Author : Salli Shepherd
People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. ~Iris Murdoch
Pothilas set his briefcase down on the hallstand and paused to appreciate the afternoon light that lent his white-on-white decor an almost sanctified air. The apartment was warm, he realised. Too warm. He hung up his Directorâ€™s robes and hurried toward the biotank in which Sverta lay limply, sunk deep in her fluid, her tubes and filaments rustling. The sun was unseasonably hot, and it wasnâ€™t as though she had the freedom to shift away from its glare. He frowned and closed the drapes.
â€œSorry. Stuck in a Board meeting.â€
Kneeling to adjust the tankâ€™s temperature gauges and filters, Pothilas shook his head. Had he really just apologised? When he was satisfied that no damage had been done, he sat on the nearby sofa, studying Svertaâ€™s vestigal nostril-slits and the smooth concavities where eyes might have grown. It was difficult to regard these new GenMods as little more than glorified tomato-bushes. Which was the whole point of them, really, but even he had to admit there was something inherently disturbing about the FructaFille prototypes.
The concept of the GenMod “companion plant” had been a stroke of genius on his part, and largely responsible for Pothilasâ€™ rapid rise to the Directorship. GenCorp was banking on the thousands whoâ€™d happily part with a yearâ€™s salary for the sake of fresh produce and something semi-responsive to care for, when the alternative was standard ration synth-biscuits, mechpets and solitude. The World Genetics Council had finally decreed the experiments sound and classified the FructaFilles as plants, despite their features. Though perhaps those should be toned down somewhat; heâ€™d talk to the Techs tomorrow.
Reaching forward, Pothilas plucked a ripe fruit from one of Svertaâ€™s thicker tendrils. As he did, a spray of red flowers unfurled along her trunk and shoulders. Of course the way she quivered and blossomed at his touch could be nothing more than an animal– or rather, he amended quickly, a vegetable– reaction. Svertaâ€™s tendrils stroked his chest and flower-buds burgeoned on her skin, bursting moments later into full display. Her perfume was unusually rich and heady today. Pothilas felt almost giddy with it as he bit into the fruit.
â€œDelicious, my dear.â€
Where the swell of a womanâ€™s hip would begin, Svertaâ€™s trunk branched into the root-ball from which she fed on nutrient-rich fluids below. Pothilas found himself wondering what it might be like were GenMods permitted fully-formed bodies. He frowned again. Clearly, heâ€™d been too long without proper female company. Brushing Sverta’s vines aside, he hunted through sofa cushions for the neurophone unit.
That night, as he spent himself inside an elegant woman whose company per day cost one thousandth of a GenMod FructaFille, Pothilas groaned and clenched his teeth, his mind filled with a red dazzle of flowers. Sverta, in an adjacent room, drank their pheromones through her pores and swayed to the measured rhythms of the Earth, while bloom after bloom flourished on her body like fireworks in slow-motion.