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The Purple Pest

by ThatWriterWoman 8 months ago in Short Story
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Fiction Prompt – A beautiful, mystery plant begins to grow everywhere

Thomas scrolled through his phone, skim reading the latest article from BBC news - ‘Oxfordshire Botanist warns farming community of the dangers of new genetically modified plants’. The bus ride home had been uneventful at best, as had the school day. The most exciting thing to occur was during lunchtime, when the maths class Thomas had been reluctantly making notes in was not allowed outside during lunch, much to the student's chagrin. Instead of running riot around the school grounds in the fresh winter air, each of Thomas’ classmates sat at their desk under the stifling eye of Miss Wickombe, eventually succumbing to the temptation of their mobile phones to pass the time. However, Thomas was slightly craftier than his classmates, and a lot more mischievous. He raised his hand and waited for Miss Wickombe to look over her spectacles and notice. It took a little while and some not-so-subtle coughing but eventually he had her attention.


‘Can I use the bathroom?’ Annoyingly, all eyes had landed on Thomas, making his cheeks heat a little.

‘Be back quickly’ The bangles Miss Wickombe religiously wore on her forearms rattled as she reached into her desk drawer to produce a bathroom key attached to a comically large doorstop as a means to prevent loss.

‘Will do miss, and may I say you’re looking especially radiant today?’ This made the class erupt into laughter while Miss Wickombe herself rolled her eyes, straightening her glasses atop her nose. Thomas approached her desk but before he could take the keys, they were pulled out of his reach and a pair of piercing eyes focused on his own.

‘Thomas Harper, if it is your goal to send this class into a state of near constant disarray, you will find that is it a losing battle’ She deadpanned. ‘Now be quick, I do not tolerate any misbehaviour from any of my students’. The laughter died down at this and Miss Wickombe offered the keys out slowly. Unperturbed, Thomas took the keys, winked and walked out the door.

The air was fresher outside of the classroom, and Thomas decided to take a rather long route toward the toilet on the other side of campus, all the while looking around for the cause of the lock-in. He learned a few things quickly. First, his maths class was not the only class being kept indoors. In fact, all classroom doors were closed when he walked through the halls. Second, there was a small crowd of people gathered on the sports field outside, looking down at the ground. Thomas looked on through a second-floor window. The headmaster was there, alongside three other staff members, one of which Thomas recognised as his English teacher; Mr. Kimathi. The third was the chilling addition of a police officer and a community support officer who had arrived on bicycles a few moments earlier. Thomas squinted, attempting to see through the cluster of legs surrounding the object holding attention but had no luck. He could only see a splash of purple. The teachers and officers shrugged and looked around aimlessly, each seeming at a loss for ideas. Mr. Kimathi made sharp eye contact with Thomas through the glass, causing the boy to hurry along.

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Later, while waiting at a bus stop and eating rainbow-coloured sweets covered in sherbert, Thomas told his friends of his small discovery.

‘It must have been one of those plants!’

‘What, the purple ones?’


‘I don’t know if those would be growing on a sports field’

‘Oh, you a plant expert now, Katie?’

‘Ugh, no, but I could be’

‘It was on the news though, that there’s nothing to worry about. GMO’s have been used for decades!’

‘Do you even know what GMO means?’

‘Um, Genetically Modified... Oranges?’

‘Organisms, stupid.’

‘I was joking! I knew that!’

Thomas’ bus had pulled up. He waved goodbye to his bickering gaggle of friends and climbed aboard. He couldn’t explain it, but something about those plants had him worried. He decided to search the internet for answers.

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It had been a week since the day Thomas had risked his future lunch breaks with his escapade. Since then, the novelty of the new plant had passed. Nevertheless, the TV was still running a report on the new species;

‘Genetically modified sunflower plants may seem like a thing of the future but in fact, they are here now. I am here in this sunflower field in the South East to see what’s growing.

Norman, you are the first farmer to grow a crop of GMO purple sunflowers in the UK. How are you finding the experience?

“There are no pests! I haven’t had to spend money on pesticides for this crop at all. Next year my fields will all be purple.”

How do you feel about the negative news coming from people in the area, I believe there have been comments about purple bees flying around?

“I don’t know anything abo-”’

Thomas changed the channel. The unsettled feeling hadn’t left his stomach.

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A month had passed since the news report. Now the purple sunflower plants were everywhere. Public opinion of the plant had changed from ‘exciting new science in action’ to ‘pesky weed’. The novelty of products such as purple sunflower oil and purple sunflower honey had worn off. However, according to an investigation by several news outlets, sales continued to rise. Several of Thomas’ friends could attest to this as their parents wouldn’t stop buying the stuff. In addition to this, the weed was causing pH changes to any soil that had come into contact with. The modifying process somehow refined the sunflowers' natural ability to encourage others of its kind to grow. Each plant that was eradicated left barren soil, which could only grow more purple sunflowers.

What Thomas found disheartening was; nobody seemed to care. The sports field at school was robbed of all greenery and, before any notions of restoration could be voiced, it was paved over with AstroTurf. The front garden outside his parents' house was overrun with purple stalks, as was the back garden. Soon enough, the only place where greenery could be seen was within the safety of a forest.

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The summer holidays had arrived, and things had gotten worse. Studies into purple sunflower products caused a neural pathway formation similar to addiction in adults. As a result, those who had been eating purple products had a hunger for more. However, several documentaries on the subject had compared the addiction to that of sugar, minimising the harmful effects of consuming purple sunflower products. However, Thomas had done his own research and discovered some disturbing results; purple sunflower products had a larger effect on the brain than anticipated or reported. Symptoms of excessive consumption included memory loss, ocular disturbances and the inability to tolerate foods not containing any purple sunflower DNA.

Thomas had talked to his mother the night he read the study.

‘The government says there’s nothing to worry abo-’ Thomas’ mother, Connie, was a mild-mannered nursery assistant. She always saw the best in the world.

‘The government isn't listening to the science!’ Thomas found the government particularly frustrating.

‘Okay, well if it means that much to you, we won’t buy any of the purple products, sweetheart.’

‘Please, just until everyone knows more.’

‘Of course’

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Three years had passed since that day. Sunsets and sunrises took on a purple hue. The excess pollen had left purple stains on every surface and covered forests in a heady blanket. The last winter had seen purple snow fall from the sky. Thomas faced his careers discussions that day:

‘A botanist? Really?’

‘What’s wrong with a career in botany?’

‘There isn’t really a future in that anymore’ Miss Wickombe sighed, clasping her bangled arms across Thomas’ career advice applications.

‘It is not a … growing field’ Thomas admitted

‘Why don’t you go where the money is? Perhaps banking?’

‘No, this is what I have to do.’


Thomas lost his temper at that, standing from his seat.

‘Because I am tired of people pretending that this is not their problem! It is the goddamn earth, and it is being overrun by sodding freak-show plants! For god’s sake, the news just came out and said that bees will be extinct in five years! Five! All non-GMO plants are being sprayed with more chemicals to keep the purple at bay when the point of creating the purple plants was to stop spraying so many chemicals! We are destroying ourselves one bloody crop at a time!’

Thomas sat back down, preparing himself for the shrill tone that accompanied an outraged Miss Wickombe. Instead, when he looked up and met her eyes, she was wearing a smirk.

‘It appears that you have finally disturbed the peace of my classroom for a good reason.’ She paused and considered her next words carefully. “Every teacher hopes for her students to find their true passion. Many don’t succeed and instead follow profits in exchange for morals. I’m glad you haven’t chosen that path.’

Thomas sat, stunned, as Miss Wickombe scribbled on a small sheet of paper.

‘Here is the contact information for several universities which have botany programs.’

Thomas went to take the paper when it was pulled back and two piercing eyes met his.

‘If it is your intention to truly help, you are going to be fighting a losing battle for the rest of your life, but perhaps you can change the game. You always were good at...disrupting the system’.

After taking the paper, Thomas smiled and nodded. He was ready for his fight.

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A/N: This was a tough one to write. I wish I could have written more, but I am limiting any fiction writing prompts to 1500 words (20% wiggle room). Unfortunately, I had to cut the description of the flower in favor of a deeper story. Nevertheless, I found this to be a fun process and was encouraged as it came together. Can anyone guess what the purple flowers represent?

If you'd like to guess, give feedback and keep track of my future fiction projects please Follow me on Twitter

Short Story

About the author


An aspiring female writer from the UK, 23. Twitter:

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