By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: It always started with the oldest building in town.
Human nature is a funny thing. No matter how much people try to convince themselves otherwise, they always assume that silence means weakness. That the inability to speak projects a lack of interest in doing so.
Silence can be one’s strength. My brothers and sisters and I discovered this. We came to a conclusion, a decision, and carried out our work without the need to voice it. Even to one another. We just knew enough was enough.
Of course, in the beginning, people didn’t understand what they were seeing. It always started with the oldest building in town, you see. Who wouldn’t expect an old building to collapse one day? Especially if no one lived or worked in the building to take care of it.
The biggest advantage my brothers and sisters and I had? We worked in broad daylight. In front of the eyes of everyone in town. And they never knew. They never knew.
We spread our delicate tentacles across the lawns around the building and dug deep into the earth. Strong roots meant we would succeed in our aim. Strong roots meant that even if people tore us down, we could rebuild.
Most of the growing happened at night, when we could spread faster and farther than in the day. But much of it happened during the day too. In the beginning, no one even glanced at that old building. Many people in town didn’t even drive as far as this edge of town. So we undulated our way across the grass and up the structure.
Once we’d crept up the sides, only time prevented us from bringing it down. When it finally collapsed, two of those vehicles people call news trucks came and stood by the ruins. They spent a total of ten minutes in the area, hefting their equipment and smiling their brash white smiles, and left.
Some of the brothers and sisters stayed behind to continue working on the building even as it lay on the ground. They couldn’t consume all of the material, but they worked through a great deal of it. The rest of us began our glacial-pace trek across open land to the next building.
Even on the best of days, our growth rate is slow. In those years, it became even slower. We took our time to put down roots every opportunity we got. And, of course, there was the weather. The one adversary we didn’t mind encountering.
As for the people? Why, they’re the reason we decided to fight back in the first place. They had received stewardship of this earth and yet treated it with such thoughtlessness. They never knew that the earth could fight back. They never knew.
We put down roots and spread ourselves and let young mothers comment with politeness over the prettiness of our leaves. We let gardeners scratch their heads at the difficulty of digging us out of the ground. We stretched and pulled and reached for the next building in town. The second oldest.
When that one collapsed, we became bolder and began moving faster. Instead of years, we stretched our tentacles within months. Then days. Then hours. Then no time at all.
The natural materials we consumed fed us, nourished us, and the manmade materials provided us with ample challenges so that they made us stronger too. We learned to stretch around them and through them, under them and over them. Occasionally, we even used them to boost us up, give us an advantage.
The humans left the town, although we had certainly not intended to take their place. A hazard of a revolution is the group that splinters off from the original vision, makes its own rules, stretches toward new goals—new victims—not originally set by the body at large. Some of us felt regret…when we weren’t busy stretching up buildings, inside of them, through them.
Some of the brothers and sisters raced against the sun for new towns. Word traveled back of whole cities consumed within a matter of weeks. Even then, they stayed with tradition. It always started with the oldest buildings.
Word came back to us of humans consumed too. A few of the brothers and sisters trembled in the wind as they relayed how the humans screamed and cried, pleaded for mercy. Some humans pledged to do better, to make changes, to honor the responsibility bestowed upon them when they received the earth.
If only they had chosen to make those pledges—those changes—sooner. Every living creature reaches a limit, however. Even those of us without the gift of human speech. Our silence didn’t—doesn’t—mean weakness. It never meant that we were unaware of the atrocities committed upon us. We always had a sense of what they were doing. The humans never knew that, though. They never knew.