Author: A.M. Miles
Somewhere in the Amazon Desert, a cactus bloomed in a fractured riverbed.
Cara couldn’t take her eyes off it. Vibrant, cool pink in a sea of dead, ruined red. A single flower with head held high to the raging sun, defiant and unapologetic. She ran her cracked fingers along its petals, and the sensation was alien—smooth, soft, welcoming.
“Bacon, the fisher was right.”
Her daughter, carried on Cara’s back roused. “Mommy?” Her arms were strapped across Cara’s shoulders in a harness to keep her from falling.
They’d met the fisher on the coast of what used to be Suriname, living on a desolate beach of endless sand dunes, watching over an Atlantic filled with the acidified corpses of reefs and the bones of fish colonies. He’d told them of something miraculous; of life in a dead desert.
“It’s a flower.”
Bacon opened her yellowed, sunken eyes. “Where?”
With a grunt, Cara bent to her knees and unstrapped Bacon from the harness. The girl collapsed.
“You’re okay,” Cara said, and took her into her arms.
She brought her daughter closer to the flower’s brazen pink and motionless gaze to the sky.
Bacon’s arm, made of twigs with jaundiced stretches of skin bandaged around bone splayed out before the flower. Her glowing blonde hair had turned to straw in both colour and texture. Her knees had started protruding out, heads to the sharp pins that were her legs, and her belly had become bulbous and large. She was balding. She was twelve.
“It’s right here, Bacon.” Cara brought Bacon’s head further up, closer to the flower, and pushed her towards it like she was an offering. “It’s right here.”
Shaking, Cara pulled their mud-caked water bottle out and unscrewed the cap, begging Bacon to drink. No drops came out against her fissured lips.
It was incredible, in a devastating way, how fast water became ephemeral—how fast civilisation did. There had been a century of warnings, and then, within a year, collapse. In January, Cara was preparing to defend a murderer in court. In December she murdered a 17 year-old boy for food.
She still remembered the first messages and posts on social media when it began. Runaway ecological collapse. To be so blind.
“You wanted to see one, and I found it. I did.”
Bacon spoke small, smothered nothings. So small her mother couldn’t hear them. It was only her lips moving in slow motion, pointed towards the unrelenting sun.
“Please look, Bacon.”
Bacon turned her head by only a few inches, and even that made her whimper. Her eyes struggled up to the flower. An eyelash snapped off and lodged itself in her eyelid. She didn’t wince, and Cara couldn’t find the energy to fish it out.
“Can you see it?”
Bacon’s lips moved, but again there were no words.
“Please tell me you see it.”
Her fingers twitched against the puzzle piece of riverbed dirt, her nails long since fallen off like leaves in mythologised Winters.
“Mommy,” Bacon said, then stopped.
Cara rubbed her thumb across her daughter’s cheek. Bacon’s eyes wobbled, and saw nothing.
And Cara didn’t cry, because there was nothing left inside her that could.
She pulled the pistol from her belt and turned it over in her hand. Checked the cartridge, and was satisfied. It was a simple decision—she’d made up her mind months ago.
The crack of man-made thunder rang out for miles, and as fast as it came, it vanished.
The cactus continued to bloom.
As thoughtful and powerful as the title says.
That hit hard. Excellent piece.
The author’s rage against the current state of affairs is palpable here.
Woah, that was devastating… such relentlessly intense imagery… ‘Her knees had started protruding out, heads to the sharp pins that were her legs, and her belly had become bulbous and large’. A more pointed warning we couldn’t hope to have 🙁