Here is Bloom, Chapter 9, as it originally appeared on my friend Ashlee’s blog (which has, sadly, gone away). Fortunately for you, she gave me permission to post it here!
Bloom: Chapter 9
OMG I’m so excited! If you guys haven’t been following the blogvel Bloom, you’ve been missing out! It’s the brainchild of my good friend Michelle Simkins, who blogs over at Greenwoman. Last week Kacey Vanderkarr posted Chapter 8, and this week it’s MY turn 😀
First, a recap:
Jessica finds a metallic flower growing in the woods. She brings it home and it starts growing and infecting everything and everyone. Soon, her Evil Genius brother, Jamie, who created the plant, hears about the outbreak and comes home. He brings his girlfriend, Wanda, but they split up to investigate. The metallic plant manages to turn humans into plant-people who like to eat flesh. A giant tree-person is walking unfettered toward town when Wanda finds Jessica, who is infected. Together, they search for Jamie, but Jessica is so tired she passes out in Wanda’s jeep.
Yay! My turn! I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Jessica’s drool had glued her face to the jeep window, and when the door was jerked open, it felt like half her face was ripped off. She howled as she fell out of her dream and towards the ground.
Strong hands caught her up, and then she was pressed into someone’s body. Jessica gasped in a breath and caught the smell of familiar cologne…Jamie! With a squeal, she wrapped her arms around him and clung like a creeper vine.
“Hey, kid. I missed you.” His arms squeezed her just like they used to, back when he’d still lived at home.
“Jamie! You won’t believe what’s happened! I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t think you’d care–”
“Jamie,” someone cut in, voice sharp. Jessica looked over her shoulder and saw Wanda tapping one foot in a fast staccato. “It’s cruel to talk like this first. Just get it over with and then we’ll meet and greet.”
Jamie nodded. “Jess, there is something I have to do. It’s important. Do you trust me?” He looked at her, eyes searching her face for answers.
Jessica hesitated. He was an Evil Genius, and the plants could be—probably were—his inventions. He’d never hurt her before…but she’d never been a part of his experiments before, either. In the second she’d deliberated, a shadow of hurt flickered in Jamie’s eyes. Slowly, not sure if she was being completely honest, she nodded. “I trust you.”
Wanda stepped forward. “Good. Now let’s get this over with.”
“Get what—” But Jessica was cut off again, this time by a gag. Jamie knotted the bandana at the base of her skull, and while Jess reached around to jerk the smelly rag off her face, Wanda took the opportunity to tie her hands with—was that a vine?
Jessica struggled, but her efforts were too late. The gag had distracted her, confused her. And Wanda was wicked fast. Jessica kicked at her brother, nailing him once in the shins, but Wanda tackled her and they both ended up on the ground. Jamie cursed from somewhere above them, and Jessica hoped she’d broken his stupid leg.
Whatever was happening, it wasn’t in her best interest, and her own brother was behind it. Because he was Douchebag Genius. Something she would have to keep in mind from now on. Unable to bite or use her hands, Jessica was quickly pinned on her stomach, a knee on her back to keep her from escaping. That didn’t keep her from screaming against the bandana, but Wanda and Jamie ignored her.
“Get the other vine, Jamie. We have to do this—you saw her eyes. She’s more than half gone by now,” Wanda said. That she huffed in gasps between her words made Jessica proud.
But that smugness drained out of her when she focused on the ground for the first time. An eyeball was staring up at her. A single, detached, eyeball. Jessica screamed and thrashed, fear lacing her limbs with strength. She managed to buck Wanda off and run three or four steps before she was tackled again, but this time she landed in red-brown goo that smelled like rust. Something pink and slimly was next to her face, and she screamed when she recognized it. Intestines—someone’s guts.
Jamie slipped another vine-rope through the one tying her hands, and then yelled, “Velvet! Tank! I need a little help. Hold her up, but don’t eat her. Please.”
Don’t eat her? Cannibals?! Jessica thrashed and kicked again, but it didn’t do any good. One minute she was on the ground, the next her arms were all but pulled loose of their sockets. Her feet dangled at least three feet off the blood-soaked grass and when the taut rope twisted, she got a good look at the living plants holding her up. One was thick as a tree (Tank?) and the other looked rather feminine (Velvet?). Tank had blood all over his leafy body.
Tears streamed from her eyes and pooled under the bandana, and Jamie winced when the rope brought her back around to face him. “Jess, don’t cry. I’m not going to kill you,” he said it with a wealth of hurt in his voice, like she should believe him. “You’re infected by a new type of organism—one I invented. But I don’t want that for you, and I’m going to cure you.” Wanda whipped out a knife from her boot and passed it Jamie. “But I’m not going to lie, it’s going to hurt.”
Jessica screamed and kicked as he walked toward her, but one of the plants wrapped a vine around her legs, immobilizing her completely. Jamie stopped right in front of her, the pain in his eyes seeming to say “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you”, and she screamed and cursed against the gag, hating him.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and then cut her.
At first, the pain wasn’t sharp—it was surprising, but more like a bee sting than a slicing pain. But then hot red blood poured down her left forearm, filling the air with a new-rust smell that was overwhelmingly metallic.
“You should have started with her legs, Jamie. Now you’re going to have work down with blood getting all over you.”
“Are you critiquing my methods, Wanda? Really?” She didn’t answer, and he brought the knife up again.
Jessica sobbed when he positioned it right below her left elbow, and she shook her head, trying to beg him to not hurt her—but it was useless. This time, the pain was immediate. More red gushed out of her, and her throat ached from screaming and yelling against the bandana. But the rust smell wasn’t as rusty; a flowery scent lingered just behind the metallic tang.
“Smell that? You’re getting some of it.” Wanda moved closer, so that she was just behind Jamie.
Jamie didn’t say a word. Instead, he moved the knife to Jessica’s other forearm, his hand never once wavering. He sliced down and Jessica moaned, her arms throbbing with more pain than she’d ever endured. More of the flowery smell filled the air, but she didn’t care. Dots were flashing in and out of her vision, and her head felt light.
The slice below her right elbow brought her fully awake again, and she saw Jamie’s face in minute detail. Sweat beaded under his nose, bags smudged the underside of his eyes. A few strands of gray were scattered near his temples. But then the details faded, and Jessica closed her eyes.
“She’s fading. You’re taking too long.” Wanda’s voice sounded very far away. “Let me do it.”
“I’m her brother,” Jamie said. “I should do it.”
“Oh, give it here.”
Jessica didn’t care who did it. That didn’t matter. Nothing did. The heat of her own blood was scorching her skin and the lights winking in and out of her brain were fascinating. Pain mingled with darkness, and she couldn’t open her eyes…
Someone poked her. Hard. The jab happened over and over again, first on her ribs, then on her stomach. Pain seeped through her, following the pokes. When they moved lower, to her butt, and then to her legs, Jessica didn’t mind as much. She could barely feel them.
But her nose twitched. She couldn’t open her eyes any more than she could turn off her nose. Someone was holding rotting flowers in front of her face—like a midden heap, it smelled of poop and decomposition with just a hint of dead roses.
“Most of the gold is gone, Wanda. We need to clean her up before it’s too late.”
“Shit!” Wanda’s voice was close to Jessica’s face, her breath chilly compared to the hot blood soaking Jess. “Get the pack from the car. I have several kinds of blood and some new derma-glue. Grab the green antibiotics kit, too.”
Minutes, hours, days, and years passed before Jessica heard anything else; her body was numb and cold, her eyes sealed against the sight of her brother and his knife. Every sense was swallowed by the absence of what she had been. Only flickers of dreams darted through her consciousness.
But the flickers brought ripples of pain, singeing the numbest parts of her. Her arms burned, her legs crawled with flames. And through it all, Jamie’s voice murmured to her, reminding her of why she was trapped in darkness.
“I hate you!” she screamed, over and over. But her throat was scorched, just like the rest of her. The only sound she heard was Jamie, his voice a mere whisper in her mind.
“You’re doing good, Jess. You can do this,” he said. “It’s over—you’re healed. All you have to do is wake up, sis. Open your eyes for me.”
The pain increased with the clarity of his voice, and she knew he was causing it. The agony was his fault. The darkness was his fault. He’d hurt her, cut her, killed her! Betrayal fueled rage, and she vowed to haunt his douchebag ass for eternity. Dying hurt! How dare he kill her! His own sister!
“Wake up, Jessica. You’re almost there; I can see your eyelids moving. I know you can hear me…” Jamie’s voice was louder now, each word causing her head to throb . “Open your eyes, Jess. You can do it.”
Jessica wanted to slap him for having the nerve to tell her what to do. He thought he could stab her and then coax her over to the Dark Side? No way in hell.
“Let me try,” Satan’s redheaded helper said.
Jessica wanted to snarl, but before she could even try, a heart-stopping jolt to her chest brought her body up over the ground in a perfect bridge. She stayed arched for an eternity before falling to the side and convulsing.
“Damn it, Wanda! Was that really necessary?”
“Yes. She’s wasted enough of our time, Jamie. Look. Her eyes are opening.”
And it was true. Even though she would’ve sworn she was dead, Jessica’s eyes were working. Something sticky tried to fuse her lashes together, but green and brown were visible through the spikey prison bars she squinted through.
Jamie’s face popped into her line of sight and she jack-knifed away from him, a scream lodged somewhere between her gut and her throat.
“Easy, Jess. I know you probably hate me right now, but we need to leave. Let me help you get into the jeep. There’s a giant tree heading toward town and—”
Jessica shook her head and crab-crawled backward. “Get away from me, you freak!”
“As I think I’ve mentioned, we don’t have time for this.” A hand grabbed Jessica’s hair and pulled her up, yanking more than a few strands loose. Jess screeched and swung her elbow back to hit Wanda, but it never connected. “Jamie, grab my stuff.”
Jessica was shoved into the backseat of the SUV, red and brown staining the leather under her. Jamie tossed two bags into the passenger seat before climbing in. Wanda slammed her door seconds later. Jess tried to open her door and escape, but her fingers trembled and her arms felt more like wet noodles than workable limbs.
“Head to Main Street. I’m guessing our tree will be lured there by all the people. He’s hungry,” Jamie said.
“Let’s hope we find him before he gets there…otherwise there might not be a Main Street left.”
I hope you enjoyed my chapter, and thank you for reading! It’s always a pleasure to collaborate with other writers, and this project has been a blast!