This story is the Seventh one to my Squish-Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds Prompt Call.
This story is Fae Apoc, but nothing is needed to be known about the setting to read it except there is an apoc and magic exists.
Winter was fast approaching – well, it was September, but that was close enough to start worrying – and, as Grishma looked around her little clearing, she realized she had no more shelter than she’d had last year.
Last winter had been brutal. There were things Grishma was good at and things she wasn’t, and one of the things she really wasn’t all that good at was, well, surviving in the wilderness.
It likely would’ve been clever to think about that before she’d hared off into the middle of nowhere with a box of gardening supplies, a bag of clothes, and a couple grocery bags of food, but she had been, not to put too fine a point on it, in a panic.
She’d made it through the summer mostly on chlorophyll and water and made it through the winter by spending much of it asleep, wrapped up in every insulating thing she could find, in the back of her car.
She had to do better this year.
After a month of misery once the snow had melted, she’d been doing decently through the spring and summer. She’d rigged up a rain-shelter of sorts, planted a nice succession of crops, and wandered a few miles in each direction scavenging and gathering. She had eaten actual food almost every day and had put away twice what she’d eaten in careful, magically-enhanced, storage.
She had, she realized ruefully, put more thought into her food’s protection against the elements than she had into her own.
She was no sort of carpenter, as the crumbling rain shelter proved. She wasn’t really a burrower; she could talk to the earth just fine, but digging into it made her uncomfortable and she had no skill for hollowing out a space. Besides, there weren’t any natural caves in the area and rich, loamy soil good for plant growth made for bad burrows, she was pretty sure.
She was okay at stacking rocks on top of each other, but all the rocks she’d pulled out of her plant-field made for about a 4 foot long by 2 foot high wall, which wasn’t really going to stop anything in the way of weather.
Being half plant really didn’t suit her well to this sort of environment, but it definitely didn’t suit her to the battles being fought in the cities or the riots happening on the highways or any of the other messes that were all over the place.
All she was really good at was growing plants. Growing plants and…weaving, sewing, but those were hobbies, not ones she’d had time for since she ran away here (even if she HAD brought her lap-loom and her spindle).
Grishma walked around her garden again. One particular section of her squash patch had hybridized oddly. She could see – sense? Know. – that some of the things which were supposed to be butternut squash were coming out hollow and thick-skinned, with few strands inside like a spaghetti squash.
She considered them. She’d thought they’d be mostly a waste – roast half the seeds, save the other half to see what she could do with them in a better year – but if she took the five of them and.. coaxed…
It was just the beginning of September, as far as she could tell. She chanted the Workings quietly, stretching the squash bigger, harder, hollower. Just a bit, today.
And a bit again, tomorrow.
By the time late October brought the first chilly, miserable, wet snowfall, Grishma’s four gourd-squash hybrids were half again as tall as she was.
She’d moved them to the side of the clearing – the rocky big, where her rain-shelter had been – when they got to be the size of a small dog, coaxing the vines longer, too, and then convinced them to grow together into a single unit as their vines shriveled up and turned brown.
She wasn’t entirely sure about the fireplace, but she’d stacked stones inside the backmost gourd and packed mud around them – the one little bit of clay-y mud she could find nearby, and not nearly enough , but she’d added straw to it to stretch it until she had a tiny firepit with a passable chimney.
The walls of her gourd structure were thin for a squash, scaled up, but thick for a house, as thick as her arm from elbow to fingertips was long. The door was a little bit of a problem, but right now it was just a piece of the wall cut out – the hinges she’d made from the arm-thick cords which had been, at a smaller size, something like spaghetti squash.
It still needed some drying out, and she’d have to pay close attention to pull the moisture out slowly enough to not crack it, but quickly enough to avoid mold or rot, but it made a decent four-chambered home, of sorts.
She pulled the door shut behind her and lit a single candle, from which she could light the fire when it got cold enough. She walked around her small house, patting the food storage and her sorted seeds for next year. She smiled at the rack of firewood, held in hammock woven of squash-ropes next to her clumsy fireplace.
Next year, she would figure out windows. Chinese lanterns were nearly transparent, so were silver dollars. She could do something with that.
Next year, she would grow some fiber for carpets. Maybe she could make something like flax if she tried hard enough.
Next year, she’d practice with stone and find more clay, so her fireplace held together more firmly.
Grishma settled down in the cradling curve of her bedroom-gourd. Next year. But for now, the snow was falling, and she could stay here and cozy, inside her house of squash.
Cross-pollination – https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/1996/8-23-1996/crosspol.html (I presume that she saved the seeds from an earlier crop, or got them from a market squash). https://www.morningagclips.com/the-complicated-world-of-cross-pollination/
(let me tell you, opening a pumpkin and finding it full of spaghetti strands is both weird and disappointing!)
Want more? See here first!
p.s. I’m counting Rix’s comment because I know of her current extenuating circumstances.