Nona flicked the match against the edge of the box. The strike ignited, causing light to dance on the head like a ghost materializing from aether, evaporating order into chaos. She raised the stick above her head, stretched her elbow straight, and rocked up to her tiptoes to lift the match as high as possible. As she brought the other hand up to meet the flame, she used the fire to ignite a kerosene mallet, then swept the torch over the bodiless figures gathered below. As the light penetrated deep into their ranks, it washed in the outline of human forms amidst the shadowed darkness of night like a waterline lapping upon the shore: never settled.
Nona could read the horror illuminated on their swollen faces. She could see the pulsing terror throbbing through the crowd, a pale fear accentuated by the monochrome darkness. A contrast as stark as the night surrounding them was to her taunting smile, sadistically draped on her face. Nona waved the torch so that it crackled with dynamism before stepping one foot closer to the ledge.
The provocation was answered only by the dim echo of sound reverberating against the hollow façade of the temple. Nona steadied her stance on the roof line and cemented her position atop the most revered of shrines, a divine tribute by her society to the holiest of plants: Black Eye.
Black Eye is a magical plant, if there ever was one. It was the first species to reemerge after the extinction. Deep black leaves connect to a central purple stalk allowing the petals to shoot out in all directions as they form concentric ovals. An ideal form to soak up precious energy from a sun blotted out by a scourged atmosphere.
Sentried rows of maple trees circle the temple dedicated to Black Eye, standing guard and paying homage to the idyllic form residing within. The temple walls are constructed of formed mulch which has been compacted into columned rooms. The roof is latticed timbers, puttied with mulch paste. On sunny days, the light shines through softly. In the rain, nutrients drip from the ceiling as the mulch liquefies to spread their vital nutrients across the occult shrines filling the sanctuary.
Twigs crunch beneath Nona’s feet as she paces along the roof line while the crowd swells beneath her. She is satisfied to wait as the people fill in to watch the sensation she has created. It is crucial that they should all experience her actions as one consciousness.
Five hundred years have passed since her ancestors first emerged from the hermetically sealed cocoon. A hibernation necessitated by a world that had spiraled out of humanities control. A thousand years since mankind, engaged in a quest to harness the power of nature, rendered the climate inhospitable to life above ground. Eighty generations advanced of a lineage who proved themselves powerless to reverse the wreckage of their progress. A lost society symbolized by a now extinct way of life; condemned by antiquity as a cursed populace whose leaders were powerless to stop the climate’s collapse and whose God was unwilling to forestall their suffering.
When the first humans finally emerged from quarantine, back out into the sunshine, they came upon a world covered in leafy, black plants. Walking out into a young forest of black flora, they were in awe of an organism capable of surviving the inhospitable conditions brought on by Mother Nature. They were in awe of the tranquil beauty that the plants brought to the landscape. How they resided in their space in serene peace, devoid of want, completely satisfied within their environment.
These first humans recalled how their ancestors had been led down a self-destructive path in the name of idealism. How their reverence had failed to guard them from catastrophe. So as they looked out into the world, saw it again for the first time, they thought that there must be a new way, a better way. And so they gathered inspiration from the one physical manifestation of hope available in their desolate world. And so they put the plants in charge.
This is the first of a two-part story. For the second part, click here.
The son of a biomedical engineer and elementary school science teacher, Jefferson Wallace was cast in the structure and form of the tangible world. Growing up in such an environment, he became radicalized by the tenants of order, rule, and logic; a background that propelled him into the dullest of professions: accounting. After nearly a decade, he began writing stories about characters who, unlike him, were no longer burdened by the strict conventional wisdom of our modern world.