Three months, no flowers.
I’ve been going out with Her for three months. Living life, away from my fears and my responsibilities, She is someone to share my life with, someone to alleviate the stress.
It’s about time I got Her some flowers.
The Dune-Buggy, its frame encased in reenforced plexi-glass, hurls the suited shape that is me through the air. Hurls me through the air across the grey, misty, dead and desert-like land. The traffic is non-existent, my vehicle is the only one that ever leaves the settlement. I smile, hoping that the two loves of my life, and the two worlds in which I live will soon be joined. I hope that my love of life outside the settlement can be joined with my love of Her. The world would be an easier place.
Human fear of life outside the settlement goes beyond simple fear of the unknown. People die. Nobody but me has ever traveled outside the settlement, and lived. It’s easy to die outside. A simple crack in the plexi-glass and you can’t live anymore. The poison that passes for an atmosphere will seep in, and your vehicle will implode like an egg that has been cracked and then crushed. But if the plexi- glass remains firm you can survive, it’s not easy to crush an unmarred egg.
Despite the dangers I feel safe. To me, the grey misty landscape which flows by outside, seems like so much innocent deadly gas searching for its prey. But the gas is outside, and I am within, the shell allows me to look upon the deadly world like it simply a movie. A surreal thing, which doesn’t exist.
I apply the brakes as I reach my destination, an oasis of sorts. Something only I know exists.
As my vehicle’s hydraulics system oozes me to a stop I close my helmet. Pressing a view makeshift buttons I start the cycle which will purge my vehicle of oxygen, and allow the gas within. I feel like I’ve invited death for dinner, only hoping that I will remain off the menu. As the oxygen is purged, the pressure within the vehicle will rise to that of the outside world. I will then be able to open the shell without it imploding. Testing the oxygen flow within my suit, I sit, waiting for the pressure cycle to end.
Grey is the overwhelming color. The world outside is grey. All humans have ever seen of it is grey. Our settlements are decorated with what survived the great migration from earth, a few small shrubs, and a Scarlet letter-like rose that lives outside the informal town hall. For those humans who have not had the opportunities to explore the outside world, who have not the emotions associated with love, that rose is the source of life. It is a reason to live. It is a splash of color in a dreary, grey and homogenous world. I have sat with Her, along with hundreds of others, and just stared. Stared at that rose, vibrant with life, flowing with beauty, infinitely complex, alive. We memorized its contours, pretended we could see it move as it grew, we fell in love. The entire community would die should that rose leave its place. The single rose is a unique thread to that which once existed. Despite the rose’s beauty, despite people’s respect for it and their happiness about its existence, the scientists can do little more than keep one rose alive at a time. The flowers slowly pass away as the men in their lab coats work with a religious fervor to make that single splash of color reproduce. But that rose is stinted, capable only of having one descendent, and no one is willing to risk it to an uncertain experiment. Eventually luck will be on death’s side, dynasties can be maintained only so long, a descendent of that rose will not survive to make more roses. Color will disappear, humans can’t live without color. The settlement will die. She needs a flower, but that rose is sacred ground.
We live in a sort of Utopia. A single square mile of people slaving to survive, brought together, working to help each other alive. Unwilling and unable to deviate from a common path. Unlike the utopia in the Scarlet letter ours is a pure utopia. The desire to deviate, to be a little adventurous, has been weeded out of the population. We can’t live if people defy our rules. At the same time life in our utopia is hard, dreary and dangerous. The puritans would have loved it, had they had the opportunity to experience it. Our Utopia not only has less deviation than the puritan model, it has less color. Our world has no color besides a single rose. The puritans had a forest.. The puritans also had England.
I’m not the only who loves Her. While we were scrambling to escape, the entire community mobilized. Men, women and children grabbing the necessities, grain stalks, apple seeds, our wives and our children, trying to minimize the weight we needed to carry. We were fleeing the proverbial flood, unlike Noah we couldn’t preserve the world we were leaving. She was the only one who thought to save color. Walking slowly out to Her garden, a story that has become more a legend and a myth than a memory. She dug up a single rose, protecting it in a special pressure sealed case. Why can’t men ever think to bring along the roses.
We have more in common than She knows. She’s a living legend, apparently in control of the world, I’m the town’s good luck charm. She has humanity under her control, everybody knows it and submits happily. I have humanity in the palm of my hand, but nobody knows it.
My world has more color than a single rose. As I rise from the dune-buggy, I look directly in front of me. There lies a representation of my secret. A small patch of flaming color. Purple, red, blue, yellow, everything in between. It blazes through the misty poison like a beacon. Its splashing color washing over you like a freezing wave coming off a sea that no longer exists, and cooling a sunny day. A single splash of color. Even more unlike the world around it than the Beast’s rose. His rose was in a dark room, filled with cobwebs, slowly dying as he looked for love. The Beast’s rose is surrounded by spiders, my splash of color is surrounded by nothing, not even death. But my color is not dying, and I’m not looking for love.
My color is my secret.
The patch of color is growing, it is alive.
Man was supposed to kill itself. Man, destroying his environment, killing everything he encountered, irresponsible man, we were supposed to kill ourselves. Perhaps a nuclear holocaust was supposed to overcome us, perhaps we were supposed to run out of oxygen as we killed all the forests.. We didn’t get the chance. Even had we tried we would have been hard pressed to destroy life on our home planet. We would hardly have had time to destroy the planet, much less save ourselves.
The astronomers told us that the moon had been struck by an astroid. Few people could be saved. We didn’t have the resources to leave the planet en mass, especially not in a week. The president decided to stay, he had achieved his goal, the oval office, a place to protect his country. He wanted to witness the holocaust. He wanted to see his world disappear in an expanding ball of flame, tidal waves of massive proportions throwing themselves again and again across the land that is Asia, the Americas, Europe, Africa, Antarctica and so much more, He decided to witness mass death, while the ground around would shiver and shake, the entire planet almost splitting with a thunderous noise never again to be encountered. He didn’t feel he could live after everything he knew disappeared. He opted to stay, like those relatives of Lot’s in Sodom and Gomorrah who saw their world disappear under earthquakes, fire and water, the president saw what he wanted. We left. The president chose not only to die, but to keep the secret away from the entire world population, except us. We allowed him to keep the catastrophe a secret. He preferred that our species should have a dignified death, unsuspecting, watching TV in our homes, shopping, composing poetry, painting masterpieces, and organizing histories. He didn’t want chaos and death to rule humanity’s final days, maybe he was right. We left, boarding ships that few knew existed. The moon struck what we called home. Nobody but us knew it was going to happen. We watched our past and our heritage disappear in a massive rocking explosion that looked like little more than two rocks colliding and shattering like in an old silent movie. It seemed like less than two hands clapping, but it was catastrophic to all who witnessed it, and even worse for those who lived in it. Like Lot’s wife, while looking back upon the destruction from our ships safely tucked away millions of miles into space, we basically perished. Witnessing the destruction of all we knew to be the world was too great for many to bear. We turned to salt statues, lost all emotion, we couldn’t afford to feel. If we did we would never recover, we would die weeping. If even one of us felt, allowed emotions to exist, that one person’s tears would dissolve the salt that makes up the rest of us. My love for Her is a dangerous business. As the ships continued on their voyage away from what was earth, we turned away, our faces pained with unexpressable regret and sadness, even anger. We turned away from the window. A few thousand miles difference, minute in the vastness of space, and that astroid would have missed the moon, none of this would have happened. But it did, the world was finished, only we remained. We turned away from the holocaust, sadly, there was nothing we could do. We turned to the rose.
Only I know life exists on this planet, nobody else is allowed into my secret. Now She will enter the special group, the risks are great. Our love is emotion, a danger by itself. Too much knowledge is even more threatening. I look upon the growing mass of color and resolve that I will only pick one. Using the same pressure sealed container that She used to rescue the world’s last rose from its dying home I preserve the flower in its new home, what I see as a deadly mist floating around a newly captured beauty.
Even more beautiful than a rose, this flower resembles Her. Three months. It’s about time She got a flower.
I turn to walk back to the buggy when what I dreaded occurs.
I call it the spirit. It won’t let me leave.
We floated through space, our emotions charged. Sadness ruled every aspect of life. Regret about thousands of years of history that didn’t exist. The ships continued for what seemed like forever. Finally we landed. The puritans had England. We had nothing.
The spirit didn’t know what to make of us.
We built our new home, a single airtight dome, a mile square, which we had stored on one of the ships. People within the town set about making food to keep us alive another year. Everybody worked, artificially enriching the earth within the dome, planting crops, anything to take their minds off what they still called home, earth. Nobody explored, it wasn’t practical. As the workload eased, I made arraignments for a trip outside the settlement. My request was processed, it was determined that I was not immediately needed and I left.
It stopped me when I had gone but a few miles outside of the settlement. It knew what to make of humans, and it didn’t like what it had decided. It had formed its judgement. Humanity was dangerous. We were changing its world. It wanted to destroy us. It wanted to talk to one of us first. To see what we were like. I was the first one out. After all that had happened, it seemed like the first stroke of luck humanity had ever had.
I played my hand.
He needed somebody to talk to and I knew it, but he was too afraid of dying to not cordon human existence. I cut a deal. I never had the right to do so. I offered other’s lives in exchange for all humanity’s existence. I felt I was right.
As we agreed, the spirit could kill all who left the human settlement, nothing more. If he tried anything more I would not only stop communication with him, but would tell humanity of his existence and organize his death. A fight would ensue. No matter what, he would lose. Even if humanity disappeared, he would have nobody to talk to him. You can only talk to your flowers for so long. In exchange for his limited kill policy I would protect his anonymity. Nobody would know he existed, and I wouldn’t stop people from leaving the settlement to explore the outside world, even though I knew they would die. I had to protect his name, or humanity would cease to exist.
I look at my flower, at its immense beauty, hoping that I will be able to take it with me. To Her.
“You betray me?” The spirit is asking.
“I do what I want.” I can’t waffle, She deserves a flower. It’s been three months.
“You challenge me?” It is a question. The voice is not surprised, nor it is sure of its position. Like everything on this planet, the thing I face is deadly. With a thought I am dead. However, it can’t afford to kill me. It may not be able to strike a second deal, then it would live another eternity talking only to loneliness. With my knowledge I can kill it and it knows I can. In my hands lies the power to destroy the remnants of the human race, or to destroy the only other intelligent life ever encountered. If I want, I can destroy both. I have the power but can’t yield it. I can’t bring myself to kill the rose, and I can’t bring myself to kill the flower now in my hand. My diplomacy prevents this spirit from destroying mankind, I protect it in return. I pray everything survives.
The flower represents a challenge to the spirit’s anonymity, humans see it, they will know. They will know that the world is alive.
“I can’t keep the secret. I am a simple mortal, a human. The balance of power is unsteady in my hands. I’m not Atlas, I can’t support the world on my back, I must share it with another. The other is a leader of the human people, a goddess of sorts, she will understand the beauty of your existence and will not compromise it, as I might, if forced to continue to carry the burden upon my back. I must share the flower and the knowledge. I must share the power or I will collapse.” The spirit understands the need for company and it can’t bear to deprive me of it.
“You may share the flower.”
The spirit departs.
I close the hatch on my buggy and start the process which will drop the air pressure and purge the deadly mist from the cockpit, replacing it with life-giving oxygen.
Humanity will live on, but it will never recover from a mistake of only a few thousand miles..
Three months, a quarter year, Her first flower.