Edition 31: Old Growth by J. Ashley Smith
Winner of the 2016 Story Quest Contest, Old Growth is a story of societal disconnection, desperation. I am sure you will see why this twisted piece grew on the judges. – SY
“Look, Dad,” says Mika from the back. “Look at the faces!”
Scott adjusts the rear-view mirror. The last he checked, Mika was slumped in a chaos of Lego, two minifigures squabbling inches from his face. Now the boy is fully upright, forehead pressed to the window.
“What do you mean? What faces?”
“In the trees,” says the boy. “Bubbly heads poking out of the bark. Look, Dad, can you see?”
“What’re you talking about, retard?” Ashley is scooched way down in the passenger seat, semi-foetal with her toes on the glovebox. Scott would think she was asleep if it weren’t for the dance of thumbs over the screen of her phone.
“They’re probably galls,” says Scott. “Some trees grow them in response to bacteria, insects, that sort of thing. It’s a kind of symbiosis: the trees grow galls to protect themselves, but the galls also protect the wasps, or the greenfly or whatever, by drawing them in, growing around them.”