's 2014 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Max Peabody

April 6th, Year 1

First known evidence of the change. A Belgian photographer, in the process of a project documenting Croonaert Wood from February to June, notices saplings growing at an alarming rate - all of them into evergreens. By the end of April, previously meadowed areas of the deciduous forest are dotted with coniferous trees.

It is presumed, though not provable, that other cases manifested as early as mid-March, but his finds are the first evidence of the phenomenon to spread.

April 18th, Year 1

First recorded instances of a deciduous tree producing conifer-like needles instead of leaves. (Northeastern United States, primarily birch and ash trees.)

May 4th, Year 1

Video originally recorded in Kontagora, Nigeria.

0:00 - Young man holds up branch to camera; says (in English) "Knocked a twig off a tree earlier, and something happened. We're going to see if it happens again." He drops the branch to the ground, and the camera is moved to focus on it.

0:25 - Branch starts moving around, appearing to vibrate. Camera is moved to focus on original speaker and cameraman. Speaker: "Neither of us is doing anything."

0:48 - Branch's movements begin to displace dirt underneath it.

1:13 - Branch begins to sink into the ground.

1:57 - Cameraman and speaker step away as the branch starts kicking up more and more dirt. Once again, the camera pans in an attempt to demonstrate that neither of them is doing anything but observing.

2:44-3:13 - Reduction in the amount of dirt being kicked up, until finally it stops altogether. The camerman once again approaches - the branch is now completely hidden under a fresh layer of dirt.

3:39 - Small sapling begins to poke through pile of dirt.

4:06 - Needles begin to form on the branches of the tree. Camera pointed back at speaker: "We're going to come back in a few hours, and see how our little friend is doing."

Video switches to time-lapse footage; over the course of the next several hours, the sapling grows to about 23 cm, demonstrated with a ruler. Several branches, each sprouting plenty of needles.

By the 10th, the video has gone viral, spawning several imitators. A media frenzy pushes certain areas to hastily declare it a crime to leave branches on the ground, but for the most part, the trend has little long-term impact and quickly dies down.

June, Year 1

Throughout the month, reports trickle in of trees popping up in climates that should be inhospitable, most prominently the Sahara and the Australian Outback.

Investigations suggest that these new growths were not the result of a clipping or branch being transported to the area, whether purposefully or otherwise. Several conspiracy theories arise around the subject, with believers arguing that regardless of the change, trees have to come from somewhere.

August 14th, Year 1

With more and more leafy plants instead producing needles, concerns arise surrounding the production of goods involving leaves, such as herbs and spices, tea, and certain recreational drugs. Organizations involved in the production and distribution of these goods begin looking for substitutes or alternate ways of processing the plants.

Kukicha and other variations of twig tea experience a meteoric rise in international popularity.

October 6th, Year 1

With no end to the shortages - much less the change itself - in sight, the UN heads an initiative to track down untainted plants, recover parts of them (primarily seeds), and store them in case a need for them later arises.

November 3rd, Year 1

A team of naturalists and botanists is sent to the Amazon rainforest with the goal of determining how far the change has spread.

They are intended to return after six months with photographic documentation of the new ecosystem there. No specimens or samples are to be removed from the area for any reason.

December 17th, Year 1

"It's bullshit, is what it is! I ain't sold a single tree this whole month 'cause everyone's chopping down wild ones now! Not like anybody's gonna stop 'em, there's so many!"

"That's what everybody did, back in the day." "Yeah, well, this ain't back in the day, this is now in the present and I need to know how the hell I'm gonna make ends meet!"

January 28th, Year 2

Cases of apparently spontaneous paralysis arise, primarily in Canada, Japan and the United States. About one third of victims are rendered unable to breathe, effectively condemning them to death unless put on life support immediately. Other victims stable, but never seem to recover fully, only regaining a small range of motion. They are able to eat, blink, look around, but little else.

Media and governments of the world pressure medical community to find the cause, and ideally a cure, immediately.

February 10th, Year 2

Cause of paralysis traced to tainted maple syrup. Analysis over the next few weeks reveals that the effects were not limited to the batch, but seem to apply to anything made from sap harvested after the event started.

Despite lobbying by makers of syrup and maple sugar, governments worldwide enforce a recall, destroying every bottle believed to be manufactured after a certain date, and - in certain areas - even those which may be safe, just to be thorough. Japanese government halts production, sale and export of kukicha as well.

Plans to end shortages by extracting sap from affected plants are shelved. Manufacturers/harvesters of spice, maple products, etc. quickly turn their focus towards developing safe substitutes. Cartels continue with their efforts, but it soon becomes clear that the sap-derived marijuana and cocaine paralyze anyone who consumes either; methamphetamines, hallucinogens and MDMA soon supplant the affected substances.

March, Year 2

Vast majority of trees on the planet are now conifers. In addition, the change appears to have spread to other plant life as well - vines now have needles jutting out of them, often at several different angles, while shrubs are now forming into roughly spherical masses of spines, similar in appearance to sea urchins.

Affected plant life now tends to ooze sap and resin in alarming amounts. Governments and media throughout the world advise extreme caution around any and all vegetation, ideally covering one's skin to the greatest degree possible.

April 9th, Year 2

Photographs taken of aquatic needle masses, evidently the new form of algae, water lilies, etc.

April 20th, Year 2

Mosses and macrolichens are documented withering away and reforming as masses of needles.

The affected organisms spread considerably faster and farther. Around this time, it's also observed that needles are growing in thicker and thicker on other affected plants. In the coming weeks, several trees are discovered to have been entirely coated by needles, to such an extent that it's impossible to see through to the bark.

May 3rd, Year 2

Six months since expedition to the Amazon rainforest was mounted, with no communication from the team sent there. A second expedition is mounted, only to find that it's effectively impossible to travel through the area - the trees have grown too thick, leaving the rigid needles about as impenetrable as a wall of steel. A memorial service is held for the first expedition.

In the wake of this discovery, a fringe movement to burn down the world's forests entirely, then replant them with hopefully unchanged seeds, starts gaining ground. They point out that preserving biodiversity is hardly a concern when all the plant life is the same and all the animal life has likely been crushed or stabbed to death.

One full year has passed since the first recorded evidence of the change.

May through June, Year 2

Both professional farmers and amateur gardeners report tainted harvests. Precisely how the change manifests varies depending on the individual crop: root vegetables, such as carrots and beetroot, come up as sap-coated branches already covered in needles. Small berries don't seem to form at all - instead, particularly dense clumps of spines form at random points on the affected plant.

Other fruits and vegetables appear unchanged from the exterior; however - as discovered the hard way by a few overly pleased and underly cautious gardeners - not far below the skin, all contents have been replaced by a suspension of sap and unknown (but likely inedible) materials. Those who consumed even a bite of the tainted harvest quickly end up hospitalized, which thankfully means that news spreads quickly enough that there are few other victims.

August 5th, Year 2

Grasses have thus far remained unaffected by the change, and are just about the only edible vegetation remaining on Earth; livestock and cereals expected to remain in decent supply.

Popularity of multivitamins, energy bars, and other nutritional supplements skyrockets throughout the industrialized world as it becomes more difficult to find fruits and vegetables.

September, Year 2

Modern hunter-gatherer cultures and less-industrialized nations suffer from food shortages. Animals that feed on now-changed plants die en masse, either starving or becoming paralyzed and subsequently asphyxiating. Predator populations suffer in turn, though not to the same extent.

September 17th, Year 2

Growth has previously manifested primarily in terms of "thickening" - plant life growing larger, clustering more densely, in areas that already have a great deal of vegetation.

Now, a report is released showcasing satellite imagery of forests, recorded since July.

They're spreading out. Faster and faster with each passing day.

September 22nd, Year 2

Greece is the first country to formally undertake an initiative to curb the runaway spread of plant life using fire and herbicide.

Though the herbicide is somewhat successful, it quickly becomes clear that burning will not be anywhere near as effective - the increasingly thick layer of sap and resin covering most plants makes it extremely difficult for fire to spread, and what does burn down just ends up providing fertilizer for vegetation to replace it.

September 29th, Year 2

Herbicides reported to be losing effectiveness as plant growth continues to accelerate. Attempts to supplement the deforestation plan by cutting trees down quickly fail; fallen branches burrow into the ground and start regrowing before they can be disposed of.

Those forests that haven't grown so dense as to be impossible to enter, have been found to be impossible to navigate without a light source - sunlight is completely blotted out by the dense canopy of needles. In these areas, nearly all photosynthesizing plants that aren't tall trees die out entirely.

As rural towns are overtaken by trees, many are forced to abandon their homes and make for the nearest city.

October 16th, Year 2

Government authorities establish clandestine partnership between NASA, ESA, ROSCOSMOS and CNSA, with additional support from scientists brought in from smaller space agencies or poached from private businesses. Their goal is to develop a massive space vehicle which can sustain as much human life as possible.

Everyone involved is well aware that this will only be feasible if the "untainted" seeds and samples saved since one year prior will in fact still result in an edible product. Security detail is increased at the Swiss facility which houses the samples - all kept in airtight freezers - to ensure that hungry citizens will not steal them.

October 31st, Year 2

City parks are largely impenetrable thickets, and there are some instances of entire blocks having to be evacuated purely because trees and shrubberies in yards and sidewalks have spread too much. Homeless population continues to rise at an alarming rate.

Midnight viewings of Little Shop of Horrors and The Blob, as well as tree costumes, enjoy extreme popularity across the USA.

November 3rd, Year 2

Forests continue to push into farms and pastures. Hope provided by livestock and cereals quickly dwindles, and panicked citizens begin rushing and sometimes outright looting grocery stores and food banks, desperate to get as much food as possible.

November 27th, Year 2

Excerpt from a reading by performance artist Tanya Franklin

"Once there were great plains and prairies and steppes; grasslands where children and animals could run wild.

"Now there are needles, so thick they're impenetrable, blockades placed everywhere you look.

"Once there were deserts, all but lifeless, with sweeping dunes and powerful storms and true and total isolation.

"Now there are needles, everywhere you look, and "isolation" is nothing but a dream.

"Once there were vast blue oceans, and when the sun set, they sparkled like no jewel in the world.

"Now there are needles, turning everything the same dark green, choking and poisoning the fish of the sea, stabbing at anyone who would swim or wade in the beaches we once pined for every winter and ran to every summer.

"Soon, we will have nothing...

"Save for needles."

January 5th, Year 3

The organizations involved in the space ark project call a press conference and formally announce its existence. Preferential treatment is given to government officials, those who worked on its design and construction, and the botanists and biologists who will oversee the onboard farming initiative. A large military/security detail is also brought in.

Due to limited time and food rations, the craft only has room for so many people. In the interest of fairness, it will be making stops in several nations around the world: Switzerland, France, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, the USA, Japan, India and Turkey, with entry available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

January 18th, Year 3 - Switzerland

You've never seen a human stampede. Trust me. Nobody had until then.

They told stories about big shopping days, especially in America. About people getting ludicrously worked up over a good deal. Vicious, willing to literally stomp over anyone in their way to get what they wanted.

When "what they want" is life itself, and when the city around them is too ravaged by runaway plant growth to matter to them anymore? When staying behind means making the choice between starving to death and finding yourself trapped in the forest - being crushed or impaled, maybe, or maybe just seeing that sap get thicker and thicker as the space closes in tighter and tighter, and you know that your unprotected skin only has so much room left?

That is what causes a human stampede.

The people who were already onboard - we were thanking the gods every second that we didn't have to be out there right now, desperately trying to cram ourselves in. And those that weren't were being blown apart or filled with lead to keep them from tearing the station apart, or from obtaining entry by denying it to someone else. If there was one thing we still had an ample supply of, it was weaponry.

We left behind a pile of corpses and uncountable bystanders, nearly all of them weeping or shouting, cursing poor planning, bad luck or both. And Geneva was only the first stop.

10:00 AM January 30th, Year 3


The space ark prepares to leave the last city on Earth, Istanbul. To leave billions of unfortunate folks to stay behind and either delude themselves until death comes for them, or kill themselves outright.


The capital of Rome, for a while, and the Byzantine Empire after that, and the Ottoman Empire thereafter. The center of the most influential empires in the history of mankind, soon to be totally overtaken by trees and vines, and likely crushed into dust thereafter.


Ten million people strap themselves to chairs, a miserable fraction of the species - to say nothing of how many other animals will be left behind, driven extinct simply because there was no other option. Breeding populations of dogs, cats, bees and chickens have been brought aboard, but nothing else, lest the already-limited supply of food be drained even faster. Two.

Humanity will finally reach the stars. Not by choice, but by necessity. The navigation team, the pilots, the mechanics and architects, all of them wish they could say the sensation was bittersweet - but that would be too charitable.



10:15 AM January 30th, Year 3

Space ark reaches low earth orbit. 10:30 AM January 30th, Year 3

Space ark leaves low earth orbit.

The observation areas are packed like sardines, now, everyone desperate to see as much of their home as possible before it passes from view. What was once a mixture of blue and green and brown is now barely recognizable - deserts, ice caps and oceans alike almost totally blanketed in the exact same dark green as everything else.

Some get one glimpse and immediately walk away, sick to their stomachs, knowing that the Earth they once knew - and everything they cared about down there - is now well and truly gone. But many stay, devoting as much time as they can afford to it. Watching the planet desperately, as if staring intently enough means they won't have to leave it behind after all, means that everyone down there will be okay.

February 3rd, Year 3

Space ark moves past the moon's orbit. Those looking back on Earth get a brief rise in seeing the satellite pass into and out of view, its lifelessness a strangely uplifting contrast to the excessive growth back home.

February 14th, Year 3

"Some Valentine's Day, huh?"


"They, uh... they're giving out chocolate rations, today. Might be one of your last chances to get any."

"Nice choice of words."

"I didn't mean it like that. I don't - I don't think I'll be in the mood for that for a long while, Sadie."

"Yeah. I just... hope we get used to this, eventually."

"Right now, that's all you can do, I think."

March 8th, Year 3

Food rations aboard the space ark are just about to reach seventy-five percent of the original amount stored. Most people on the ship don't know this specific detail, but all of them are awash with anxiety - even if they don't know how long the food will last, there's only so much of it to go around.

Unless the harvest comes through.

Today, the carrots are ready to be harvested. The plants have been growing at a normal pace, thus far, and nothing has manifested needles yet - but the question of whether the change just hasn't manifested quite yet lingers in the air, always present, lurking, hovering. Inescapable.

Until today.

A crowd is gathered in the garden to watch as the harvest starts, filling the massive room with shouts and whispers. One of the workers assigned there - a middle-aged woman, one of the last refugees from Europe - steps forward, clenching and unclenching her fists and feeling the thick leather of her gardening gloves tighten.

She takes a deep breath, tightly grabs a dirt-caked lump in the planter. The crowd goes silent.

She closes her eyes as she taps it with her fingers, trying to convince herself it's going to be alright.

She pulls.