The Poison Diaries
hesitantly. “If I concentrate I can hear most of them—sometimes only in cries and moans, or as a constant buzz of chatter. But it is the plants that have special powers to cure whom I hear most clearly. They have always sought me out, for as long as I can remember.”
    “Sought you out?” I exclaim. “How can a plant seek you out?”
    “They speak to me. They have to—for if no one of human birth knew of their powers, how could they make use of them? They need me,” he explains simply. “They chose me because I can hear them—or perhaps I can hear them because they chose me; I have nevertruly understood how it came to pass. But it did.”
    The silence between us grows heavy with the weight of Weed’s revelation. I do not know what to think, or to say—can such a tale possibly be true?
    After a moment he continues. “I was perhaps four or five before I realized that not everyone could hear what I heard. At first I was thought a strange, silent child with too much imagination. Later people started to think I was possessed, even dangerous. I learned to hide my gift. But it is difficult. Maddening, often. The voices are always there: humming, talking, singing, teasing, warning. There are times when I must get away from it, or I fear I will lose my mind.” He smiles wryly. “The plants themselves gave me a cure for that: They taught me to bury myself when I need to regain my strength. It is what they do—return to the ground, rest, and begin again.”
    Suddenly I understand. “As you did when you first came here, by hiding in the cellar?” I ask.
    “Yes.” He rolls on his back, facing the sky. “One of the many times I ran away from the friar, I made myway to the docks and stowed away on a ship. I thought that if I went far out to the middle of the sea, I would be free of all those voices. But I was wrong. Even the oceans are full of growing things, did you know that? Some are so tiny you can scarcely see them, but they mass together in great blankets of green that float on top of the waves. They droned like bees, all the time. It was deafening. It nearly drove me mad.” Abruptly he sits up. “Jessamine, do you believe me?”
    I waver. What he describes is impossible, beyond belief—but have I not also sometimes thought I heard whispers in the rustling of leaves, or felt the calm strength of the trees in the forest? And he is Weed. He is not like anyone else, and what is impossible for others need not be impossible for him.
    “I do believe you,” I say.
    He gazes at me steadily, probingly. To be one of a kind, to be ceaselessly addressed by voices that no one else can hear—I thought I understood loneliness, but now I realize I can scarcely begin to imagine the depth of his.
    “And what of the plants in the poison garden?” I ask suddenly. “They are different, aren’t they? Is that why they sickened you?”
    He pauses and looks away. “Yes. They are powerful. Heartless. They wish to possess.”
    “Possess what?”
    “Me. You. Everyone. That is their nature.” A crease of disquiet snakes across his brow. “Your father plays with fire to gather them together like that. They are too clever. They form alliances. They develop—ambitions.”
    He looks so solemn I wish to soothe his fears. “You worry too much, I am sure,” I say lightly. “After all, they are still rooted in the ground, are they not? They cannot pull themselves up and march around wreaking havoc, like an invading army.”
    “Maybe,” he says, though he sounds unsure. “I have not met their like before; that is all. It disturbs me.” He gestures around. “And not only me. The forests, the fields, the moss that grows on the rocks—none of them are happy about that garden. Nature would have keptthose plants safely apart, scattered over the continents, separated by oceans. But your father has summoned them from the corners of the earth and locked them together, side by side, hidden behind walls, where they can grow in secret.

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