H. was so old that he had half expected something like that to happen.

He had half expected something like that to happen for a number of years.

But it was still disconcerting: to discover something alien growing underneath one’s skin.

Was it alien? Or was it merely something composed of him, a reconfiguration of his substance, the brute matter which composed him? That is, H. thought, if he was indeed composed and not merely chaos given a name and a surname.

It began as a small blue spot just below the surface of his belly’s skin. At first, he thought it must be a vein and possibly a varicose one. But then it began to reveal itself, its bodily quiddity, as it grew more noticeable and hinted that it wanted to break the surface, to share the air that H. breathed, which he breathed more nervously each day now.

At least he could hide it under his shirt. So that’s what he did.

And then it did break the surface. One horrible day. A blue tendril emerged from H.’s belly, at first just a nib. Then it grew further, a blue stalk with a forked head that looked disturbingly penile to H. He wondered if anyone on the planet had ever, at any point in history, sprouted a micropenis in an unusual place on the body.

But then the blue stalk of the plantlike thing growing from H.’s belly bifurcated, and then divagated further. It was growing into quite the little network, so H. began taping its soft branches to his body like a hidden police “wire” when he went to the office. Luckily, the blue stalks of the thing were still relatively thin, and luckily it was still winter, so H. could easily hide the parasitic, plantlike growth from his coworkers by wearing bulky sweaters.

When the first buds appeared, and then began opening up into flowers, H. found the scent they exuded extremely disturbing. No flower in the network smelled like any other flower. One released a scent that returned forgotten childhood memories to him. Another’s attar, like whiskey, made him incredibly remorseful for the most trivial misdoings of his distant past. A third particularly ugly flower inculcated a love of weird sexual fetishes

The plant was seemingly a creative anarchist and H. found himself needing to take a leave of absence, to hide his secret sharer and to manage the havoc that sometimes resulted from the weird demands the thing had begun to make on his life. He contemplating showing his g.p., but he was sure the woman would insist, “That’s gotta come out.” And the thing had become such a part of his life, of him, that he actually dreaded the thought of its removal.

Was it his loneliness of many years that drove H. to hide the garden growing on his belly? Or was it fear? One day he had a terrifying thought: he wondered whether this plant was growing just as rapidly below the surface of his skin. As above, so below. Might it not be encroaching upon H.’s vital organs? Shouldn’t the thing be x-rayed or explored via other tomography?

This proved to be a moot debate, as H. was found dead shortly afterwards.

He had received a text from an ex-lover, one for whom he still carried a low flame. That old guttering flame had flared up when fed the slightest interest of this personage from the past. H. had anticipated romance redivivus and had pruned his strange growth, cut it right back to the surface using a pocketknife this lover had once given him, many less argumentative moons ago.

He had burned the plantlike thing and it had released terrible vapors in turn, as if it had sought revenge on him for taking what might or might not have been its life.

H. had breathed these in and suffered a feeling like asphyxiation. He had burned the plant in his backyard and had then retired to bed. He had gone to sleep and simply never woken up. The ideal death, according to cowards and some others.

An autopsy was performed and H. was discovered to have a tumor the size of a football in his belly. There was nothing floral about the growth. There was nothing vegetal in H.’s body.

His ex was contacted but declined to participate in H.’s strange posthumous predicament. She had only been interested in this person while he was alive, she felt the need to explain.

So H.’s estate devolved to the State, since he had no known living relations.

H.’s body was heading for cremation when an employee of the firm contracted to do this noticed a blue stalked flower on the dead man’s belly. When he leaned down to sniff it, despite his own reservations, he suddenly felt compelled to abscond with H’s body. He took the remains of a larger man who had recently been cremated and split the difference with that man’s ashes to fill an urn, making it appear that H. had indeed been cremated.

He placed H. in some forest behind his house and returned daily to observe the growth of the plant.

One Friday about two weeks later, he returned to discover that the body (which had remained miraculously “fresh” even without the benefit of embalming) had vanished.

He tried to imagine a dead man walking around with a strange sort of rosebush growing from his belly, but he found it impossible to do, so he stopped doing it after a while.

While “H.” is no longer H. and does not possess many of the memories which made him “H.,” I can tell you that he is living under an assumed identity in a city far from the one where he died.

And “he” is “happy.”

He feels very lucky to be alive and to possess a face that can smile at strangers and put them at ease.

He is learning very much about himself and he hopes one day to have children.

Possibly even with you. If you are fertile in that special way.

Writer, visual artist. Books include Sanskrit of the Body, which won in the U.S. National Poetry Series (Penguin). https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/532348.