When KACEY VANDERKARR
held me at gunpoint invited me to join her in the BLOGVEL, I checked out the first BLOGVEL generated by Michelle Simkins and Co. I fervently believe that BLOGVEL is, and remains, a Hungarian dish. There is no evidence to the contrary.
What is a BLOG NOVEL? It’s a literary game of pass-the-parcel. (Though the music doesn’t stop.) The first author creates the opening and closing chapters.
Lunatics Authors sign up for the game, and carry the story around, hot-potato style, until the work is done. The main challenge is to avoid introducing a dinosaur as soon as chapter one’s relay-baton hands off to chapter two’s author.
You’ll find CHAPTER FOUR at the site run by J. Lea Lopez. Chapter six will appear on Monday the 9th of July 2012, at the site run by CAT WOODS. The following list of contributors is provisional from chapter six on.
Chapter 5 – Report from a Fugitive.
Chapter 15 – Word by Word. (Temporarily unavailable.)
Half a yellow notebook. Pocket-sized. Thick, judging by the half lying in the grass. That hard lemon cover kissed the surrounding green. Where was the other half? An act of violence stole pages. Rapid. Strong. Evil?
Depends on the contents.
Perhaps a non-violent act stole pages. That still left rapid and strong. Evil? Proceed with caution. He listened. Trees creaked. Leaves rustled. Only rustled? If the leaves start tinkling, you’ll have the answer to a question you don’t feel like asking.
He knelt on his left knee and fished a silver pen from his camouflage jacket. The pen went under the hard lemon cover as though the writing implement’s owner wanted to defuse a bomb. When his eyes hit the words, the handwriting, explosions went off in his head. Expletives.
Mom and dad were poor.
The diarist had found time, in all the chaos, to tell as much of the story as she could before someone (come on, SOMETHING) grabbed the diary and interrupted the narrative flow. Her brother was an Evil Genius™. Mom and pop were abducted by aliens. Gran had a thing for sweaters.
There’d been an outbreak of metal plants. Gold, no less. He took the time to read everything. A normal person wouldn’t make the attempt to understand any of it. He wasn’t a normal person. No. He was an Evil Genius™.
Backtrack, smart guy. How did you get into this mess, and why does everyone think you are so evil? Could it be that you are actually evil? You’re certainly in a mess. Not under as great a storm as your sister faces. She should have contacted you immediately. The poor girl was trying to solve half a puzzle from this end. Not so long ago, an Evil Genius™ was up to similar antics in the Top Secret Lab®.
“So, Mr Sexy Evil…”
“Priorities, Wanda. Evil, then sexy.”
“Uh, yeah. Actually, I agree. Evil. Therefore, sexy. Your vile ways are forcing me to slide my arms around you from behind. Being heroic, I’m meant to strangle you and save the day. Saving me from myself. But this wicked aura of yours is turning my heroic effort aside. And I’m going for cuddles instead.”
“Yeah. I’m reprehensible.”
“Is that a fancy word for buff under this lab-coat?”
“What are you cooking up here?”
“Checking soil-samples from home. It’s not home. From my sister’s uh…neck of the woods.”
“Not so fast.”
“This distraction may cost me the Nobel.”
“Well this distraction feels that she needs to distract her secret boyfriend from…”
“Secret? Everyone in the lab knows.”
“Your family? I want to meet them.”
“Gran would like you. There’d be a chill in the room. Generated by me.”
“Oh. And sis?”
“She’d be shocked to discover that I put in the time to snare a girlfriend.”
“As would I. You just used that patented Girlfriend Attractor™.”
“Yeah. If only I could iron out the kinks and have the contraption attract a decent female…”
“One who isn’t Groucho.”
“What you said.”
“Jamie…why not just go hi-tech and update me into your life on Facebook?”
“Then I’d have to post photos of you. And no one would believe I’d plumped for a redhead.”
“You mean no one would believe you’d plumped for a girl.”
“Ow. Where’d that come from?”
Mm. Where indeed. Dragging Wanda into the picture was in the bad decision category. She was there when he’d made the discovery. Standing wide-eyed as he threw on his jacket and declared that he had to go back home immediately. Without telling anyone.
“I have to go now. No one must know. I can’t phone ahead. That would be suspicious. I’ll just turn up and confirm my findings. It’s nothing. I’m sure everything will be okay. If I don’t come back, think well of me. They’ll paint me as evil, and seal off the streets. In that order. But…think well of me for trying to do the right thing. Whatever the hell that is. It’s nothing. My drama. It’s nothing.”
“Yeah? Then why do you look as though you discovered a new disease a decade-too-late to do anything about it?”
“Not a disease. And not new. My sister may be in danger from…contamination.”
“Scaremongering won’t help. Gran…might not take the news well.”
“You look shaky. Too intense for this to be nothing. Let me drive you there.”
“I don’t want your involvement to cloud my plans.”
“Pack in the action-movie machismo, Jamie. I’m driving. And you are going to sit and explain.”
But he hadn’t explained. They’d taken her jeep and waltzed through an irrational hailstorm that was straight out of BIBLICAL times. Wanda half-expected toads to fall from the sky. The jeep growled in a traffic snarl-up that planned to last until the gas-tank gave out. She eyed Jamie, partly for selfish reasons. He had that Chris Hemsworth Mancandy thing going for him, after all.
The drumming on the roof matched the patter of her pulse. He was messing around with a tablet of his own design, checking figures. Ah hell, there was no adventure ahead of them. Just milk and cookies with the folks. Awkward hello moments. The inevitable question.
So. Wanda. Do you dye your hair?
“Explain yourself Jamie.”
“I’m an Evil Genius™ with a devious taste in a well-turned ankle and a cool understated approach to my wild secret passion for redheads.”
“Wow. And all the scientific techno-babble you are studiously avoiding?”
“Local soil-conditions matched to climate-change brought about by man’s inhumanity to the environment may have resulted in the development of…”
“Why don’t we avoid that part? Something is growing in the woods back home. Killer mushrooms. So dangerous that we daren’t actually phone ahead and warn anyone.”
“Dangerous, but not that dangerous. Though dangerous enough to warrant a look-see.”
“No wonder your folks think you are some kind of Evil Genius™. Acting all mysterious.”
“I was too busy kissing a redhead to further my plans for World Domination. There’s secrecy and secrecy. Besides, if you’d been a passing fancy…no need to update Facebook.”
“Ah, the Evil Genius™ resurfaces.”
Jamie skimmed the half-notebook again. Obviously, the mysterious figure in the woods had been Wanda. They’d hit town late. He’d wanted to get straight to the root of the problem. Hell, if there were roots, there were leaves by now. The expedition hadn’t gone down well.
“Don’t shout her.”
“Who was that? Your sister?”
“Let her go. You scared her.”
“If you’d called, she’d have responded to your voice.”
“Yeah, well. Maybe that would have scared her too.”
“Scared her even more?”
“If you’re a serial killer, just tell me now.”
“I’m a teddy killer. In what little spare time I have, I murder stuffed toys.”
“Lowest of the low. I’m taking you in. Back to the jeep, anyhow. Are we going to hit a hotel?”
“No. Let’s rough it in the jeep. Better if we tackle the problem in daylight.”
The problem was getting Wanda to find a hotel while Jamie stocked up on supplies in town without bumping into Jessica. He filled a bag with essential goodies, and spent the morning cautiously testing the woods. No sign of Jessica. He kept missing her. (Wind carried her voice away from him.) Lunch with Wanda was strained.
“I want to move cautiously.”
“Stay with the vehicle. I call you, you swoop in.”
“I don’t like it.”
“You love it.”
“No, I don’t. We should talk to your sister. Apologise for the scare in the woods. Did you find anything?”
“Testing the extent of the contamination. Had to buy a few things. Please stay safe.”
“You too. Safe from what? Okay Mr Silent Type. Play it close. But, you too. Stay safe. I want an explanation by nightfall. Meanwhile, I’ll book us a hotel.”
Later afternoon. He found the notebook. Replay. So he’d missed Jessica in the woods as she’d hunted for Gran. In the morning, mom had walked back into Jessica’s life. Jessica made the time to narrate her story. Ending with Mom’s arrival. Likely outcome? Jessica couldn’t deal, or process, and insisted on telling the story to her diary. Filling mom in as she wrote.
Up to a point. Mom’s patience would have worn thin, and then. Yeah. Mom, or someone/something resembling mom, said all the explanations were in the woods. With Gran out of it, Jessica left the next slice of her narration for later.
Then. In the woods. What happened? Mom, or someone/something resembling mom, grabbed the notebook. Ripped it apart. Funny. Gran insisted that Jamie not be involved. Casting him as evil. Mom, or the mom-thing, probably cast Jamie as evil too.
And now? He didn’t feel like calling Wanda to rescue him. Jamie had to rescue Jessica. He followed his gut-instinct and moved slowly, camouflaged, testing the way ahead. Intuition says not to visit the house. Follow your ears on this one.
There. A light tinkling. Metal leaves. There aren’t any. Closer. Move slowly. Nothing. You must be able to see them by now. Ah. Irony. The metal leaves are in disguise. Two can play the camouflage game. There. A building. Cloaked in green. With a green door. The creamy pillars stood out.
He watched for an entire hour. Another. Wanda was under strict instruction not to call him. He’d set the phone to vibrate anyway. Jamie was staring at a building that hadn’t been here yesterday. Green leaves. He inched closer. His fingers scraped away at the surface.
Someone’s learning. The leaves are coated green, to blend in. Underneath that veneer, the leaves are golden. The plants have come together to grow a structure resembling a building. With a lamp. He sensed something watching for him. But he’d moved slowly, and was bathed in camouflage of his own.
Night came on. With it, the lamp burst into life. Neat trick, for a plant. Right there, on the ground. A flash of yellow. The other half of the notebook. Cautiously, he picked that up and ignored the temptation to skip to the end. Be tempted. He did skip to the end. Just to see how far ahead the end lay.
Not far. His sister’s narration continued for a few pages, explaining what happened when mom arrived. The narration ceased with an entry on heading into the woods. Mom-thing was very persuasive. Ha. And he was meant to be the evil one.
Something heavy loomed over him. Was his sister inside the plant-building? He used every sense available to him. Sweet scent. As though a plant had just burst into night-blooming life. He counted trees. Had one moved? Rustling. Metallic.
Through the trees, there came the sound of an animal running. It darted into the glade lit by the plant-lantern. A deer. The animal skidded to a clumsy halt. Creature in search of its Disney documentary moment. Jamie could almost hear the whimsical soundtrack burst into life.
To the deer’s right, an entire tree knelt and shoved its outstretched branch arm through the animal’s frame. The juddering twitching beast could have been Jamie. He’d moved slowly, and was camouflaged. Up the deer went, snapping and popping as tree-fingers pushed and prodded.
Blood became a fine mist irritating Jamie’s nostrils. He refused to gag. Was Jessica dead? No. The mom-thing would have killed Jessica at the house, if that had been the plan. So that wasn’t the plan. Why had the tree-thing killed the deer, then? Sustenance?
It’s one thing to draw life from the soil. But to allow for the rapid growth the tree-thing had undergone, that required the full three-course meal. To build a structure from plants. That too was costly, and he wondered what had fed that transformation. Unless. Say it. One of the plants was a nuclear plant. Take it down if you find it, smart guy.
Jamie waited for the snapping to subside. The tree-thing clumped off in the direction of town. What was he supposed to do about that? Warn Wanda? How, exactly? There’s a dangerous figure heading your way. True. Wanda would ask him to elaborate on that description.
It’s a tree-thing. Just roll with it.
He sensed nothing. Screw this. Go through the green door. If the building eats you, then you deserve a stupid fate like that for walking into a Venus Housetrap. Jamie paused. He pretended that no one told him there’d be days like this one. A lie. He was warned, long ago. Thanks, pop.
The door gave easily to his manly shoulder. He burst in. The same way a firework hits the sky. There were more plant-lights in the ceiling of this mock-chapel. How long before the tree-thing enhanced its camouflage, and started to resemble a human?
Quite a long while. It had to shrink to reasonable height, first. Jessica was sleeping on a pew. Or was she? Perhaps she’d been replaced by a plant-thing. He’d have to develop a test for that. And test himself first. Wanda too. Gran. Jessica. Mom-thing.
Okay smart guy. Why is Jessica still alive? As a lure, to drag you in here? Or do the plants have grand plans for…her. For the pair of you. Hell, for the whole human race. He started thinking about weedkiller, napalm, and atomic bombs. Come on, smart guy. Why did the tree-thing leave? It was needed elsewhere. Possibly back at the house.
He had to save Jessica, take her to the house, check on Gran, and pile everyone into the jeep. Case closed. Problem solved. Nothing a little home-made napalm wouldn’t fix. He touched Jessica’s shoulder. She slept on. Jamie put his hand to her cheek. The pale skin flaked away, revealing solid gold beneath.
Midas has nothing on you, Jamie Henley. Was she beyond saving? Had he allowed himself to be contaminated just now? He sat on the pew beside Jessica. Explain this one to Wanda. Go on. Okay. Jessica has developed a rare skin-condition. There. Easy.
A steady clumping sound broke into his non-thoughts. The tree-thing was back. With a double-clump. Oh. It had brought company. He felt safe inside the plant-building. The creatures were too big to get at him.
He watched in amazement as the walls grew trees. The tree-things were simply merging with the other plants making up the building. Passing through to the mock-chapel’s interior. The original tree-thing was tall enough to reach to the ceiling. Its willowy friend was smaller. Feminine.
Had this been the mom-thing earlier in the day?
Right on time, his phone vibrated. Tree-thing and mom-thing hadn’t noticed him. They’d been looking in another direction, away from Jessica. Now the plant-faces turned and set beady plant-eyes upon Jessica and Jamie. Saplings versus siblings. Well, the game’s up. He answered the call.
“You will not believe what I just saw at the edge of the woods.”
“Oh, I think I can hazard a mild wild guess.”
“Forget it, smart guy. You have no idea.”
“I’ll have to call you back. In the middle of a conversation. Well, I’m at the start of one.”
“Er. They say it’s good to talk to your plants. Helps them grow faster. Not that I see that making much difference here. Hit the hardware store and pick up plenty of weedkiller. A chainsaw. Napalm if they stock it. They won’t stock it. Ask anyway.”
“Wanda. Leave town.”
“I think we’re beyond that. They’ll paint you as evil, and seal off the streets. In that order. Well, they skipped to the second part.”
“Who are they?”
“What are they?”
“Okay. What, then?”
“Hedges. Golden hedges. And they’re turning green.”
This story continues at WORDS FROM THE WOODS.
NEXT BLOG: ZENNA HENDERSON.