March 2007: Copyright © 2007 by Leem
This story may be posted on other sites provided that Leem is identified as the author and that no unauthorised changes are made to the text.
NOTE: I imagine there may be some botanical expert out there who can tell me why the life-cycle I have devised for the giant flowers in this story is totally impossible. If so, I’d be very grateful if that person would please keep quiet about it. Thank you.
Where the bee sucks there suck I
In a cowslip’s bell I lie
Beware of the flowers
’Cause I’m sure they’re gonna get you, yeah
--John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett,
“Beware of the Flowers”
It was an old planet, comfortable and settled in its maturity, rotating lazily to receive the rays of its elderly orange sun. Life had existed on the planet for countless billions of years. The frenetic evolutionary race of its youth had long since been run to a standstill, resulting in a stable, unchanging ecological cycle that nothing could ever disturb.
And then one tiny corner of the planet was disturbed....
Chloris stepped off the ladder and surveyed the damage to her ship. The hyperonic grid was a write-off, the negative ion coupling was badly polarised, and the dissimulator array was going to need extensive recalibration. It looked as if she was going to be stuck here for a while.
Chloris sighed. It was incredible how much damage a handful of stray mu-mesons could do to a ship travelling at metawarp.
At least she had managed to find an inhabitable planet and land safely, although she had shredded a lot of native vegetation during her landing approach, and had bent one of the landing struts so that the ship now tilted at an uncomfortable angle.
Several repairbots were already scurrying over the hull to assess the damage. Ironically, two of the three repairbot storage bins had burned up on re-entry when their heat shields failed. Chloris could only reflect on the designers’ stupidity in putting the repairbots in such a vulnerable place.
One of the repairbots scuttled over to Chloris and intoned in its tinny mechanical voice: “Estimated time until completion of repairs: seventy-seven hours and thirty-six minutes.”
“Seventy-seven hours?” exclaimed Chloris. “That’s more than three days!”
“Correct,” said the repairbot. “Three standard days, five hours and thirty-six minutes. Do you wish repairs commenced?”
“What I wish is that they were finished already,” Chloris muttered.
The repairbot’s logic circuit wrestled with this statement and finally came up with a reply.
“Repairs cannot finish until seventy-seven hours and thirty-six minutes after they commence. Do you wish repairs commenced?”
Chloris sighed. “Of course I wish repairs commenced, you silly little tin crab. How else do you expect me to get off this planet?”
“Planetary departure will not be possible until repairs are completed,” squawked the bot.
“I know that,” sighed Chloris. “I was speaking rhetorically.”
“Rhetorical speech not recognised,” said the bot. “Repair sequence initiated. Estimated time until completion of repairs: seventy-seven hours and thirty-five minutes.”
“All right, all right, just get on with it,” said Chloris. “I don’t need a running commentary. Just let me know when you’re done.”
“Acknowledged,” acknowledged the bot, and went off to join its fellow bots at work.
Chloris shook her head. How anyone could ever describe the repairbots as artificial intelligences was beyond her.
Turning her attention away from the ship and its mechanical repair crew, Chloris surveyed her environment.
She was in a dense forest, part of a vast belt of vegetation that covered more than nine tenths of the planet’s land area. That in itself was not particularly surprising. Forests had evolved on over ninety per cent of all habitable planets, and in many resects this one was no exception. It contained its own close equivalents of grass, bushes, lianas, parasitic flowers, insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in a seemingly endless array of natural variations.
The one thing that set this particular forest apart was that, astonishingly, it contained no trees above ten cubits in height. Most forests were dominated by giant trees, but not this one.
It was a forest of gigantic flowers, billions in number, ranging almost from pole to pole.
The flowers were around forty cubits in height, with petals radiating outward to a diameter of twelve cubits and an outer ring of dark leaves twenty cubits in diameter to catch the precious rays of coppery sunlight. As a result the forest floor was mostly as dark and humid as any rainforest, although Chloris’s ship had created an artificial clearing by knocking down several of the flowers while landing.
Chloris had wondered how such giant flowers were pollinated, but that question was soon answered. Hearing a rustling in the canopy of leaves and petals overhead, she looked up to see a small group of humanoid creatures diving through the gap between two of the giant flower heads. Just when it looked as if they were about to dive head first into the undergrowth they extended broad wings from their backs and swooped gracefully over Chloris’s head before landing a short distance away.
Chloris studied the newcomers. At first glance they might have been mistaken for humans. Certainly their bodies were no more outlandish than some of the voluntary modifications Chloris’s more adventurous friends had undergone.
They had no hair anywhere on their bodies, which were patterned in bright yellow and red from head to foot. They also lacked external ears, and their lack of breasts and external genitalia gave them a distinctly androgynous appearance. No doubt these were all adaptations to reduce air resistance when flying.
For the same reason the humanoids were all naked. They were a little shorter than genome-standard humans but were otherwise very close to the humanoid norm, apart from the leathery wings, patterned like the rest of their bodies, which sprouted from their upper backs. As they landed their wings folded neatly against their backs like waist-length cloaks.
Most of the humanoids had pollen grains clinging to their skin. That explained how the giant flowers were fertilised, but not why. She hadn’t had time to get a good look at the flower heads during her landing. What was the humanoids’ incentive to visit the flowers? Maybe the blossoms produced an appetising nectar or pheromone that attracted the humanoids.
They seemed to be intelligent creatures. At any rate, they had a spoken language. Chloris had heard them chattering to each other from the moment they had first flown within earshot. She was astonished to realise that she might be the first human being for centuries to encounter a new intelligent species.
They were clearly a gregarious species too, judging by their behaviour. Almost as soon as they alighted the humanoids began to caress and nuzzle each other flirtatiously.
Their androgynous appearance was broken when, as if from nowhere, some of them suddenly developed impressive erections. As another adaptation to reduce wind resistance, their penises must have been sheathed in vagina-like cavities during flight. Either that or the humanoids really were androgynes, able to alternate between male and female roles. That would make sense given their lack of sexual dimorphism.
And then pretty much anything went, from gentle petting to full sex, regardless of gender. It seemed that the humanoids regarded sex as a form of everyday social grooming rather than as a private and intimate activity.
A couple of the humanoids spotted Chloris and strolled over to her. Chloris watched them warily, but from what she had seen of their behaviour she didn’t expect any hostility.
They chittered a few words to her and reached out to feel her face and body. It was no different from the way they greeted their own kind, although her clothing seemed to confuse them.
“Sorry, guys,” she said, pushing them away gently. “I’m not in the mood right now.”
The humanoids gave no sign of offence, but simply wandered off to find more willing partners.
Chloris watched their departing buttocks. She had to admit, they were kind of cute. Under other circumstances she might have been tempted to experiment with them....
Chloris returned to the ship. She was still curious about the giant flowers and their relationship to the humanoids, and it seemed as if the only way to get more information was to take a closer look at the flower heads. The ship wouldn’t be in any condition to fly for another seventy-five hours and fifty-one minutes, but there were a few survey probes on board that didn’t seem to have been damaged by the crash.
“Computer, how long will it take to prepare a probe for low-level atmospheric flight?”
“Twelve minutes,” replied the computer.
“Great,” muttered Chloris. “Why couldn’t they have built the ship out of the same material as the probes?”
The computer said, “Do you wish for a comparative materials analysis of the ship and the survey probes?”
Chloris sighed. She was beginning to think that whoever programmed the ship and its repairbots was having a huge laugh at her expense.
“That will not be necessary,” she told the computer curtly. “Just prepare a probe for low-level atmospheric flight.”
“Acknowledged. Probe will be ready for launch -”
“- in twelve minutes, yes. Thank you.”
Chloris sighed. The stupid machine couldn’t even understand sarcasm.
Thirteen minutes later Chloris was watching the probe’s holo-projection as it flew through the flower canopy. A number of humanoids circled the probe warily, but soon satisfied themselves that the strange object was not hostile and left it alone. That was just as well. If they had decided it was hostile they might have attacked and damaged it.
Chloris flew the probe over the canopy and studied the flowers in detail. The centre of each flower was a circular opening about seven cubits wide. To Chloris’s astonishment, lying supine at the centre of each flower was what appeared to be a humanoid with its limbs and wings outstretched.
At first Chloris thought the figures might actually be humanoids, resting in the centre of each blossom, but none of them moved in the slightest. Their wings didn’t even twitch. They looked as if they were part of the flowers themselves.
Before long Chloris saw a real humanoid land in the centre of a flower. Without hesitation the humanoid embraced the motionless figure and began moving rhythmically against it. Very soon more humanoids were doing the same in other flowers.
They were mating with the immobile humanoid-figures.
Chloris remembered reading about certain varieties of orchid that would entice pollinating insects by producing a structure with the shape and scent of a female insect. Male insects would be so convinced by the plant’s mockery that each would enthusiastically mate with several of the fake females, unwittingly picking up and transferring pollen from flower to flower in the process.
Obviously something similar was going on here, but on a much grander scale. Billions of flowers, pollinated by maybe tens of billions of humanoids.
While Chloris watched the spectacle her hands absently moved to her crotch and began stroking rhythmically....
Sure enough, after a few minutes the humanoids began to writhe in orgasms, and the flowers simultaneously released clouds of pollen that settled on their bodies and wings. At that very moment ten million humanoids might be having orgasms with flowers, and Chloris found herself coming in sympathy with all of them.
A little later, Chloris moved the probe inside one of the flowers so that she could study its mock humanoid in detail. It was supported by a thick stalk, perhaps two cubits long and one third of a cubit thick, that ran from the base of the flower to the centre of the its back. Smaller tendrils supported its wrists, ankles and wingtips.
Chloris flew the probe around the figure so that she could study it in detail. Apart from its complete immobility she would have sworn that it was a living, breathing humanoid. Even its eyes appeared capable of vision. It seemed that billions of years of evolution had led the flowers to produce the perfect lure for their unsuspecting pollinators.
A shadow passed across the picture as a real humanoid hovered over the flower. Chloris set the probe down at the edge of the flower so that she could watch the humanoid mating with the lure.
“Computer, are you recording all this?” she said.
“Confirmed,” said the computer.
“Good,” sighed Chloris, stroking herself once more.
“Estimated time until completion of repairs: forty-nine hours and forty-three minutes,” squawked the repairbot. “You will doubtless be pleased to know that repairs are proceeding according to schedule.”
“Ecstatic,” Chloris sighed.
Being cooped up in the ship was driving her crazy. She had been forced to bring the probe back after a few hours when its fuel began to run low, but she had watched and masturbated to its erotic recordings until even that had started to become tedious.
Chloris sighed and activated the external cameras. There were still quite a few humanoids in the vicinity, eating, sleeping or mating, none of them paying much attention to Chloris’s ship. One or two of them had grown curious about the repairbots, but the ’bots had given them small electric shocks to discourage them and they hadn’t approached them again.
Chloris sighed again. She was beginning to think there was only one way to relieve her frustrations.
“Computer,” she enquired, “are the flying humanoids’ bodily fluids harmful or allergenic to humans in any way, or vice versa?”
“The probability of such is less than one tenth of one percent,” replied the computer. “The flying humanoids’ biochemistry appears fully compatible with human biochemistry.”
“So in theory,” said Chloris, “a human could safely... have sex... with a humanoid?”
“In theory,” agreed the computer. “There appear to be no major anatomical impediments to sexual intercourse between the two species. Of course, the probability of mutual fertility is vanishingly small.”
“Thank you,” muttered Chloris.
Two minutes later Chloris was standing outside, feeling the warm, humid air on her naked skin.
A humanoid wandered over and began to fondle her body, and this time she repaid the compliment.
The humanoid spent a great deal of time examining Chloris’s prominent breasts, her ears, her hair - all of it - and her wingless back. Chloris in turn explored the humanoid’s smooth chest, hairless head, leathery wings and featureless crotch, until suddenly that crotch opened and a long, thick erection emerged.
Chloris spent some time stroking and squeezing it, before guiding it toward her own crotch.
The humanoid needed no further encouragement to fondle and caress her body excitedly with his arms and wings, while thrusting rapidly into her.
Ohh, yes, thought Chloris. Yes, yes, yes.
With the humanoids’ help she was really going to enjoy the next forty-nine and a half hours.
Her alien lover gave her three fantastic orgasms and then strolled away.
While she lay euphoric in the undergrowth another humanoid approached her and began to lick her groin. Chloris decided the least she could do was to repay the compliment. This time the humanoid’s genital opening did not disgorge an erection. It felt - and tasted - like a vagina. That didn’t settle the question of whether the humanoids were hermaphrodites, but this one was definitely female - at least for the moment.
Chloris spent most of the next two days in the company of the humanoids, and in those two days she grew to like them a lot. They were friendly, sexy and incredibly energetic. They were willing to try anything Chloris could think of, and when she ran out of ideas they were more than happy to demonstrate some ideas of their own.
Her only regret was that she couldn’t fly with them. Her body was heavier than a humanoid’s and none of them was strong enough to lift her, though several of them tried.
She watched enviously as humanoid couples and threesomes performed aerial sexual ballets, swooping and diving between the thick flower stems while gasping and moaning in ecstasy. They were so superbly adapted for flight that they never once had any accidents despite all of their orgasmic distractions.
Chloris saw many of the humanoids ascending through the canopy, returning later covered in pollen. It was odd that the humanoids should want to have sex with the motionless floral decoys when they could have real living partners instead, but it seemed that they all did so from time to time.
Obviously this arrangement suited the plants and had evidently been going on for millions or even billions of years, but Chloris couldn’t help wondering what the attraction was for the humanoids. Intelligent as they were, they surely could not be so naïve as to think the decoys were real. Perhaps the plants emitted a pheromone that attracted them.
While she was mulling this over, her latest partner brought her some fruit (the computer had assured Chloris that local food was safe for humans), and they sat beneath one of the giant flowers eating and cuddling and licking the juice off of each other’s bodies.
Just as they were about to take things to a more intimate level a repairbot scurried over and squawked loudly:
“Repairs are proceeding on schedule and will be complete within two hours.”
Chloris’s partner started and leapt backward several cubits in alarm, using its wings for extra lift. The humanoids had learned to tolerate the repairbots’ occasional appearances - they probably thought the ’bots were some kind of big insect - but were still quite wary of them.
“Thank you,” growled Chloris. “Thank you so very much. Now get back to the ship and don’t disturb me again, you stupid passion-killer.”
The repairbot made some clicking noises as if considering Chloris’s reply, then said: “I sense disapproval in your words. If you have any complaints about your ship’s repairbot crew you may contact our manufacturer, Advanced Service Function Robotics, via the company’s mindweb site. All messages will be treated in confidence.”
“Thank you for the information,” said Chloris, through gritted teeth. “Now please return to the ship.”
“Acknowledged,” said the ’bot, and scuttled away through the undergrowth.
Chloris sighed. Just when she had grown to like the place, she only had two hours left on this planet.
Then again... maybe not.
There was no reason she had to leave the minute the repairs were done. She was perfectly capable of surviving on this planet for as long as she liked. The environment was pleasant and the natives were delightful.
The more she considered the idea the more she liked it. Why hurry back to her boring job when she could stay here for a while? This planet was paradise without a serpent (literally - there were no venomous reptiles on the planet).
She could spend all her days eating the local fruit and vegetables, bathing in the warm streams, and making love to as many willing partners as she chose. Meanwhile the ship, with all of its equipment, supplies and medical facilities, would still be there in case she needed it.
There was no reason why she couldn’t stay for a few months, or a few years. In fact, she might just decide to spend the rest of her life here.
Once it was certain the repairbot was gone Chloris’s partner returned to her, keeping a wary eye on the bushes as if it thought the ’bot might leap out from them.
“It’s all right,” she told the humanoid, gently stroking the side of its torso. “No more big bugs around here. It’s just you and me now.”
Of course the humanoid could not understand Chloris’s words, but it seemed to find her tone reassuring.
A sudden gleam came into the humanoid’s eyes. Taking Chloris by the hand it led her through the bushes to a clearing where a giant flower had fallen, perhaps twelve centuries earlier. In the clearing were several young flowers, no more than twenty-five cubits tall, their leaf crowns a mere fifteen cubits wide and their petals just eight cubits across.
To Chloris’s surprise some of the flowers were not standing upright. Their stalks were bent in a horizontal S-shape, holding their heads only a few cubits above the ground. She wondered if the bent flowers might be diseased or deformed, but she suspected there was a reason for their odd positions. At any rate, the bent stalks would make it possible to climb up and look inside a flower head with her own eyes.
Anyway, that could wait. Her partner was led Chloris down to the stream at the centre of the clearing, where they happily splashed and soaked and had more fantastic sex.
One of the things Chloris had come to like about the humanoids was that there was no way to tell which sex they were (or assuming they were hermaphrodites, which sex they would choose to be) until she was already intimate with them. It turned out that this one was female - at least, right now - and really enjoyed finger-play.
Some time after her fourth orgasm, when she was feeling very sleepy and euphoric, Chloris seemed to notice a faint yellow mist floating over the clearing. Languidly turning to her partner, she saw that she was also looking around as if puzzled by the phenomenon.
At first the mist seemed quite thin, but then a breeze began to blow in their direction and they found themselves engulfed in yellow vapour.
Whatever it was, it was not poisonous or cloying. Its scent was intoxicating, and Chloris found herself becoming even more light-headed.
Without knowing why, Chloris stood up. Her bladder was full, so she walked downstream to relieve herself, noticing absently that her partner was doing the same. Then she found herself compelled to walk through the mist toward the flowers with the bent stalks. It was now obvious that the flowers were the source of the mist.
She had wanted to take a look inside the flowers. Now she felt an irresistible compulsion to do so. Her companion was already flying into one of the blossoms.
Lacking wings, Chloris was at a disadvantage, but with an effort she was able to pull herself up onto one of the tough, leathery leaves that surrounded another of the flowers and then clamber over its petals to look at its interior.
The centre of the young flower was just four cubits across. Chloris was surprised to see that although it contained a stalk at its centre, the stalk did not hold a humanoid-decoy.
If her brain had not been so fuddled by the flowers’ pheromonal mist, she might have understood the reason for that... but her compulsion to explore the flower was stronger than ever now.
Chloris lowered herself into the heart of the flower. The scent of its pheromones was irresistibly seductive, and she leaned back against the central stalk, feeling tendrils gently caressing her arms and legs.
She could feel the stalk pressing against her lower spine. If she hadn’t known better, she would have sworn it was burrowing into her spine.
Then she passed out.
Time passed. The flower slowly raised itself back to a vertical position and waited. Chloris might have been unconscious for a week or a year. Flowers have no need for haste. And then, instantly, she was awake.
It took her a moment to remember where she was and what had happened.
She was lying on her back in the centre of the flower, her back supported by the central stalk and her outstretched limbs supported by narrower tendrils.
A horrible suspicion began to dawn on her.
A shadow crossed the plant as a humanoid approached it. The downdraught from its wings caressed her body as it momentarily hovered over her.
She tried to stand up.
She couldn’t stand up. She couldn’t do anything. Her muscles would not respond to her commands.
She was paralysed. She could not twitch a finger. Her body had become as motionless and inanimate as the humanoid decoys she had seen in the mature flowers.
The humanoid landed on top of her and began to stroke her back and buttocks. She couldn’t do anything to prevent it.
She was getting horny and moist in spite of herself. She couldn’t prevent that either.
Too late, far too late, she understood the secret of the flowers’ pollination.
Unlike terrestrial orchids, the giant flowers did not make decoys for the humanoids. They simply lured some of the humanoids with pheromones and converted them into decoys, so that the other humanoids would have sex with them and so ensure the plants’ pollination.
And now the flower had converted her into a decoy as well. Her body was a little different from the humanoids’, but the flower didn’t seem to mind a bit, and neither did the humanoid that was having sex with her.
Chloris tried desperately to move, but it was futile. The flower’s stalk was connected to her bloodstream and her spinal chord. Her body had become a mere appendage to the flower.
The flowers had been doing this for billions of years. Time enough for evolution to ensure that no decoy could ever escape.
Maybe if her body’s chemistry had been a bit different from the humanoids’ the flower would not have been able to entrap her so thoroughly. But she remembered the computer telling her that the humanoids’ biochemistry was fully compatible with human biochemistry.
Oh, lucky, lucky me, she thought.
Just then she discovered that the humanoid was male. As it thrust its long, thick erection into her, waves of pleasure began washing over Chloris’s rigid body.
Chloris supposed she shouldn’t blame the humanoid. It was only doing what billions of its species had been doing for billions of years. And after all, what it was doing to her now was no different from what the humanoids had been doing with her before - the only difference as far as either of them was concerned was that she could no longer help them to do it.
When she thought of all the countless billions of humanoids, over the course of billions of years, who must have been paralysed and forced to endure helpless sex, Chloris’s mind reeled. It was sexual slavery and bondage on a gargantuan scale.
And now she was a part of it.
There was no escape. She was going to remain the flower’s paralysed sex slave and never see her homeworld again.
As the humanoid continued to copulate with her Chloris’s ecstasy grew and grew. It seemed that the flower was determined to make her enjoy this whether she wanted it or not. And why not? The better the sex was for her visitor, the better the flower’s chance of getting pollinated, so the flower might as well share some of the reward with its captive/appendage.
She couldn’t help wondering what the humanoids thought about copulating with decoys. Maybe they were just lured to the flowers by pheromones and couldn’t control their responses.
On the other hand, perhaps they did understand that the decoys were living beings that were trapped, and had sex with them out of sympathy. By human standards it was an odd sort of sympathy, but this was an alien world.
Chloris’s physical pleasure was growing almost unbearable. The more she tried to resist, the more the plant stimulated her brain’s pleasure centre.
Eventually the humanoid stiffened, his wings shivered, and Chloris felt his hot semen pouring into her.
At that moment every nerve in Chloris’s body exploded into ecstasy, as a cloud of pollen enveloped her and the humanoid.
She couldn’t writhe. She couldn’t moan. She could barely even think.
She had never believed the human body could experience such intense pleasure, and it went on... and on... and on... and on....
Then she realised: it wasn’t her body that was experiencing it. It was the flower’s!
The flowers were sentient beings. They couldn’t move or speak, but they could sense the world around them and even communicate with one another through nerve endings in their roots and through exchanges of pheromones.
Because the flowers were immobile they had no qualms about immobilising humanoids to act as decoys for other humanoids. The humanoids’ copulation with the decoys stimulated the flowers to release pollen, and when they did the flowers experienced their own equivalent of an orgasm.
And because the nervous system of each flower’s decoy was connected to the flower’s nervous systems through its supporting stems, the decoy could not help but experience the flower’s orgasms in all of their inhuman intensity.
All of these things Chloris understood because the flower understood them. She was a part of the flower now. She sensed that the flower was pleased with her. Her exotic body would lure plenty of humanoids to pollinate it, and it would happily reward her by sharing all of its pleasure with her.
Chloris’s mind was still reeling from the first orgasm. She hoped she would at least have a respite before the next. But very soon another humanoid settled on her body and began fondling her exotic human breasts, and she felt the flower’s thrill of anticipation.
Oh, sweet goddess, she thought, as the humanoid began to stroke her moist clitoris as well, how long will I be forced to endure this?
The planet turned slowly beneath its benign orange sun. The computer on Chloris’s ship kept its systems functioning in anticipation of her return, never suspecting that she never would.
Chloris, helpless, inanimate and forced to endure an endless succession of super-orgasms, thought she might go mad... but she did not. Slowly and subtly the flower adjusted the chemistry of Chloris’s brain, so that in time she was able not only to endure but to positively enjoy the eruptions of ecstasy that the flower gave her.
In time Chloris came to realise something else. The flower loved her, just as it loved all of the humanoids that came to visit her. Its love was warm and protective and all-embracing, and Chloris could not help but return it with all her heart.
She had thought that she would enjoy staying on this planet and making love to the humanoids. Even though things had not worked out quite the way she had imagined, she did have a comfortable home and an endless succession of lovers. In the end she couldn’t imagine anything she could possibly want instead.
There was only one thing that caused her a small twinge of anxiety. Sooner or later one of the humanoids would succeed in fertilising the flower, and then she would no longer be needed. Perhaps at that point she would simply shrivel up and blow away.
In fact she need not have worried. The flower was still young - a mere two thousand years or so - and so far all of its encounters with humanoids were just tryouts.
Eventually, it was true, the flower would be fertilised, but that would not happen for another fifteen to twenty thousand years yet.
At that time the genetic material in the pollen would combine with its own, and she would find herself taking part in a process that had already been played out by billions of flowers and their frozen decoys.
The flower would create a seed - using Chloris’s body.
Chloris would find her body shrinking and stiffening until it became a hard, woody nut less than half a cubit long. Soon afterward the stalk holding her would slowly retract like a spring, and then suddenly recoil, flinging her hundreds of cubits through the canopy and into the undergrowth.
There she would be trampled into the soil by animals and humanoids, watered by rain and fertilised by dung - an undignified fate by human standards, but necessary for the flowers’ growth cycle - and eventually she would find herself sprouting roots and a stalk.
She would be a new flower.
That was the flowers’ secret. Every flower contained the consciousness of its parent’s decoy, and all of its predecessors’ decoys, stretching back for billions of years. It was a kind of immortality, which Chloris would also share.
Eventually, after two thousand years of growth, the Chloris-flower would be ready to release her pheromones and attract a humanoid to her to become her paralysed decoy and share her floral orgasms for thousands of years.
And so the cycle would continue, while Chloris’s ship was slowly buried by the forest and the planet turned languidly beneath its orange sun, and its stable, unchanging ecological cycle endured for a trillion years.
Note on the giant flowers
(Excerpt from a report to the Academy)
Each of the giant flowers when mature comprises a thick woody stem, or trunk, some four or five cubits in diameter, surmounted at a height of approximately forty cubits by a flower head slightly wider than the stem. This is surrounded by a ring of petals twelve cubits in diameter, above and partly supported by a ring of broad leaves twenty cubits in diameter.
The centre of each flower head contains a structure closely resembling the body of one of the local flying humanoids, approximately three and one-half cubits in length. These structures act as sexual lures or decoys for the humanoids, which mate with the decoys in several flowers and so act as pollinators. Similar tactics are used by certain varieties of orchid on Earth, Forzan, Querm, and several other planets.
Some observers have speculated that the decoy structures may in fact be the living, paralysed bodies of real humanoids that are somehow lured into the flowers. We have found no evidence to support this claim, and certainly none to support rumours that one of the decoys has been observed to have human characteristics.
Since the planet has no exploitable resources it has been decided that there shall be no further interference in its development. However, a number of remote probes will be left on the planet’s surface to continue studying its ecology.
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