Donald sat by the window, flooding the pane with his hot breath. He traced his index finger through the mist that gathered, drawing his name with intensity. The pane was cold and blue, the integrity of the glass barely holding and the cracks formed showing that repair was a priority. The tendrils on the other side of the pane twirled slightly around the metal bars against the window, holding on as though it was trying to rust the frame away.
There was a flower that bloomed on each tendril, bright yellow and purple with hints of red towards the end of the petals, the dominance of each color shifting with the seasons and eventually with age; purple dominance during the spring and summer, yellow in autumn and winter and red when the flower finally began to wither.
The plant itself had no real roots, it merely had a weak foundation of stem that was buried deep in the soil and branched off into a form of roots that was only loosely attracted to the soil. None of the nutrients provided below held any value for these plants after all. The stem and tendrils were a sickly blue color that looked like a more faded version of the purple that was on the flower and it was spotted with deep red wounds that birthed thorns in the right circumstances.
Donald paid the flower no attention. Or more accurately, he intentionally avoided the plant all together. The moment one took more than a glance towards it, there would rise in the air a sweet smell, fruity and bountiful and succulent, an alien yet at the same time familiar experience of pleasure. It was enticing without being overtly seductive to the senses and simply invited one to do nothing more than partake. And as soon as it would arrive, the smell would immediately disappear. There was good reason these plants targeted windows. Like a moth to the flame, the plant only lightly suggested to be given closer inspection. Just one more smell. One more lovely whiff of it.
There was a buzz on his phone. A notification requesting a new delivery was made. A second notification followed. It was a 50,000 Weso payment. He was slightly stunned. Whoever was on the other end was either desperate or impatient because the payment was ridiculously high to not be done in installments. Riders like him often got a quarter before work was done and the rest at the address of delivery. There was no risking a second Rider for the same delivery should the first either die or fail to arrive. For that amount, he didn't even need to confirm what he needed to deliver because there had only been one request like it that he had seen in the winter period.
A pint of fresh human blood.
And from the amount offered, he knew it was something that had to get to the destination in about 3-5 minutes or it would be too late. He took a few seconds to debate on whether it was worth it to risk his safety. After all, he probably had the full amount and even if he didn't, 200,000 Weso was simply not worth it this time of the year. He sat down and fought through the guilt of not responding.
This isn't worth it, man. Not even if it was an orphanage being attacked.
Some Riders like him had once been tricked before into a delivery, only to end up in their own demise. He walked to the fireplace, warmed his hands a bit and saw hanging from his wall his younger sister's picture. Her Rider uniform had several differences to his. Before people realized how disposable they ultimately were, Riders used to have a small gold plate on their robes, ones which were personalized to each member to encourage young people to join. It helped them feel important, like the society treasured their efforts to do what few people could. 2 years after she died, the registration stopped bringing in stable numbers and gold was in short supply anyway. In its place was a faded but otherwise durable jacket with a barely visible logo.
Nobody officially recognized Donald as a Rider but nobody needed to. He got the job done and that was the most important thing.
A hero among men, son. Don't you ever forget it.
Donald wondered what good a name like hero meant at a time like this. His phone buzzed again, most likely the customer pleading for his assistance but he set it on silent. His right hand unconsciously shook with anger, rebelling against Donald's cowardice but the cowards were the ones that had to live to see another day. It took a lot to strip someone of their title as Riders and they all knew it. His right hand drove itself right to the wall, his soul disconnected from the passionate attempt to feel remorse.
I don't want to die like her.
His legs slowly drove him towards his equipment, his hands fastening the Rider jacket and belt fitted with a power saw stylized as a katana with mini rotating blades. Then his legs joined the protest and wore a fireproof sturdy set of trousers, once brown but now the color was something that could convince anyone they were color blind. His fingers fitted themselves with reinforced gloves, his feet with black boots made of polyascertine, a new element created specifically to repel the plants. He then finally relented and wore the final portion of his uniform; a heavy duty helmet that had a mini filter being his only access to the cold air outside. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes.
This is going to end badly.
He unlocked the door and immediately understood why he feared doing so at the start. He was immediately overwhelmed with the beautiful smell of the plants outside, so much so that he immediately sunk to his knees. His pupils fought the urge to roll upwards and he held a fist full of snow and quickly drove it towards his head. The old filter kicked in finally and the smell returned to normal. He took deep hot breaths under his helmet and woke up. He rushed to the garage and took out his bike. He noticed the wind had sent the seeds of the plants inside but because the floor was made of metal reinforced with polyascertine, they simply dried up.
It was never clear why polyascertine was effective against the plants but together with metal, it formed bonds that made both normal and rusted forms lethal to the plants. Riders often were given polyascertine metal ore to fashion whatever instrument they could, primarily melee related to make the most out of the incredibly rare compound. Donald figured he could use his blacksmith history to make something unique. Given the declining membership rate of the Riders, he got more than enough ore to make something he liked.
He kicked his motorbike to life and opened his GPS to punch in the location of his destination. He allowed the wheels to gain some grip and then switched from 'Rollin Stone' type of fuel to 'Flesh N Bone' and then accelerated. His hesitance now meant that every second he was held up meant that he could probably be late. The air around him was now accumulated with too much of the sweet scent that even his filter couldn't take care of everything. His breathing was now labored, having to fight taking in too much of the air so he could survive but not having too little to suffocate. He could not afford to slow down his bike so that was a problem too. His sight began to be slightly impaired, feeling like he was loosing slight pieces of data with every blink.
Every so often, he would blink himself into consciousness right before his bike would hit something and he would swerve out of the way. There was rarely any traffic to worry about since each Rider had their own territory of influence but things like roots from trees that grew in the middle of old tarmac, car parts from vehicles that rusted a while back and the possibility of hitting one of those plants was something he had to be on the lookout.
He sighed in relief. He was close. Perhaps that was a bit too premature of a celebration because he then accumulated enough of the sweet smell on his next inhale to start feeling its paralysis slowly seeping into his muscles, losing control over his bike at each turn.
He was almost there but his body was becoming too heavy. He measured his breaths as his fingers began to feel numb. He was cold and miserable.
His fingers finally lost the war and he decided to stop before he crashed onto something. The sweet scent begged him to take the helmet off, enjoy the fullness of the scenery, the beautiful flowers… and his right hand was no longer his. It slowly moved towards the helmet and he understood that he could no longer complete the mission. He had to give up to save himself. He took his left hand, reached for the package and ripped it open, revealing the pint of blood. He took a moment to look at the blood type and smiled. He then tossed it violently away from his position and as he had hoped, it worked.
Several plants shot tendrils towards the blood, their wounds burst to reveal thorns and ripped the bag open, the blood spraying in the air and flowing deep into the pores of the plants. His hand immediately recovered and he understood it was a sign to keep going. He powered up his chain saw and rushed towards the plants, striking the saw at their tendrils and getting away before any of them caught on to him. There was no need to make deep cuts, even shallow ones would do, the polyascertine would do the rest. He did this a few times and the plants effortlessly made way until finally, as a fear response, the tendrils retracted and the smell completely disappeared. The flowers in his vicinity were now deeply purple with no streaks of red or yellow, showing complete inactivity. At their most active and bloodthirsty, the plants were also at their most vulnerable. Very few Riders ever got to be this reckless but Donald often had no choice.
Whoever you are, I have the same blood type you're looking for. If you're still alive, I'll find you.
He revved his bike and drove ahead to the destination. There was no real plan about his return trip as usual but he survived thus far. No reason to feel like he couldn't make it now. He also made a point to fix his filter soon. Blood was not a commodity worth sacrificing.