Trafika Europe Corner with Clayton McKee: GARDEN OF EDEN by Sarah Talboys-Smith

She could feel the warmth of his foot against hers. In this touch, she could feel everything: their long years together, their arguments, their reconnections, tears, apologies, kisses, and unwavering kindness. They didn’t have to say anything to one another – they both knew they could feel all of this, all of their time, compressed into this one gentle touch. The heat radiating between their bodies was all the language they needed. Like the soft murmuring of nature, undetectable to the human ear, but a humming that rolls through all things. This apparent stillness was peace. They were half-awake, half-dreaming with no intention of moving anywhere; to lie in this peace for eternity would be bliss. She thinks it was his foot that turned first, but it was hard to tell, time was all so consumed into one present moment that everything that had ever happened was happening right at this moment. His foot reached back to her toes, her toes grew roots and wrapped around his ankle, hairs from his legs thickened, lengthened and entangled her shins, then crept up her thighs and tightened, pulling her towards him. Her body lengthened and hardened; as she tightened, branches grew from her breasts and began to bore leaves. His arms reached out to meet them, his fingers outstretched arrested in the air, growing leaves so glossy and waxy to reflect the beauty of hers. Their bodies became rhizomatic, rooting down, and shooting up, growing grander, entwining into one extraordinary arbour. There were knots of course, where their bodies were unsure how to meet, but their corporealities would not deny this fusion and their skin entangled, they engorged and swallowed each other, growing larger and harder together, their branches reaching higher and higher until they began to bear fruit. Plump, round, peach fruit with soft white fuzz, a delicate stalk, and fragile skin. At first, there was only one, but they, the tree, began to bear many more. An abundance of these delicate fruits surrounded them and enshrouded them in colour. They were delighted to see what they had made. 

But unpicked fruit rots. Unobvious at first – shrivelling of the skin, discolouration on that peach surface, some bruising, then the weakening of the stalk as it becomes shrivelled and threadlike. The connection fades between parent and offspring, the fruit too heavy to cling on to such fine fibres. Despite caving in on itself, decomposing, growing concaved, and mottled, it grows heavier in its dying state, further thinning that delicate connection between fruit and tree. Until one day, it falls. The impact speeds up the fruit’s decomposition; the fall, a catalyst to the rot. But that’s no matter. The fruit withers in its spot, at first drying, then oozing its life juice out until there is seemingly nothing left. The tree sheds its leaves and looks weak compared to its former glory, now lonely and bare. But that’s the beauty of it all. Everything is everywhere and nowhere at all. The rotten fruit does not disappear, simply changes, metamorphoses into a million particles, so it is no longer one thing but all the many things that it always was. This fruit, having been given life from the tree returns the favour, its nutrients absorbed into the roots, rejuvenating the tree, giving it new life, so that it may replenish and bear fruit once more. It is eating itself alive, eating itself dead, rebirthing, and birthing, forever more.

By Sarah Talboys-Smith


Sarah Talboys-Smithis an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature graduate, and is a student of feminism, black critical theory and literature, and queer writing. She lives in the working-class town of Oldham, in the North of England with her partner and dog. Having worked in health and social care for several years, she has turned her hand to writing, looking to explore the weird and the uncanny in everyday life. Her debut collection of stories, Bed: Tales of Horror from Under the Covers, takes inspiration from sickness, fear, and beauty, and explores human unity with nature with a classic gothic slant.


Beds can be such a comforting space. Secure and nestled in our cocoons, we often feel at peace in beds, which is a good thing because most of us spend a lot of time in them as we sleep. One of the best parts about Gothic literature and its more horrific iterations is that spaces of comfort morph into spaces for the uncanny and the supernatural. Trafika Europe is excited to publish a collection of micro fictions focused on the concept of “bed” written by English author Sarah Talboys-Smith. “Garden of Eden” focuses on the darker side of relationships and fruit. How does something so beautiful and organic become rotten and unfit for one another? How does that decaying flesh regenerate the tree that bore it, benefiting from its own cannibalistic nature to bear more fruit? More importantly, how does that relate to the human experience of a relationship? 

The Gothic can be so many different things, but the most important aspect for me as a lover of all things Gothic, horror, and uncanny, is the questioning of the natural order. Shelley’s Frankenstein is not simply a monster terrorizing its creator, just like Talboys-Smith’s “Garden of Eden” is not simply a paradise for two lovers. Hidden behind the obvious is where we find the truth of the human experience. 

Next month, we are excited to release our summer 2024 issue, Gothic Revival. Keep up to date with its release on our website, www.trafikaeurope.org, by signing up for our email listserv. 


Read previous posts in The Trafika Europe Corner series:

Trafika Europe Corner with Clayton McKee: An excerpt from the play THE PARADISE OF THE WATERS by Isabelle Eberhardt, translated by Donald Mason

Trafika Europe Corner with Clayton McKee: An excerpt from the play AGAINST FRATERNITY written in Catalan by Esteve Soler, translated by H.J. Gardner

Trafika Europe CornerLOST IN TRANSLATION by Hannah Katerina

Trafika Europe Corner with Clayton McKee: Three poems by Károly Lencsés, translated by Ágnes Megyeri

Trafika Europe Corner with Clayton McKee: Three Poems by Guðrið Helmsdal, translated by Randi Ward

Three poems by Deniz Durukan – in Trafika Europe Corner II.11 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Marius Burokas – in Trafika Europe Corner II.10 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Franca Mancinelli – in Trafika Europe Corner II.9 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Nina Kossman – in Trafika Europe Corner II.8 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Alexander Kabanov – in Trafika Europe Corner II.7 by Andrew Singer

Three poems by Andrey Gritsman – in Trafika Europe Corner II.6 by Andrew Singer

Kosovan poet Fahredin Shehu – in Trafika Europe Corner II.5 by Andrew Singer

Three poems from Icelandic by Gyrðir Elíasson – in Trafika Europe Corner II.4 by Andrew Singer

Trafika Europe Corner II.3 – New Latvian poet Jānis Tomašs by Andrew Singer

Trafika Europe Corner II.2 by Andrew Singer

Trafika Europe Corner II.1 by Andrew Singer

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