“I know.”

This is a mistake. I know it as soon as I set foot in the place.

It’s beautiful in its way, I suppose. Grey-gold rolling hills; trees still green even in this biting cold. A clear powder-blue sky with the green-and-pink ring of dusk on the horizon. But it’s not where I need to be.

I kneel down and put my hand on the soil. It’s ice-cold. In an hour or two it’ll be covered in frost.

I spread my fingers, pushing aside the tall, dry grass. Absently, I notice it is grass, not dead stalks — every blade still pointed even as it cracks under my fingers.

Between the blades, there’s another kind of leaf: a spiky-eared rosette trying to prick my fingertips. It, too, is dry and dead. At its centre, a silver flower sits.

I pluck it, and on impulse put it in my mouth.

Spiky. The taste is nothing but old straw. I bite down, feeling prickles dig into my gums and tongue. Taste sweet nectar, like the soft essence of honey. This flower has died useless and alone.

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