Micro-fiction 096 – The Green Man (Myths series)
A tale of an ancient spirit, a ruined planet, of loss and grief, but hope renewed in the Green Man... The Green Man. I remember the berry. It has a greenish, red hue. I’m not sure what it is except a curious reminder of a world lost, of woodlands now consumed, of gardens destroyed by the searing summers and wretched freezing winters of the late 2060s. It is my last day on earth. In my little home I host a small party of close friends, with those of my family still alive. I throw on the only clothes that remain unpacked, a weirdly green-themed ensemble that would suffice for my journey to the stars. “A toast to the man in green,” Sam, my brother shouts, his eyes dark, but always knowing the right thing to say, gathering everyone around. “Give him something to drink!” His wife Aliyah is tearful, but keeping everyone else lively. “Okay, okay,” I hear myself submit to the pressure and grab a beer, make my final words, “Thank you for this surprise party H,” my neighbour and best friend leads the cheering, “no really!” and the groans, “I’m not actually going to say anything,” some cheers, “but I know I’m going to miss you all.” I feel the panic well through me, reaching up to my throat, choking, “you’ve been my life and soul for as long as I can remember. I’ll carry those memories forever.” Out of the corner of my eye I had noticed the berry before everyone had arrived, its tiny, bold shape commanding me to register it from the other side of the room, on the corner in the middle of the bookcase, as I strode across to open the door and allow the first guests in. Finally, as everyone leaves, dragging the levity and the life from my living room, I see the berry again at the edge of my perception and wonder what it is. It looks juicy and tempting, but it should not be there. No such object could exist in a land that had lost its natural world, its forests and its meadows, its connections with our ancient past. I wander over, look at it sideways and pick it up gently, turning it between my finger and thumb, rolling it, feeling its succulent resistance. A sense of loss overwhelmed me.I stagger back and close my eyes.And all around, the trees now lost, Draining life into the soft moss, Rear up, the dappled light playing With the gentle greens all around, And voices of pain, deep within, Emerge distressed, waning, so thin. I sense a command, an entreaty at least and feeling hollow at the thought of leaving my family, my friends, my planet, the red berry appears like a final connection with my world. And so I place it in my mouth And crush it slowly with my teeth; Its tiny juices seep under My tongue to reveal a wonder, A vast breath that flows within me As I watch a figure wading Through the woodland, gently parting Leaves and boughs, to sigh a greeting. My body responds with a surge of fear that bursts my eyes open and I stand for a moment, breathless, trying to clear my head of these entrails of vision. A few moments past, I think, but I’m able to go to the bedroom and pick up my travel cases, hauling them to the front door, ready for the midnight pick-up that would take me to the next station in my life. I wait at the open door, and seeing the descending lights from the heli-craft I turn for a last look at my home, it’s wooden beams, the only ones left in the town, reflecting the light back at me, revealing their ancient imperfections. The heli-craft lands, its silent night engines pulsing at the air, casting dust and dirt all around. I rush towards it, half closing my eyes, thinking of the journey ahead, the years of cryo-sleep, the terra-forming mission which I had volunteered for so many years ago. And as we lift away I see my house, casting its own shadow, creating its memorial to my earthly life. I close my eyes. In that moment a voice rises, Caught in the wind of departure, Wafted up from the distant past, A dry and thirsty rasp, yearning For an age when renewal rang With the seasons and sang anew, But withering now, passing all Into memory, where all must fall. *** I remember the berry. The bold shape and the delicious, forbidden taste of a past that has been sundered by humankind. The terraforming mission to the outer rim of the solar system, to the newly discovered exoplanets is a last chance for us to understand our past, to recreate the Earth of old, to learn from our mistakes. We emerge from the chrysalis of our cyro-sleep and proceed. We unfurl our great machines into the skies, first to control the weather and accelerate the minerals in the atmosphere, then we inflate the oxygen production. We harness vast artificial light reflectors to magnify the beneficence of a sun far distant across the solar system. Next we will land to complete the re-fashioning of this New Earth *** I remember the berry. The bitter fragrance of old life that skittered through my nostrils as I ground the liquid from its skin, the warm stream that eased into my throat, threading down into the chambers of my stomach. Whenever I close my eyes, the feeling consumes me, as I consume it, as though I am the berry, as though I am consuming myself, my life juices seeping into the stomach of a new world. And so it is with hope, it clings To hidden truths, secret fissures, And so too I feel the bruising Across my soul, the ache of grief, The loss that oozes from the skin, But I am surrounded now by Soft greens and dappled shadows too, No mere visions these, here hope grows. *** I remember the berry. It was a perfect, plump hawthorn berry, the last of its kind on old earth, and I carried its life, its spirit with me to this new land. I remember the grief of parting, the loss of my fellows, my friends, my family, but now, here, there are blooms of new life, and no need to keep them closed I open my eyes. Now I am The Green Man. I remember the thousands of years of old earth, and now in this new land the seasons begin again and life is renewed once more. [End] Part of a new series of micro-fiction stories, released as These Fantastic Worlds SF & Fantasy Fiction Podcast on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Vurbl and Stitcher and more. Also on this blog, These Fantastic Worlds. Text, image, audio © 2021 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to Frances Bodiam and Elise Wells, Logic ProX, Sound Studio, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, and Scrivener. More Tales, More Audio There are many other great stories in this series, including: Time Now Artificial Intelligence Clone Complicit Cosmic Hall Righteous Lost Voice Daily Mask The Big Man Ophelia A.I. And a carousel of 10 audio stories from the podcast with information about submissions. Here's a related post, 5 Steps to the SF and Fantasy Podcasts.