece that’s kept me from my goal.

The body wasn’t dead when they were buried in the canal wall.

One more try. Nobody will notice she’s gone.

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