The explosions had stopped after most of the forest was destroyed, but she had managed to stay off the ground. Her current tree had grown a canopy of leaves around her, protecting her from view.
Hawthorne stared at the seed in her hand. She had created it the first time she’d broken a bone in a fight, but she’d never needed to use it before. If she’d been giving it to someone else, she could have done something to help them with the pain, but she couldn’t risk dulling her mind.
She took as deep a breath as her chest would allow and her vest opened. The seed was clutched tightly in her hand, hovering just above her now bare skin. Her breath had grown short and rapid; it was filtering its way through her gritted teeth; her eyes were closed so tightly she was seeing spots; gently, she placed the seed on her chest.
Hair thin roots began to sprout from the seed, slowly crawling over her chest until it found the broken ribs.
She gripped the branches beneath her tightly and and every muscle in her body tensed. She was as prepared for the pain as she could be.
It wasn’t enough.
As one, the roots began to dig into her skin, burrowing and drilling their way towards her bones. The tree beneath her wrapped its branches around her legs and arms to keep her from struggling, but it couldn’t stop her as the splinter-like roots forced themselves deeper into her chest.
They moved slowly, winding their way around veins and arteries, digging through the thinnest layers of muscle. She could feel every one of the hundreds of roots winding its way through her.
And then they reached the bone.
Slowly they wrapped around her broken ribs, tightening around them one by one to keep them from moving. But once it was the last bones turn, the roots paused.
She could feel it through the roots; the last bone had slipped out of place, leaving a small gap between the two sides.
He could breathe deeper now. And she took the small break the roots had allowed her. Her grip on the branches loosened, but her eyes remained screwed shut.
She couldn’t wait long. She didn’t have the time. Hawthorne took a deep breath and sent the command to bind the bones back together.
This time, she had enough air to scream.
The roots seized together, jerking the bone back into place with a sudden snap that would have made her flinch if she could hear it.
The tree branches finally let her go, but she didn’t move. Even with the bones set, her chest wouldn’t let her move just yet.
Slowly the oil coating the roots began seeping into the skin and nerves surrounding them, and a cooling numb settled over her chest.
Her vest grew back over the roots and sealed her skin from the world.
The tree helped her too her feet, and gave herself something to lean on as the canopy opened up.
The remains of her forest smoldered around her. She glanced at the fallen trees but forced herself to ignore them.
Donny’s Department Store. It was closer than she’d expected; she’d been running towards the explosion walker for a large part of her run, and she could see the large sign glowing just a few streets away.
Her running roots slowly began to grow over her legs, gripping tightly just above her knees and forming a platform beneath her feet. The tree beneath her bent backwards, arching until the center of its trunk had curved nearly a a full ninety degrees.
The tree shot up; her legs kicked off the branch; her running roots sprang forward, launching her out of the tree and over the buildings surrounding her. She arced over the roofs and the streets between them. Flaps grew from her vest, catching the air and flipping her so that her feet were pointing at the ground.
The Donny’s parking lot stretched beneath her. It was mostly empty, thanks to the rain, but there were a few cars parked close to the doors. Which meant there were probably some people inside the store. She didn’t know if the walker would try to attack her once she landed, but she knew she couldn’t take the risk of going inside.
Nonetheless, she darted straight for the doors the moment her feet touched the ground. There wasn’t an explosion after the first step, but she didn’t stop.
She placed a hand near her stomach and a large pit slipped out of it and into her hand. It was the largest seed she had, as long as her thumb and twice as thick.
The first explosion went off right behind her.
If he knew she was there, then she couldn’t risk going inside, and the doors would barely be open before she had to move away. She gripped the pit tightly and silently hoped she’d be able to hit her mark.
With one final leap she sprang at the doors. Just as they began to open she threw the pit as deep into the store as she could and leapt to the side.
The explosion behind her blasted the glass from the sliding doors and propelled the pit deeper into the store, but she didn’t have time to watch it.
“Please be enough,” she whispered, as she darted around the lot.
She’d been placing pieces of her power into that seed every night for almost a month now, ever since she’d figured out how to delay its effects. Whatever it was that let her plants grow so quickly was packed more densely into that seed than she’d ever dared to try.
With the amount of power she had put into the pit, she could feel it even as she darted up and down the lot.
Its roots spread first, spreading just beneath the tile and carpets of the store until over half of the building was housing the plant.
She managed to catch a glimpse of them sprouting through the broken doors. The field of yellow dandelions covered everything she could see through the small window, and standing in the center was a man in all black who was staring at the ground beneath him.
The explosions at her feet stopped.
And then the flower beneath him returned the favor.
Each of the tiny flowers launched practically their entire mas sin pollen up to the roof of the store, filling the sales floor with a thick cloud of yellow smoke.
It came billowing out of the entrance and she had to leap back to keep from breathing it in, but the walker in the store had nowhere to run.
She heard him coughing from outside. His entire throat would be itching from the pollen; the coughing would help, but it wouldn’t stop him from breathing it in. Then he would feel like the ground was dropping way from him, and he would start to stumble. He would look at the ground to catch himself and finally he would realize that he had already closed his eyes and he would fall asleep.
The pollen would dissolve in a few minutes, and nobody who breathed it in would sleep longer than a couple of hours. But the walker would be tied up and far away before they did.