Wednesday, April 7, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - F is for Feverfew (Also, IWSG)

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABC, D, E.

My answer to the April monthly IWSG question is at the bottom of the post. Thanks for visiting!

Holly rubbed her stiff neck. Hours of bending over the table garbling plants each day left her muscles tight from her chest to the top of her head. The pain was dizzying and she tried to hide her lack of motivation. How was Sybil able to do this work? 

    She watched the old lady moving about like a well-oiled machine. She gathered supplies and prepared a work surface near the large pot of steeping petals from a few days before. A pile of dried fruit waited nearby and some fresh citrus. She showed Holly how to use a special tool to remove the bright color from the outside of the peel. Holly’s shoulders tightened as she completed the task. She twisted her head and rolled it from side to side trying to release the tight muscles.

    Sybil peeled and sliced the citrus and started adding the ingredients to the three-day-old dandelion petal tea. Holly still was not sure what kind of fruit-infused tea required three-quarters of a turn to steep. Then she saw Sybil pour in sugar and another powdered substance. 

    Holly’s eyes widened with shock and fear at the same time. Sybil was shining! That was her surprise. She was making illegal alcohol as a gift. Her headache started to throb while she considered her options. If she went to the controllers she would lose her apprenticeship and the only knowledgeable healer would be gone. Her heart was torn in two between the right thing to do and caring for someone so incredibly valuable. She helped hundreds of people who refused to seek help in the allopathic medical bays. Would they finally get the care they truly needed if Sybil vanished? Or would they suffer even more?

    For the first time since taking her position, she felt a strong desire to be somewhere else. Her fingers raked through her hair and she let her emotions wash over her. The inability to think logically drove her mad. She was not supposed to question the right thing to do, she was supposed to do it. 

    Holly finally came back to the present and realized Sybil was staring at her.

    “I’m not feeling well,” she said. “I have a headache that is getting worse. Perhaps I will take the rest of the day in my quarters.” She did not want any involvement in the day’s illegal task.

    She pushed off the stool and waited for a moment while Sybil shuffled between a few plants in the corner. She returned to stand in front of Holly with a few green leaves pinched between her fingers.

    “Tanacetum parthenium, feverfew,” Sybil said. “Chew a few leaves for a couple of days and see how you feel. If you get any mouth ulcers, I can make you some capsules instead. I noticed you get headaches a lot, so maybe this will be helpful.”

    “A few days?” Holly asked. 

    “Do you need longer?” Sybil asked.

    “No. I plan on being back tomorrow.”

    “Oh, I see. Don’t rush it. You have been working nonstop for a while now. Having a break is okay.”

    “No one gets a break,” Holly said. “Working is what we do.”

    “It was not always like that, you know. There used to be certain days when people did not work. Everyone had break days. Humans need a break. Take as long as you need. I am not going anywhere.”

    Holly was confused. She never heard of break days before. What would people do with entire days of no work? 

    She looked at the green leaves in her hand.

    “How did you know about my headaches?” she asked. Sometimes Sybil’s ability to understand her was uncanny, except when it came to her strong desire to follow the rules.

    “You rub your neck a lot and turn your head. I’ll get some other things together while you rest, but the feverfew might do the trick. Grab some mixed greens and alfalfa tea on your way out to keep up your minerals.” She smiled sweetly, then continued to stir the steaming pot of pre-fermented dandelion wine.

    Holly’s stomach cramped at the sound of alfalfa tea. The sensation was worsened by the idea of reporting the brewing liquid on the other side of the table. Fear flooded her mind and she retreated to her quarters to try and sleep it off.

Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I would say writing in general is a risk taken. I do like to try new things, especially after enjoying something another author does. In general, I am comfortable in first and third-person limited. I like to play with epistolary short stories and love getting involved in creative risks like WEP and A-to-Z Challenge. These are the fuel for my fire! Perhaps I will be more obvious with my controversy as time goes on, but for now, I will try to be more subtle.

Thanks to our awesome co-hosts for the April 7 posting of the IWSG! PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!

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  1. You're still excited about it and that's the best place to be no matter what direction you're headed.

  2. Hari OM
    OH Holly, the dilemma! And Feverfew will definitely help. I grew it in my garden - but made a decoction from the petals and flowers to sip - equally effective, less astringent.

    I agree - to put pen to paper (finger to key) is to take a risk. It is worth the playing... YAM xx

    1. I am trying to get a plant for myself. I will have to try the flower decoction, thanks!

  3. Loved the story. I agree, writing for public consummation is a risk in itself. Exposing our creative selves is a risk. Happy IWSG day, Steph.

  4. Ohhh, got me pulled in to the story! Cool. Yes, writing where anyone else is going to read it is a risk.

  5. Poor Holly. She's so brainwashed by her controllers, even the idea of being loyal to her teacher gives her a headache. I hope she resists the temptation to report to the controllers. Authorities are not always right, and the law is not always just. Sometimes, goodness comes from a gray area.

    1. I love your feedback! It is good to see your thoughts on the story. Thanks for all your visits!

  6. I do hope Holly doesnt report her! I've tried doing A to Z in herbs and forage plants in the past - there are some difficult letters, so good luck!
    Have fun with your AtoZ :)


    1. Thank you! I planned ahead and found some good ones.

  7. totally FORGOT about A to Z, it's been a while since I participated. Way to go!
    and risk-taking is FUN!
    thanks for visiting me!

    Tara Tyler Talks

    1. I'm not sure I'll make it to Z on time, but I will keep trying!

  8. I admire anyone who tackles the A-Z Challenge. I enjoyed your post and will be back to read more, Steph!

    1. Thank you, although now that I'm committed I'm feeling like Holly, no breaks!

  9. Dandelion wine?...
    I can't imagine ever working without breaks. Even now that I work from home, sometimes I forget it's the weekend, and I have to make myself stop. This spaceship clearly needs holidays. :D

    The Multicolored Diary