Hala struggled up the mountain step by painful step, hunching her shoulders against the cold, but she would not give up. The Cursed Wisewoman’s advice was her last hope; if she could not find her, she might as well die here.
Sharp edges cut her fingers when she had to climb a steep outcrop.. Icy wind spooled her breath from her lungs - but the sight when she crested the obstacle took it away entirely. An old oak tree, more trunk than branches, huddled in the lee of a boulder. An old, lined face formed of craggy bark was too clearly visible to be a trick of the light.
When Hala approached the Wisewoman of legend, a creak announced the opening of her eyes. Yellow-brown and baleful they regarded the human woman.
Hala swallowed and took a few deep breaths, gathering thin air in her lungs. “Honoured Wisdom, I request your help.”
“Yeeeers, of course you do. And what do you have for me?”
“I…” This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. And the Wisewoman shouldn’t sound so petulant.
“Oh, girl, even a tree needs to live. I’m sure what you’re going to ask about is important, but I’m not gonna tell you a thing if you don’t bring me at least a bucket of dung.”
“And lug it up here?” Indignation was burning away Hala’s confusion.
“You have limbs that move, so stop complaining. Not a word.” The slash in the bark that was her mouth closed and fused, as did her eyes. Her entire face seemed to retract deeper into the tree, turning from a marvel to a bit of chance.
Going numb inside, Hala turned around. Dung. So much for legends.
The first time morning glory grew right through the wall into Rina’s bedroom was almost funny. Sometimes she let it grow up the bar of a shelf, which did not take long, before ripping it out. The blooms were pretty, and unlike potted plants did not require her watering.
Rina was still relieved when she moved to a different flat, without plants growing through the walls. At least there had not been any in the first week. Morning glory must really like me, she thought, when the first thing she saw after waking up was the tip of a twine climbing up the wall. Since the landlord was unresponsive, she closed the cracks they grew through herself with putty — repeatedly, since the morning glory always found a way around it.
When one spring morning she woke up with morning glory tendrils wrapped around her arms, she had enough, and started looking for another place to stay. Ridiculous, fleeing from flowers, but apparently “grows like a weed” had some basis in fact
She was lucky: a few of her friends had been considering buying a house, if they could find someone else to live in and pay rent. Rina jumped at the opportunity, under the condition of getting a bedroom well above ground level.
Living with friends worked out better than she thought, which she blamed on not having to share a room. It improved her social life immensely having people around to talk to.
The persistent morning glory turned into a joke. It turned into something else when her friends found her body, strangled by a flower.
The first losses of life on my survey ship were... absurd. Absurd is the only word for it.
We had found a more or less derelict generation ship - the Leif Erikson, last contact about 300 years prior - in orbit around a star not on its route. No working communications or clear signs of surviving crew, but life support systems were running. There had been unusual changes to the hull: additional windows.
We, that is, I sent in a small team to investigate. According to their running reports they found gravity and life support intact, kept in working order by likewise still functioning maintenance bots.
Our team, hah, followed their noses to the gardens, which had completely overgrown, vines spilling over into the access corridor so that the safety door was blocked open. A bundle of cables stood out because it had not been overgrown. When the team followed it, they found its end embedded into a tree. Grown in.
Weird, but not helpful, so the team wanted to look elsewhere.
When they tried to leave the garden, a flock of maintenance bots cut them off. If you think the small ones could not do damage, remember they have welding tools. None of us took it as a dire threat even so, but it turned out that the little critters had been buying time for heavy guns to arrive, the models involved in wall restructuring and the like.
I listened to my crew dying.
We’re no kind of army, so I'll leave further investigations to people more used to being attacked, and better equipped for dealing with it.
If you want to know what I think happened... in the files about the Leif Erikson I found the profile of one of the original crew, someone into trying to communicate with plants. Hooking them up to computers via electrodes. Fits with the cables ending in the tree.
So, maybe the maintenance bot network teamed up with the plants.
And three of my crew ended up as compost.
Absurd, I said.
Based on a prompt by rhodielady-47 ("What happens if the garden on board a spaceship becomes intelligent and decides to take over?")
I had no idea how long that'd take, and didn't know how long to wait before I could peek, but it got taken out of my hands.
Yesterday we had rain and wind, and apparently that made the top of the shoot too heavy, and it broke. Now, it broke where I'd cut into the wood and would have cut the top part off - after there'd been enough roots to plant it somewhere.
So, well, time to check how it's doing.
That's some callus there, and one little white root poking to the right. Though there were the beginnings of a few more just visible. (That's my thumbnail at the bottom, for scale.)
So I cut it back a good deal so there aren't so many leaves from which water evaporates, stuck it into a pot with more of the seed and cutting soil (the end is a way under the surface, so the poor little stick won't fall over), and wait.
I put a freezer bag over the whole thing to keep the air around it humid, and put it in a place without direct sun so in its mini greenhouse it won't burn up. I figure the chances are better than with a plain cutting, since there are already roots starting to grow, whose tips presumably can absorb water and nutrients as they should, but we'll see.
Anyway, the principle works, so one of those days I'll start on one of the dissectum varieties. (wikipedia photo, for the curious.)
I've been meaning to try air layering - a method to propagate plants that seems to me less risky than cuttings - and now that circumstances suggested to me it would be a good time, I thought I'd document my attempt, so it might serve as a sort of how-to.
First, let me introduce you properly to one of my Japanese maples.
This is the one that went feral. It was a grafted one with leaves that had white edges, but that graft died either last summer, or the summer before that, presumably because I too often neglected to water it.
On the left is a pair of buds at the end of a twig of my green feathered Japanese maple.
On the right is what it's grown into a bit over amonth later. I put my index finger where the buds from the picture on the left were. (Both images link to bigger versions.)