Andy Thorne and his wife Karen pull up to an old gas station in the middle of the desert, looking for directions to the property that they're considering buying. After they park, a woman drives by in a truck, honking her horn, and Andy realizes that she came off of the road they're looking for. They pull out, running over one of the tumbleweeds blowing in the wind.
The Thornes drive up the road and suddenly hit a boulder in the middle of the road. Andy wonders how the truck got past it, and Karen points out that there's no sound of animals. She half-jokingly says that there's something there, and Andy gets out to check the boulder. Karen gets out, twists her ankle on a loose rock, and slips down the slope on her side of the car. Andy goes down after her and makes sure that she's all right. Tumbleweeds move in on them, acting on their own volition, and then come to a halt.
Andy goes back to the car and gets a first aid kit and then a purse. Karen wraps her ankle and Andy tells her that the car won't start and he doesn't know why. He picks her up and they kiss, and a tumbleweed moves briefly to block their path. Andy walks around it and the tumbleweeds move after him. After going a little further, Andy sets Karen down to catch his breath, and Karen wonders where the birds are. There's been no wind all day, and Karen wonders what is moving a nearby tumbleweed.
The tumbleweeds pile up and Karen nervously tells Andy that the tumbleweeds are following them. She begs him not leave her when he goes for help, and Andy says that he has to find someone or they'll spend the night there. Andy gives her some cigarettes and looks for help, and a tumbleweed flies through the air at Karen and sticks to her face. Her husband runs back and pulls it away, and assures her that it's okay. Andy says that he'll stay there and build a fire, and Karen figures that the tumbleweed attacked her to keep her from striking a match and lighting her cigarette.
As night falls, Andy lights the fire and Karen points out that the tumbleweeds are retreating. He says that they're only tumbleweeds, but Karen figures that they will attack once the fire burns out. Andy picks up a torch and advances on the tumbleweeds, which retreat creating an opening. Karen begs him to come back, saying that they'll close up the opening. When he comes back, Karen points out that the tumbleweeds have already moved back together and insists that some force is moving the rock and then the tumbleweed. Andy suggests that they go back to the car but Karen figures that it's too late.
Andy goes over and grabs a tumbleweed, and they swarm and attack him. He throws them on the fire and they explode, and Andy wonders how something could animate a dead weed. The remaining tumbleweeds move in on them, and Andy grabs a burning branch to drive them back. A man, Lamont, comes up beyond the ring of tumbleweeds with a flashlight and tells them that the tumbleweeds are dangerous. The man gets some firewood and tosses it to them, and they feed them into the fire. Andy throws a burning branch at the tumbleweeds and they retreat. The man, Lamont, walks up in and introduces himself. He says that he has a farm down the canyon, and then loudly repeats himself saying the same thing. He invites them to come to his cabin, warning that there's nowhere else to go. Andy wonders why Lamont stayed, and he says that he remained because of curiosity. He stayed too long and was trapped, and tells the Thornes that no one can leave.
Lamont takes the Thornes to his farm. The tumbleweeds gather around it and Lamont says that it happened two weeks ago when a meteorite-like object land in a nearby canyon. There was nothing there the next day, and that's when strange things started happening. It started with more tumbleweeds, and then they got bigger. Chickens went missing and Lamont's wife Martha noticed, but Lamont dismissed it as a fox. A sow disappeared and there were no neighbors within ten miles. Then the milk cows disappeared. After that, Martha left and Lamont figures that she got out of the canyon. The tumbleweeds attacked Lamont every time he tried to leave.
Tumbleweeds move up the sides of the farmhouse, scratching at the sides. Lamont tells the Thornes that the phone line went out a week ago. When he tried to go up the canyon wall, the tumbleweeds dragged him down. Lamont figured that nothing would work against them, and Andy suggests that they use torches to get out. Once he goes to fix them a bed, Karen tells Andy that she thinks Lamont is lying. She points out that they saw Martha leave earlier that day. She finds a journal with Lamont writing that there is a malignant intelligence in the tumbleweeds. The writer says that he's slowly going insane. Karen figures that an educated man wrote the entries, not a backwoods farmer.
Lamont comes back in and says that they can use Martha's room while he sleeps in the living room. The Thornes go in and Andy makes Karen comfortable. He confirms the tumbleweeds are still surrounding the house, and figures that some intelligence arrived on the meteorite and inhabited the tumbleweeds. Andy notices that the lights are on in the living room, and Karen figures that Lamont is cooperating with the tumbleweeds in some manner because he chose to stay.
Andy notices that the tumbleweeds have gone and frog starts croaking in the area. The Thornes go out and discover that Lamont is gone, and Karen finds more notes in the journal. In it Lamont says that the waiting is apparently over even though he doesn't know why.
The Thornes go out and the sounds of frog increase. Thousands of them have surrounded the farm. Lamont is on a ladder by the barn and yells to the Thornes to go back into the house. The frogs leap at the couple and they run back into the house. Andy says that the frogs have gone mad with thirst, but Karen figures that the intelligence left the tumbleweeds and entered the frogs. There's a frog lying on the floor, and Andy puts it in a pan of water. It dissolves in a matter of seconds as if the water was acid. Andy figures that the force can't live with fire or water. He tells Karen that they'll drive them when it gets light, but Karen refuses, sobbing.
Lamont knocks on the door, calling to them to let him in. Andy does so and says that he saw the tumbleweeds move away and tried to get away, but then the frogs came.
The next morning, Andy looks out and confirms that the frogs are gone. Karen is sleeping, and Lamont stares off into space. Andy looks around, and Karen wakes up and comes out. She asks Lamont if he's all right, and Andy finds an insecticide sprayer and tells Karen that he'll fill it with water. Andy has found a blowtorch and figures that they can escape, but they'll have to leave Lamont if he doesn't snap out of his fugue. Lamont nods when Andy asks him if he can walk, and Andy helps him to his feet.
The trio head up the canyon and get to the car on the road above. A boulder rolls down and hits Lamont, killing him. More boulders roll down, just missing Karen, and the Thornes are forced to retreat leaving Lamont's body behind. He yells at the intelligence, demanding to know what it wants and telling it to act logical. The Thornes have no choice but to go back to the farmhouse.
Boulders slam into the building, and Andy reads more of the journal. Lamont said that he thought there was a malignant intelligence in the tumbleweeds, but Andy doesn't think that it's malignant. He tells Karen that the intelligence came there from outer space in the form of pure mind. Andy figures that they have to communicate with it or they'll be trapped forever. He suggests that the intelligence has incredible power and it overloaded the phone lines, the house lights, and their car battery. The intelligence needed a human carrier and slowly pushed aside Lamont's mind so it killed him by accident when it tried to keep him there.
Karen says that the intelligence is coming from there, and Andy figures that they need to communicate with it. She hears footsteps coming and suggests that the force is gone. The front door opens, revealing a reanimated Lamont. Karen goes to him but he doesn't respond and she realizes that he isn't breathing. Lamont sits down and stares off into space. When Karen faints, Andy takes her to the bed and makes her comfortable. Karen wakes up and Andy explains that Lamont is basically a zombie. He figures that the intelligence doesn't understand concepts like "death", and that it's a tragedy that the intelligence has a human carrier and still can't communicate. Andy figures that "Lamont" can write for the intelligence and wants to learn the secrets of the universe that it knows.
Karen agrees to go with Andy, and the Thornes go to where Lamont is sitting at the table. Andy gives the notebook and pen to Lamont and he writes symbols and letters. He realizes that the intelligence isn't translating its own language, while Karen goes out to the front yard. After a moment Andy joins her and says that the body is suffering from rigor mortis. There aren't enough symbols to translate, and Andy says that thought has no language. Andy tries to work out a way to let the intelligence enter his mind, and figures that they have to take the gamble. Lamont's bulldozer activates briefly, and Karen agrees to try and help.
The Thornes go back in the farmhouse and Andy writes down a list of questions for Karen to ask him. Andy hangs up a spoon on a string to hypnotize himself so that the intelligence can enter his mind. Once Andy is under, the intelligence enters his mind and it moans in frustration after the chaos and flux around it. It doesn't know how the lives on Earth communicate, and doesn't hear Karen when she talks to it. The intelligence admits that the existence of life on Earth is a mystery, and hopes that some future voyagers will reach there. It figures that the consciousness there needs time to evolve over thousands of years and will have a racial memory of them being there. The intelligence departs and Andy collapses.
Karen sobs over her husband, and the lights come up. Andy wakes up and Karen says that the intelligence couldn't hear her. The phone rings and Karen answers, confirming that the phone is now working. She then tells Andy that his plan worked, but Andy addresses the alien's words as worthless. The Thornes walk back to their car and Andy complains that the intelligence gave up. They reach their car and Andy says that the tragedy is that none of them will believe them and dismiss Lamont's writings as a deranged mind. The car starts and Andy contemplates how far the alien has to go before it returns home.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 21, 2019