I held tight to my little cousin’s hand as we walked the road through Summerhaven, scanning the broken asphalt for weeds. Alex tugged at a stray thread on his faded Cookie Monster T-shirt and scuffed his sneakers against the ground. He’d been fidgety all day, like his skin felt too tight. Maybe it was the heavy gray clouds, promising rain, but giving us only another sticky summer day.
Maybe it was that for five years—since before Alex was born—our entire lives had been lived within a couple miles of this road. Thinking about it made me want to crawl out of my skin, too.
Alex spotted a fuzzy pink thistle poking through a crack in the pavement. He reached for it. I pulled him back. “Gloves on?” I asked.
Alex looked down at his bare hands, as if he had to think about that. He pulled leather gloves out of his jean pockets, tried to put them on, and got his thumbs stuck in the finger holes. I helped him straighten them out.
“Gloves on,” he said, as if it had been his idea.
“Go for it, then.”
Alex grabbed the thistle and pulled, throwing all his four-year-old strength into the job. The stem came up in his arms, wriggling like a thorny green snake, while the fluffy bloom at the end thrashed wildly, trying to break free. I opened my leather weed-gathering bag, and Alex threw the thistle in. Once it was dead, we’d feed it to the goats and rabbits, just like all the other weeds.
“Take that, stupid plant.” Alex laughed, as if hunting down killer weeds was all in a day’s work. He’d never known a plant that was safe. He’d never known a world more than a few miles wide, either.
I knelt beside him and dug the thistle’s roots out with my knife, ignoring the strap of my quiver as it dug into my shoulder. Sweat plastered my I ♥ Mount Lemmon T-shirt to my back. “Never forget the roots,” I said.
“Never forget the roots.” Alex threw them into my bag, too, grinning like a preschooler learning his ABCs. Except Alex hadn’t been to preschool, either, hadn’t learned his letters and numbers anywhere but by the fireplace with Aunt Anna and Uncle Doug.
I sighed and stood, looking at the familiar cabins that dotted the hillsides east and west of us, the snags of burned trees punctuating the earth between them. Beyond the houses, terraced fields of beans, squash, and corn moaned as they reached for the sky. Most of the town was up in those fields today, reinforcing the scorched rings of earth that surrounded the crops and kept them from marching down the hillside into town.
Five years ago, if someone had told me plants could march, I’d have told them they’d been streaming too many bad movies …
Set in the world of the Bones of Faerie trilogy, Invasive Species tells the story of a small Southwestern town struggling to survive five years after the war with Faerie, in a transformed world where the plants know how to bite and magic has the power to destroy the world—or, just possibly, to save it.