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Children with Veins of Bramble

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There are things growing in Sam Manson’s meat, although she does not know it yet.

They think they have beaten you--as if it would be so easy! You are everywhere, you are always everywhere. You are in the palm tree and the poplar, you are in the weeds and the wildflowers. The respiratory system of humans is an open invitation for your spores.

Your defeat--and it was defeat, you are not so stubborn or so deluded as to deny it--at the hands of the halfa has been the perfect opportunity to spread your roots in a... subtler fashion. Sam Manson was correct; wanton destruction is not always the best method for dealing with the fleshwalking infestation plaguing your green Earth.

There is much to learn from her, you have realized, and she from you.

When she still belonged to you, as mother and caretaker and gardener to your children, you dressed her in thorns and spiny leaves and poisonous flower petals, but you also filled her warm, wet insides with the first seeds of her own children. Humans were perfect incubators, as long as you took the time to coax the proper growth.

You planted seeds in her striated muscles and under her skin, in the branches of her lungs and in the clumps of lymph and nervous tissue. Fungi wrap themselves delicately around bone, twine together with vein and artery. A dusting of dark spores fills the wrinkles of her clever, stubborn brain. You are as delicate in the sowing of Sam Manson as you have ever been with the newest of bright green sprouts.

It has been months since your defeat, and still your children slumber. As the seed of the great redwood giants can wait years for optimal conditions, so shall you. If Sam Manson has noticed any difficulty in breathing, an oddly sluggish pulse for someone her age, an increase and severity in headaches, she has said nothing to her family nor friends.

The halfa and his best friend suspect nothing, but Sam Manson is nothing if not intelligent. You know she worries at the tiny bumps at her joints like a dog with a bone, and yet she says nothing. When her neurons, clogged with spore from your very own core, misfire and convince her sensory organs to smell and taste new grass whenever she is indoors, she picks up a bubblegum habit, and says nothing.

You cannot read her innermost thoughts, not yet, but it is clear that she suspects she was not left unchanged by her time as your daughter. You are very curious to know why she says nothing, admits nothing, but you are patient. You will wait.

But one night she turns down the halfa’s offer for a movie night at his home. She claims nausea, but your children in her digestive system show she is in perfect health, considering how thickly you have infested her. She is lying. You wonder, and you wait.

She goes to her greenhouse, dark but for the gentle light of heat lamps for her children. She locks the door, and she whispers, “I know you’re there.”

Months since your defeat, and still you are so weak. You cannot spare the energy to speak as a human. You spread your reach to her children, her fruits and her vegetables and flowers, and you make them shiver as answer. Through the seeds sleeping within her, you feel her muscles clench and her throat work with fear.

“Show yourself!” She shouts, and her child’s voice does not betray a scrap of that fear. Ah, but Sam Manson was the perfect choice. Very well. She has been your considerate host long enough. It is time to repay her kindness.

She clutches her wrist and shrieks through her teeth when prickle-stemmed red roses split open her wrist. She screams, and so you fill her throat with soft mushrooms. Gagging, she staggers back, trips over her own feet, and you command an orange tree to lower its branches so that she might not fall. She claws at the fungus sprouting from her mouth, desperate for air. You allow her. You have children aplenty, for her.

On her hand and knees, she coughs raggedly. Blood drips from her wounded arm, too much. Her life cannot be at risk. You sever the roses, seal the hurt with broad, soft leaves, and her eyes go very wide. Her eyes are your eyes, and you follow her gaze along the swell of thorny vine, up and into her arm. You were too hasty. Thorns have burst through her skin up to her bare shoulder, and she is in great pain.

“What--“ She coughs some more, swallows and tries again. “What’d you do to me.”

Too weak to speak, but you have blanketed yourself like a second skin across her brain. Communing is no trouble for you.

i have sown the seeds of change within you girl

She flinches. She looks around her greenhouse, at the orange tree still bent to support her if she needs its strength. She realizes without explanation where and what and who you are. What a clever little fleshwalker she is, what a clever little daughter.

“Why?”

i am still weak and i am need of your strength

She leans back on her boot heels, cradling her arm to her chest. “Danny and Tucker--they told me what happened. I made them.” Another wet cough, and she spits pink. “I still can’t remember, but I know what you are. You’re evil.”

do we not fight for the same cause sam manson

“You nearly destroyed the city!” She spits again, and snarls. “I won’t help you.”

do you wish to remember

Before she can reply, you sink your spore deeper into her brain, deeper. There, the temporal lobe. Deeper, into the limbic system, containing the hippocampus and the amygdala, all vital parts of the mammalian brain regarding memory.

Sam Manson stiffens, and her mouth--your mouth--parts in a silent “Oh.”

i gave you power sam manson

I gave you an army

i gave you all that was mine to give

She rocks back and forth, back and forth as you bury your spores in the deepest parts of her clever, cruel little mind. The pink of her brain fades into gray, darkens into black, glows with the smallest traces of your power. If she drools, if her eyes roll back, if she falls bonelessly to the floor, no one but you and the children are there to witness it.

you are the perfect daughter

the perfect mother

you will help me again sam manson

The next day, the halfa and his best friend meet Sam Manson at school. They tease her for wearing a sweater so early in the season, but they never notice anything amiss. They never notice that Sam Manson is no longer the person she used to be.

You are patient, and you are learning subtlety. The halfa will get what’s coming to him, in due time.