Patreon site, but it's still there and earning a modest crust, and I'm returning to putting out new stuff there. And I thought I'd post a bit of something that only the patrons get to see.
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– How far did you travel?
She still smiles, Mona Lisa–style, looks over her shoulder as she asks the question.
– Far enough.
Lena can't think of anything else to say. She is lost in wonder, unprepared by the planters in the antechamber. The smell of earth, of rich sweet things, rich sensuous blossoms, of bark, of sap running from trees, of life continuing regardless. Sunlight filters through geodesic segments and the branches of trees thought completely lost in the Catastrophe.
Oranges. Those are oranges.
A shining blue–green beetle crawls over a branch clad in silken green bark.
A butterfly lands on a bush decked with vivid pink flowers. Lena stares at it as if hypnotised.
Colours. Colours she thought would never exist again outside of pre–Catastrophe photographs. She looks up.
The woman is waiting for her. She smiles still, somewhat indulgently now, Lena thinks.
– It's beautiful.
– Yes. I never thought –
– We are very lucky here.
The sound of life. Running water. A high–pitched series of whistles In a repetitive, driving rhythm. Lena thinks that someone is playing music, and then she thinks how much it reminds her of a recording she heard once when she was a child, and she stares at the woman, her mouth open, questioning.
– We are very lucky here, the woman says again.
The woman smiles.
– You can have an orange, if you like.
Lena shrugs, reaches up and picks one from a low hanging branch. She looks at it, looks at the woman, who regards her coolly with those strange pupilless eyes.
– You peel it, says the woman. Eat the parts inside. Here.
She reaches for the orange, tears open the skin with a thumbnail, prises open the segments and hands it back to Lena.
– Eat, she says.
– Lena bites deep into one side of the orange, and experiences a sort of ecstasy, like sunshine – old sunshine from before she was born, life–giving sunshine – distilled, sharp and sweet and in her mouth, running down her throat. Juice, cool and sticky, trickles down her throat. A single drop trickles down the side of her mouth, and down her chin. She stares wide–eyed at the woman, whose beautiful, chiselled face is cocked to one side, still smiling. Lena wipes her mouth on the back of her sleeve.
She leads Lena further up the path, each turn a new wonder of life. The woman points out cotton and rubber trees, from which their clothes are made; a stream providing a constant source of fresh water; sweet potatoes, coconuts, mangoes.