Here’s my take on this week’s Author Aerobics: Character Voice Challenge and a little dose of #FridayFlash.
A Gift for Mother
by T.S. Bazelli
“Freeze that.” Simon enlarged the visualization with a wave of his hands, and zoomed into a portion of the image with a tap of a finger. He’d loaded up a queue of twentieth century movies on a whim. They were primitive and one dimensional, the oldest materials he’d managed to pull from the archives.
“Mother, what is this?” He circled the item in the actor’s hand, with a glowing line of blue.
Her voice echoed through the hallways with a metallic rattle. “Apple, a fruit of a tree in the genus malus domestica. Apple trees originated in Central Asia, and were commonly cultivated for its round meaty fruit. Apple, a company founded in 1976 –“
“Thank you mother.” Simon cut her off, and walked over to the cool room. Row upon row of nutrient packets sat in orderly piles near the back of the room. He activated the interface. “Find Apple.” He followed the blinking light to a shelf in the corner. Simon had never paid much attention to the labeling. Sure enough, on the label was a reproduction of the waxy skinned object from the film. He pulled the tab and sucked it down. It had a pleasant sweet taste, with a touch of sour mixed in, but was hardly much different from any of the other flavored packets he’d tried.
“Mother, how do you make an apple?”
“Nutrient packets are a specially calculated blend of –“
“Stop.” He searched for the correct question. “Mother, how do you make an apple tree?”
“Seeds can be germinated in water at the temperature…”
Simon listened intently, recording the message, and requesting clarification for unfamiliar terms. He discovered that there were, in fact, seeds in storage, carefully preserved to survive the long trip. Simon broke open the vault, and removed a small handful of seeds, from a metal pocket. They were sleek, waxy, and dark against his pale palm. Nothing like the trees he’d seen in pictures. It would take at least six years to bear fruit, mother had said, but Simon was patient.
On his third try, several of the seeds took root. These he pushed carefully into pots of synthetic soil. When the plants began to stretch out of the pots, he transferred them into a deep well that had once served as a bath.
He set the temperature controls, to recreate a semblance of the seasons. He programmed the lighting to the correct brightness. He asked mother to turn on the water at regularly timed intervals.
The trees grew, under their care, until the tops of their branches nearly brushed the ceiling. Simon waited, to taste the fruit, growing restless as flowers blossomed and small fruits were produced. They continued to grow, changing colors, from green to red.
“Are they ready, Mother?” He asked, on his daily pilgrimage to the tree room. Day after day he received the same reply.
“The fruits on tree B, branch 2, node 3 are ready for consumption.”
Simon nearly fell over in shock. The apples that grew on the branch were still smaller, and greener, than the apples he had seen in the film.
He had to reach up on his toes, to pluck a fruit from the branch. He sunk his teeth into it. The flesh was hard, and tough, to teeth used to sucking from nutrient packets. His gums left a pink stain on the white flesh, that was already turning brown with oxidation.
The nutrient packs were only a memory of taste, he realized as his tongue awakened, and saliva flowed, dripping out of the corners of his mouth. He licked the apple liquid off his lips, and his teeth, unwilling to let any particles go to waste.
He stared out the windows of the ship, into the vast darkness of space, and the stars. He was the last child born upon it, and he would never reach its destination.
“Mother, how long can an apple tree live?”
“Apple trees can produce fruit for 30 to 40 years. In rare cases, apple trees have been reported to have lived for over 200 years.”
He reached out a hand to be nearer his mother. He felt her whirring pulse, the soothing metal vibration. Now, he thought, you will still have something to take care of when I am gone.