Cory’s Story: The drooping cactus and trips for snow

Rows of cacti pots
Photo by Stefano Photography on

New to the story? Check out the beginning here!


Cory stuffed his head under the pillows, drowning out the sounds of shouting. The bed still shook though. Like vicious tides through bedposts and mattress.

Lifting pillowcase fringe from his vision, he stared at the window, through the empty space in the row of cacti pots. The glittering snow ran like white eraser past the panes. On the windowsill, the pointy cactus with the pale pink flower was drooping. This was the first cactus Cory had ever seen droop before.

“I will get water,” he announced to the pillow-deafened room. “Today,” he promised. He promised, in an effort to motivate himself to move. To get up, smell the lilies on the windowsill, inspect the succulent cutting for new roots. “I will get water,” he said again, muffled voice ringing hollow.

Getting water would mean getting out from under the covers. They lived in a ski lodge; the floor was always cold. That would mean stumbling to the dresser in the corner to find socks. That would remind him of his boots sitting on the top step in the trunk, how he should visit Jasmine, see how Rimira was doing, tell her things were going to be okay. And since he was already down there, he would tell himself he needed to explore the canyon and see if any new alters had shown up, since nobody else regularly checked the canyon for alters. And then, once he’d done that, he could climb back up the winding staircase and leave his room and go outside with the watering can currently occupying the bottom drawer of the dresser and collect snow. Bring it back in, check if the plants needed fertilizer, or more sunlight, or pruning, wait for the snow in the watering can to melt, pour water on the plants and then go back out because the can never held enough snow on the first trip.

And there were screaming people in the hallways. Screaming littles outside the door. He’d rather avoid them. He hadn’t combed his wild dark hair in days. He was still wearing gray pajamas. But he couldn’t avoid the screaming people in the hallways, which meant he’d have to look presentable. It was all so exhausting.

And who was going to make lunch for the littles without Mina around, and who was going to talk to Ani, because she needed it even if she never admitted it, and who was going to get Flora and Lily to say polite things to each other, and Winnie hadn’t left the forest for days because she’d given up her blanket to Sam.

It was all so exhausting.

“I will get water,” he promised hollowly to the drooping cactus in the window. “And I’ll do it today.”


Cory gave up on his shield. He had no frame of reference for time, no sound, no light. He just knew he was hungry, but not that hungry. In need of water, but not that badly. “Is there anyone around who can get us out of here?” he muttered, rolling onto his other side. His cheek pressed against the cold, bumpy floor. He blew hair from his mouth, uncomfortable with the reminder. “Ripple? Ribbon? Ani? Where is everyone?”

He strained backward in his thoughts, reaching for another presence. Nothing.


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