Content warning Suicide
What had once been a brick wall had been covered and dissolved into the blossoming growth of the vines. Little creepers moving at the speed of life twisted and dug their tiny tendrils into the red brick and mortar of the once solid wall, digging into the crevasses and forming a wedge of organic matter that in due time would rip the stones apart and turn them into nothing but dust. Just like the vines had done to the rest of the suburban homes in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood before it. An unstoppable force of nature making its way from the edge of the marshes, through the woodlands and into the city center. Despite what the scientists and government officials said about having the outgrowth contained, the wake of debris would disagree with their statements shrouded in false confidence. Much like my mother herself, the vines that sprouted out of her grave and consumed the world around it were an unstoppable force not to be reckoned with, although her death had come to us as a surprise.
My mother had always been a lover of nature and the environment, my dad not so much. When our more traditional neighbors dressed in their Sunday best to go to the church, my mother and I would dress old t-shirts and jeans, grab a backpack and water bottle and go to her favorite nature reserve, meanwhile my dad stuck around the house working on various projects or watching football. At the reserve she’d teach me the names of all its creatures, from the fish in the rivers, to the trees and brush, and the birds in the sky. The reserve was her sanctuary, and no place made her feel more at peace. Self-taught, she was smarter than anybody I knew. When the day creeped towards its end and the sun was its end of its slow march across the sky, my mother would always feel the life drain out of her. “I suppose it’s time to go,” she’d always say as we walked to the car, taking her time until the sky had turned violet and orange. The dirt roads turn to neglected paved surfaces with green scars from where nature had reclaimed the cracks in the pavement. The fading pavement turned to a well-kept highway with the street emitting from high above blotting out the night’s sky. The highway to neighborhood streets. When we returned to the suburbs what life the nature preserve had given her had faded away. My mother had no place in the suburbs, no matter how much their concrete surfaces, intersections full of the strip malls selling things she took no interest in, and copy-and-pasted houses tried to assimilate her into its faceless masses. She only existed between Sunday to Sunday, only at the preserve did she truly live.
Time marched on, my mother and I would go every Sunday back to the reserve where she’d regain her sense of self. She had become so lost within the small pocket of nature and so ambivalent to everything outside of it that she failed to notice the slow and steady march of the urban sprawl that by the time it had reached the reserve it was too late. On my senior year of high school on one fateful Sunday we arrived at the reserve, its painted steel gates no longer open to us, instead they had been shut and locked. A sign dangled from the top rung of the gate, printed in bright orange letters, “Sold.” No further details were given, but it didn’t take long before we figured out to who. A developer had paid an exorbitant amount of money to take it off the state government’s hands and not six months later had the concrete foundations of another mater planned community had been poured. As they struck the ground with their shovels, they also struck the heart of my mother. A year later after I had long left for college in the western plains, my mother would be found by my father, bleeding out into a half-filled bathtub with a knife in her hand a slit down her wrist. We buried her the next week at the nearest cemetery available to the reserve. Three weeks later the vines began to sprout from her grave.
At first the groundskeepers had tried to keep them at bay with the usual techniques: weedkiller and clippers. Once those had proven to be ineffective, they worked with the next best thing they knew more of the same, much more. Once they had emptied enough weedkiller to kill an entire forest upon the grave, leaving nothing but a patch of dead grass that soaked outwards to the surrounding graves in a gradient of death, only the vines remained. No matter how hard they fought back, the vines always won and in due time they would cover the entire cemetery, wrapping themselves around the marble headstones and squeezing them into dust. The county soon stepped in, then the state government, and finally the federal. Their attempts at squashing the growth all met with the same results: nothing but a wake of green vines and dust. Evacuation orders were the only tool they had left as the vines overtook the suburbs and returned them back to nature.
I stand here at the gate of the reserve gone neighborhood, the bloom of the vines not far down the road. Behind the gates, empty roads leading to concrete pads and skeletons of lumbar in the form of houses. As the vines creep across the ground liked spilled water, they pass right by me, leaving a little patch of untouched land for me to watch as they climb the rusted gates and into the property. Not long do they start digging into the crevasses of the cement and growing into the cracks of brick carrying out my mother’s last will and testament, all the while I watch with a smile.
This story was originally submitted to this prompt. It’s also an abridged version of a longer short story I’ve been working on and off again but haven’t had the will to finish it, so I’m happy that this prompt gave me an excuse to at least finish it, even in flash fiction form!