I inhaled the humid air as I entered the greenhouse, my safe haven. The different plants were all labeled with small stickers indicating their various classifications and common names, but I knew this neat labyrinth as if it were burned into my brain. Stretching my fingers and back with a small crack, I began tugging a huge bag of fertilizer, government-issued and proven to specifically benefit my crop.
Fruits have become unpopular. They lack the solidness of meat, which was also becoming a rarity, and don’t pack quite the punch as some of the superfoods now chemically processed out of basic carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Because of this, my employers are trying to enrich the vitamin content in so-called “weaker” foods, such as the berries and fruits grown in my simulated lush, tropical environment.
I began to work, shifting through soil with my gloved hands, working it like a sculptor. I did not like how the government fertilizer smelled. First of all, I did not know the contents. I had requested to see the ingredients, but the information was classified. Something about the fertilizer curled into my nose insidiously and stayed there, musky and off.
This was unusual for me; generally, I relished the array of scents that I could only get in this small space I had created. The air outside in Avarium smelled only like metal and stone, the city being many miles above the surface of the earth.
Perhaps it was living in a floating city that drew me so closely to the soil. Sometimes, I felt as if I would just start floating into the sky and never be able to feel my feet on the ground again. The earth hung below us with its nutrients and oxygen, and I was jealous of it.
Continuing my work, I examined fruit that had begun growing in small buds. That was when I heard a sharp knock at the front of the greenhouse. Either it was an inspector, my boss or one of the poor street rats who sometimes managed to climb the gates.
I strode over to find that it was the latter: a small scrappy-looking girl carrying a dirty messenger bag. I recognized her. I grimaced and motioned for her to turn away before the knocking came again, sharp and strong against the glass. I cracked open the door, unwilling to let the heat escape before yelling,
“Look, I do not think I can sneak out any more berries for you. Aside from the fact that they are not nearly ripe, they have been counting more harshly lately. I have to provide an accurate record of the exports.”
“No,” she said, shuffling her feet. The poor thing’s voice came out breathless and squeaky.
“I promise it’s not that. It’s just — I saw something.” Her face was sweaty as her eyes darted up, reminiscing.
I sighed, beckoning the street rat inside, and allowed her time to breathe and adjust to the hot air.
“Dead bodies,” she choked out, the words hanging in the air ominously.
“That’s what they are grinding up and putting into the soil, into the parks to grow the trees, into your fertilizer.”