Zera and the Green Man: Chapter 34
Sunday, June 8
Zera opened her eyes to find her Uncle Theodore sitting beside her, staring toward a window. His clothes were crumpled, his face dark with whisker stubble, his hair a mess. She heard the voices of Hattie and Ben — turning her head she saw them standing and talking near the same window. She was in a bed, in a light-filled room. It took a few seconds to register . . . I’m in a hospital.
He started, turned toward her. Relief shone brightly on his features. “You’re awake! Oh, Zera, thank God.” He leaned over and gently folded her into his arms.
Everyone in the room rushed to her side: Hattie, Ben, Grandma Wren, and Cosmic Dan were there. They were smiling, but the smiles didn’t hide the fact that something terrible had happened. Zera looked into her uncle’s red-rimmed eyes, and knew. “Where’s Nonny?”
Grandma Wren shook her head. Everyone but her uncle looked away. “Zera . . .” his voice cracked.
Zera burst into tears.
Theodore held her hand as she cried. A nurse entered the room and barked, “You should have told me she’s awake. I have to ask you all to leave.”
Theodore stood up. “I’m not going anywhere. Not until I’m sure she’s okay.”
Zera saw that his warts were gone.
* * *
Many hours and a battery of medical tests later, Zera and Hattie found themselves alone in Zera’s room, sitting on the edge of the bed. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am,” Hattie said. “But she was sick for a long time, sweetie.”
Zera pulled her bathrobe tight around her hospital gown and pulled away from Hattie. “Yeah, I got that already, but thanks for letting me know — eventually.”
“When did you find out?”
“Last night.” Zera remembered it all; Void Corporation, the Green Man and Woman, Lily, Uncle Theodore, Langston Void. I was one with the plants . . . somehow. She remembered the fight, how they prevailed, and how everything when dark. And then I woke up here. “I was with them last night. Theodore and Lily.”
Hattie gave her a look. Zera thought, I can no longer feel or hear anyone’s thoughts, but I can sure tell what she’s thinking — ‘the girl has lost it.’
“Honey,” said Hattie, “your uncle told me some things this morning, some amazing things, but I’m the one who found you. You collapsed yesterday morning in your room. You’ve been unconsciousness the whole time, asleep.”
Zera shook her head. “That’s what the doctor said. But I wasn’t.”
“We’ve been with you the whole time.”
The door opened and Grandma Wren entered. She went to Zera, kissed her on the forehead. “Thank goodness you’re okay.” She took Zera’s hand. “I was with your grandmother when she passed. She was at peace. The last thing she said was to tell her son and her granddaughter that she loves you both, more than anything.”
Zera’s tears came again. “Just when I thought I had a family again, and felt less alone. I understand now why Nonny didn’t fight for me to come back to Ute Springs, but someone should have told me!”
Grandma Wren lightly squeezed her hand. “Everyone did what they thought was best. I am sorry, Zera, we all make mistakes. But please do not think you’re alone. We are all your family: your uncle, Hattie, Ben, me, Cosmic Dan, all of us. And,” her voice dropped lower, “you know your family extends much further than us. You are, have never been, and will never be, alone.”
“We’re not going to let you down again,” said Hattie.
Zera looked into Grandma Wren’s eyes. “I was there, with Uncle Theodore last night.”
“That is what he told me,” said Grandma Wren. “My walk in the spirit world foretold a death. I worried that it would be yours. It is hard that you lost your grandmother, but it was her time.”
The women’s relief that she was safe eclipsed Zera’s grief, but for only a moment. She still felt raw. Over and over she kept thinking, Nonny’s gone. Now it’s just me and Theodore. She took her hand from Grandma Wren’s. “Is everyone else okay? Where’s Lily? Is Drew all right?”
“Everyone’s fine.” Hattie glanced at Grandma Wren, and Grandma Wren nodded. Hattie took a deep breath. “Now everything’s going to be all right, don’t get upset, but while the doctors were running tests, the police came. Ted’s left for Los Angeles, but said he’d be back tonight. As for Lily, well, Ted told us that you’d be asking about her. He said to tell you that they all got away last night and he doesn’t know where they are.”
“But she’s okay? They’re okay?”
“He said they were.”
“And Uncle Theodore . . . what if he doesn’t come back?”
“Don’t worry about your uncle. My phone’s been ringing all day with offers of help. Dan’s handling the calls.”
“Offers of help?”
Hattie got up, strode to the second-floor window, and gazed down upon the street. “Ted arrived this morning at about 4 A. M. He seemed reassured that you were here and then, of course, he went straight to Nonny’s side. She was already gone, Zera. He took it hard, but Grandma Wren comforted him. Not too much later, this man named Troy Sylvan showed up.”
Zera remembered the name from last night. “From Void Corporation?”
“Yes. He came to talk to your uncle. We heard about everything that happened last night, Zera, an incredible story. One I’m still having trouble believing.”
Zera nodded. It all seemed fantastic to her, too.
“What about Tiffany?”
Hattie sighed. “She’s okay. She’s been on TV all day.” She walked back to the table and poured some water from a pitcher into a glass. “Your doctor said you’ll be released in the morning, but you have to stay here tonight. I’m staying with you — and Ben’s staying too; he refuses to go home.”
Hattie gave the glass to Zera and Zera took a sip. The knowledge that Ben was staying in the hospital, just for her, sent a thrill through her, and for a moment she forgot her sorrow. He’s been here the whole time. For me. The thought of him at her bedside, worried about her, made her smile, and she felt a little awkward when Hattie noticed. She changed the subject. “Tiffany was on TV?”
“What happened last night has been all over the news, sweetie. Today has been an awakening. There are TV vans outside waiting for us to leave so reporters can question us.” She gestured toward the window.
Grandma Wren, sitting in a chair near the window, nodded in agreement.
Zora went to the window and saw three vans in the parking lot.
“Void’s spin people are trying to say the live footage from the laboratory was a hoax, but the public isn’t buying it. There’s been an energy in the air, like nothing I’ve felt before. An enthusiasm about opening our eyes to issues that have been ignored for too long. But some people aren’t so enthusiastic. Especially Ms. Tiffany Taylor.” She picked up the remote control and pressed a button.
“There she is again,” Grandma Wren said. “The same interview we’ve seen three times today.”
Zera, taking another drink of water, looked over and almost choked. Tiffany, nearly large as life. “Could you turn it up, please?” she asked, going back to sit on the bed. “I want to hear what she’s saying.”
Hattie groaned. “If you insist.”
“Yes, I am planning to sue,” Tiffany declared to the female interviewer. She looked great; clean clothes, hair and make-up done to perfection. She wore pink, of course. “I am in the process of preparing to sue the Void Chemical Corporation and these people called the Green Guerrillas. And also Theodore Green.” Tiffany’s hand moved up nervously towards her chin and then back down to her lap.
The two women, sitting in upholstered chairs, looked like they were chatting in a cozy living room. Before them on a glass coffee table was an enormous floral arrangement. Zera noticed immediately that most of the flowers in the arrangement were lilies.
“Mr. Green is your boyfriend?”
The reporter looked into the camera. “That would be Theodore Green, president of the Biotechnology Division at Void Corporation. He and Troy Sylvan, head of VCC’s Research and Development, were picked up in Colorado and taken to L.A. this morning for questioning. Police are still looking for Lily Gibbons, leader of the Green Guerrillas, an environmental activism group, and other members of that group.” The interviewer locked eyes with Tiffany. “I believe Theodore Green is being accused of being part of the Green Guerrillas. Did you have any knowledge of that?”
“There is no doubt in my mind that Theodore was involved in this all along.”
“Why do you say that, Ms. Taylor?”
“He’s known that woman, Lily, since high school. He had photos of her in his home.”
“I see.” The reporter leaned forward. “You claim you were kidnapped by the Green Guerrillas, is that right? And you escaped yesterday?”
“I was kidnapped and tortured.” Tiffany’s eyes glazed with tears, her voice in a whimper. “And then, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but when I escaped, they had plants there that, who, attacked me.”
“Plants?” the reporter’s eyes widened.
“Yes,” Tiffany said, shifting in her chair, not so comfortable any longer. “When I got out of that horrible farmhouse, vines wrapped around my ankles before I could get to the road. They pulled me down. They held me down until after dark!”
“Then they released you?”
The reporter, eyebrows raised, nodded. “There have been similar reports from men who worked for VCC. They claim that they were attacked by plants at the Research and Development facility. But the satellite transmission showed nothing like that. What it did show was footage of some horrendous secret human organ experimentation. Footage that VCC claims to be fake. The live streaming showed Void’s employees holding the Green Guerrillas at gunpoint. Then the footage stops. We’re not even sure how the Green Guerrillas escaped.”
“I don’t care how they escaped.” Tiffany sniffed. “As long as they find them and arrest them. And I’m telling you. It did happen. The plants are in on it!” She peered nervously into the floral arrangement. “That’s not real, is it? Wait, are those lilies?”
The camera zoomed in on the interviewer. “So there we have it. Conflicting reports on what happened last night. Void Chemical Corporation claims it’s a hoax, but is filing breaking and entering charges against the Green Guerrillas. And now we have Tiffany Taylor saying it was not a hoax, at least not what she experienced.
“To recap: Last night a satellite transmission went out all over the world, showing some horrific animal-plant, human-plant experimentation going on at Void Chemical Corporation. The transmissions are now being examined for authenticity. Members of an environmental group called the Green Guerrillas have claimed responsibility, and police are looking for them. Members include Lily Gibbons, Cornelius Curtis, Drew Bly, and James Dubson. Two prominent members of Void Chemical Corporation are also allegedly involved, Troy Sylvan, head of VCC Research and Development, and Theodore Green, who had just signed on as president of VCC’s Biotechnology Division. Green was an employee of Biotech Multinational, the company that recently opened the highly successful Burger Depot franchises, and he is also the youngest son of Guinevere Green, former owner of the once world-renowned Green Seed Company.
“Other authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, have announced investigations as well.
“The whole world is watching this story. As we speak, protests are being held at VCC Headquarters in Los Angeles and at all their offices around the world. You can be sure Channel 10 will be watching this story closely and reporting developments as they come to light. Thank you, Ms. Taylor.”
The camera cut to Tiffany, who was still staring at the flower arrangement with a frightened intensity, as if it might attack. She had lost her tigery spirit; she now seemed more like a frightened pussycat ready to scat at a moment’s notice.
A male reporter’s face appeared. “That was footage from this morning’s interview. On breaking news, we have learned that Guinevere Green died today. Ms. Green was Theodore Green’s mother. She passed away early this morning at Peak County Hospital near Ute Springs, Colorado. Hospital sources say she had been ill with a heart condition for some time.”
Zera hadn’t noticed that Cosmic Dan and Ben had walked in. Hattie turned off the set.
“I’m sorry,” Dan said to Zera, bending down to hug her.
“So am I, Zera,” said Ben and put a hand on Zera’s shoulder.
“Thanks.” The air around her seemed dense with a suffocating sadness. She needed air. Zera turned to Hattie. “Is there any way I can get out of this room for a little while?”
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.