With leaves of hearts and petals tender like kisses the flower spoke in the language of love. It’s gentle perfume whispered promises that would never be kept. Layered in sweetness and fond remembrances of sunshine past, beneath the coolness of a dew gathering, the scent carried something more.
That’s what some damn hippy poet wrote anyway. Making romance out of the thing, when there’s nothing lovely about it. The first vine had crept through a crack in Main Street, nothing more than a shifting of black top in the hot sun, but once the first leaves opened to the sun it did nothing but grow. In three weeks time Main Street was closed to all but foot traffic. Tourists poured in to see what the citizens of Canton considered a Public Works disaster. Bright orange cones and white saw horses rerouted cars to the surrounding blocks as more and more foot traffic gathered. With their fanny packs, their cameras, and silly hats they came to see what we could not seem to kill. The vines had coalesced into a trunk of sorts, and by the fourth week the thing had capped thirty five feet in height. It ripped up pavement as it swelled in the sunshine and still the crowds grew, tightly packed to eww and ahh at our failure. Someone joked we should call it Ygdrasil, the tree of life, since it seemingly could not be killed. A blogger picked it up and the name stuck. There were patches and t-shirts by week five.
The lines spiraled out a block in every direction as everyone came to see the beautiful Yggdrasil, nature conquering all of man’s efforts to stifle her. It was then, in the sixth week that the first blooms opened.
Three thousand seven hundred and fourteen dead in the blink of an eye. They simply lay down in the sun and anyone that rushed in to pull them out did the same. I’m ashamed to say that they lay there and rot for the first three days. We were a small town, crushed under the industry of tourism and didn’t have the man power or technology to handle it. The government stepped in, forming an ever-widening quarantine area while men in hazmat suits with tanks of imported air moved in with bulldozers to clear the dead.
Yggdrasil was no tree of life.
It’s been five years since that day. No one lives in Canton anymore. No one lives within two hundred miles of Yggdrasil, except the desperate and insane. They say it is taller than Mt. Everest now. I believe them, though I couldn’t have anyway to verify it. I was there when it all began and I hope to be there when it all ends. That’s why tonight, on a lonely dirt runway I’m helping to load a black market Russian nuclear device into an old beat up Cessna twin turbo. It will be a one way trip, but that’s ok. I don’t have anyone left to say good bye to.