Felicia Dunner hated people. Always had. Even as a little girl.
Why? Because people were ineradicably violent, unavailingly vindictive, immeasurably self-righteous, and the list went on. But plants? Oh, with plants she could just sit in their company for hours, enjoying the warm summer nights, breathing in the relaxing scents of honeysuckle and jasmine, plumenia, and gardenias.
Nighttime was always best. When she was young, Felicia would sneak out of the house while the rest of her family was asleep, step into the peaceful hush of her dormant neighborhood, kneel in the rich soil and listen to the gentle and soft evening breeze that rustled the leaves in the trees. And it was on one of those oh so long ago summer nights, when she was fed up with dealing with people, that her lifelong purpose came to her with a clarity she had never experienced before or since.
She studied botany, first on her own, devouring any and every book the library had to offer, then as an elective when it became available in school. Felicia had been blessed with strong analytical, mathematical, and critical thinking skills, and threw herself into the fields of botany, plant science, and biology to earn her doctoral degree.
A sizeable grant aided her in setting up a research facility deep within the Amazon Rainforest under the guise of discovering a plant-based cure for cancer. In reality, Felicia’s goal was to transcend the trappings of matter and biochemical pathways in order to twist evolution by stripping two disparate species and braiding them into a new, better, and stronger whole. If successful, the homo sapiens would experience the slow fade of an endangered species and give way to plantae sapiens, a race of human plants.
During her college years, she dated voraciously. Those who were narrow-minded and envious of her accomplishments branded Felicia as promiscuous, while those who sought to know her better thought she was coming out of her shell, stepping outside her comfort zone. Little did either faction know that she was collecting samples. Enzymes and plasmids were needed to help fuel her gene splicing and cloning experiments, so she compartmentalized her disdain for human contact and cast a wide net into the dating pool, male and female alike. To her, flesh was flesh, and as she was asexual and only interested in collecting raw genetic materials, she was immune to the preference of one gender over the other.
Felicia was plagued with failure upon failure, approaching her experiments from the standard cloning procedures of taking the plant-human spliced DNA and preparing an egg cell, inserting somatic cell material, convincing the egg that it was fertilized, and implanting it into an artificial womb. And it wasn’t until she had exhausted all of her genetic materials that she realized her error and cursed her meat-based brain. She was approaching the matter all wrong, thinking like a human.
Her misanthropic manner eventually drove away all her assistants so Felicia was forced to use samples cultivated from her own body, and instead of creating a replica of a human egg, she created a plant-like seed the size of a peach pit.
Felicia placed the seed in a container filled with a solution infused with human and plant enzymes and stored it in a dark place at room temperature for twelve hours to let the seed soak and initiate the germination process.
Then she tried sowing the seed in quality soil with a sterile, seed-starting mix, planting it at the proper depth according to her calculations. She watered it wisely, maintaining consistent moisture, kept the soil warm, fertilizing, giving the seed enough light, and circulated the air.
Giving up was never an option, but Felicia couldn’t deny she was balancing on the precipice of admitting the futility of her efforts, when, out of the blue, a thought struck her. Had she been planting the seed in the wrong soil? It had been nutrient-rich, to be sure, but perhaps it was missing that certain something, that bit of magic that existed in the blindspot of her prejudice. A human variable.
Hoping against hope, Felicia extracted the seed from the soil, rinsed and drained it, and then replanted it in the richest soil she possessed. With equal amounts of care and effort, she placed this unique seed, neither fully plant nor human, deep within her lady garden. She knew full well the dangers of retaining foreign objects in the uterus: infection and purulent malodorous discharge, granulation tissue formation leading to adhesions, and fibrosis, but she was desperate.
At first, she thought she was facing yet another failure but a missed period and tender, swollen breasts clued Felicia in that she was finally on the right track. All the other symptoms soon followed: nausea, but thankfully no vomiting, only dry heaving, increased urination, fatigue, light spotting, cramping, bloating, and constipation. Also, her sense of smell and taste became heightened and she was experiencing abdominal twinges, the sensation of her stomach muscles being pulled and stretched. All this occurred within the first three days.
Felicia’s stomach became upset on day four, as if her digestive system was in turmoil, swelling like a tidal wave before gradually subsiding. On day five, she awoke to a dull ache in her back and lower abdomen and there was a pressure in her pelvis that was indescribable, accompanied by strong waves that felt like diarrhea cramps. They couldn’t have been labor contractions, it was far too soon, and it hadn’t matched with any of her calculations!
Despite that fact, there was a pounding in her uterus and a wrenching intestinal cramping that felt like severe gas pains and just when it felt like she was about to pass out, her entire body was flooded with numbness. Felicia was aware of anesthetics that existed in nature. Was the seed releasing eugenol to numb her nerves?
Reclining on a makeshift examination table, she watched in absolute calmness as if detached from her physical body, as thin tentacle-like vines pushed their way free of her lady garden, extending, probing her thighs and calves until they located her ankles. Snaking around the bone just above her feet, the vines slowly drew her legs close. Felicia could feel her baby shift and move, it was extricating itself, pulling itself free from her womb, in essence, birthing itself.
Once breached, the vines released her ankles, leaving nasty welts, and crawled up to her belly, using its tentacle appendages as legs. Felicia cupped the leafy infant in her hands. It was so light yet so firm and it radiated such heat. She tickled the bulb of its head on some sort of motherly instinct and the petals began to unfurl to reveal the humanish face within that bore a resemblance to pictures of herself as a child if she had been made of foliage.
Felicia bore her breast and placed her baby’s lips to her nipple. This was indeed a product of her loins, her experimental hybrid baby was a flaming success, the next step in evolution, and yes, it would replace humankind but not in the way that the botanist had envisioned. Homo sapiens would become an endangered species because her progeny was a creation born not with the need for mother’s milk, but with the taste for human flesh, and she had no other choice than to see that her baby was properly fed.