|"Rotworld: Secrets of the Dead - The Hidden"|
|First Published:||October 31, 2012|
|Previous Issue:||Swamp Thing #13|
|Next Issue:||Swamp Thing #14|
"Rotworld: Secrets of the Dead - The Hidden"Edit
Having just been informed that Abigail Arcane died shortly after he disappeared into The Rot for a year, Swamp Thing is both angry and filled with disbelief - after all, he can still feel her. Finally, the Parliament of Trees decides that they should tell him the truth of why he might feel her still, despite her death nearly a year ago: that feeling is a memory. Long ago, an incident was wiped from his memory, and the Parliament agrees to tell him what happened.
When Alec Holland was just a student of botany - albeit, a highly decorated one - he was asked to a small village in the Carpathian Mountains of Europe by the enigmatic Anton Arcane. The village had been without any plant life whatsoever for years due to residual radiation caused by soviet bombings, and Arcane had eagerly paid for Alec's trip and stipend to study the phenomenon. Despite his eagerness, Arcane sent his aid Sergei in his stead to meet Alec at the small airport.
Arcane resided in a castle, away from the village, and when Alec arrived, he was asked to set up his lab equipment and settle in, while Arcane prepared himself. Unbeknownst to Alec, the reason Arcane was indisposed was because he required a mask of human skin to hide his disfigurement by the Rot. Though he intended to kill Alec eventually, he hoped to speak with him first, and determine the magnitude of his connection to The Green.
While setting up his equipment, Alec happened to spot a strange plant growing in a field from his window, surprised that anything was growing there at all. He rushed outside, and when he got up close, he realized that these plants seemed to be of an entirely undocumented species. While the root structure suggested the Anacardiaceae family, while the flowers seemed almost Papaver - the radiation must have caused some kind of mutation, he thought. However, his Geiger meter gave no indication of any radioactive isotopes in the area. Alec took a sample, apologizing to the flower for the intrusion.
A voice from nearby teased his tendency to talk to plants, and Alec looked up to see a beautiful girl, nearly his age, with white hair. She had been collecting the flowers in a basket. She already knows who Alec is, as she is Anton Arcane's niece, Abigail. Though Alec intended to be there for the month, Abby indicated that her uncle's conversation suggested he wouldn't be there long, suspiciously.
Hoping she might be able to tell him more about the strange flower, he asked her what it was called. She responded that because it was the only kind of flower in the village, it was simply called "the flower." This was ironic, as Alec couldn't really be sure that it is a flower, based on his observations. Regardless, Alec was suddenly more interested in the new arrival than the flower, and asked Abby out for drinks.
Abby first required that Alec accompany her to the hospice where she lived to pick up some things, before giving him the grand tour. At the hospice, she introduced him to an elderly woman affected by the radiation in the area. Abby worked at the hospice in addition to living there, providing care to those she could. While Abby was out of the room for a moment, the older woman turned to him with a horrifying face of rotting flesh. Alec was frightened, but when Abby returned, it was as though nothing had happened, and he assumed it must have been a hallucination.
Abby provided Alec with a comprehensive tour, rife with historical details, but while she knew a great deal about the village, her own personal history was less concrete. Her memories are vague and confusing, and her uncle worries for her health. Aside from that, the two of them had a great deal in common, at least ideologically. Both felt as though, somehow, they had met before; perhaps in past lives. As their evening drew to a close, Alec took some initiative, and kissed Abby on the lips. Happily, Abby daydreamed of going back to see the Louisiana swamp with him, and Alec suggested that perhaps they could bring some of the swamp there, using a pack of fox glove seeds that he brought with him. The flowers were known for their resilience in harsh climates, so he had hoped he could plant some there.
Later, Alec studied the strange plant he had found, and discovered that it actually seemed to reject chlorophyll, making it impossible to graft it with other species. Perhaps, he thought, it might not be a plant at all, given its tendency to treat chlorophyll like a disease. He was interrupted by the appearance of Anton Arcane, who had taken the guise of an elderly gentleman.
Alec reported that the plant seemed to have dangerous qualities. While it had the structure of a plant, it was made from completely necrotic tissue, and secreted a venom-like substance that was likely harmful to humans. That substance could attack parts of the brain related to cognition, linguistics, and memory. At that, Alec realized that perhaps Abby's exposure to the plant was the source of her memory loss. Arcane would not let him go, though, revealing that the plant he had discovered was made from Rot, as its caustic vines sprung up and wrapped around Alec.
Across the village, the fox glove seeds that Alec dropped into the river suddenly sprang to life with their own vines, growing long and travelling all the way up and through the window of Alec's lab in Arcane's castle. Angrily, an avatar of the Parliament of Trees admonished Arcane's arrogance, warning that Holland belonged to them. Annoyed, Arcane shed his disguise, reminding that he knew that the intruder was not a real Swamp Thing, but merely a temporary avatar of the Green. It would wither and die soon enough. Likewise, the rot flower had already begun to eat away at Alec's mind.
The Swamp Thing, though, was stronger than Arcane thought, and knocked him back long enough for it to sweep Alec up, and carry him away. Arcane called after them that one day, he would come back for them. With only moments left in its life, the Swamp Thing passed Alec's body off to Jason Woodrue, with whom the Parliament had made a deal in exchange for his help. He would take Alec back to the airport and the swamp.
Now, Alec is confused as to why he was never told this before. The Parliament explains that they knew Abby would become a liability. If he had been able to remember her, he would certainly have gone back for her, and been caught by Arcane again. Now, Abby is dead, and there is little time before the Rot comes to wipe out what precious little remains of the Green.
So informed, Swamp Thing promises that he will kill the man who took everything from him, and from the Green.
"Rotworld: Secrets of the Dead - The Hidden"Edit
- Alec Holland (Flashback and Main Story)
- Parliament of Trees
- Abigail Arcane (In Flashback Only)
- Poison Ivy
- Anton Arcane (In Flashback Only)
- Sergei (In Flashback Only)
- Ms. Minkova (In Flashback Only)
- Jason Woodrue (In Flashback Only)
- Carpathian Mountains
- Carpathian Mountains