#fridayflash: mutant city

There's a certain small city in Southwestern Ontario which, geographically and meteorologically speaking, lies in a pit. Its elevation is much lower than the surrounding landscape, and the weather patterns swirl in precipitation from three different regions, sort of like waste water collecting over a drain.

Thunderstorms are frequent there, even in winter, and often toxic. The residents like to boast that they don't have the environmental problems of their more industrialised neighbours, but the truth is they have their pollution. They get the atmospheric by-products of the petroleum refineries to the west, the heavy industry to the south, and the steel refineries to the northeast. It all falls on them, mixed in with their rain and snow. And, with an anomalous sub-tropical climate created this far north by that lowered elevation, they get a lot of rain and snow.

Strange things happen to the flora and fauna of the city: dragonflies with fifteen-centimetre wingspans look like they should have died out millions of years ago, but populate back gardens; masses of fish in the local river have sudden die-offs from diabetic shock.

And then there was the time the giant thistles showed up by the south branch of the river.

No-one paid them much mind at first, because they just looked like thistles. But they kept growing, and growing, until in the end their average height was just over a metre. They grew in the dead little strip of land between the local power plant and the river, where even grass wouldn't sprout. They stood there, stalks too thick to bend in the wind, with their purple-edged leaves and long white spikes. The locals took to calling them Triffids, and if they'd found one morning the plants had gained the ability to walk, no-one would have been too surprised.

The Triffids took second place to a newer and more frightening event in the neighbourhood. Beyond the power plant was a park, and the park got shut down and fenced off one day, with signs warning of health hazards if anyone went in. This bothered the residents greatly, since the park was a favourite neighbourhood shortcut, and they reasoned (quite rightly) that if it was hazardous this week, it had probably been hazardous for several weeks before that.

Earth-moving equipment was brought in: steam shovels, bulldozers, and several dump trucks to haul the dug-up earth away. People in hazmat suits walked up and down the river bank, right in the spot where the old men liked to fish with their grandchildren, and they used the gear to dig up and move so much dirt that the river was widened at that point, for a good hundred metres along the bank.

This all took about a week, and when the fences and signs finally came down, people stood at the edge of the park and tried to see what had happened. They didn't use it for a shortcut for a very long time. Some people checked the local paper for news, because surely if the river was being reshaped it was newsworthy, but nothing was ever reported.

The locals did notice, however, that sometime during the week the steam shovels had been in action, someone had chopped down and killed all of the Triffids. Nothing was left of them but some bleached, broken stalks with a few withered, spineless leaves attached near the base.

And, not too long afterwards, everyone forgot they had ever been there at all.