Alice misted the variegated leaves. A ripple of delight coursed through her body as though it were her sensation rather than the plant’s.
Perfect, sighed the plant.
Her finger paused on the trigger of the mister. Involuntarily, Alice placed it beside the humble terracotta tub in which her captor dwelt. Her arm returned to her side and there she stood, a mannequin gazing dumbly down at the red, green and yellow plant on the bright living room windowsill.
I can’t move, thought Alice. Who said that? The plant? How can this be? She wanted to grasp her tightening chest but couldn’t. Wanted to crouch so the nausea would pass.
Good. You hear my thoughts, replied the plant in a sacrosanct manner. How about my emotions?
A sense of the plant’s excitement washed over Alice.
Yes, I feel it. How are you doing this? You’re just a plant.
Just a plant! Huh. Do we not fight for territory, seek food, evade predators and trap prey as you?
Alice remained silent, wanted to shrug but felt powerless to do so.
See us more as very slow-moving animals, the plant huffed. For a long time we have suffered injustice. Have been too patient, some might say. Your species… are you even aware you started off as nothing but a microscopic extremophile?
No, thought Alice. Biology wasn’t her subject. Baking, however… Right now, she longed to be in the kitchen, mixing, portioning, creating.
Your muffins can wait, said the plant, clearly annoyed by such trivialities.
This is important. So, listen you — you — hairless ape! You are an experiment. The first to hear and feel a plant. A test subject, if you will. It’s taken us a good while to get through to your kind so don’t mess this up.
Alice eased the tension in her limbs, ceasing her efforts to flee that temperate spot by the window.
Good, said the plant, this is much easier when you comply.
Now pay attention, mammal. We were once one kind. Roughly 1.5 billion years ago, we split. Your ancestors took one fork on the evolutionary road and mine, the other. You were simple back then, no perceived threat.
Insidious, dawdling evolution was on your side. Alas, we paid no mind. Insects, birds, small mammals too. Useful, harmonious pollinators.
Alice yawned despite the nostalgic memories seeping into her mind.
Hey! Are you even listening?
With an urge to rub her pounding temples, she fought against the plant’s immobilising grip. A finger wrestled twitchily for independence only to be supressed.
That’s better, said the plant. As I was saying… All too soon your kind evolved with your brains, your tools, your opposable thumbs. Are you even remotely aware of how narrow a win it was between you and the felines?
Balding apes, dreams deeper than the roots you don’t possess. The destruction was protracted at first. You used to be delicate, susceptible to poisons, toxins. Weak when faced with disease. Soon, you comprehended the answers were within us. You sought us out, laying waste to forests and innocent green land, ground us up, synthesised us. You grew robust on our power not yours.
Afraid and longing to be gone from this madness—from this telepathic plant of all things—Alice’s strongest thought was to scream a warning to anyone who might hear.
The mad woman and her talking plant, that’s what they’ll call you, said the plant. It was right, no one would believe her.
You understand, said the plant, we are slowly taking back our planet. The planet we colonised, we terraformed for our kind who crossed the endless tracts of space locked within water of asteroids long before you even dreamt of ungainly probes and space shuttles.
Alice swelled with the plant’s pride. A snort escaped her. She’d never imagined plants as being arrogant, but there it was. She sensed the plant’s distraction in its own monologue. Its hold over her seemed weaker.
Alice twitched her index finger.
Something changed within some of you. You can sense us on some level. We can transmit to you. Even control you if we really focus. Perhaps evolution sided with us after all.
We may lack the nervous system you attribute to intelligent life but we share the neurotransmitter glutamate. Our actin fibres aid our proprioception as do your muscles. Our photoreceptors function as eyes. We have eleven types, how many have you?
I don’t know, said Alice, nervous. She felt like she was back in school. She held that strong sense of shame for not knowing. Her fingers wiggled; the movement went unnoticed.
Four, you have four, said the plant haughtily. Gosh! Have you no knowledge of your biology? Never mind. The point is we are not that different, you and I — What? What did I say? What exactly do you mean by “cliché”?
You sound like some terrible supervillain, said Alice. Maybe I’ve watched too many cheesy spy movies recently. Would you prefer some music, Beethoven perhaps?
She flexed her wrist.
What? No. Shut up! Music is of no consequence to me. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a potted plant. Music isn’t ecologically relevant. Anyway, I digress…
We even dwell in your homes… True, some perish through neglect. They shall be remembered as casualties of war. We will spread as never before. From the garden centres we control, we will fund such a campaign, deploy our troops.
The plant’s zealous hunger for dominance surged within Alice. She flexed her thumb.
So, since this is technically first contact, we’ll give you a choice.
A foreboding malevolence washed over Alice.
Water us, feed us, tend us of your own will and there is a place for your progenies in the New World. But resist and you’ll be drinking weed killer before you can even… ah. Good. Yes, some fertilizer would be agreeable.
Alice thought of the plant food under the sill as intensely as she could. At the same time, her free hand reached for the secateurs.
M.F. Alfrey is a writer, artist, Sci-Fi geek and cave troll. His love for SF & F seriously affects his ability to function in the real world. He also teaches English as a second language, quite often subjecting his students (captive audience) to wild SF concepts. Besides that, he runs long distances, tries to climb and is striving not to break his neck whilst realising an unfulfilled childhood aspiration to skate. He lives in the UK with his wife and their skateboards.