Hawthorn bound his hostage in their chair, physically mimicking the bonds holding the dazed denizen of Pulp at the Pump Inc. in its corporate clutches. Earlier at the bar, St John’s Wort and Faerie tinctures leaked into libation had allowed the eco terrorist to use this hapless drone to gain entry to their wasp’s nest.
The workers knew they labored for evil. Why else seek a state of stupor after hours? Nudging the numbness sought for succor had been almost too simple. It reminded Hawthorn of himself, before he’d been Hawthorn.
Mind and soul chained to a desk grown cancerously from a bloated business body. Devoted through selfish apathy to stripping the Earth of its breath, so they could crush bark and branch into liquid engine movement. No leap without a fall, no progress without injury. Humans simply could not get the hang of harmony. It had taken a moment just like this to free him. Let him dance wild with the Good Folk, living for the first time.
Bert, name engraved on his plastic keycard, watched his hoodie wearing jailor with bleary contentedness, silent with the help of duct tape and sedative. Hawthorn had timed the dosage so any minute the woozy worker would return from Haze Mountain. He’d need the blind pawn aware shortly.
A ceramic shell filled to hold a sympathetically linked sample of the Earth was placed between captor and captive. The hiss of solid soil signaled the ritual had begun. Cubicles stretched hollow and empty around them, skulls in a field of manufactured bone. What better place to plant the next seed of resistance? He did so, a small man placing a small pip into a small pot in a massive hostile world.
His past self recalled the term hostile work environment, and he smiled under the scarf hiding his identity. Human Resources would have done well to branch out.
Words were needed. The Good Neighbors would hear, be drawn to the living tissue waiting to be birthed. They would feel the foe, revenge rushing their approach to eagerly enact threefold their traumas. Bert, still separate, was slowly sobering. Giddy bliss was sloughing off of the surface of his fear, it was nearly time to reveal what organism he occupied.
Crouching over the cauldron of loam, Hawthorn whispered,
“Come in the stillness,
Come in the night,
Come to bring wrath,
Come with delight”
The dark dust swirled as the seed passed on the poem. Tiny voices tinkled like broken glass laughing on the limits of his senses. He’d need to be swift, Bert would not have long.
Hawthorn approached his hostage, who had begun to struggle. Bert pulled against the zip ties holding him to the desk he’d once willingly fused himself to. The fight echoed in the air, and Hawthorn seized on it, fingers slipping around the ephemeral sensation as had been shown to him. As had been done to his past persona.
Knowing knots wove intricate webs, the struggle was tied to the seedling, and Bert was bound one more time. His fevered need to escape was redirected, as Hawthorn placed photo after photo on the desktop before him. The duct tape kept him from a reply as dignified as his suit, but enough words had been spoken aloud in Hawthorn’s opinion.
Green shoots pushed their way out of the surface of the altar-pot as Bert’s eyes took in the images of devastation before him. Each revelation took hold in his mind as roots spread in the sod. Sprite families fled metal mouths as their homes were chewed to chips. Pixies ground under treads and left lifeless as the land they’d loved. Centuries of tradition transformed into a trip to Cancun, or worse more machines to consume the natural world.
The pottery popped as Bert’s bubble burst, and Hawthorn could see in the man’s eyes that he was no longer bound to malice. He released his new ally fully as they watched with growing awe the tree that matched Hawthorn’s namesake take root in the office. It continued to grow, echoing the ire and resolve in the new recruit.
Within seconds it reached the ceiling, trunk tearing through filmy barriers. Partitions of the stagnant hive of industry were flung aside to make way for new life with gargantuan groans. Branches reached and scraped, defying the space and reclaiming it. The sound of joyous rebellion reverberated around them, and in their hearts.
The weight of wood became unbearable, the floor collapsing completely. Branches surged and the sharp nettles accompanying the massive plant swelled into swords.
Perhaps a few more words would be ok, Hawthorn conceded.
“Time to run.” he explained, and demonstrated the concept with celerity.
The two of them ran down halls designed by madmen determined to direct the course of humanity towards predictable compliance. Past the breakroom broken with snacks flying, down stairs uprooted from below, they sprinted through the lobby Hawthorn had entered so easily earlier.
Everywhere small shapes slipped and scurried along the tree, encouraging with words and pushing the growth by hand. Red hats and leafy clothes, slim bodies and sharp bloody teeth swarmed the growing maelstrom of bark and leaf. Mouths of magic and flesh wreaked revenge for their homes taken by metal monsters, happily ignoring the humans who had brought them.
Outside, Hawthorn slowed, and turned in the parking lot, tapping Bert and bringing him about. Before them the tree rose, shrugging off the trappings of big business. Roots churned the ground as a giant’s toes wriggling in sand. It reached fifty feet, then a hundred, only satisfied when not a brick or pinprick of plastic persisted.
Pulp at the Pump’s main headquarters was no more. Bert stood stunned, and Hawthorn hovered patiently.
“What happens now?” Bert finally ventured, eyes still stuck on the Good Folk celebrating in a dance circle at the base of the gigantic growth.
Hawthorn smiled, removing his scarf to reveal it fully. “Other organization branches will remove the remaining remnants, incinerating the insidious Internet infection to mirror their material dismantling”
He knew that wasn’t the answer anticipated, but Bert needed to ask the right questions.
“Other branches. Wow.” Bert shook his head and chuckled at Hawthorn. “I mean what happens to me. I’m pretty sure I can’t go back. Not after what I just saw.”
“Would you want to, knowing what you know?”
“No. I guess I wouldn’t. At least I know the rumors have been true. Nature really is sick of our shit.”
As police sirens swarmed, Hawthorn placed a bowl on the ground, completing the ritual with an offering of cream.
“Time to go, Calathea.” He said, straightening up, and making his way to a moving patch of midnight residing between roots. The Good Folk frolicked in the ruins, entirely ignoring the eco terrorist as he passed. Fae glutted on glee at Goliath felled and reborn as flora.
Calathea, as he was now known to nature, followed Hawthorn into Faerie. He noticed his thoughts had begun to mimic Hawthorn’s habits. It didn’t deter him, his new beginning beckoned. He passed into Faerie, and joined the fight.
Liam Burke is an independent spec fic writer. You can find his full body of work at ssjliam.square.site. Twitter: @ssjliamp