Don't Pluck It from the Soil
The wind was the first to meet them. It danced on top of the tall grass creating amber waves that transfixed the Dupree family -- Ogden, Charlotte and their five-year-old daughter, Cindy. They stopped on the heavily posted trail and were spellbound by its play on the grass. It reached them with a gentle touch that brushed against their pale skins.
Their skins tingled and cooled. It was a sensation that was alien to them. Pangs of fear shot through their bodies. Their controlled world of automated air conditioning set at neutral - as well as the stagnant air of city-dome life was a far cry from this natural setting.
Yet, as soon as the shock of that breeze came, the exultation -- as well as the slight goose-bumps on the skin -- awakened their other senses. Ogden heard the singing of the grass blades as it crashed and rubbed against each other. Charlotte watched the waves undulate along the top of the blades. Cindy whiffed the pleasing smell of nature after the fragrance loosened itself from the green and tanned stocks.
“You know, there’s more to this place,” Ogden managed to say, his eyes still locked on the landscape below the piercing blue skies and cotton-ball clouds. “This area, I believe, is called the Meadow. They say we need to go to the ridge to get to the Field.”
Ogden pointed up the trail toward a grass shrouded knoll with a signpost at its base.
“Oh, honey, I can’t wait,” Charlotte said, craning her head to her husband, “If it’s better than this as they say…”She trailed off, as a wonderful imagination grew wild in her head.
Ogden agreed. He couldn’t wait, either. The same went for Cindy who was already pulling her parents’ hands and beckoning them to start moving.
They ventured to the base of the knoll until they came to the signpost. There, Ogden took in the sign. A verse, instead of a marker or directions, was on it. He read it silently, letting its words sink into his head. All the while, Charlotte was still immersed in the visual cues around her. Cindy was more curious about the sign and the attention it had on her father.
“What it says?” she asked.
He read: “Every Spring is precious,
“Every flower’s gold.
“See, touch, and smell you may.
“But, don’t pluck it from the soil
or Mother Nature will be no more.”
Cindy crinkled her nose. Ogden glanced at her and saw the confusion.
“It’s just the rules; we heard them at the lodge,” he assured her.
“Oh,” she responded, “See, touch, smell but don’t pluck it from the soil.”
“That’s right, precious, “Ogden replied. “Remember that when we head into the Field over that hill.”
She glanced at the knoll, and then at her dad, again: “We go to flowers now?”
A grin crossed Ogden’s face: “You bet, precious.”
This time, Ogden led the way; they continued their trek to the top of the knoll.
It didn’t take them long to reach the top. And when they did, they were treated to a visual treat. Before them was a place of legend and lore: the Field, as it was known to all throughout the world. It had the greatest concentration of flowers -- a rare and precious commodity. And, until now, Ogden thought it was an aberration created to give people hope that the natural world still existed outside city-domes that pockmarked the dying world.
But there it was, right in front of him, a garden of red, blue, green, gold, orange and pink in varying array of sizes and shapes. Ogden had to blink several times; was he seeing things correctly? They were bright and luminous under the blue sky.
Suddenly, Cindy broke away from the two and raced down the trail, whooping and hollering while running a hand across the rows of wild flowers.
Then, a harsh siren broke the moment. It carried over the Field and hit Ogden with its scream. It was deafening. Then, there came the scream: Cindy’s scream.
“Cindy!” Ogden snapped, ready to chase after her.
“Ogden, don’t,” Charlotte said, placing a delicate hand on his chest. “Trust her, she knows the rules. Let her play. This is the first time she’s seen such things.”
Ogden ruminated on the notion, and then relaxed. She was right, he thought. Cindy needs to play.
“I just want her to be careful,” he said. “I like to come back here one day.”
“Honey,” she said before kissing him on the cheek. “It’s open to the public. It’s our Field as much as it’s the state.”
Charlotte moved to the side of the trail and began to admire the flora before her. She touched the soft petals, breathed in their fragrances, and drank up their colors. She walked down the trail, sampling each one. Lavenders, perennials and sunflowers; it didn’t matter. They were real.
Ogden watched her. He glanced at the flowers. They’re real! He kept saying to himself, trying to reaffirm that indeed he was seeing the flowers.
Then, a harsh siren broke the moment. It carried over the Field and hit Ogden with its scream. It was deafening. Then, there came the scream: Cindy’s scream. Ogden raced down the trail with Charlotte following behind him.
That’s when an ugly voice spoiled the pastoral beauty of the Field.
“You!” The voice thundered. “Drop it now!”
Ogden and Charlotte turned a corner in the trail and saw Cindy and a man in black armor from head to toe, pointing a gun at her. Cindy was trembling, whimpering.
Enraged, Ogden charged to his daughter’s defense. But, Charlotte’s scream aroused his senses to something else. He heard the sound of exhaust blasts, humming, and the definite click of cocked rifle.
“You two stop where you are!”a voice boomed from above. Ogden glanced up and froze. Three hover platforms were closing in on him and Charlotte. On each one, two black armored officers from the Environmental Law and Forestation had their rifles trained on them. The third had his hands on the control swiveling a gun mounted under the oval platform.
Ogden got the message, but Charlotte didn’t. Motherly instinct took over and she bolted for her child.
It happened quickly; Charlotte was a few feet away when suddenly there was a pop and whoosh coming from the hover platform. Ogden barely could discern the blob jetting toward his wife . But he knew what it was once it hit his wife. It was a suppression gel, met to immobilize and take a person down. Charlotte fell to the ground as the green glob weighed congealed around her into a hard mass. Charlotte struggled, but it was in vain. All she could do was scream and cry for her baby.
Cindy’s frightened eyes locked on the black metal rifle-barrel a few feet from her face. The officer gestured with the rifle toward Cindy to follow his command.
“Drop it, now!” the officer thundered.
Ogden knew Cindy had done something to inflame these officers. Immediately, he saw the reason, jutting from the child’s hand: a daisy plucked from the shaft.
“Honey,” Ogden ventured to say, in the calmest and less intrusive voice possible. "Listen to the man, drop the daisy.”
Cindy craned her head toward her father. She saw him there with two hover platforms on each side of him and a third over her mother. She glanced at her mother in what now appeared to look like a green boulder enveloping her. Only one arm and her head were visible.
“Honey,” Ogden implored again. “Drop the flower. That’s all they want."
Cindy looked down, brought her hand up and unclenched the flower. She stared at it for a moment, and then let it fall from her grasp.
The officer pulled his weapon away, and relaxed. The officers on the platforms floated away from the trio. The one who shot the gel at Charlotte hit a button on his console that immediately triggered the gel to dissolve.
Cindy immediately turned and ran to her mother. Ogden met her there, pulling his wife out of the dissolving green goo. All three, trembling, embraced each other.
About this time, the tranquil blue skies above changed to a harsh brown haze. Ogden glanced up and knew that the holographic image of blue skies had been turned off. Now, the real skies beyond the glass dome that protected this reserve were making its presence known. Also, he could see the source of the wind: several strategically placed super fans attached to the side of the dome.
“What is the meaning of this?” a voice boomed over the Field.
Ogden, Charlotte and Cindy cast their frightened eyes toward the huge, three-dimensional head that was glaring down upon them.
"We have a 67321-4 violation, sir: the illegal removal of a flower from its stem,” the officer on the ground reported
“It’s him,” Charlotte said under her breath. “Adam Eden.”
It was, indeed, Adam Eden, the Flower Czar, as he was known to the populous. Actually, he was the Interior Minister of Natural Resources, as well as head of the Environmental Law and Forestation. He oversaw everything and anything that had to do with the diminishing natural resources. In these days, he became the most powerful man on the planet. His words were the law, especially when it came to protecting the environment, natural fauna and animals. Even presidents, dictators and prime ministers bowed to his words. The flower domes, in particular the Field, was his specialty; it was his creation, his hope for a return of a precious resource to a dying planet.
“We have a 67321-4 violation, sir: the illegal removal of a flower from its stem,” the officer on the ground reported.
“Which one was it?” the head asked.
“The girl, Mr. Eden,” the officer said. He pointed to the ground by Cindy’s feet. “And there’s the proof.”
The head strained to see the flower on the ground: “Yes, indeed.”
Then, those blue ovals for eyes rolled toward the father, mother and child: “This is a very serious offence, I hope you understand.”
“But,” Ogden whimpered. “She’s just a child.”
“Just a child?” Eden inquired. “Still a child should know better.”
“She just loved your creation so much that she wanted to have one for herself,” Ogden implored, even if he knew it was a lost cause to argue with Adam Eden.
Eden ruminated for a moment before he made his answer: “Innocence without knowledge. That’s why the forests burned, the plants withered and the world turned to dust.
“You were told the rules, just as your innocent little child was. And, you violated it.”
Ogden began to tremble. Charlotte let the tears fall. Little Cindy cowered before openly weeping.
“What shall we do with them, Mr. Eden?” the officer on the ground asked.
Adam thought for a moment, then, narrowed his enormous eyes onto the family: “There’s only one thing that must be done.
It had been an hour, but it felt like days for the three before they were ushered to the door. The pressurized door hissed as it unlocked. From a compartment -- with the title “lodge” emblazoned on the door - the Dupree family ventured forth onto the brown, featureless sand dunes. They wore their protective gears and breathing apparatus and stared at the dead world behind protective plexi-glass face shields.
Their heads were cast down, ashamed of what had happened to them. Silent and morose, Ogden took the first step into a familiar world. The two soon followed.
“So that’s it,” Charlotte said through a microphone connected to the mask and shield they wore.
“Yeah, that’s it,” he said, “Banned for life.”
Charlotte glanced around: “So this is the rest of our life.”
They trudged through the sand, passing by the relics of the past. Nearby was a fallen sign that said “Welcome to San Francisco.” Not much of a welcome, he thought.
Sprouting from a small mound, a poppy with bright orange petals greeted them.
They continued their trek toward the dirty white dome of the city they lived in. In doing so, they started across the cracked and baked Earth of what was once the San Francisco Bay. The walk was easier than the sand dunes they came from, but the distance was agonizingly long and the heat was nearly unbearable.
Cindy glanced to her side. She thought she saw something odd in the bleak landscape. Her eyes locked onto it, and she screamed with delight. Not even the face shield could contain it.
“Look!” she cried. She pointed toward the dry bed floor.
Ogden and Charlotte peered in the direction and stopped cold in their tracks. Sprouting from the crevice of the dry Earth was a with bright, yellow flower.
Ogden gasped, seemingly forgetting to take a breath. Charlotte tried to say something, but couldn’t. And little Cindy watched it with bedazzled eyes.
Am I seeing this right? Ogden thought. Was it really there, growing without the synthetic “fresh air,” the engineered soil and the fan produced wind? It couldn’t be!
But, there it was, defying everything he was taught about nature. It was growing, unprotected and without the help of humanity. It was truly a wild flower.
“Honey, whatever you do,” he said, placing his hand on his daughter’s shoulder.
“I know, daddy, she said. “Don’t pluck it from the soil. Or Mother Nature’s no more.”
And with that, the three admired the flower, before heading off to home, leaving it to be free. Cindy was more cheerful than before. Charlotte managed to smile. Ogden, looked up at the sky. It was going from tan to dark orange and brown haze, indicating that the day was coming to an end. For a moment, though, Ogden thought he saw something different up there; a sliver of clear blue skies, infused with a ray of hope.
He smiled. Maybe things are going to get better, he thought, maybe there’s some wild still left in this well ordered world, after all.
© 2017 Dean Traylor