On the first day of Xmas, Harper Kingsley wrote for me of Darkstar transformed into a tree
Title: The Carrion Tree
Author: Harper Kingsley
Character: Kanon-Darkstar, post-Battle for Terra
The setup: After ruling a city of sycophants, a tired-of-all-the-bs Darkstar approaches Dr. Zee for the technology to jump universes. He activates the device and travels to a new Earth… And in that moment, there are an infinite number of worlds he could have gone to. And if branch-theory is a thing, a version of him has gone to a version of every world. This Darkstar has come to this world.
Darkstar ends up on an Earth with some very different plant life. Including the carrion plant that all smart humans avoid unless they want their every orifice entered.
The pleasure is great, but most people avoid carrion plants unless they want to die.
CW: consent issues due to it being an inhuman plant using aphrodisiacs as a prey attractant.
Twitter meta-thread: https://twitter.com/HarperKingsley0/status/1341191075742924805
The birds circled overhead, their screeching caws more than anything else telling him he was far from home. Their red feathers were a bright slash against the blue-blue sky. The air smelled of some foreign spice, near overpowering in its intensity.
"Well shit," Darkstar said, and sneezed. He could feel his nose beginning to run and it was such a foreign sensation that he allowed himself to enjoy it. From his reading, he figured he wouldn’t be marveling at the feeling for long.
Reaching down, he picked up a rock and crushed it between his fingers. Superstrength intact? Check.
It looked like the air-quality of this alternate universe could affect him. At least until his body adapted to it. (He hoped his body adapted to it. He was already growing annoyed with the sensation.)
He looked around at the alien scenery and wondered if even half these plants existed on his own Earth. Some of the grass and trees appeared familiar. The rest… were exotic to say the least.
He thought about flying, but felt an instinctive aversion. He wanted to experience this new Earth from the ground floor. Wanted to get a closer look at the plant life. Wanted to trudge the dirt with his own booted feet and follow that strange elusive scent that was fluttering his nose hairs and making his nerves hum.
A flush of heat went over him, but he ignored it. If the sun rose and set the same as on his Earth, then he was walking east with the breeze in his face. He could see the leaves folding and bending under its invisible force.
The air was sweet perfume. He absently swept his hand under his dripping nose and wiped it off on his pant leg.
Walking became an automatic function. It felt as though his legs were working without him, carrying him toward something amazing.
There’s something funny happening here, he thought, but it seemed distant and unimportant.
He was on another Earth, one that was somehow completely different from his own while at the same time being kind of the same. Plant-life was different, but gravity still existed and the ground was solid beneath his feet.
Darkstar’s nipples prickled and his cock throbbed. There was a fascinating plant up ahead, green vines in a mass of half-curled long leaves. The large green bulb of what he assumed was a terminal bud was nestled by a dip in the earth where it seemed to have sprouted forth like the green lips of some…
Darkstar blushed. Despite all his debauchery, there were some things that could cause the small town boy to peek through his psyche.
Furrowing his brow in sudden caution, Darkstar slowed his approach. The center of the plant was eight feet away, but the trailing vines were only about three feet from his right foot. He eyed them curiously, two four-inch wide vines with tiny round leaves in darkening shades of green. The three thinner vines were the diameter of fat pencils with their leaves a bright mint green against the darker hue of their shaft.
Leaning closer, Darkstar saw that each vine was covered in whorl patterns that seemed to shift and glimmer under the sunlight. Green and rust brown, the patterns nearly throbbed beneath his fascinated gaze. A hypnotic swirl and whirl that made his mouth go dry as his pants became tighter.
His breath was panting heavy from his mouth, his stuffed nose no longer wanted to work for him. His lungs heaved and worked, sucking the thick air deep as heat rolled through his body, from his chest down both arms, deep in his groin down his legs to his feet. The tips of his toes tingled. The skin of his face felt hot and tight.
He only realized that he’d stepped forward when his toe nudged against the fattest of the five vines.
His eyes caught sight of the calyx splitting open to reveal the unfurling yellow, orange, and red petals, narrow and wavy as a spider mum’s. The center of the blossom–the gynoecium, his romantic mind whispered, the centering of being–was a dark berry red that seemed to throb with fluttering lighter hued veins as he watched. It was changing so fast. The beauty was a snare.
His first realization of wrongness was the tightening grip around his leg. He looked down, having ignored the faint tugs on his pants as he watched the flower blossom, and saw that the two larger vines had wrapped themselves around his right leg nearly up to his groin.
"Oh shit!" he shouted and reached down to pull the vines away.
The berry red of the gynoecium swelled and burst with a glitter of tiny red pollen. It filled the air for ten feet around.
Darkstar gasped and spluttered, his face covered by the powder that met his mucus membranes and melted into him.
Everything became heavy and slow. His eyes and nose were running to the point that his open mouth was the only sense receptacle he had, his ears filled with the rushing sound of his heartbeat. Taste and touch, as the vines around his leg wrapped around him securely as the smaller vines–tendrils, his mind whispered, feeding him the memory of pea plants–crept and twined around both his trapped leg and his free leg before climbing up his stomach beneath the hem of his shirt.
He shouted and struggled as the vines began dragging him closer, but he was oddly helpless to it. That scent was growing stronger and stronger until he could taste it on his tongue, the honeyed sweetness draining the strength from his will until he felt himself sagging limply.
His whole body felt far away.
The strength didn’t leave his body. He simply couldn’t get the wherewithal to fight back. His will to resist was far away and every bit of him was telling him to lay down, that his body was too heavy to move.
He was drawn down to the ground, his knees touching first before he was pressed down and down until his eyelashes swept dirt with every blink. His right cheek rested against the dirt, the grains rubbing against his strangely rubbery feeling skin.
He wondered if this were a lucid dream. If he thought really hard about it, could he magic himself far away from here? But then, why would he want to do that?
It was so nice to simply be. No expectation. No weight of conscience pulling him down down down.
Just him and a moment and that scent so strong he was starting to taste it on his tongue. Colors were flashing across his mind’s eye, or maybe it was something his real eyes were seeing.
He didn’t know anything but the moment.
He breathed slowly, deeply, his racing heart settling even as he thought he should be breaking free. He should be fighting and screaming. He should be flooding power through every bit of his body and burning his way out of these vines.
But it felt so good to rest.
He’d fought for so long against so many.
He’d been so tired for so very long.
It was good to rest.
Pleasant to simply exist and be.
It didn’t even matter that something–vines that writhed and wrapped like snakes–was pushing his clothing aside, tearing them from his body. He registered the tug and effort of a task that usually required hands becoming the stretch of fabric splitting apart.
Naked. He was naked.
He should be afraid.
He was quiescent, blinking, drifting in that overwhelming spice.
Vines twined around his limbs, moving him this way and that, positioning him to some alien sensibility. Probing into him as he was sat upright, bare ass exposed to the roots that pricked their way out of the earth. Shoving him down as though he were a too-tight USB port meeting an off-brand cable.
His mouth opened in a silent scream–more outrage than pain to his metahuman body–but it was much too late.
Ichor began pumping into him, through his mouth, his nose, his urethra, his anus; every orifice was forcibly filled while he trembled helplessly under the onslaught. Fluid gushed into him, liquid and sloshy, only to begin jellifying as it met his insides. He could feel it becoming a semi-solid mass within him, sluggishly flowing through his veins as it replaced his blood and pumped itself pump pump through his heart.
His mind drifted in the pleasant spice.
His body was a distant thing, foreign and unreachable. He felt like an inflatable balloon doll that had been filled with gelatin instead of water. It was so wet, but then it was so not-dry dry, and solid within him, a constant pressure against his prostate and all the bits deep within him. A continuous pressure that became more and more intense.
He was so full.
The pressure was so good.
He was coming, throbbing and orgasming over and over as he was flooded with hormones.
The plant was doing something to him. Changing him. Bending his body so that he was pierced through on the roots he sat upon, while his legs were forced up and up alongside his shoulders and upraised arms.
He could feel his limbs stretching and changing, though he was glad his metability kept it a distant oddity rather than the agony it should have been. Was distantly grateful that the plant was feeding him pleasure while it did things to him that could only be described as a painful unmaking.
Swallowed by darkness as sap coated his entire body and began to harden, Darkstar drifted for a timeless time.
His body was a far off node of sensation. If he focused on it, he could feel that his body was orgasming and orgasming with brief rest breaks in between, but it was distant and far away. He could experience the sensations, but without his focus it was as though it were happening to someone else.
He was glad that none of it felt real. He thought that what was being done to him should be uncomfortable. The fact that it wasn’t was a relief.
There were tube-like vines entering through his mouth and nose to reach down his throat into his guts where chemical secretions were flooding into his body, keeping him hale and healthy, fattening him in seasons of plenty and letting him slim during the days of cold, but constantly working away at him. The plant was attempting to digest him while using every bit of him that it could reach from semen and saliva to whatever flakes of skin fell off and were absorbed.
His body was fighting the plant.
It was as though he was seeing his body from the outside, though maybe it was just his brain hallucinating an explanation for what he was feeling.
Sourness erupted from his every pore, his body attempting to counteract the chemicals filling it, and poisonous waste tried to escape into the plant to kill it. His body was trying to purge itself of the foreign chemicals, but the constant flood, with the plant tweaking its recipe in response to his hormones, kept his body from being able to adapt.
The plant evolved around him, forced itself to change so it could absorb him. His metahuman body was stronger than the plant, at least in so much that Darkstar was not consumed as a normal human would have been.
Instead he drifted for a timeless time that could just as easily have been weeks or months as the years that truly passed.
He slept. He woke. He fucked and was fucked. Over and endless until he was so disconnected from his body that he didn’t even realize he’d woken at first.
It was the presence nearby that drew him to consciousness. The sense of something alive and different nearby. Something separate from him and the parasitic plant that held him within its hardened core, its roots within him and its vines having wrapped so tight around him for so long that they’d merged together into an encircling pseudo-bark.
He’d slept and dreamed for so long that he’d begun to think that he’d always been here. Maybe everything he’d known before was nothing but fantasy. Maybe he was the only living creature in the world.
The spark of light he felt nearby drew his attention from the dreaming dark and focused his attentions outward for the first time in centuries.
He didn’t see so much with his eyes as he perceived with his entire being. Blind in the dark, he saw the tree-being struggling beside him as a wavery shadow that grew brighter and took form as it joined him within the embrace of the parasitic plant.
They were connected by the plant that held them. And while the tree-shaped being was as alien to his human-self as the plant, to his mind the tree-being was warm humanity.
Darkstar could have wept if he had control of his tear ducts.
He hadn’t seen another human in so long. He didn’t even care that the tree-being was shaped differently from his memories of humanity. He was simply grateful to not be alone.
"Can you hear me?" he asked in the darkness, focusing toward the outline of branches and ferny leaves.
There was a startled silence. He could feel what the tree-being was feeling. They were sharing the same root system. They were being fed from–poisoned by–the same source.
"We hear you, stranger." The voice was slow and deep. It flowed through the stillness and the loneliness to kiss Darkstar’s senses with the joy of not being alone.
"I hear you too," Darkstar said just to "hear" his own voice.
They weren’t really speaking aloud. They were sharing the same bubble of consciousness. Their minds had connected themselves with the parasitic plant as a conduit. It should have been sinister, but Darkstar didn’t care what any of it meant.
He was so glad to meet something that wasn’t himself or the plant trying to eat him.
"Is all of this real?" he asked.
"More than real," the voice was solemn. "We are dying."
"I think I’ve been here for a long time. I wish it would hurry up."
"You are different from any kind before or since. We do not think that it can kill you as it will kill us. You will continue long after we are gone."
Darkstar was confused by the syntax. "You didn’t mean both of us when you said ‘we are dying,’ did you?"
"We are dying," the voice said. "You are likely to continue. You are the Great Carrion Tree, we see that now. You blaze against our every sense. You are a small sun, and our leaves suckle at your warmth. We are grateful for this bit of peace without pain. We thank you for your mercy."
"I’m not doing anything," Darkstar said.
"And yet your essence of self flows through you into the roots of the world. You are a gentle mercy that we did not dare to hope for. With you here, there is no pain. Thank you."
"You… you talk like you know me."
"We know of you. We are born with the whispers of your greatness in our roots and in our stems. You were part of our cycle of creation. The Man Tree that gave us the knowledge of how to walk."
"What do you mean?"
"Through the knowledge provided by your body, our forebearers learned to use human seeds to grow and change."
Darkstar would have grimaced if he had a face that moved. "You… you came from ‘human seed’?"
"It is how we were changed at the beginning of our life cycle. The carrion plants merged with humans to create the carrion trees from which we are born."
"But I don’t have any tree babies walking around?" Darkstar had to ask to be sure.
"No. There is something in your body that refused to join our cycle of life. Though your seeds have watered plenty a flower. You have nurtured many lives and made them strong."
"It is from your body that we gained the knowledge of walking life. You are part of our creation and we are grateful."
"So why don’t you let me go?"
"We do not have the power to do so. Even we are enslaved to the carrion plant, the great Greedy Mother that has never learned to coexist."
Probing at the tree-being with that inner sense, Darkstar thought it was telling the truth. "You weren’t here before. Why did it bring you here?"
There was the sense of drooping leaves. The shadowy form of the tree-being was becoming clearer and clearer to Darkstar’s sense. He thought he could make out the green of the leaves against the surrounding blackness. "The Greedy Mother is once again attempting to subsume you."
"The Greedy Mother has devised another means to absorb you into itself. It is currently flowing through our being, filling our every cell. It hopes to use our ties to your humanity to find a way past your guard." There was a sense of desperate apology so strong that it made Darkstar think of someone weeping. "We will be forced to merge with you, and through us the Greedy Mother will make your energy its own."
"That doesn’t sound very pleasant."
"From all that we’ve heard, it will be very painful."
"How many are you?"
"There are not as many of our kind as there used to be. So many lives snuffed out at the whim of the Greedy Mother. She does not like our freedom of thought."
"When you say ‘we,’ you’re just talking about yourself?"
"We are different from humankind. While our body may appear as one being, we are each made of many lives all joined together in harmony. Each walking tree is a world of its own. Millions of lives entwined to create one consciousness of being. The Greedy Mother would see us all dead. It is very jealous of life not of itself."
"That is sad."
"We are Biome," the voice said. "What are you called?"
Darkstar started to speak, then stopped to think. He liked the walking tree more than just for the company it represented. Its voice was warm, the friendship clear, and it made him want to be honest with his fellow captive. Made him yearn for the sound of his birth name: "Vereint. My name used to be Vereint," he said quietly. "A long time ago."
"We are blessed to know you, Vereint, even if it is for such a terrible purpose. We are pleased to be the first to speak with the heart of the Great Carrion Tree. You have been silent for so long."
"Yeah," Darkstar said. "I can’t move. I’m stuck here. But I think… some part of me is coming loose somehow? I can… I can feel something at the edge of my senses, and it’s coming closer and clearer. I can’t move, but it feels like I could hold out my hand if I wanted to."
"And what would you do with that hand?" Biome asked.
Darkstar laughed, and it was a sound of cruelty. "I refuse to go quietly into that good night. It’s why I left my world in the first place."
He wanted to curl around himself, to hug himself with his physical arms, but his body–that distant broken thing–had been twisted and bent for so long that the limbs were useless. He was a burning fire in his own soul, but his body was warped and ruined.
"I saw an Earth where another version of myself, almost completely like me, was married and happy and still powerful. Still me. Living a life and not fucking it up," he near spat out. "He was so happy. It was disgusting. I wanted to kill him for being everything I could never be."
"But you did not?"
"No. I turned around when the time came and I went home. Because I know my place and where I belong, and if I didn’t leave that world when I did I would have killed him and taken his place. That happiness that should have been mine." He laughed out a sob made more painful by the inability to shed tears. They would have helped to wash it all away; yet he was denied even that freedom. "That’s the kind of thing that eats away at you. Little by little so you can really suffer."
Biome was quiet for a time, long enough that Darkstar began to worry that it was gone (dead), then it spoke, "We are sad that you have come to this place. We are joyous for the life that you have given us. And though our life is growing short, we are glad that we spoke to you. You are the sun on the leaves. The center of all things."
"Stop making me out to be a god," Darkstar demanded. "I’m tired of it. If I was some kind of god, I wouldn’t be in this situation. Things wouldn’t be like this."
"Whatever you are, we are grateful to you." The voice was softer than before. It made Darkstar realize that even as the details of the figure had become clearer the bright glittery spark at the center of it was growing smaller, colder.
"What’s happening to you?" Darkstar demanded.
"We are dying," Biome said, and Darkstar could "hear" the weariness in the voice. "Our time grows short. We are glad that we could help you though."
"What do you mean?"
"You are absorbing us. The Greedy Mother’s plan has failed. But already your brilliance… You shine. With our light, you will be able to burn the Greedy Mother and save us all, walking tree and human kin. And we will be with you… a spark in your light."
Darkstar wanted to scream and rage, to command Biome to hold on don’t leave me, but it was too late. He could feel it now.
The carrion plant, the Greedy Mother, had already begun killing Biome the instant it came into contact with the walking tree . It had spread its way throughough Biome’s physical form just as it had done to Darkstar himself, only Biome was merely human.
Biome had been digested by the Greedy Mother. And the Greedy Mother was feeding it to Darkstar.
The light had gone out because it was inside of Darkstar now. He could feel it wriggling around inside of him, fitting itself into the cracks and crevices he hadn’t even known were there.
And Biome was gone. Yet he could feel it inside him, joyous laughter and the impression of branches spreading toward the sky.
And when he looked at those branches… Darkstar saw lights. Dozens of them. Hundreds of them. Little tiny pinpricks against the darkness.
And when he imagined himself climbing those branches, suddenly he could reach out and touch those lights, nudging them together here and there. Merging blue to white and white to yellow, silver became gold became silver became a thousand lights and more.
He was making the lights. They were becoming brighter and larger, easier to touch and feel. Living heartbeats, every single one. Other voices in the darkness if he could make them loud enough to hear.
"Thank you, Biome," he whispered. The walking tree had given him a great gift. "I’ll remember you, my friend."
It had forgiven him. Not for its own death. But for the death he was going to bring.
The Greedy Mother, largest of its kind, had spread its roots and vines far and wide. It had used him to create a connection between itself and its clone-sisters. It was a vast interconnected consciousness that controlled many humans and walking trees through its network of carrion plants.
It was using him like he was a router. His Charm was boosting its signal. And in all the years–centuries–that it had held him, its power to enslave had grown out of control.
Humans and walking trees lived in terror of either becoming a carrion tree or a drone slave. The pheromones that had been strong enough to attract Darkstar had only become stronger as the Greedy Mother kept him subdued, and normal humans didn’t have his resistance.
But he could feel them, those tiny sparks, those human souls… The brighter he made them the stronger their resistance to the Greedy Mother would be. It would take time, but eventually he would match so many lights that they would be able to free him.
And he would burn the Greedy Mother and every other carrion plant. He would wipe this Earth clean of them. It would be his apology for all of those that would die in his war.
Because the lights were fragile and the Greedy Mother was strong. Because each one of those lights was a human life he was touching, forging to his will. Because he could feel it in the memory of Biome that they had been calling out to him for a long time, begging him to save them. And he hadn’t heard their pleas, not because he couldn’t hear them, but because he had been wallowing in his own helplessness when he should have been fighting.
"Thank you, Biome," he whispered again. Then a third time for magic and superstition. "Thank you."
Because in Biome’s light, Darkstar had found a sense of purpose to borrow until he could make his own. He could feel the life of the walking tree within him urging him to save this world from the Greedy Mother. And that bit of extra willpower, that spark of soul, it was something he’d been missing for a long time.
Climbing amongst the branches of the tree-form Biome had left in the darkness of their shared consciousness, he touched light after light after light. And everywhere his fingers passed, the light became brighter.
And he began to hear the murmur of distant voices.
And as they became clearer, Darkstar smiled in his mind.
Already he could begin to make out the dim outline of shapes. The distinct tone of individual voices rising above the rest.
"Soon," he whispered.
Soon he would be free.