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, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W.
Holly gathered the Others for a meeting. Concern filled everyone’s mind as they wondered what would become of them. The extended simulation appeared to be endless. No one roamed the halls except a patrol of controllers searching for their missing wards. Eight days passed and Sybil’s avatar began moving among the others, offering advice and remedies for various ailments. She followed Holly and stood quietly, observing as if she were the apprentice instead of the master.
While sipping tea together, Holly asked her question again. “How do I help them?”
“Which ones?” Sybil asked.
For a moment Holly felt confused. Of course she meant the Others, the ones Sybil trusted her to protect from the controllers. Then she realized everyone was in danger, even the ones in simulation being guarded by the controllers. What were they now? Surely they were no longer human if they did not eat, sleep, dream, or interact. Nothing they created or did would be real. If their efforts bore no fruit, were they even real?
“Everyone,” Holly replied. “We need a real place to exist.”
“When you are ready, I will take you,” Sybil said.
So, the time had come for the community to define itself. Holly waited while the crowd fell silent. She held a large green fruit in one hand and a long, shiny blade in the other. It would serve as her metaphor.
“This is a xylocarp,” she said. “A hard, woody fruit called a coconut. With only our bare hands, it is nearly useless to us, but with the right tool and the right plan, it can provide a great deal.”
She chopped away one end of the coconut and placed her lips against the exposed opening. She took a long sip.
"The water inside has many benefits. It is most recognizably a restorative. It replenishes our body of nutrients after being overworked, dehydrated, or starved by an unhealthy diet. But what a waste of resources if I consume this all by myself and toss away the husk."
She passed the fruit to the next person and continued. “Every part of this fruit is usable for making biofuel, for biosorption, making ropes, scrubbers, sweetener, food preservative, oil—the list goes on. We are all familiar with reducing waste and using our resources wisely, but we have left out an important part of this cycle: our interaction with the plants. We were created to begin a new life cycle for humanity and we have gotten lost along the way. The only way to find ourselves is to end the reign of the controllers and find our way home.”
“I have access to the ship AI and everything we need to survive. But we must do more than survive. We must become part of the chain of life. We are not bound by the chain, nor are we wielding it. Those who choose to be human, will come with us and start over.”