Zera and the Green Man: Chapter 33
Everything seemed to move in slow motion as a tall, handsome man, followed by a dozen other men in olive drab clothes and heavy boots, entered the room. Soldiers? Zera thought, standing half-hidden behind a heart-tree. The piercing cries stopped; she could hear again. Bear pivoted, camera in hand as the leader of the group yelled, “Stop what you’re doing, now!”
Zera’s focus went to the man behind the handsome and angry façade and she felt what he did: insecurity, desperation for control, and underneath it all, pain.
Still stronger than the man’s emotions were those of the plants. The feelings were back again, full-out hysteria. The hairs on Zera’s arms stood on end. Her consciousness shifted. She realized that she was somehow one with the plants. The boundaries that seemed to exist had never really had existed. We made those boundaries.
The men began shouting, “Stay where you are!” “Hands up!” Theodore moved protectively toward her, and one of the men yelled, “You, we said hands up!”
He lifted them, shaking his head.
Lily, her face twisted, confronted the leader. “It’s him, Langston Void. God himself.”
Zera’s attention moved to the lung-tree, near Lily, and as she focused on it, she realized she could see and hear the room through its perspective. By moving her attention to the other human-plants in the room, she could see and hear the entire room. She no longer felt the plants’ anguish. They had quieted and now she was the plants. Her spirit filled all of them, was the cause of their calmness. She could be them, one at a time or all at once. How is this happening?
You have opened yourself up, a voice answered her in her mind.
Sunny? Zera thought. Is that you? Where are you?
Yes, it’s me. Whenever entities connect, they stay close.
Six of Void’s dozen men carried laser rifles. They were spreading out to the perimeters of the room. The other six, wearing holsters with stun guns, flanked Void.
“Hands up!” a soldier yelled at her. “Move away from the tree!”
When she hesitated, Theodore said, “Do it, Zera.”
Zera raised her hands and a couple of the tree’s branches jerked. No one noticed.
“Zera?” said Langston, concern etching his features. “This can’t be your niece. She’s in Colorado. I spoke to Hattie Goodacre. She said Zera was in a coma.”
“What?” Theodore shook his head. He, Lily, and Bear stared at Zera. Zera thought, Oh my God, so that’s what happened.
Langston turned to Bear and commanded, “Turn off the camera.”
“Don’t, Bear,” Lily said. “Now the world can see who’s behind all this.”
“I’m not moving,” said Bear.
Void nodded to the three men on his left. “Take it away.”
The corporate soldiers moved toward Bear. When they came within distance, Bear kicked sideways, catching one of the men just below the chin, snapping his head back, causing him to fall. Before the others could pull their stun guns, Bear delivered a roundhouse kick into the mid-section of another, toppling him. The camera stayed in Bear’s hands.
The first man lay on the floor to Bear’s right, and he was starting to get back up. The other, to his left, gasped, fish-like, for air. Theodore moved closer to Zera, but he was watching Lily. They exchanged terrified looks. Fear ripped through Zera.
James moved in front of Lily and Theodore, hands up over his head. The black and white stripes on his arms and face, now glowing, began to revolve up his arms and face, swirling like a barber shop pole, moving up and up, faster and faster.
The third soldier drew his stun gun but then stood there, staring along with the others.
They’re mesmerized. That’s what cuttlefish do to their prey, they hypnotize them, confuse them with moving patterns.
Langston looked away. “Goggles,” he said.
The men reached for goggles on their belts and slipped them over their eyes, breaking the spell. Void said, “We were ready for that, James.”
Void motioned for the six rifle-carrying men to circle Bear. They pointed their weapons at him.
“Please, Bear, put it down,” Lily said. “We have enough on them.”
Bear laid the camera down on the floor and two men grabbed him, pulled his arms behind him, and slapped handcuffs on his wrists. Another picked up the camera, turned it off, and slid it violently toward the door. It skidded sideways and collided with the wall. The sound of shattering plastic caused Bear to grit his teeth.
Void’s chiseled features warped into ugliness. His green eyes bored into Lily’s brown ones. “Your plan didn’t quite work the way you thought it would. Imagine, I’ve known Troy for years. All this time and never guessing . . .”
“Troy Sylvan has a conscience.” Lily spat the words.
Langston Void smiled at Lily as if she were a naughty child. “Too bad he wasn’t able to keep me from the office quite as long as you planned. Meg called some time ago, asking why Mr. Green was in the office when he was supposed to be in Colorado. It didn’t take me long to figure out the rest. You underestimated me.”
Lily walked up to Langston and he motioned for several men, who had begun to advance, to stay back. “We have a wondrous planet,” she said. “We’ve found nothing like it in the universe. Many of us feel that it is perfection. How could you do these things? How could you tamper with billions of years of evolution?”
Void laughed. “Nature is not perfect, and all can be improved by the human hand. I think it’s you who needs to evolve.”
Lily moved closer, her small hands balled into fists. “The world is perfect in its imperfection!” She screamed. “Can’t you see that?”
Zera wondered what she could do, and, more importantly, how. She tried to will the heart-tree to move and a few leaves stirred.
This time Void didn’t call off his men. “The lady needs to be handcuffed as well. Give the handcuffs to Theodore Green,” he pointed. “He’s our president of biotechnology and was kidnapped by these fools.”
Theodore moved to Lily’s side. As the soldiers approached he stood in front of her and put his arms out protectively. “Leave her alone.”
Void gestured for the men to wait. “Don’t tell me that you’re one of them too?”
“What you are doing is wrong, Langston,” Theodore said. “And I’ve been wrong too, for a long time.”
“Are you so sure about that, Theodore?” Langston’s sculptured features were as cold as stone. “What if I told you that Hattie Goodacre said your mother was in the hospital right now? That she’s needed a heart transplant for a long time? What would you say to that, Theodore? Would you still think it’s all so wrong, if your work could save the life of your own mother?”
A chill swept through Zera as her uncle blanched. “You’re lying.”
“No. You see, your deception proved true. I spoke to Hattie not long ago. She’s been at the hospital all day with someone with the ridiculous name of Cosmic Dan. Hattie cried when she told me how she’s been trying to get in touch with you. She told me everything. And she said her own grandmother had spent the day at Zera’s side. At her hospital bed. I checked it out; it’s all true, Theodore.”
“Zera? But she’s here, Langston.”
Langston glanced at Zera. “I don’t know who this young lady is but I would guess she’s another one of the Green Guerrillas’ tricks. Your niece is in the hospital.”
“You lying dog —” Theodore lunged for Void, but before he could reach him two of Void’s men pulled him face down on the floor. A knee dug into his back, restraining him.
Zera watched her uncle struggle. Confusion and anguish shone in his eyes. She had nothing but contempt in her heart for Langston Void. She wanted to scream, but her heart was so heavy it rendered her mute. Is Nonny in the hospital? Zera felt her uncle’s fear and torment over what might be true. The men handcuffed Lily and James, and they didn’t put up a fight. Then they put cuffs on Zera.
“Leave them alone!” Theodore boomed, lifting his head off the floor. Lily looked at him with surprise.
Langston stood over Theodore. “You could have had it all.”
“What you don’t understand, Langston,” Theodore grunted out the words, as the soldier kept a boot in his back, “is that if you can’t look at yourself in the mirror, then you have nothing.”
“I have no problem with that.”
“You’re not even looking at your real face!”
Langston winced. “Handcuff him, too.”
The men roughly secured Theodore. As the side of his face pressed into the cement floor, Zera realized with surprise that she could hear his thoughts. They were a jumble of fear and bargaining: She’s gotten worse? Oh, Mother! It can’t be a lie; he said he spoke to Hattie. Maybe those hearts-plants can save her. All I have to do is tell Langston I can see I’ve been wrong. I could do it. I could save Mother.
Then came another voice, it was the voice of the plants, in unison this time. You ARE hearing him, like we hear him, the plants said. Like we can hear all of you, your thoughts, your feelings. We hear them through the chemistry of your body.
Theodore’s next thoughts, ones of despair that maybe Zera really was in a coma, tumbled toward her. There’s no logical explanation, he thought, why she’s here. Zera felt as if she were drowning in his confusion. If something has happened to Zera . . . But she’s here. There’s no logical . . .”
A soft, sweet voice, a voice she remembered from her dreams and, from Tava, entered Zera’s consciousness. The Green Woman whispered to Theodore; Zera’s in no danger.
Zera felt a weight lift from her and she saw her uncle visibly relax, but only for a moment. The Green Woman’s next words came with the impact of a sledgehammer. Your mother is in danger — but you know she would not want help — not this way.
Hopelessness weighed upon both Theodore and Zera. Zera knew the Green Woman’s words were true. She felt her uncle, in his ocean of confusion, fighting to somehow accept this.
Zera searched her memory for clues to confirm what Langston and the Green Woman said. Nonny had looked older but Zera had thought nothing of it. People get older, and Nonny’s been through a lot these past few years. Now Zera knew that was part of it, but not the whole story. Why would he keep this from me? I had a right to know! With a shock Zera realized Hattie knew, too. She remembered Hattie’s reaction when they walked to her house that first day back, and when Grandma Wren didn’t want Nonny to go to Tava. I thought Hattie was being overprotective, but she KNEW. Heartbreak settled in like a lead weight in her chest.
The soldiers dragged her uncle to his feet. Theodore’s thought, Mother’s worse, blocked out everything else.
She’s been sick for a long time, Zera, even before your mother and father died. Your uncle has known. He wanted to protect you. Maybe that was wrong, but he did it out of love.
Zera heard another voice. We must act, it commanded. This voice was powerful, echoing, masculine. The Green Man. As the soldiers pulled her uncle to his feet, Zera’s distress over Nonny became overshadowed by a more powerful emotion. Gone was the fear, the confusion, the hurt. The Green Man was right. She had to act. A power coursed through her. An all-encompassing surge of energy electrified the air — controlled by the Green Man, the Green Woman, and, now, by Zera. She began to move not one plant, but all of them. I WILL free him. He has to get to Nonny.
Vines slithered, first slowly, then rapidly, across the floor. Thin tendrils from eye-vines, thick ones from the melon-heads, curled, stretched, and curled again, creeping rapidly across the floor. The soldiers stared in disbelief as the vines reached their legs and coiled upward. The men tried to shake off the green shackles, but they were locked in place. Their eyes bulged in fright.
One of them screamed, staring at the fruit, “The . . . the eye vines grabbed me!”
The vines, growing and snaking on the floor, began to coil and wrap around themselves, in moments creating first the giant feet, then legs, then torso, then powerful arms, and, finally, the head of the Green Man. He towered to the top of the laboratory. His powerful voice boomed through the room, “If you do not like the look of something, you can choose to look the other way! Not so with us. We see. We feel. Everything!”
“Stop!” Void screamed, covering his ears.
The soldiers struggled frantically to free their legs. Theodore, Bear, and James stared, mouths agape.
Vines traveled from the Green Man, clambering up Void’s body, nearly covering him.
Recovering from their initial shock, the men with rifles began aiming and shooting at the Green Man. As lasers penetrated and cut, the vines separated and recoiled in pain, and tendrils of smoke rose to the ceiling. An eye-vine plant untwisted and raised its thick vines high, as if they were arms ready to grab and strangle. I’m not controlling that plant, thought Zera, it’s all them, now. The plants. The green energy has seized control. As if in response, the face of the Green Woman, determined and angry, appeared in the foliage. The soldier cried out and delivered a long steady beam of wounding light from his laser gun into the vine’s thick, woody base, blasting it. The air filled with the smell of burning plants. A torrent of energy vibrated in the air as the plant fell.
“Beeeeeeeeep!” went the medical monitor as a flat line appeared on the screen. A panicked soldier impulsively directed a laser beam at the sound. The monitor exploded.
The vines and leaves that made up the Green Man collapsed in a heap.
Zera felt it, a physically intense, but not painful, charge for one long moment, followed by calm. This is death. For a moment, time stood still and then she realized: The energy is not gone. The Green Man is not gone. He just . . . went elsewhere.
The vine’s grip on the men loosened, and the men squirmed free. Langston ran toward the door.
We must show them. As this thought filled her, Zera sensed from Void the heart of a frightened child, much like her uncle’s in his nightmare. But that did not matter; he would not win. Her strength returned. She focused. A new power flowed through her. She again became one with the plants.
Fruit sailed through the air. Inflated lungs dropped and exploded around the men. Yellow-gold pollen grains flew from flowers, whizzing like bottle rockets into the hot barrels of the men’s rifles. The flammable pollen caused mini-explosions inside the lasers’ barrels. Boom! Boom! Boom! The men threw down the weapons, grimacing.
Branches from the liver-trees bent down toward three men, and the livers twisted into the shapes of snapping, gumming jaws. One man screamed. The gumming jaws transfigured into giant, beautiful, dark sweet-smelling flowers that dropped from their branches onto three soldier’s heads, covering their eyes and momentarily rendering them stupefied and sightless. Fist-sized hearts sailed through the air like grenades, thumping on their targets, and then falling before they, too, turned into fragrant flowers. A volley of melon-heads flew through the room. As they exploded in front of each soldier they turned into a shower of colorful petals, flower confetti.
Void, creeping towards the door, hid behind a piece of medical equipment. A melon banged into the machine before it, too, turned into flower confetti.
Tiny tendrils crept into the handcuffs of the prisoners, causing them to release and clang to the ground.
Void frantically placed his hand on the scanner and began pressing buttons, to no avail. The scanner and keys were covered in sap. Sap covered the floor where the flowers had landed. The soldiers had slipped in it, fallen to the floor, and were flailing, stuck firmly in the goo and petals.
Void turned around to see Theodore coming toward him. He pulled a stun gun and pointed it at Theodore. “Stay clear.”
Zera’s heart leapt. Another melon knocked the gun out of his hand. More confetti rained on the floor.
“You’re not getting away,” said Theodore.
Langston threw a punch at him. Theodore blocked it, but a kick made contact with Theodore’s shin. Theodore winced in pain, bent to grab the injured limb, and Void jumped him. The two rolled on the floor. Void grabbed a piece of vine and wrapped it around Theodore’s neck. Theodore’s face reddened, his eyes bulged.
“Don’t, Langston,” he choked out the words.
“Stop it!” screamed Lily.
“You WILL stop!” The Green Man had materialized again from the damaged vines and leaves as the others had watched the struggle. The giant grabbed Void and Void immediately released Theodore. The Green Man lifted Void in the air with one hand and vines emerged from his fingers, whipping around Void’s body, wrapping him completely in a tight cocoon. It happened so quickly and the vines were so tight that Void didn’t have the air or time to scream. The green cocoon reminded Zera of what a spider does to its prey.
Zera felt Void losing consciousness. He would die if she didn’t do something. “No!” she screamed at the Green Man, “You can’t do this!”
The Green Man gave an angry sneer and the vines grew tighter.
“You’ll kill him!” Zera looked around. She scrambled up the melon-head trellis near the door and jumped onto the Green Man. Both her arms clenched one leafy, rippling-with-vines arm. “Let him GO!”
“You defy me?” said the Green Man.
“Yes! You can’t kill him! This is wrong!”
“There is only survival with us, Zera Green. Right and wrong is human!” The voice filled the room, thudding and reverberating.
The vines loosened, revealing an unconscious but alive Langston Void. The Green Man sat Zera down before transforming into a burst of ten thousand angry leaves that whipped around the room before pelting the floor.
Lily rushed over to Theodore as he sat up, rubbing his neck. “Are you all right?”
Zera heard a whisper, We’ll take it from here, and her eyes met her uncle’s.
The world around Zera grew dim, then black.
* * *
“I’m okay,” said Theodore, rubbing his neck.
“Look!” Lily pointed at the video camera, hoisted up into the vines. It was on, pointing at Void, who was waking up.
“But . . . it was broken,” Bear said.
“Where’s Zera?” Lily spun around.
“Zera’s not here,” Theodore said.
“How can you say that?”
“It’s hard to explain. I saw her disappear . . .” his voice trailed off.
Lily frowned. “You’re not making any sense. That’s impossible.”
“More impossible than her appearing at the hide-out? In a lightning-struck tree? More impossible than all of this?”
Lily, Bear, and James searched the room, making their way around the twelve soldiers struggling in plant glue. “But I saw her,” Lily protested.
“She’s not here,” Theodore said. “You have to trust me. I love Zera, I wouldn’t leave her. I swear to you she’s not here.”
Bear grabbed the camera, which was now lying on the floor. Although the casing was broken, when he pressed the rewind button it worked. It took him only seconds to find exactly what Theodore had witnessed. “There it is, she’s at the corner of the frame, then, she’s gone. I don’t know how, but it happened, just like he said.”
“Then we need to get to Drew,” said Lily. “If he’s . . . if they haven’t . . .”
“But what about the plants?” asked James.
“Leave them,” said Theodore. The technology exists. People have to make their own decisions. You’ve done all you can for now.”
“But what about their damage?” asked Lily. “They were damaged by lasers. We can’t just leave them damaged like that.” She looked around. “What?”
While they had been looking at the camera, the room had transformed. The plants looked full and lush. Branches and vines damaged by bullets had mended. The plants were glowing with health, except for one detail: All their human fruits had dropped off and become hard, shriveled, dried-out lumps on the floor.
The door to the lab slid open on its own. They ran up the hall, through the clean room, and out the door to the helicopter pad. Then they stopped. The area looked like a war zone. Helicopter pieces were strewn everywhere.
Lily fell to her knees and started to sob. “Drew! Nooooooo!”
The sound of a motorcycle made them look up. Drew rode up, yelling, “Bear, James, get the other bike. I’ve opened the gate; we’ve got to get out of here!”
The two men raced toward a second motorcycle.
Lily ran to Drew, who looked rough — torn clothes covered in grime, a big scratch on his forehead. Blood on his shirt.
“Are you okay?” said Lily.
“I’m a little banged up, I’ll live. Where’s the girl?”
Lily glanced at Theodore. “We don’t really know.”
“She’s okay,” said Theodore.
“There are only two bikes,” said Drew. “They can’t come with us.”
By this time, Bear and James had pulled up on the second motorcycle. Without a word to Theodore, Lily hopped on the bike with Drew. The four of them sped off through the gate and out into the desert.
Published via US Represented by consent of the publisher:
Published by Greenwoman Publishing, LLC
P. O. Box 6587, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80934-6587, U.S.A.
First published in the United States of America
Copyright © Sandra Knauf, 2013
All rights reserved
ISBN: 978-0-9897056-0-8 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9897056-1-5 (ebook)
Cover drawing by Paul Spielman.
Cover photography by CanStockPhoto 11569383
Cover and interior design by Zora Knauf.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or living-dead, is entirely coincidental.