Chapter 50

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The airplane hangar was as still as a tomb. Mitchell and Wes had been given the directive to watch for what Isaac had described as "anomalies," such as the doppelganger dog that had apparently appeared here. Those idiots Lacey and Charles had put the Gus lookalike into the Med Hut for observation. What they should've done was waste the dog and burn the hangar to the ground. That's what Mitchell would've done had he been in charge. All he knew was, if something that resembled him or Wes came stumbling out of the shadows, he was going to shoot first, ask questions later.

The private jet sat in the same state of decay that it always had. There was nothing inside of the plane – they'd checked. Nothing in the far corners of the space, waiting to attack. They were babysitting an abandoned structure. Ridiculous. Why not just lock the whole building up? He thought of what Eva had once said to him regarding his guard duty: "It's like you're babysitting yourself."

Fucking bitch.

But that was when Grant had been giving the orders. Now that he was gone, Isaac had given him more authority. Yes, he was still on guard duty, but Isaac had shown him the great secret of the fields. The Plant. And its keeper. He'd stood before it and gazed into its brilliance on more than one occasion. And it had spoken to him. Not in words so much, but in thoughts and visions. It had a higher use for him. It had understood that he was more than a gun-toting moron. Sure, he was fond of his weapon, and didn't mind killing if need be – sometimes even looked forward to it – but he was capable of more and the plant knew it.

Mitchell opened his fist and stretched his thick fingers. He watched them tremble, then closed his fist again. Concentrating, he took a deep breath and uncurled the calloused digits, attempting to settle his nerves. But once again, they trembled.

Shit! He raised his fist and prepared to slam it down on the chair beside him but stopped himself. Wes was seated twenty feet away to his right. He didn't need that little shit telling Isaac that he'd been acting strange. But he had been, hadn't he?

Yes, Mitchell. You have.

Jumping out of his seat, the large man raised his rifle, aimed at the darkness behind him, then spun around.

"You alright, man?" called Wes, readying his own weapon. "You hear something?"

Mitchell's pulse pounded through his ears like the beating of a drum. A death drum. It called to him.

"Mitch?"

Mitchell convinced himself that the shadows in the room were just that; nothing moved within them as he'd first thought. But he'd heard that voice. It had been a soft hush, that could easily be dismissed as air sifting through a ventilation shaft. Since the hangar hadn't been equipped with an operational air filtration unit in years, however, he had to confront the notion that maybe the voice had come from somewhere inside of his head.

"Mitch? You wanna say something, so I know you're okay?"

"It's Mitchell, asshole. I've told you that like a thousand fucking times."

Wes, apparently relieved, said, "Yep. You're okay."

The drumming in his ears began to settle and Mitchell lowered his weapon. He wiped the sweat from his brow and walked toward the door.

"Where're you going?"

"Need some air."

The sky was overcast and there was a moderate breeze. Mitchell inhaled deeply, again removing the perspiration from his forehead with the back of his sleeve. He stared ahead at the overgrown grass swaying beyond the perimeter fence; the blades brushing against one another, emitting a steady whisper. The sound came nearer, and he backed away. He thought of the cornfields and how the rustling leaves produced a similar noise. It had come to him before, when he'd visited the Plant.

Mitchell...

Shaking his head, the former soldier tried to draw upon his military training. He stood tall, forcing the imagery from his mind, forcing the sound to leave his ears. He walked back to the hangar and reached for the door but was stopped before he touched the knob, his hand hovering inches from it. It was right there, all he had to do was grab it...yet he couldn't. Not if his life depended on it. The sound rushed back at him; the whispering blades of grass, the colliding of the cornstalk leaves. They grew louder, the volume rising inside his skull.

Mitchell. It's time.

*********

Isaac left the farmers to their work, confident that the newest – Eva – was now focused. She wasn't the newest, really; she'd been a good farmer before. Before her implant been tampered with. They were imperfect, these devices. They were no more than antennae that allowed the Plant's signal to be received should it feel the need to broadcast. The Plant had been doing less of that lately and Isaac knew that its health was in question. Soon it would need to move – migrate – to a richer environment.

Past the cornfields, Isaac mounted a slope, singing Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon." The tune triggered a stinging longing in him, and he no longer felt like crooning. Had it been his wedding song, perhaps? Something like that. He felt like maybe he'd once been married. He could no longer remember his wife, though. It didn't matter now.

After a hundred yards or so, Isaac stopped at the gate of the small house just off the dirt path. It wasn't the main farmhouse, but a secondary one. Once it had been yellow but having been bleached by the sun and the rain over the years, it was now just a dingy off-white. He ran his fingers along the top of the old aluminum mailbox and marveled that the post it rested upon still stood erect.  The first letter had faded, with only "eece" still visible.

Isaac moved the rusty gate aside and entered the yard, observed by a lone crow atop the crumbling chimney of the house. The vegetation, thick and unpassable along the brick walkway, greeted him. Its leaves inspected him, caressing his arms and face. "It's just me," he called out. Layer upon layer, the vines unfurled, finally revealing the steps to the tiny porch. Isaac opened the door and stepped inside.

The odor was arresting, as always. He fought the impulse to gag and continued, vines slithering over vines, the heavier ones thumping to the floor. The tendrils continued gliding over and under one another, revealing more of the interior as he advanced. Some of the ceiling had given way, leaving large gaps between the rafters. Isaac wondered how the entire structure hadn't collapsed, but then imagined that it was held together by the Plant itself.

Reaching what had once been the kitchen, Isaac came to the plant's face, and the cloudy eyes that had been staring at the floor, raised and studied him. "You recognize me, friend?"

Garrett's pupil-less eyeballs took him in and after a few moments, he gave a slight nod.

"You summoned me," continued Isaac. "What is it you need me to do?"
The Plant licked its lips with what appeared to be a woody tongue, then said in a creaky and ancient-sounding voice, "It approaches...the time is...nigh."

Isaac swallowed. "What do you mean?"

The head lolled, stared skyward, then rolled back to face Isaac. The vines surrounded him, swaying to some unheard melody. "The seed..."

Isaac winced as his head was besieged with instructions and a kaleidoscope of intermingling visions. He saw death, then the sun, shimmering rain cascading to earth, giving new life. He saw a man and what he was to become. The man, accompanied by a towering robot, approached Community.


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