I am still writing to my September prompts, because I didn't have as much time as I thought, and now accept that this will take me all spring.... This one comes from a combination of two of sauergeek' s prompts which can be found here. It runs to 821 words.
At Christmas the must-have toy had been a slinky; an iteration of the often-popular compressed spring toy that this time came in a series of metallic enamel finishes. By early autumn when Odelia was working on the garden bed for her sweet peas so they could be planted by St Patrick’s Day, they had almost completely disappeared from sight and thought. Just before the summer school holidays had ended children had still been playing with them anywhere that had steps or a slope, so they could watch the things travel and sparkle in the light while they did it. Odelia could remember other flash crazes and thankfully thought that the slinkies were relatively inexpensive and harmless – she personally still had an original Cabbage Knight action figure, with the rare purple variant armour, carefully tucked away in a drawer. It had cost her parents more than three times the recommended retail price and adults had come to blows over the Yellow Mage figures after a warehouse fire had destroyed half the original run.
Oddly, while she was digging in the pelleted chook poo to increase the organic matter in the soil Odelia found three slinkies completely buried. She shook the soil off them and put them aside with the small rocks she’d found, but they were gone when she went to tidy them up into the rubbish bin after the seeds were planted. The sweet peas started pleasingly well and started climbing up their trellis.
Then winter came, with east coast lows that rained and blew for days and intervening periods of cold clear days begun with frost. Odelia did not spend much of winter in the garden. It wasn’t that the plants stopped growing completely, it didn’t get cold enough for that in her parts, but it was cold out as well as wet under foot, so most days she went no further than the clothes line or the rosemary bush. That let her check that nothing had gone horribly wrong in the rest of the garden, without seeing the details. This meant that she didn’t notice the unknown plants until the end of winter when she ventured far enough down the yard to see how the daffodils were doing.
The plants, and there were seven of them, looked like sturdy aquilegias by their leaves and growth habit. Odelia looked them up in gardening references and on the internet but couldn’t find anything. What she did find was that once she had found them in her own garden, she was seeing them everywhere. There seemed to be clusters at bus stops, most front gardens had one or two, and the primary school practically had a mini hedge along the fence line. Some fell prey to weeding, lawnmowers and whipper-snippers but a lot didn’t, and those kept growing.
By the beginning of October, the surviving plants were looking positively shrub-like, even with their fern-like leaves, and developing sturdy, graceful flower spikes. The flowers opened in the third week of October, in a glorious abundance of pearl, cream, and white. It was hard to tell if they had any scent, but they were popular with moths, butterflies, small native bees, tiny black beetles, and ants. Close inspection though made it clear to Odelia that despite a superficial resemblance to aquilegias that continued with the unknown plant’s flowers, these were not members of that genus: aquilegia flowers have five segments and this plant’s had six.
It was the seed pods though that were the clincher. If they were seed pods. As such. Each flower developed up to six long…pods that grew rapidly to almost a metre long then coiled themselves suddenly overnight into spirals. Most of the pods on plants in public places got broken while they were in the long stage, but most pods that survived had coils that were about five centimetres across. The broken pods died off and when Odelia investigated one she couldn’t find any trace of seeds. Then the pods lost their fuzz and seemed to harden or dry out, and as they did so their colour changed. Every pod on the same bush, and it was easier to pick in her own garden, turned the same colour. Most of them took on a metallic sheen, and Odelia was particularly taken by one in her garden with white-spotted, dark emerald green pods.
It still took seeing a pod drop off its stem on the bush with the longer, narrower coils than the others and flip itself end over end down the slight slope to the herb bed for Odelia to realise what they were. Slinky plants. When she picked up the mauve, yellow and blue coil she found that it was already burying one end in the soil. She looked around her garden and took in the seven small bushes, each with their brightly coloured load of giant, exposed seeds, and realised that she was about to be overwhelmed….
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