Kudzu, a Novel
It was one of the Jaworsky-hands. Even in the darkness at the edge of her light, Amelia was sure of that. It hadn’t noticed her, though, so she crept closer, as quietly as she could.
Yes, definitely one of the hands. It was facing away from her, supported by three jointed finger-legs. Its eyestalks were focused on whatever its other two fingers were doing. Its long tail was curled around its body, and seemed to be gathering bits of material and scooping it in front of the hand.
Amelia didn’t dare move any closer, for fear of spooking it. After all, she was the shucker of Jaworsky-hands, and she didn’t know how far that knowledge had distributed among these creatures. Instead, she pulled the goggles on her aviator cap down over her eyes.
Yes, Amelia loved her hats. She’d collected dozens in the few years she had before they shipped out. Yes, they were fabulous and decorative. But they weren’t just fabulously decorative. They were also fabulously useful. At least in the case of her favorite hat — her aviator cap.
She increased the magnification on the goggles until the Jaworsky-hand came into focus, and increased the light-enhancement. It wasn’t quite the same as seeing things under normal lights — colors were still muted, and unless she went overboard on the brightening, which just made everything look blown out, it was just a less dark version of dusk.
But enough to see details.
The Jaworsky-hand was perched on an open control panel, surrounded by dials and digital displays, knobs and switches and buttons. The open panel exposed a number of circuit boards.
The circuit boards were crawling with worms.
No. Not worms. Little bits of circuitry. Transistors. Resistors. Microchips of various sizes, and the busses and cables that ran between them. They were all alive, and moving.
It wasn’t just them, either. It was also bits of silicon, plastic keys, LED lights. The whole damn control panel was crawling with worms made out of itself.
And the Jaworsky-hand?
It was scooping the worms together, pressing them into each other until they mated and merged. Forming a shape.
Teaching the things how to become something bigger, more mobile.
Turning them into another hand.
As Amelia watched, more bits of plastic and metal fell away from the structure of the control panel to become more worms. More inanimate matter became animate.
Amelia turned on her radio.
“Susan, we’ve got a bigger problem than we thought.”
Slim hadn’t been able to bring himself to ask the cat lady why there was an ossuary. Or exactly how she had managed to construct it.
Or where she had gotten the bones.
He paced circles around Ash.
“Cut it out,” Ash said. “You’re making me nervous.”
“It makes me nervous that we don’t know a damned thing about the cat lady, or why she’s here, or why…”
“Look, we should just be glad she was here to save us from the kudzu.”
“Which I’d gotten most of the way free of before she showed up.”
“‘Oh, it bit me,'” Ash mimed. He waved his hands in the air. “I remember a lot of screaming.”
“That was you. And it did bite me.” Slim pointed to his bandaged leg. “And just because you just got laid for the first time in… for the first time, doesn’t mean that you can just trust her. I mean, the ossuary, for fuck’s sake. Who does that?”
“You’re exaggerating. And it wasn’t my first time.”
“I’m not. I’m telling you, she has a room filled with bones. A big room. I saw it, while you were playing grateful man-whore for our hostess.”
“A graveyard, you mean. And you should know better than to wander off alone.”
“I should’a just sat there and watched you two monkeys go at it? I hate to break it to you, but you primates ain’t exactly the sexiest creatures out there. The only reason I came back so fast was after seeing the bones, I wanted to make sure all that screaming I heard wasn’t you being dismembered.”
Ash reddened. “Yeah, right. So show me the spooky bones.”
Slim led the way through the twisting corridors, pointing out the important landmarks. “Toilet’s through there,” and “Down that tunnel on the left is a kitchen. I think it used to be part of a space station. The refrigerator is full of fish.”
After about twenty minutes’ walk, the winding tunnel widened and ended. A large iris-portal dominated the wall.
“This is it,” Slim said. He stepped out of the way and nudged Ash forward. “You go first.”
Ash pressed his palm against the twisted vines, and they slid against each other, opening to a large, dimly lit chamber.
Ash took step, then stopped.
There were bones. Lots of them. Piles of them. Towers and ziggurats reaching for the ceiling. Statues built of bones tied together with dried kudzu vine and tendons. Bones hung from above in macabre mobiles. Something that looked uncomfortably like an altar constructed entirely of bone filled the middle of the room.
Most of the bones came from cats and fish.
Not all of them. On a backdrop woven from of hundreds of thousands of fish ribs, four adult human skulls framed another, that of a child.
“Are his bones in there, too?” Slim said. He sat down Ash’s foot. “Wouldn’t surprise me. But then, I got bit by a plant, so not much surprises me anymore.”
“This isn’t the time for jokes,” Ash said. “Some day that’ll be us up there.”
“Gotta get your laughs where you can, when you can,” Slim said. “While you still can.”
“Yeah,” Ash said. “You can say that again.”