Author : Suzanne Borchers

The hot breeze whispered through the sparse vegetation around their home. Heat waves rose choking Sybil’s lungs with the acrid fumes. She knelt on bruised painful knees in her garden and began digging up tufts of clay with her torn fingernails around each of her newly sprouted vegetables. “Breath and water, my babies,” she voiced silently. When the soil was broken around the plants, Sybil sprinkled her precious water around the stems. “I’m sorry there is so little.”

Sybil awkwardly stood up and swayed. She lifted the dregs of her ration of water to chapped lips. Closing her eyes, she held the sip of liquid in her mouth and was transported in her mind back to her garden on Earth.
For decades, Sybil had been the community’s master gardener before the final storm. Her garden had boasted a myriad of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. The soil was fertile, the sun was warm, and the rain satisfied every thirst—heaven.

Then a storm of humanity had overrun the resources of their plot of land, tearing up the plants and devouring the reserves of water. The war had left behind starving, thirst-crazy, two-legged animals stripped of their thin veneer of civilization. Sybil hid in a closet, biting back wails at her loss. She silently stitched the last of the seeds in her robe’s lining. “I will protect you,” she whispered.

Her community had foreseen the need of a ship and had traveled as far as their fuel would allow away from Earth and the ravages of war.

Unfortunately, even though this planet had a breathable atmosphere, its temperatures were extremely hot. Rain fell infrequently and most of what the clouds would have provided was sucked dry by the low humidity and evaporated before touching the parched ground.

Sybil rarely spoke aloud in order to conserve the minute swallow of water she allotted herself. Her plants might eventually feed the few community members left. These struggling plants heroically sending down their roots for nourishment might even produce water for her community. Sybil was the master gardener. She was the mother who sacrificed for her children, willing them to grow and live. Her eyes blurred. These babies were her last. There were no more seeds.

“Sister Sybil,” Father Dom touched her shoulder.

Sybil’s body shook and then turned to him. She bowed her head in respect.

“We are leaving now. Our ship has renewed its fuel supply from here and we are pushing on to look for a more habitable planet. You must leave these pitiful plants behind and come with us now… Sister Sybil?”

Sybil had turned away from their leader and studied her children. She was their mother. How could she desert them? Her life was in these last seedlings.

“We are taking the last rations of water with us. You must leave.” Father Dom gently took her hand. “Come with us, Grandmother.”

Sybil kept her back to Father Dom, and pulled her hand away. She dropped to her knees in her nursery.
“I will water them with my tears,” she whispered. “I am their mother.”

Sybil heard the rush of sound as the ship left.

Her tears watered the sprouts for an hour.