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First Draft: Beware

And hey, I’m all productive today! So here’s a first draft of flash fiction for a kudzupunk zine a friend is trying to pull together.

I’ve been grinding my teeth again. It happens every year when the weather warms up and the goddamned vines start getting leaf buds. The cold never kills them. It used to, the Mothers say, but now we don’t have the same vines and the same cold. In the long ago time, the Mothers tell us, this land fed many more people than it does now, and housed them too, and people lived lives that weren’t endless fights against the vines. In the long ago time, you didn’t even have to have goats.

In the long ago time, if you cracked your teeth grinding them, they could do something other than pull them out. If I lose all my teeth what will I eat except porridge? And goat meat, chopped fine so I don’t have to chew it. At least the leaves of the vines wouldn’t change. We only eat those cooked soft. “Beware the crisper kudzu,” the Mothers say. The words are passed down from the long ago time, and so we cook it until it’s soft. Only the goats and the cows eat it raw and crunchy, and only the goats eat enough of it.

*****

Something is going wrong. Wronger than climate change alone would account for, Sarah reflects, looking at the reports on her desk. Kudzu is spreading. Not just spreading, getting worse. It’s been a scourge in the south for centuries, but always it could be kept back. Now it’s not growing a foot a day under ideal conditions, it’s growing a yard a day under marginal conditions. Under ideal conditions it grows three to five times that fast. If you cut the vines each tiny piece roots and spreads. Healthy fines are cracking apart not just wood but asphalt, brick, cement. Worse, the cold isn’t killing it anymore. It’s discovered how to go dormant in the winters, even northern winters, and in spring comes raging back. There are reports of small southern towns that have been swallowed already and it’s crawling out of the south at a truly alarming rate. No one really knows what happened, but it’s been traced back to a suburb of Atlanta where one vine mutated. The genes were apparently dominant, so when it flowered, it bred with every vine in the area and spread. The new vines even overwhelmed the old kudzu vines. Only goats and fire hold it back, and you can’t really start mass fires in populated areas.

*****

Delilah tucked the phone between her shoulder and ear. “Well he’s so smart, you know, all he wanted for his birthday was that do it yourself CRISPR kit! We just know he’s going to be a scientist, he’s been locked in his room with it and samples of plants, working away.” A tinny voice from the speaker. “No, he hasn’t started thinking about colleges yet, he’s only a freshman. We’re going to encourage him to join Biology Club, they have a much nicer CRISPR set up at the school.” She silently thanked God they’d moved out to this wealthy Atlanta suburb, with its well-funded schools. Chad would be competitive at even the best universities if he ever got his head out of the little genetic modification lab he’d set up in his own bedroom.

*****

New York Times, June 23 2033

“…although the first DIY CRISPR kits released in 2016 only allowed for primitive experiments on single-celled bacteria, scientific advances quickly allowed more powerful kits to be released. This fall, a complete at-home genetic lab is expected to be the hit Christmas gift for kids, allowing them to modify complex organisms like plants right in their own bedrooms.”

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