Bloom is a "blogvel" or blog novel written in a round robin format organized by Michelle Simkins. If you want to catch up on what's gone before, you can start at the table of contents or the previous chapter at Verbose Veracity. Chapter 15 should be up next week at Word by Word.
If you're here for the first time, hello! Feel free to stick around and check out my other writing - I usually stick to urban fantasy and superheroes.
Jaime tried to beat the conflicted feelings down as he and his mother went to the black Hummer. Of course he needed to be protecting his family. Of course. But at the same time, he was doubting everything he had just been told.
"You drive, Jaime. I'm going to keep firing, make sure the road is clear." She hefted another one of the weapons and pointed it out the window. Jaime threw the car into drive and took off down the road. "Where are we going, Mom?"
"We need to catch up with your father. Head toward downtown."
Jaime did as he was told, trying not to wince as she took aim at any tree that looked suspicious.
"Jaime, honey, are you upset?" she asked him.
"A little. Well, a lot. I mean, Jessica almost got killed, and I think Gran did get killed, and we thought you guys were abducted by aliens or dead or worse, and apparently everything I can't even trust my own mind. I think that's a little upsetting."
"Slow down, Jaime."
"My thoughts are racing because I'm upset, you can't just tell me to-"
"No, Jaime, slow the car down." I hadn't actually looked a the spedometer before then, but I was pushing eighty. "We'll get there, but I want to get there in one piece."
We drove in silence for a while, my thoughts running in furious circles. There was the anger at being manipulated, the desire to save my sister, the sorrow at what had happened, and I filed that all away under Real Jaime. Then there was the desire to protect the plants, my creations, wanting to see how far things could go, and that was Evil Jaime.
There was also anger at my parents for leaving, abandoning me to whatever this mind control plan was, and not even checking in enough to realize what had happened. Then Mom shows up out of the blue to tell me my whole career, heck, my whole life is manipulated... I wasn't sure whether that anger belonged to Real Jaime or Evil Jaime.
Still, evil science corporation or not, I had done this. The plants were my design. I should be able to think of a way to stop them.
"Jaime..." Mom rested her hand on my arm. "I know this is hard for you. But I promise you, once this is over, you can ask us all the questions you want."
"Assuming we survive," I kept my tone neutral as I pulled on to main street. Everything was quiet so far.
Mom sighed and turned away, scanning the street for movement. "I can't expect you to forgive us immediately, I know that. But I hope you will."
"I hope I will too." I parked the Hummer and we both got out, taking the rest of the weapons with us.
"Are these trees infected yet?" she asked, pointing to the shade trees that hung over Main Street.
They looked natural, but we kept our distance as we walked down Main Street anyway. The quiet was alarming - it was never a busy town, but there was usually some traffic, some people out in front of a cafe.
The wind picked up. At first I thought I heard wind chimes, but after a minute I realized what it was - the leaves.
"Do you hear them?" I whispered to my mother.
She nodded. "Think they're waiting for us to realize?"
"They might not be advanced enough to attack yet, or they might be waiting to see what we do," I told her.
As we approached the park, I started to notice more signs of infestation: vines growing over buildings, hedges and decorative plants that seemed oddly overgrown. If I hadn't known what to look for, though, it wouldn't be obvious.
They were getting smarter.
Just before we reached the park, a loud cracking noise cut through the air and I smelled smoke.
"Your father!" Mom yelled, and took off running though the park. I followed her, not sure what would be waiting for us when we reached the copse of trees. There were more noises, some like human shouts and some entirely inhuman. I realized some of the trees were on fire just before a man walked out of grove, a flamethrower at his side.
"Hi, son," my father said, raising his safety goggles to get a look at me.
That was when the giant oak attacked from behind.
If she had a name before this morning, she couldn't tell you what it was. If you could ask, she would tell you she was a tree, had always been a tree, could conceive of herself as nothing but a tree. And if there was the vague memory of something else behind that, she couldn't have told you what those shapes meant. Most of the time as she worked with the other plants, she hardly thought of herself as separate. They were all part of the same invasive species, after all, growing and adapting together.
She felt protective of the others around her, as if they were her grandchildren. When they came under attack from the humans, she did her best to protect them, suggesting strategies to protect as many trees as possible while hopefully putting the humans to rout.
One of the humans, however, kept catching her attention. She could catch snatches of sound from the human girl, as if she was speaking the plants' language. The girl seemed to hear and understand them as well, which was unusual.
Then she said it.
That one word was enough for old, half-drawn memories to fill in with color and detail. The memory hurt, enough that the other plants around her took notice. They recognized that the girl was the source and moved toward her.
She reacted without any thought, calling them back to her. They were reluctant, but followed her direction. Downtown, she told them. It was time to go help overrun the town. These two didn't matter. They should be left alone.
And after a minute, the two humans were alone in the road.
"Gran! Don't leave!" Jessica hesitated, ready to take off running after the plant she thought had been her loving grandmother.
Before she could, though, Wanda grabbed her arm. "No! We need to get to safety. Come on." She pulled Jessica toward the Jeep.