The jeep hit a pothole and Jessica groaned from the back seat. Her pain knifed through him. He was her big brother. He was supposed to look out for her. He’d thought when he left and hadn’t come back he done just that.
He hated that she’d gotten mixed up in this – hated that he’d had to hurt her. But there hadn’t been another way. As much as he loved his plants, he didn’t want his little sister to become one. He could still smell the decaying flower smell, but it was fading. Nothing like cloyingly sweet scent that had poured from his sister’s cuts while he’d sliced through her skin and Wanda stabbed her.
He glanced at the redhead driving the jeep. Her hands gripped the steering wheel and her lips crooked up in a cruel sneer. As an evil genius, he couldn’t help but appreciate her rocking the Rambo Barbie thing. As a big brother, it pissed him off. She’d been rough with Jessica – rougher than she needed to be. The hair pulling thing was definitely out of line. The jeep jolted again and Jessica whimpered.
“Watch where you’re going.”
Wanda turned her sneer on him and glared. “I am,” she said through gritted teeth. “It’s not my fault we’re driving on this crappy road, genius.”
“You forgot the evil.”
“No, I didn’t. After that scene back there, I didn’t think it applied.” She tossed her red ringlets and the hard angle of her jaw jutted out from between the curls.
Ouch. “She’s my little sister. I didn’t want to hurt her.” He was evil. He’d made flesh eating plants for Pete’s sake. Tank and Velvet were probably still following behind them, massacring innocent bystanders along the way. God knew what terror the metal tree would wreck upon the townspeople. “I am too evil,” he murmured under his breath.
She spared him an eye roll. “We’ll see. So what’s the plan, boy wonder?”
One moment of compassion and he’d gone from sexy evil genius to Batman’s tight-wearing sidekick.
"I’m not sure.” Her ‘I knew you weren’t evil’ snort made him cringe. “Magnets might work. There’s not a lot of steel in the plants’ molecular make up, but it might be enough to contain them, provided we can generate a large enough magnetic field.”
“Where are we going to get enough magnets in this backwoods town?” Her obvious disbelief in his plan hurt. Man, give an evil genius a break.
“We could get some copper wire and iron, but a battery strong enough to generate the electromagnetic charge we need to stop the plants would probably create too much heat.” He was going to string this out, remind her he knew what he was doing. “There might be a magnet at the dump. Even a town as small as this one needs to sort their recycling. We could use that to create a containment field.”
“Why don’t we just use Roundup?”
Horrified, he stared at her. Kill them?
“No, no, no. I was kidding about the weed killer and the napalm. I can’t kill them.” He thought of the way Velvet’s leaves danced in the sunlight of how she’d teased him with her tendrils. “I don’t want to kill them.”
“Jamie, they eat people.”
“You don’t run around spraying living things with pesticide because they get hungry. Everything’s gotta eat something.”
“Not something, genius.” She sure knew how to hurt a guy. “People. Your creations eat people and the can reproduce.”
That was a problem. Growth, he’d counted on, but reproduction, that was an unintended side effect. Still, it hardly warranted murder.
“We’re going to catch them and contain them. We’re not going to kill…”
Wanda slammed on the brakes and the grab of the seatbelt cut off his breath and the last part of his sentence. A Cadillac, circa late twentieth century, sat across both lanes of the road. The doors hung open and the windows looked like they had been punched out. An aluminum walking cane poked out the driver’s side window and a crocheted shawl with bright yarn flowers was draped across the hood.
In front of the car stood a tree, its leaves shimmering gold and iridescent green in the sunlight. Stooped bushes, tangled and gnarled like laurel, danced on either side of it, their flitting movements at odds with their bent shapes. Roots like spider legs scuttled across the rust-stained pavement.
That explained it. Old people changed so fast, and it looked like they’d found something to eat. Jamie leaned forward to see why the plants were stopped in the middle of the road, but he could only catch glimpses between the shining leaves. He opened the door, reaching out to stop Wanda when she grabbed her door handle.
“I’ll get a closer look. I am the evil genius.” He flashed her what he hoped was a sexy roguish grin. “Wait here.”
“The hell I will.” She shoved the door open and got out, leaving him to scramble out after her.
They were still too far away to see what was blocking the plants’ path and he didn’t want to risk getting closer. Creator or not, he didn’t like the looks of those bushes. He climbed onto the roof of the jeep, cringing a little as the metal dented under his feet. Wanda jumped lightly onto the hood, and he reached out to help her to the roof. Balancing on the roof rack, he stretched to peer around the flashing leaves.
A black Hummer with tinted windows blocked the road in front of the plants. A figure, clad in black, stood, feet shoulder width apart, on the roof and pumped something. Jamie shaded his eyes, trying to get a better look. When the figure looked up, he heart took a roller coaster ride from elation to horror.
Armed with an ordinary green and white handheld garden sprayer, his mother fought off his plants.