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The world is ravaged by a runaway tumbleweed in this biting tale from author Patrick Canning.

Tumbleweed Apocalypse

When I was 10 years old there was a boy in my neighborhood by the name of Skids Malarkey. I don't know if that was his real Christian name but that's what we called him. Skids was meaner than dirt, and bigger'n any seventh grader in the state. Couple a times he'd twist my brothers' nipples and one summer I swear to it that he knocked out 3 of Carl Felton's kid bro's teeth. Permanent adult teeth mind you. Anyway, one day when Skids was walkin around the neighborhood, stirrin' up trouble and messin people about, a couple of us decided it was time to hit back at him. Both my brothers Dan and Josh, the Mitchell Twins Sammy and Phil from down the block, and Carl's little bro, with 3 teeth made from some sort of high tech plastic which you couldn't tell from the real ones 'cept they was even whiter, put it to ourselves to sit this big brute down. Phil brought his uncle's Crosman 700 bb rifle and we scratched out a plan.

Skids was big and dumb, but somehow his baby order got mixed up with the Lord and he was given super speed ta boot, which is something you're not to find in giant sized boys like he was. This meant you couldn't just walk down the middle of Hickory Street, call him out on his past transgressions, and ping one between his eyes. It would take brainstormin' and that was fine by me because it was that what made us different'n Skids in the first place. So we got our ducks in place and went about followin' through.

After hasslin' Mark Coleman's sister for about 15 minutes, which I imagine felt more like 20 to her, ol' Skids lumbered on down Hickory towards his next victims I'm sure. I'm watchin' all this from behind the stack a firewood leaned up next to Mr. Parkhill's garage, which was normally crawlin' with all sorts of spiders but this day it weren't, I like to think they's knew what we were doin' and was showin' their support by stayin' hidden. So I crouched real low with Phil's uncle's bb rifle, cause I was the best shot in our group, and waited for the distraction. I wasn't want to wait long as I soon heard the signal.

Cross the street, I think I heard my oldest bro's calls first, the whole gang started hootin' and hollerin' at Skids. They called him half the dirty names under the sun, the ones we knew anyway, took a breath, and then called him the other half. I even saw Little Felton drop his shorts and show Skids his brown eye, head smiling that two-tone grin underneath his crack. As you can imagine smoke's just about steamin' outta Skids stubby little ears. He's grittin' those yellow teeth a his and just as he takes a step, I take my first shot. It snaps him straight in the back of the head, I told you I was the best shot. If'n Skids had a decent head of hair like the rest of us this might not'a stung so much. But somehow he'd gotten the idea in his head that a bald one looked best, so he was known to keep that melon a his shaved every day of every month of the year. When that metal bb hit his skin it made a noise so sweet to my ears I nearly forgot to take my second shot. I remembered pretty quick when I saw his grizzly size torso, along with his head, legs, and arms, stormin' towards my hiding place. I finger'd in the next bb, pumped 10 times, I wanted to go 8 but forced myself to wait for full power, and shot for straight between his puny little eyes. 'Cept this time my aim was off. Instead that fully charged bb plopped straight into Skid's left eye. He fell to the asphalt, moanin' and a hollerin', cursin me at first, then just howlin' for his mama. Skids lost that eye, got a glass one to take it's place but it never quite looked right, sorta like Little Felton's smile.

Reason I bring this story up isn't to sing my own song talkin' bout my shootin', but to try and explain how the hell the world ended up like this. Ya see, come the start of this century, most a the world had itself all up in a twist about all kinds a…doomsday scenarios. Some'd say it'll be a new war where'n the Russians or one a them Koreas drops an A-bomb on Washington and the rest is dominos. Outdoors folks said it'd be the planet heatin' up, melting the North and South poles, puttin' all the countries underwater 'cept the highest mountains. Disease, asteroids, and even that big light speed tunnel in Switzerland were all big talk in those days as to what would end it all so to speak. Now all these things are the like rest of the neighborhood gang. My bros are the A-Bombs, Sammy's the heatin' planet, and Phil can be some big asteroid flyin' through space. Everyone's lookin' at them, expectin' the worst, all the time forgettin' that I's just behind the firewood with a bb gun, aimed straight at the head. See, I was the tumbleweed.

Now if some scientist had survived it all and came to me and said he'd made some kinda time machine, where with I could go back to before all it started, I still might not know how to stop it from happenin'. What would I do? Put armed guards every hundred feet in the desert with orders to shoot any tumbleweed bigger'n 3 feet on sight? We couldn't even put up a damned chain link fence in the desert. No I suppose there'd be no reasonable way of changin' things what how they happened and I ain't never met no scientist with a time machine anyhow so nuts to supposin'.

I guess it started somewhere in the North part a Nevada. What they called the Great Basin Desert I'm told. It was one of them fun news stories wherein folks was followin' it around, tryin' to take a picture next to it before a gusta wind'd carry it on over to the next town. Wasn't until the thing crushed a full size school bus, it was empty mind you as this happened on a Saturday thank God, that folks started to take it seriously.

Someone in the state government, don't know who they decided to put in charge of a situation like this, ordered it destroyed before it went and caused more damage to private or state owned property. A carrot farmer by the name a Gus St. Cloud, helluva name if'n you were askin' me, put his services up for sale to do the project and was hired by the State to go about dismantling the troublesome bushel a twigs and twine. St. Cloud pinned the damn thing down with one'a his farmin' tractors, backhoe type a machine I believe, and went to work on the vehicle sized menace with a chainsaw. Local news was out coverin' the whole thing a course. They were still havin' a bit of fun with it, callin' it "retribution for the taxpayers" since'n the thing had destroyed a state owned school bus.

Anyway, not a split second later'n Gus had sunk that chainsaw a his into the beast, a mighty wind came over the farm and the damn thing rolled over on Gus, and his tractor, smooshin' both to smithereens. News folk stopped laughin' after'n this had happened. Some of 'em even up and left in their vans for fear of their own bodies bein' crushed like Ol' Gus. The ones that stayed followed the ball through the desert that afternoon, watchin' it get bigger 'n bigger, tumblin' on towards the town a Wells, Nevada. By the next day, most a the buildings in that town had been crushed to rubble, and any left had pieces a wood and junk stickin' out of em like a porcupine. 16 people were killed, all the rest left without none of their homes or Earthly possessions. 'Fore anyone could do anythin' about it, the weed had rolled back out into the desert, had to be about 50 feet tall by this point, fulla desert brush, pieces a buildings, and even some of the townsfolk and livestock from nearby. The governor declared a state of emergency but soon he didn't have to worry much since'n it crossed the border into Idaho and became a federal matter, or more specifically at that time, an Idaho matter.

The President called in National Guard troops 'n sent 'em to Idaho. Well they found the weed pretty easy since'n it was pancake'n towns just about every few hours. Only problem was once they found it they didn't know what it was they're expected to do about it. Some folks said shoot it, blow it up, dig a big hole and trap the damn thing. Now that I get to thinkin' about it, feller that came up with that hole idea might'a been on to somethin'. Don't make much difference outside a bull's ass now as'n that's not what they did. Someone what with a heavy amount a metal on his uniform made the call that'n we were gonna light the damn thing on fire. Idea was it was made mostly a wood so'n settin' it on fire, it'd burn just as any other fire, camp or otherwise. So they flew helicopters over it and doused the blasted thing in Napalm. Come thinin' about it the liquid weren't Napalm exactly, some new kinda gas that's better'n Napalm. Anyway the stuff worked, Moses hisself woulda taken off his sandals at seein this burnin' bush! But the damned thing didn't burn down like the Army or the President wanted it to. Sure some of the pieces on the outside crisped into ash and fell off. But mostly all it did was make the situation a helluva lot worse.

As the infernal thing rolled into Wyoming, where my Uncle Christopher and Aunt Cassie lived, it was still flaming outta control, and leaving huge fires innit's wake. Towns bigger n' bigger were suddenly wiped of the map. From Rock Springs, over to Rawlins, Laramie, and even Cheyenne, the blasted weed coulda been accused of takin' Route 80 East and even a county Judge'd have a hard time disputin' the claim. Now I don't mean to bore nobody with all the mapped out details but as I see it the story oughtta be told'n how it happened. End a that day, just about the whole corn farmin' state was up in flames.

We came into a bita luck when the weed rolled into the Harlan County Lake in Nebraska. Now this lake wasn't nothin' more than a puddle to the Beast at this point, but it was enough to extinguish the blaze. Rollin' on through the middle a the country it'd double its size every few hours until it was about knockin' on the door a the White House. Course the President wasn't there anymore, he'd been moved to one a them underground concrete bunkers somewhere else in the country but it wouldn'ta mattered cause just as the damn shadow a the thing covered the city a Washington, a new wind blew the thing back West. It went through Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and into Canada. Now by this point you can hardly imagine the make up of the Beast. What had started out as thorns and bushweed was now gobblin' up whole trees, houses, cars, telephone poles, families, pets, trains, wild animals, hell entire cities would get scraped up off the map in a matter a minutes. Now I ain't never been to Canada but anyone smarter than a housefly'll be able a tellin' ya that it's chock full of wilderness. That ball rolled through mile after mile a thick Yukon forest and got so damn big I know for a fact the boys in that NASA space station coulda seen it through their windas if'n they'd wanted to.

Anyone left in America, and all those folks on the other continents who were scared sick for themselves, were hopin'and prayin' that the weed'd get water logged in the ocean. The ball rolled on towards Alaska, this's now 4 or so days after 'Ol Gus was killed, and the prayin' folks was prayin' that it'd drop into the ocean, never to hit land again. Also let me say that most folks in the world was the prayin' type at this point even if'n they hadn't been before 'Ol Gus was smooshed. Sure this tumbleweed was mighty, but God Damnit if'n the Bering Sea was gonna let a bundle a sticks grow into a equal or greater'n force than itsself.

Well the prayin' went unanswered as the weed sloshed through the water in no longer'n half a day, bumblin' on inta Russia. Pretty quick the biggest plan became the best one. What was left of the world leaders decided we had but one chance left and that'd be to use some A-Bombs on the damned thing. Russia was closest and so said they'd be happy to use their own bombs if'n it'd put a stop to the whole thing. Miles outside the city a Yakutsk, don't ask me'n how the Ruskies say it that's the best way I know how, they dropped 3 A-Bombs at the same time. All 3 of 'em were direct hits. After the smoke'n clouds'd cleared, the bitch kept on rollin'. Everyone was watchin' it on TV, and you knew the same stomach ache hit everyone across the world at the same time. That sinkin' feelin' when you get pulled over by a state trooper, or caught with yer buddy's wife, like that but a thousand times worse. We was all in for it and knew it.

Don't ask me how, maybe those folks higher up weren't talkin' with each other liken' they should've, you'd think they'd a learned from the fire in Wyomin'. The God Damned thing had the radiation all over it now, and contaminated every acre a soil it touched.

The rest of the story you know. Somea ya were babies while it was happenin'. The weed blew around the other continents, crushin' and poision'n the planet as it went. Only places it didn't blow was some a the islands around the world, includin' the biggest one Australia where we is now. Me'n your Ma made it out of America, where mosta yew'r from, and somehow got here, like'n anyone else alive in the world. So here we are. The weed eventually crumbled and broke apart by its own accord and on its own time, leaving mosta the world's lumber and human population scattered across Greenland. Don't ask me how the forsaken thing picked Greenland, but that seems to be where it got stuck and it shure's hell where it died.

Now we tell you this story every year on this day because that's when the whole thing started, or at least when Ol' Gus got killed. Then it blew across the world's countries for 'bout 8 months before finally breaking up, back into the ground where'n it came. Nuuk use'n to be called Sydney. We changed that to honor the country that finally ended it all. So be thankful to be alive, be thankful fer bein' healthy and without the radiation sickness that killed so many a our brothers and sisters. And don't ferget that someday your children's descendants will venture back out into the world, rediscover everything this planet has to offer, and rebuild what was once a great world society. And most've all don't ferget all what caused this whole disaster, and make sure'n you see a tumbleweed, if'n it's bigger'n you, to go and tell your folks, otherwise you get snatched up by the spirit a Ol' Gus hisself.

About the Author

Patrick is an aspiring writer/director, a unique and uncommon creature in the city of Los Angeles.  He recently finished his first feature, Sleep Debt, and harbors no real suspicions of tumbleweeds...yet.