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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the SCIENCE FICTION genre (05/10/07)

TITLE: Fertile Soil
By Betty Castleberry


Marianne was curious to find out what the mystery plant looked like this morning. It was quite an oddity, and was growing very quickly. In just a few days, it had gone from a seedling to a large plant. It was taller than the rest of her flowers, even the graceful larkspurs. Its stem was becoming woody and its silvery leaves bore a slight resemblance to those on her oak tree. Marianne thought it was beautiful.

She shaded her eyes from the morning sun and bent down to get a closer look. The plant was different this morning. Overnight, several fat, round pods had developed along the pale green branches. She touched one. It had a hairy outer coating similar to a coconut, but it was smaller and softer. Curiosity inched through her until it had consumed her entire body. She was unsure whether to pick one of the pods, or leave them alone. She weighed her options, and decided to leave them for at least one more day. Instead, she plucked a weed near the plant.

Marianne rinsed her hands off at the hose and was about to go inside when she heard a voice. “Are you Marianne Lawrence?”

She looked up and saw a thin young man standing just inside her garden gate. “Yes. May I help you?”

He flipped open a badge, then quickly flipped it shut again. “Government Agent Mark McGregor. I’d like to speak with you.”

Marianne felt nervous, although she knew she had no reason to be. “Is something wrong?”

“If we could just speak for a moment?”

She motioned to the Adirondack chairs flanking her flower beds. “Of course. Have a seat.”

“Thank you. Mrs. Lawrence, you ordered some seeds from the Happy Spring Seed Company this year, did you not?”

“Why yes. I always order from them.” She beamed. “You know, they seem like the nicest folks. I always have the best luck with their seeds. I guess you noticed my gorgeous flowers, and you know, they always give me a free package of seeds. I even…”

The agent held up his hand. “Yes, Ma’am. I’m sure they’re wonderful folks. This free package of seeds you got from them this year, did you plant them?”

“Yes, but it’s the strangest thing; the package wasn’t marked. I’ve gardened for forty years, and I’ve never seen anything like the plant growing from those seeds. Out of that whole package of seeds, only one plant came up, too.”

“May I see it?”

Marianne pointed out the plant. “Of course. It’s right there.”

Agent McGregor walked over and peered intently at the plant. “Mrs. Lawrence, I’m afraid I’m going to have to confiscate this.”

“Whatever for?” She chewed her lip. “Oh no, it isn’t some kind of drug is it? Oh dear…”

“No, not at all. It’s an experimental hybrid. We are working with the botanists at Happy Spring Seed Company. These seeds weren’t supposed to get out to the public. Evidently some careless person sent some to you by mistake. I’m sorry, but I will have to dig up your plant.”

Marianne looked pained. “Well, I suppose if you have to.”

Agent McGregor went to his truck and returned with a shovel and a plastic bag. In just a few minutes, he had the plant removed from the soil. He placed it carefully in the bag. “I’ll be in touch, just in case another plant comes up. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Marianne shrugged. “You’re welcome.”

“Good day, Ma’am.”

The agent left and Marianne stood beside the freshly dug soil, wondering what had just happened. She sighed and ran a hand across the soft earth where the plant once stood. She felt a large lump just under the soil. When she brushed away the dirt, she discovered one of the hairy green pods had fallen off and gotten partially buried.

She spoke aloud. “Let’s have a closer look at this.”

The pod had a seam right through the middle. Carefully, she ran her nail all the way around the seam, and it popped open. A watery substance oozed out. She held it upside down and allowed all of the fluid to drain away. Left inside the pod was a tightly rolled papery object. She removed it and slowly unrolled it across her palm.

A grin spread across her face. “Well I’ll be. What will they think of next?”

She began humming, and went inside, holding a brand new, damp, twenty dollar bill.

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This article has been read 1061 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kate Grey05/17/07
Fun story.... good surprise at the end. :)
Mo 05/17/07
Well done. Realistic dialogue. & a cute ending.
Martha Helton05/17/07
Cute story--suspense was built to the end. Enjoyable!
Helen Paynter05/18/07
What a fun story - I really didn't see the end coming. Let's hope another one comes up for her!!
Sara Harricharan 05/18/07
Hmmm, okay, you get the sci-fi element with the gov. agent coming in for something. I assumed the plant was alien, or was about to sprout an alien! ^_^ Good job with the surprise ending. I was a little disappointed that it was so short. Maybe without the word count, you could expand it. The interrupted dialouge was good, overall, not too bad. ^_^ This is a nice twist from the heavier sci-fi stories.
Kaylee Blake 05/18/07
Haha! Gee, do I wish this was a true story! The ending really surprised me. Great job. Keep up the good work!
Marilee Alvey05/19/07
Talk about fertile soil: you have a fertile imagination here! Excellent description. I found myself reading faster and faster. What a great surprise at the end! I'd like to write more, but I have to get out my seed catalog: and I thought I had no interest in growing green plants!
Joanne Sher 05/21/07
Good job with the intensity - and I DEFINITELY didn't see your (totally delightful) ending coming at all. Care to send me one of those pods? ;)
Jan Ackerson 05/21/07
WOW!!!! Love it!
Jacquelyn Horne05/21/07
Cute. A money tree. Good job.
Patty Wysong05/21/07
Oooo! I loved it! Too bad she didn't get to keep the plant!! :-) The dialog was wonderful, too. :-)
Lynda Schultz 05/21/07
Too bad this is fiction - I'd like to get one of those money trees!

Captured me from the beginning and kept up the suspense right to the last word - a winner in my book.
Pat Guy 05/21/07
You had me on pins and needles on what this 'pod' was going to have in it ... and I grossed at the oozing liguid. Good job for being so Scifi challenged! ;) I really enjoyed this!
Benjamin Graber05/21/07
LOL... I loved the suprise ending!
Rita Garcia05/21/07
Oh, this is a fun read, creative and well done! The ending was great!
Myrna Noyes05/21/07
Ha-ha! A money tree! Would you please send me the address of that seed company? I suddenly feel like putting in some more flowers! :D Very interesting and fun story!
william price05/21/07
Great! The Money tree was superb. Got to luv ya, Betty. God bless.
Melanie Kerr 05/22/07
I thought it was going to be invasion of the body snatchers! Can I have one of those seeds please?
T. F. Chezum05/22/07
Very well done. A fun read all the way.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/23/07
I loved your story...couldn't read it fast enough...hope it's a winner!
LaNaye Perkins05/23/07
Whoa! I want one of those plants! Could you make mine a $50 or $100 one? lol This was a great story to read! Well done!
dub W05/23/07
Well done, good dialogue work.
Brenda Welc05/23/07
Wow! How talented are you? This was great!
Shari Armstrong 05/23/07
Hehehe - send me one, please?