Sincerest apologies for the late publish! I have been so swamped and not been able to work on my challenge for over a week! I'm back to it, here we go!
For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I.
Holly could not even remember the names of the old man and woman they visited the week before. Sybil warned her before they left for their visit the old man died the previous night.
She had never seen death or experienced it. She knew what it was, obviously, but no one she ever knew died. Maybe there was a kid who stopped coming to basic lessons, and maybe it was because he died, but she wasn’t sure. She also was not sure what the point of the visit was if he was already dead.
They entered the same chamber as before and the old man was missing. The entire platform was empty; it had been completely stripped. The woman looked even more frail than before. Her eyes were puffy and swollen and her whole body shook when she moved.
Holly tried to concentrate on the new white flowers they used to prepare for the visit. Jasminum officianle, jasmine, a mild sedative Sybil added to a simple green tea. She pre-steeped the tea to reduce the caffeine and added lemon.
Sybil poured hot water over the tea containing the tiny, delicate, white blossoms. While the tea drew, she dropped oil made with the same flowers into the palm of her hand and pulled her fingers through the old woman’s hair.
The gesture surprised Holly. She was only beginning to see the subtle hints Sybil really was an AI. Why was she so loving toward people?
The old woman closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. Her shaking ceased and small tears slipped from under her lashes. Emotion was an interesting thing. It was something children did, but they were taught early to control and overcome it. It was also something Holly fought against and never seemed to be fully free from.
Watching the old woman slowly release her own emotional pain reawakened Holly’s. She thought about the fact that such a delicate woman lived outside the system, outside the care of the controllers, and was left to die. Now her partner was dead. What would happen to her? Would she still want to keep living?
While she pondered this, she looked around the small chamber and for the first time noticed the walls were covered in stunning images. Shapes and tones blended and crisscrossed and tapestries hung with thousands of tiny stitches. The abstract patterns and slight variances in texture reminded her of a field of plants.
“What are these?” she blurted.
Sybil looked up at her and the old woman slowly opened her eyes.
“My art,” she said.
“You created these? What is art?” Holly asked.
“An expression of humanity,” Sybil said.