By R. F. Gammon
Kyle yelled as a tendril of vine lifted him off his feet, whirled him through the air, and deposited him in a breathless heap on the ground.
Gritting his teeth, he sprang back up and raised his axe. The vines drew back, their long cords moving like fingers, preparing for another assault. Not for the first time, Kyle’s blurred mind screamed the all-important question: Who were the fools who had decided to cover the whole world in kudzu? Why would someone choose to import the fastest-growing plant on earth to America?
No one ever thought the apocalypse would be caused by kudzu taking over everything. Only a handful of the toughest in the southern United States had survived—because they’d been ready to fight back. Kyle brandished his axe. He might be young, but he was a survivor, and he’d fight these overgrown plants, come what may.
“Kyle! Come on!” His sister, Abigail, beckoned to him from beyond a curtain of vines. The kudzu snapped in her direction, rearing its ugly leaves toward her.
Not today, Satan.
Kyle let out a battle cry and ran forward, axe slashing. Traditional weapons were nothing against the power of Mother Nature. Guns and swords—useless. Only axes and the occasional shovel could beat back kudzu.
Kyle fought back now with his axe. A vine shot toward him; he split it straight down the center, and the newly detached end fell to the ground. The rest of the vine curled back on itself as though in pain. Fifteen more tendrils rose higher and pointed straight at him.
Abigail’s yell split Kyle’s eardrums as she surged forward with a rusty shovel. Kyle wiped sweat from his forehead and they both went at it, slashing and hacking, until the kudzu relented. It only gave them a moment—but that was all they needed.
“Run!” Abigail yelled, and they both raced toward the edge of the clearing, toward the relative safety of unconquered trees. There weren’t many left, and every time they escaped, the infernal plants followed. But for the moment… all they needed was a breath.
Kyle’s lungs burned as they tore through the trees into a small clearing. This was no real shelter—just a place to rest for a moment—but it would have to be enough.
Abigail leaned forward, hands on her knees. “The kudzu acts like that hydra monster from the myths. Cut off one tendril and five more grow back.”
Kyle sighed. They’d both been mythology nerds, once. Not anymore—no time for that. But she was right. There had to be some weakness to the kudzu—something…
“That’s it! If it’s a hydra, we can’t win by running, and we can’t win by cutting off the heads.” He grinned. Maybe being a nerd really could come in handy here. “There’s only one way to defeat the kudzu. And that’s to follow the vines to the source and cut it off at the heart.”
Abigail raised an eyebrow. “Well… it’s worth a try.”
Kyle squared his shoulders. He might be young, but he was alive for a reason. Only the smartest could survive the kudzu invasion. And he was smart.
They burst through the forest, screaming to get the kudzu’s attention. Abigail waved her shovel; Kyle waved his axe. The vines took the bait, lunging after them with hisses that sounded like a feral beast. Kyle glanced over his shoulder as he ran.
A vine wrapped itself around Abigail. She yelled out and slashed at it with her shovel. “Keep going! I’ll distract it!”
Ahead of them loomed the target. The thickest growth of kudzu in the United States, the heart of the monster. The place Kyle and Abigail had been seeking for days now.
Kyle launched himself straight at it.
The tendrils redoubled their attack now that he was so close. Kyle dropped into a somersault to avoid a particularly long vine that clawed for him. Picking his axe up, he hacked and slashed and spun in an elaborate dance of footwork that sent sweat dripping down his spine. Just a little further. He could do this.
Vine after vine gave way to his axe. Kyle hacked his way deeper into the heart of the kudzu, where the plants were so thick and close together that they seemed more like a tree trunk than thin cords. Kyle’s pace slowed and he hacked through every single individual strand, his arms aching.
Until, finally, the plants blocked the light and plunged him into full darkness. This was no longer a world for humans. But maybe, just maybe, he had a chance to save himself and his sister both.
Kyle raised his axe above his head. Vines twisted all around him in an intricately woven gazebo. He had one chance to right this wrong.
The single vine in the center of the room. It had to be.
Kyle hewed straight through the center.
The world shuddered. The vines collapsed around him.
Kyle let himself grin in the sudden silence. He’d been running for so long—he’d finally made it. Finally. It felt like years and decades had passed to bring him to this one moment of silence.
He stumbled out from among the roots to where Abigail waited, arms folded, shovel still clutched in one fist. “You did it?” she asked.
“I did.” Kyle couldn’t help the giddiness that spread through him. “We did it. We survived the kudzu apocalypse.”
“Well, there’s just one problem.”
Abigail pointed to the still green strands of kudzu, on the ground now, but surrounding them. “It’s going to take a lot of fire to clean that up.”