Thursday, September 12, 2013

3. Almost But Not Quite Eden

In Edmond Hamilton’s The Seeds From Outside (1937), the gardener is not so much a mad scientist, as in the previous post, but a lonely artist and enthusiastic collector of plants.  He is an agricultural version of Randolph Carter, or Lovecraft himself.  The story was published in the March 1937 issue of Weird Tales, sharing those pages with Robert Bloch’s The Brood of Bubastis, Manly Wade Wellman’s The Werewolf Snarls and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Picture in the House.

Standifer the artist observes a meteorite fall on a hill above his garden cottage, and investigates the next day.  Among ragged chunks of dark metal he finds a small container, which he takes home with him.  He cannot open it with knives, drills or chisels, but discovers that the tough material yields to water and warmth.  Inside are two big seeds, each about one inch long.  As anyone should know, the site of a smoking meteorite is just about one of the worst places you can look to find new things to plant in your garden. 

In a post last June some guidelines regarding meteorites were presented which are worth repeating.

When You Find a Meteorite
1.  Do not touch it, not even with a stick or screwdriver.
2.  Do not attempt to break off a piece of it to save it as a souvenir.
3.  Avoid making jewelry out of it, as ancient Egyptians once did.
4.  Do keep yourself at a safe distance—perhaps the next town over.
5.  Do not attempt to move the rock to your car, truck or basement.
6.  Contact the authorities, especially if
•the meteorite is glowing, throbbing, humming, or visibly shrinking.
•it begins to crack along its side or fall open at the top.
•people in the vicinity begin to disappear or act strangely.
7.  Run away.

The gardener plants the seeds in a special place in his garden and waters and watches them for two weeks.  Sure enough, the two seeds sprout and rapidly reach six feet tall.  The gardener grows more excited as these strange plants begin to bloom, the sepals at the top unfolding by degrees and revealing what is inside.  What is inside each plant are two green humanoid beings, a male and a female.  As the plant people grow, they begin to develop arms, legs and feet—soon they will be able to walk about.

But as their growth proceeds, Standifer begins to fall in love with the female, as the man-plant glowers jealously a short distance away.  (It may be that Standifer needs to get out more and make some friends.)  The plant-woman reciprocates his attention, brushing his cheek with her tendril arm.  Apparently all that she has in common with the male version of her species is the ability to photosynthesize, and little else.  An unusual romantic triangle forms, and this cannot end well. 

Coming back home after a grocery shopping trip, Standifer discovers that the man-plant, now free of his encumbering roots, has mortally wounded the female.  He grabs a scythe and hacks the man-plant to bits.  In a touching last scene, the female lifts her tendril arm one more time to caress his face, “…this creature whom he had loved and who had loved him across the vast gulf of world-differing species.”  Devastated, Standifer leaves gardening and green things behind for the Arizona desert.

The Seeds From Outside is an interesting retelling of the Adam and Eve story, with the suggestion that humanity’s origin may be extraterrestrial.  The gardener is some sense plays the role of the serpent in that Biblical triangle—he seduces the plant-woman and inadvertently brings about the destruction of the two plant people, as well as his own banishment from the private Eden he created.

In the next and last post on horticultural horror, I will look at one more example of how some characteristics of plant life can be amplified and made menacing to humans.

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