Abernact by Jada Dean

“Avery! Get up, sweetie! It’s time for school!” I jolt awake at my mother calling me. 

“I got it!” I respond. I force my legs into motion, moving myself to the side of my bed, and I finally stand up. I miss my bed already. I get ready for school sluggishly. I look at myself in the mirror before I head out. Decent outfit, teeth brushed, hair combed, some jewelry. Yeah, I feel good. I go downstairs with my backpack weighing heavily on me. Mom is waiting for me on the porch. I step outside. 

“Are you ready to go?” she asks. 

“Yeah,” I respond. She glares at me. 

“Did you forget your pill again?” she asks with a questioning look. 

“Ah… yeah,” I say sheepishly. I turn around and go back inside. I grab the pill bottle with my name on it next to the front door. I open it and take a pill out. I pop it in my mouth and swallow it. 

“You should really take it with water or something,” my mom criticizes. 

“Well, it also says to take it with a meal, but who does that?” I responded. She shrugs. We both went to the car. 

“Feel like it’s going to be a good day?” she asks. 

“Yeah, I got a big test in my mathematics class, though,” I say. 

“I’m sure you’ll do good. Besides, it’s your last class of the day, right?” she says. 

“Yeah, you’re right,” I say. We sit in a comfortable silence until we reach my school. We say goodbye and I go in. The gymnasium noise fills my ears as I join my friend group. 

“Good morning, Claire!” I sing. Her green eyes catch mine. 

“Morning,” she groans. She’s always in a bad mood in the morning. She says taking the Abernact pills makes her stomach hurt for a couple hours. This past week or so has been even worse than usual. I pat her back in sympathy as the bell rings. I always get here late. Claire groans again as she stands up to join me on our walk to first period. We walk in silence as we avoid running into other students. Ever since the Abernact pills were mandated, the number of people going to school and staying in school until graduation has grown immensely. My mom was alive during Abernact’s founding. She says it was a celebrated day when we finally found life on Mars. Now, it’s a federal holiday. 

The Abernact plant is said to be a deep green with blue fluorescent thorns and black, lily-like flowers. When a human consumes the black flowers in any way, like tea, pills, or just eating it like a flower salad, the person is cured from all diseases, cancers, viruses, tumors, cysts, and even depression, anxiety, adhd, and all mental disorders. The government mandated the consumption of this plant pretty quickly after finding this out. We take it every day. If we miss a day, it’s not a big deal, as long as we take two the next day. There’s been no deaths of any sickness for twenty four years. The Abernact plant will have its twenty-fifth birthday in a couple of weeks. 

Of course, because of this, there’s been a huge damper on the medical field. As there is no use for a lot of fields anymore. But there’s still accidents and people who want certain surgeries, so the medical field isn’t completely useless. 

“Good morning, girls!” Mrs. Schröder says as she pulls me out of my thoughts. 

“Morning,” we both respond as we head to our seats. I get a binder out of my backpack as more people start coming in and finding their seats. 

“Can I borrow your math study guide?” Claire asks. 

“Yeah, sure thing,” I say as I take it out of my math folder. I hand it to her. “You didn’t get yours done?”

“No, I really don’t understand the topic we’re working on right now,” she says, sadly. 

“That’s okay, I’ll tutor you a bit at lunch, okay?” I say. She nods. We start hearing commotion outside the room. A teacher bursts into the room, suddenly. 

“Schröder, turn on your TV to Fennec News!” He left as fast as he arrived. Mrs. Schröder stands up and hastily grabs the TV remote, turning it on. She changes channels until we reach Fennec News. A sweating, disheveled newscaster is on screen. 

“–leaked last night that the government has been withholding important information about the Abernact plant that they have mandated across the entire country,” he says, “The family of the whistleblower has since declared that the leaker has been missing since making a post online about the true dangers of the Abernact plant. The post has been taken down, but not soon enough, as the internet saved proof of the post and has been sharing it multiple times across every platform. Now, let’s get into what the post uncovers.” He straightens a packet of paper in front of him, his hands shaking. Claire grabs my hand to hold. 

The newscaster continues, “‘Hello,’ the post reads, ‘I’m putting much on the line to give you this information, but I see that my life is less important than giving the public the truth. I’ve climbed the ladder of government-employed botanists until I was finally let into confidential files about the Abernact plant. If you remember about five years after the Abernact plant was found, the government told you that they were looking into a way to be able to plant and grow more Abernact on Earth. Then, they told you they succeeded. That wasn’t a lie, but they aren’t growing it in dirt. 

“‘When a person takes Abernact, their body retains a part of the plant. Your body keeps a part of it. This is the plant’s doing. Even though our body keeps a part of it, we still need to take it every day. This… portion of the plant left inside of you is benign and doesn’t do anything. That is, until you stop taking it every day. When a person decides to not take the Abernact plant, the benign part starts to move and grow. After a week, the Abernact plant can be seen coming out of the person’s skin,’ Uh,” the newscaster says with a concerned face, “Can we show the picture on screen?” A blurry image pops up next to him. I can hear gasps and yelling from down the hallway. Everyone must be watching. There’s a humanoid form with a green and blue mass growing out of their back. The mass is about twice the size as the human’s torso. There are black spots all along the top of the mass. That has to be the Abernact plant. 

“‘This is what it looks like in two weeks. In three weeks, the body is completely taken over by the plant and the body usually dies at that point. Which means, you’re still alive while it grows out of you. The confidential files go even further and explain how when a person starts to get overcome by the Abernact, they go insane, and even murderous. Now, the way they’ve been growing the plant was also revealed to me in the files. Some death row inmates have been taken and killed in that fashion. They’re left in a confinement room until the plant kills the host. They then harvest the plant. They’ve been relying on this method for years to be able to mandate it to everyone,’” the newscaster looks sickly now, as my stomach is now also realizing what all of that means. 

“The, uh, post goes on. I will paraphrase, as I believe it will be best for my studio to get off the air as soon as possible. It explains that there have been many people in the past that decided to stop taking Abernact because they didn’t agree with it or the government. Those people ultimately died. Some of them took other people with them. There have been whole families that decided to stop taking the pills. All of those deaths have been completely covered up,” the newscaster says. 

His voice hangs in the background now. My mind focuses on something else. My hand starts to touch something rough. I look down, where my hand meets Claires. The roughness that I’m feeling is underneath her sleeve. I take my other hand, while the man keeps talking, and pull up her sleeve. Her skin shifts to a deep green before my eyes, little plant stalks with blue dots on them cover her wrist and up. I feel my body tremble as I look to meet her eyes. Once a nice shade of green, now black, like the charcoal shade of the Abernact flowers. They’re staring right into mine.

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