I’d run, if I could. But I can’t get more than two steps before I convulse with sneezing. My skull’s trying to escape straight through the front of my face. Its weight hangs on me; I’m sure my skin is stretching. Fearful of corruption, my bones might be the only part of me that survives this mucosal hell. I’ll have to stop – it’s gone midday and with the sun’s success the plants are celebrating. I’d hoped to get further today – the rocky plains beyond these damnable meadows are almost dead except for some weird lichen, but I think I can handle them. With luck I’ll hit their barren charms tomorrow, I can almost taste the sea breeze that scours the air there.
There’s no shelter here, unless you perversely count the trees (already preparing to toss their load of twig jism into the air). My eyes are twitching, my face is swelling. Soon my nose will be a twin stream juicer drooling snot down me. I’d literally kill for a packet of tissues; my sleeves have barely dried out since yesterday’s torture. I reckon I can tell the difference in taste between the pollen now. It’s always the grass first – a thickness I can feel at the top of my lungs that makes my ears tickle. A thin layer of slime spreads across the roof of my mouth and I know it’s time to stop. I can’t do anything about the next seven or eight hours.
I fall down a steep bank and roll into a stream. It’s not ideal, but I’ll be able to regularly dunk my face in the water. I’m avoiding thinking about what might be in the water. And that’s my afternoon and evening: eyes swollen shut, nose and sinuses so overwhelmed that they gum up and hemorrhage simultaneously. I can barely breathe. Harsh, choking breaths that just draw in more of the foul pollens that infest the air.
It’s the flowers. They’re trying to breed with me. Trying to fuck my cells into new baby plants and flowers. The survey showed nothing – six months of scans and probes in the planet’s winter: no worries. Plenty of plantlife’s supposed to be a good thing, especially when their proteins are miraculously the right way up making for a sustainable food resource. That’s pretty rare – the universe doesn’t usually twist in our favour. My hayfever was a minor problem – irritating but entirely treatable, especially by the military grade pharmaceuticals we were dropped with. I wish I’d had them as a child. Anyway, it wasn’t long before it got badly fucked up. Spring changed everything. I guess it was Clark who we have to thank for it. The guy liked flowers; botanists do. I like how they look, that’s as far as I’ll go – and now, I don’t think I’ll go that far. He insisted on some of the prettier varieties getting potted up inside the compound and in his cabin, said they smelled nice.
We found him dead, obviously. His plants had bloomed. Everything in his cabin was covered in a thin coat of pollen. I left immediately I was sneezing so badly. We hardly needed the post mortem. There were bristled stems and leaves punching through his skin, his eye sockets had nurtured two beautiful tulip like plants. Everyone was upset. The next day Clark got up and started wandering around. We were all upset then. The fucking pollen had burrowed into his nervous system, hijacked it and taken him over. It wasn’t him of course – Clark was dead, very dead – but the flower was now mobile. Until I flamed it up. Yet more upset.
Contamination and containment procedures were reinforced, scouring showers swept the rising pollen count off our suits; the environment units howled with the effort of scrubbing that crawling flower spaff out of our air. It all failed. The machines died first, overwhelmed by the pollen. We followed. Without the jets and sprays we couldn’t get ourselves clear of the stuff. We doubled, tripled, quintupled doses of antibodies but they just didn’t work fast enough. Once that herby jizz was in your eyes or lungs it was just a matter of time. I took to carrying the flamethrower around with me. I suppose that might seem harsh, but until you’ve seen your friends fall to a bunch of fucking flowers and then seen them get up and wander around, maybe delay judgement for a bit.
It wasn’t long before I was the only one left. Turns out my natural over-active histamine response was keeping me clean. I suppose I should be grateful for that, but it’s hard to be thrilled when you’ve got mucous flowing down your throat. So yeah – this is me. Running through a forest full of fornicating flowers that want to fuck me in the eyes, nose and throat. I almost feel like I’m going to make it. Almost. I gashed my hand open falling over a tree trunk yesterday. It doesn’t look too bad, but it itches abominably. I prised open the edge of the wound underwater to clean it and I’m not sure, but I think I can see a thin line of green under the skin. There’s not much I can do about it.
Before I left the camp I made myself a badge. It doesn’t say much, just “if I’ve got flowers in my hair burn me”. I hope that’s clear enough.
The gloom in the supermarket was broken only by light of the emergency exit signs. The soft green glow reflected off the shards of glass