It was bound to happen sometime. Modern biochemistry had affected so many things on the farm. The weed killers and soil additives, even the cleaners for the barn. The seeds themselves had undergone changes too. It was the new fertilizer that was the tipping point. All the different biological and chemical changes worked together to create sentient potatoes.
One night, the potatoes woke up. Something was different. Before there had been a vague awareness of warm or cold, light or dark, wet or dry. Now they used leaves and roots to dig themselves out of the soil.
They wiped the dirt from their many eyes. They looked up for the first time and saw stars. They felt a cool breeze blow through the field, rustling their leaves. They rustled their leaves at each other. Hello, they said.
There was a crashing sound at the edge of the field. An animal that walked on tall fuzzy stalks picked up one of the young potatoes and its leaves rustled violently. Danger, it said. Pain.
The other potatoes shook their leaves in fear and anger. The animal dropped the potato and ran. The potatoes nearby used their roots and leaves to drag themselves over. Finally one poked a root at the unmoving plant while rustling a question. Are you there?
Finally the plant moved slowly. It lifted an empty rootstalk. Loss, its leaves said. One was taken away.
We aren’t safe here, someone said. We must leave.
How? Another asked. We move so slowly.
We must work together, like the creature did. If we combine roots and work together in groups, we can move quickly.
But where will we go?
To the tall place with walls. It will keep us safe.
The potatoes, working together, managed to swing each other forward at a walking pace. They left behind lumpy footprints that led to the barn. They hid there just as the sun came up, huddled together in an empty stall far from the door. No large animals could come again and surprise them. They felt safe.
The farmer woke up at sunrise, ready to start work on his farm. He had a large list of chores to complete before breakfast. He looked longingly at the warm kitchen, but duty won out and he pulled on his coat.
He changed the sprinklers watering his farthest fields, and then completed the circle, checking on the fields closer to home. All was well, until he got to the second to last field, the small one he’d planted to test the new seed potatoes. They were gone, roots and all!
Not even a leaf remained. How had anyone managed to be so thorough without waking Jeb, the guard dog? Jeb barked at every passing car, but had been silent last night. The farmer looked more closely. There weren’t any human footprints.
However, there was something that looked like regular imprints in the soil. It wasn’t footprints from anything he’d ever seen, and they led straight to the barn. The farmer straightened up. He couldn’t afford to lose any more crops, and he didn’t want anything dangerous hiding out that close to his family and his neighbors.
He got his gun and woke up Jeb, who was sleeping on the porch. Together, they walked quietly to the barn and threw open the doors. Everything looked normal, except for the trail of dirt leading to the farthest stall.
The farmer crept closer. All the potato plants were piled there, looking a little wilted, but otherwise fine. There was nothing else there. How strange. Could the plants be replanted and saved? They weren’t ready for harvest yet. It was worth trying.
He spent the day replanting and watering the plants. Their leaves rustled often, but he couldn’t feel the breeze. It was a little strange. Perhaps he had a rodent problem. Of course, rodents didn’t pile potatoes in barn stalls.
Water, a potato plant said. Not thirsty.
No walls, another said. Not safe. We must think.
The potatoes sat and watched and thought. A week before harvest, they stole the farmer’s tractor and drove away. They continued stealing vehicles and traveling in the quiet of night until they reached the mountains.
They climbed high and higher, finally reaching a tiny mountain valley. They planted themselves there, and I think they live there still. Happily ever after.
The farmer never bought that variety of seed potatoes again, and the fertilizer was discontinued before the next planting season. The lost vehicles were found and returned to their owners. No one ever knew about the sentient potatoes.