For a while, Simon thought he was a tortoise too. He was green, and pretty, and liked to bask in the sun. But there was no denying the obvious: even the tortoise’s lethargic pace was faster than Simon could go.
Sometimes he scrunched his brow and closed his eyes and tried his very hardest to run. And when he opened his eyes he could almost believe – yes, yes, just maybe – that he’d moved a few inches toward that orange rock over there. But why, then, did he never arrive?
“What am I, then?” he sighed into the hot afternoon air.
“You’re a plant, silly,” replied the tortoise.
“How do you know?” asked a perplexed Simon.
“Well, when’s the last time you ate anything?”
Simon shrugged his spiky limbs. He didn’t really need to eat. He just needed to feel the warmth on his back.
Deep within his core, Simon could feel the cold fingers of a new emotion starting to writhe and rise. If he had been a better-read cactus, maybe a cactus who’d read Shelley or Dickens, or a cactus who’d gone to Arizona Junior High, he might’ve had the right words to articulate the feeling. He looked down to the tortoise he’d always thought to be his sister. He looked to the rock he could never crawl to. He felt the sun try its hardest to combat the growing chill within, but, no, there it was: loneliness.
“This is rubbish.”
The tortoise gave Simon a wee nudge with her nose.
“Why? What’s wrong with being a plant?”
But who can really say why they feel the way they do? Could Simon know the source of his inner chill? No, he was a simple cactus; he grabbed the first logical reason that came to mind, and stuffed it like an ill-fitting pacifier into the jaws of his emotions.
“Because I can’t move! How am I supposed to see anything?”
And with that, the tortoise wandered away.
Simon spent a night alone, contemplating why the tortoise had left. Had she, too, been shocked to find that he wasn’t a tortoise? That they weren’t compatriots or siblings or anything? That all they had in common was their green hue? Simon wasn’t sure they even had that in common anymore; the way he felt could only be described as blue.
In the morning, the tortoise returned with a leaf.
“Look! The prettiest leaf I could find!”
And then she left again. Simon spent another night alone, this time contemplating the leaf. He was sad when the sun went down and impatient for it to rise again: every moment of sunlight was a new chance for him to look at the strange and frail treasure the tortoise had brought.
The next day, she brought a berry.
The day after that, a twig.
Within a fortnight, Simon was surrounded by stones, leaves, bugs, shells, and petals. And finally, on the last day, the tortoise waddled up to the orange rock Simon had spent so long staring at. With a herculean effort, the little tortoise pushed and pushed the rock until it rolled all the way to Simon.
Simon was no less perplexed by the tortoise than he was mesmerized by his new treasures.
“…they’re… so beautiful…”
“I know! Now you’ve seen all the things! See, it’s okay that you can’t move.”
And Simon felt the chill melt away. The tortoise was his sister after all.
Gabriel Munro is a writer and composer living in Toronto. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Blank Spaces Magazine, Haunted MTL, and Sisyphus Quarterly. He recently received a Radio Broadcasting Diploma and Academic Achievement Award from Humber College. Gabriel is also the Director of Communications for Amarok Society, where he works to ensure the accessibility of education overseas.