Flash fic – Blood and Mud

I guess there’s too many heat waves and droughts on my mind. Content warning – mentions of murder, drugs, blood. And based on one of the pictures from here –https://terribleminds.com/ramble/2022/08/12/flash-fiction-challenge-the-revenge-of-the-insane-art-robot/ (It’s the last picture, if you didn’t guess.)

Blood and Mud

The flower was first reported growing in a weedy lot off the I-5 corridor outside of Seattle. Bright red like a poppy, but slightly different in both shape and size of petals. The body amongst them was noticed second.

From his stringy hair and grungy wardrobe, he was initially assumed to be an indigent who picked a pretty place to O.D., until someone noticed how dry his skin seemed, and how light the body was. It wasn’t long after that it was revealed all the blood had been drained from his body.

The Pacific Northwest was no stranger to serial killers, and it appeared a new one was on the loose. Unsurprisingly, they were dubbed the Vampire.

Over the next three months, more bodies drained of blood started turning up, with no obvious connections between the victims. If there was a pattern, it was unclear. Except for the flowers.

The bodies were always found amidst the big, bright red blooms. It took that long for someone to ask which came first.

The flowers were not a hybrid poppy, as initially expected. In fact, despite its appearance, it seemed to be more fungus like, save for its large, luminous flowers. A dozen flowers in a field could all share the same root system, and as far as could be determined, there was no size limit. There could be hundreds of flowers all sharing the same starting point, and yet, hacking up the roots didn’t kill them. They simply spawned off their own new colonies.

I know the stories. The rumors that this was a secret government project, or maybe some agriculture company’s trademarked GMO plant gone horribly wrong, but I think both of those theories are ridiculous. This is both too complex and too simple a lifeform, although I hesitate to agree to the alien theory. I don’t know what these flowers are, or how they showed up in a miserable patch of dirt in Seattle, and two weeks later was found all over the globe. Nor do I know how they learned to feed completely off human blood.

They were ingenious, though. They released soporific spores that caused people to fall asleep, and while they were collapsed on the ground, a woody tendril was released from the flowers, and inserted itself into the skin wherever it could find purchase. Depending on the number of flowers, a body could be completely drained within twenty minutes. Once knowledge of the spores got out, people began attempting to harvest it for its unique properties, and many more people died. Only industrial rated respirator masks could keep out the spores, but that was discovered through much trial and error.

Attacking the roots did no good. Lighting them on fire only seemed to encourage them. Poison was ineffective. Even acid was weak at best, and goats refused to eat the flowers. Attempts to pave over them with concrete was met with the flowers coming through the cracks, and creating their own. These were the ultimate in pervasive, pernicious weeds.

Some people settled on the theory of earth itself creating this plant, a predator who only fed on humans, as revenge for climate change. I like the poetry of that, even if the theory itself is ludicrous.

All I know for sure is the end of the world never looked so beautiful.

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