Long, hot August summer days dripped by one by one in a blur of rising temperatures and record humidity. Inspired by first being thrust into a dark vat of soil and then soaked down with mineral rich water, the seed awoke at last.
“Drake, one of your roses isn’t blooming,” Sandra commented, her head thrust out a tiny fourth floor window. Nestled between the rusty iron bars and the burnt red brick building, Drake had constructed a makeshift flower garden out of a couple of store bought packets of rose bush and a five pound sack of potting soil. The morning smells of Drake’s breakfast floated over Sandra’s shoulder. The smell of well burnt bacon seized the moment and was gone in a flash.
Following family tradition, this genus of seed was accustomed to an extended period of hibernation in the hard packed frozen Antarctic ground.
The seed had slept like a drunk after a three day bender. A hundred millennium had passed. The seed didn’t mind. It did what its species always did. It waited. And then, It grew.
“Really,” Drake said, doing his best Spock eyebrows, “Fascinating.”
“Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to water it or something,” Sandra commented. She bounced back away from the window, letting it slide closed behind her. Drake watched the parts of her that bounced, in his mind tracing them over with his tongue. He could almost feel the way she was soft and yielding in some places and firm in so many others.
“And is that your medical opinion, Dr. McCoy?” Drake joked, again giving her the eyebrow twitch.
“Aye, Aye, Keptin,” Sandra said, sliding into the kitchen on her stocking feet. “You’ve got that darn movie on the brain.”
Drake slapped his newspaper down on the table, jumped up, and struck an action hero pose, his thumb and index finger substituting for an imaginary Phaser weapon.
“Oh, man,” he exclaimed. “This is going to be the best one ever.”
The toaster was a Klingon warrior stalking him, when it popped up - Drake whipped around instantly - blasting it with his finger and making science fiction Wheeet, Wheeet, Wheeet!” sounds.
“It’s Captain Kirk versus Evil Captain Kirk in a showdown to the death. None of that wimpy ‘Next Generation’ stuff.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Sandra said, cracking an egg on the side of a hot pan with a schlupping sound, “that Picard was a pretty good Captain.”
Critical to the growth process of plant matter is the cyclin gene. In response to signals from plant hormones, the product of the cyclin gene instructs cells to divide. The new cells are then organized into appropriately specialized root tissue.
After one hundred thousand years of forced sleep, the seed was experiencing a growth explosion on the evolutionary scale.
The egg hit the pan, sending up a small mushroom cloud of butter flavored smoke. Sandra waved her hand over the pan to dispel the smoke and started stirring.
“Yea, Picard has a sexy smile, he’s into archeology, he drinks Earl Grey tea, and he looks great in spandex,” Sandra said, wrinkling her nose at Drake and giving him a quick smile.
“Bah,” Drake said, waving his hand in the air. “Picard is a French man with an English accent.” He strode over to the window, swaggering a bit, still imaging himself as Captain of the Enterprise, the flagship of the Federation.
“This one doesn’t even look like a rose,” Drake commented. “Look at those nasty purple thorns.”
“At least it’s growing,” Sandra called from behind him. She set two plates of scrambled eggs on the table. “It’s all mixed in with the roses.”
The growth process of plant tissue differs significantly from that seen during embryonic development in animals. In animals, the genes that control cell specialization during muscle development, for instance, suppress the genes that drive cell division. In plants, the hierarchy is different, with growth and development of different gene groups occurring simultaneously. This flexible arrangement is integral to the strategy of plants to adapt to their environment through growth.
The seed wasn’t just adapting, it was striking out in new directions, boldly going where no plant had gone before. It hadn’t grown up amidst the roses, thrown into an alien nest and expected to survive, it had absorbed them, incorporating their genetic structure into its simpler one. Its new root system was absurdly complex, a twisting neural network of genetic programming.
Drake reached out to examine the new plant, its bluish vines seeming to pulse with fresh growth.
“Come and eat,” Sandra warned, “or we’ll miss the first show.”
“That’s right,” Drake said, lunging for his chair, “they’re giving away a free Evil Spock action figure to the first 200 people. We have to be there early.” He started shoveling heaping yellow spoonfuls of egg into his mouth.
“Ok, Mr.-Traditional-Trekkie,” Sandra smirked, “What would you have left if Captain Kirk died in the first thirty minutes of an episode?”
Drake swished half chewed eggs around in his mouth.
“Thirty minutes of good acting.”
Drake’s fork clattered to the plate as he leapt out of his chair, but he was too late. Sandra was already sliding across the polished hardwood floor into the bedroom, the door slamming shut behind her.
Morning flowered into afternoon. In a crowded movie house on Third and Elm, Captain Kirk went about the business of saving the universe, but out on the windowsill, the seed experienced another unexpected growth explosion. The pine box holding it cracked and shattered, sounding like a shotgun shell. Bits of wood and earth rained down onto the empty sidewalk four stories below. The window frame bent and the window glass blew inward, the shards knocking over a water filled glass globe with a tiny Enterprise inside. Silver and gold plastic stars swirled about the toppled Starship, but no one called, “Red Alert!” as the blue tendrils of the seed climbed into the open window.
Plants with elevated levels of cyclin activity in their roots have increased root growth compared to normal plants. Cyclin genes might also control growth of other plant tissues…
The window frame was a normal Northern American Red Oak hardwood. The seed grew the ashen wood in seconds, the spiny tendrils absorbing the latent genetic phenomes in the dead wood. The bluish vines were peppered with tiny yellow and red Rose flowers. As it wound its way into the window frame, it flowered, the buds bursting open like a flame colored halo. Octopus like plant fingers spread out across the wall in all directions, worming their way under the paint and into the plaster.
As in many older buildings, the flooring was Macaranduba, commonly known as Bulletwood, polished and worn smooth by being trod upon. The seed feasted upon the Macaranduba, diving into it like a starving dog. The flooring was old, but it was a sunken treasure ship of biogenetic material.
Drake didn’t just like Star Trek. He worshipped it. It was his pseudo-religion. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were his gods and he worshipped at the altar of consumerism, purchasing any product with the official Paramount Star Trek logo as though it would someday be considered a holy relic. He owned replicas of all the weapons and equipment, four different uniform shirts; Science Officer Blue, Command Yellow and Kill-Me-Quick-Red and even a black and red Next Generation shirt he never wore, an army of action figures, more posters than he could even hang on the walls, and the crowning jewel of his collection: Every Star Trek novel ever published, in hardcover, many of them signed by the author.
He kept them in a deep burgundy cherry bookcase with locking glass doors. If he had seen the way the seed devoured them, engulfing the bookcase in a ropy purplish blue shroud and then snapping shut over the entire collection like the puffy blue lips of a drowned man, Drake would have cried.
Books are made from wood pulp. The seed entered into an orgasmic frenzy of natural selection, genetic mutation, and adaptation.
Twenty one species of Arabidopsis thaliana were isolated that developed necrosis upon incubation at low temperature (10C - 15C). Mutation in different phenotypic classes occurred in three samples; Class 1 variants first turn yellow, wilt, and then eventually die, Class 2 mutants show the same response, but younger leaves of the rosette are completely healthy. In class 3, the part of each leaf closest to the center of the rosette turns yellow, eventually flowering and set seed even after weeks at the chilling temperature. Sample seedlings experience a brief growth spurt, reaching maturity in a matter of hours. It is not known how elevated Cyclin levels affect the reproductive cycle of naturally occurring cold climate plants…
By noon, they could have used Drake’s apartment for the set of the jungle planet of Vore. Thick ropy vines hung down from the ceiling, tall bluegrass had grown up from the floor, and the table and chairs resembled leafy hedge sculptures. Every surface was covered in vibrant spring colors. The oak countertops awoke suddenly, spawning bright green leaves that turned yellow, and orange, and brown, the seasons rippling across the surface like the skin of a chameleon. As the plant grew into the kitchen, it wormed its way into the toaster, and found its heat a welcome incubator for new seedlings. When the microwave had become overgrown and exploded, the plant had thrived, a new generation mutating from the radiation.
Amid the rapid transition of the seed into the plant and then into a whole new lifeform, one that brought an abrupt awakening and re-birth to any genetic material it encountered, the plant was still missing one thing…it was still a plant. It grew, it seeded, the seeds feasted upon the rotting corpse of their parent and the cycle continued, Drake’s apartment maturing into a tiny living ecosystem. It lacked a spark. Something that would ignite it into consciousness.
That was when Drake and Sandra returned from the movie.
Drake dropped his keys, laughing. He clutched his sides, slumping against the door.
“When Kirk says, ‘That’s what I would do If I were me…” Drake spouted between gales of laughter.
“Bwaahahahahah…” Drake laughed. “I thought I was going to die. If I were me…”
“That had to be the best line in the whole movie,” Drake sniffled, wiping at his eyes.
Sandra smiled, bending over to pick up the keys. The shadow of something moving passed under the door. She handed Drake a small plastic bag.
“Hold Mr. Spock, Laughing Boy, while I open the door.”
Drake’s eyes were watering, and he rubbed at first one and then the other one with his free hand, “Aye, Aye, Keptin.”
When Sandra opened the door, the plant exploded out into the hallway. The door smacked into her face, crushing her nose. She was launched backward into Drake, knocking him to the ground amid a rain of movie posters, 5 ½ inch action figures and a spattering of blood.
Drake’s arm twisted up underneath him, and the bone snapped, the sound crunching like the bowl of frosted corn flakes he had eaten with his eggs at breakfast. His replica Phaser weapon clattered out of his utility belt and slid down the hallway - just out of reach. William Shatner would have enjoyed the irony.
“Aaahhh…” Drake screamed, pushing at Sandra’s limp body. “Get off me, get the hell off me.” He crab crawled backward, sliding out from under Sandra.
The door, a sanded Rocky Mountain Pine, awoke from its slumber, thin green spines poking out of the surface like the quills of a porcupine. The bluish thorny feeding tendrils of the plant wrapped around Sandra’s legs and began pulling her into the doorway, which now gaped like the throaty maw of an apartment sized forest stomach.
Drake stumbled to his feet, his shattered arm forgotten. The hallway walls and ceiling began to grow grass, the floor bucking and heaving as branches spouted up, and produced leaves.
Sandra snapped back to consciousness - screaming.
Her legs were cocooned in slippery plant fibers, the thorns digging into her skin and drinking blood. She felt the probing tentacles crawl under her skirt.
“Oh, Jeeezzzuus.” Her eyes found Drake, who was backing away, his blank stare not seeing her.
“Help me! Look at me, Goddamnit! Drake!”
Drake didn’t hear her screams as the plant invaded her body, crawling into her abdomen through the openings her body had provided. He didn’t hear her desperate crying as it wrapped itself around breasts he had fondled, and he mostly didn’t watch as she fought it, tearing into the blue-black vines with her hands until her fingernails peeled away, then clutching desperately at the needle sharp spines of the door as she was finally pulled into the vibrant green world his apartment had become.
He was in another place. A place full of stars. The Star Trek theme song playing over and over in his head, every episode playing at full fast forward speed, Kirk fighting the Klingons, Kirk with the Tribbles, Kirk vanquishing the Gorn, Kirk saving the day over and over…
Until he knew what he had to do.
Drake smashed his good hand into the safety glass over the fire ax on the wall. Grabbing it, Drake dove into the mouth of the plant to save his crew.
It was what Captain Kirk would have done.
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