Working With Prudence
Prudence started her career as a botanist well before she earned her degree in botany. She was always fascinated by the life in foliage, especially interested in the life and behavior of trees.
It was a time in the world when energy supply was at critical levels of depletion. Animals became inutile after movements from previous generations to popularize vegetarianism. They were viewed as parasites consuming resources without purpose. Whole species were actively destroyed to make room for the ever growing human population. Some animals survived by scavenging but not many. The word pet was not used anymore and the animals that existed were viewed as feral.
The Communalis Charter Libertatum was established by the global political joint committee For One For All. Although separation of class and wealth still existed, all humans were provided shelter, food, educational opportunities and technology.
There was an international call for submission to provide alternate forms of energy with monetary grants offered and contests held to increase the constantly waning supplies of energy.
The details of FOFA's charter provided for farms to be established for the production of food. Wooded areas were replaced with homes to accommodate the human population and trees that were deemed less useful like redwoods and oak were removed to provide space for food production.
Every child was provided electronic devices to educate, entertain and monitor. Schools were in session remotely. Most careers were accommodated remotely as well. The only reason many people emerged from their home was for social interaction, although with video screens and virtual playtime, many just isolated. Food could be ordered and delivered. Families reverted to arranged marriages and genetic advances even provided for asexual reproduction to fulfill the need of procreation.
Society became sterile. And yet, despite disapproval, Prudence continued her research in the dirt, financing her life by working nights in a coffee shop for minimum wage and tips. With the modest governmental stipend allowed for shelter, she lived in a small mobile home made of aluminum parked in between trees in a forest saving every coin she earned for the day in the future when she would distribute her findings to the masses.
She placed her hand on the steering wheel and the automobile scanned the skin of her palms and fingertips confirming she was the driver. The car pulled energy from the air storing it in cells for later use. The meter indicating the stores read 7/8 full and that was more than enough for Prudence to drive to work.
Prudence backed out from the paved slab with a sign indicating the space was reserved for private use. The sign was unnecessary as no one ever came to the forest in which she lived. She drove over the soil and through trees with the windows of the vehicle open and listened to the howl of the wind and the songs of the trees.
Most did not have the desire to hear the song of the trees. It was common belief that trees are configured with dead celled bark and transpirative leaves, never seeing the life within. But Prudence saw purpose in every function of the tree and she knew that under the bark, there was a living breathing fleshy creature who would sing if nourished and provided the correct balance of breath and hydration. She discovered that as trees age, their inhalation becomes equal to their exhalation providing a service to every other living organism by drawing in the toxins from the air and cleansing it before exhaling crisp fresh vapor. However, by the time she discovered the correlation of breath to age, erroneous information about volatile emissions from trees and wood haze had become accepted as truth. Wildfires were initiated, and teams of fire control units ensured forests were destroyed. Privately planted non-food bearing trees were deemed illegal and unless concealed by high fences, citizens were required to have them removed and shredded for use in particle board making sure residual seeding of the harmful wood would not occur by mistake. Even those with high fences reported and destroyed their trees being fed the propaganda that trees were not only useless for humans but detrimental.
The woods in which Prudence lived was not unlike many other preserves throughout the world hidden in plain sight from those who merely did not want to see. Generally deemed unworthy of habitation, the spaces green with trees and foliage were untenanted by humans. Every now and then a story would emerge about a recluse living in a tree-house high above the ground, accessed by a rope ladder or a bridge made from flexible planks.
Prudence drove until the scenery differed completely from that in which she awoke. The street beneath her vehicle was pitch asphalt. The buildings to her left and right reached high into the sky, housing hundreds of families in an abbreviated surface area.
Prudence waited outside a gate as a light flashed around her car. A screen above the lane into which she drove illuminated with her photograph confirming her identity and vocalized the words, “Welcome Prudence Aqila.”
Prudence turned the steering wheel slightly left and pulled onto a belt that would safely pull her car through the parking lot into her assigned space. She removed her hands from the steering wheel causing the vehicle to power down as the building mechanics would do the remaining driving. When the car was in place, Prudence programed a small panel to allow for the expected time in which she would have her vehicle parked and exited to walk into the coffee shop she would spend the overnight hours for her job.
Prudence worked at a coffee shop located in a building that reached high into the sky containing a factory for the manufacture of the hand held devices, computer screens and projectors for screen-less communication; the kind of work that could not be done remotely.
Prudence stood in a doorway while a light shone over her and another screen illuminated with her photo. Audibly the machine emitted, “Prudence Aqila, checked in for wages.” There was a short pause with a series of high-pitched beeps before it revealed, “Sanitary for work,” and then dimmed again.
Prudence went to work pouring coffee and moving plates of food from a cook's hand to the lunch counter talking with patrons as she was careful to notice cues for refilling mugs and collecting payments.
Screens through the coffee shop played news programs, sports matches and fictionalized stories. The audio was controlled by moving switches embedded in the lunch counter also controlling the small speakers provided at every seat of the eatery. Prudence thought society had become completely distracted by the devices they believed were technologically advanced. Few people who sat at the counter to eat their dinners and lunches mid-shift in the 24-hour operation of the building spoke little more words than were necessary to order. Occasionally there would be a stranger in the coffee shop, but the primary source of patronage was the factory housed in the building.
Two men sidled up to the counter wearing an unusual amount of layers. Each wore a hat, one a trilby made from an odd wool-like tweed that had not been fashionable for over a hundred years, the other wore a cap made from a synthetic fabric made to feel and appear like an aged memory of cowhide. There was nothing unusual to Prudence about the individual articles of clothing, but, there was something that struck Prudence as odd.
Prudence took their orders while she disregarded their oddities and found herself interested in their words.
“The dendrophiliacs love the trees,” one said. “It's not sick, it's just not what you love.”
“A tree cannot return love,” his companion retorted. “It's not natural to love a tree.”
The gentlemen noticed Prudence watching their lips as they moved so she could eavesdrop on their conversation from the end of the counter. They motioned to their mugs so she approached them with a pot of coffee.
“Jerome Fosser,” the man said as he placed his hand on his chest. “This is my pal Eugene Vespillo. Interested in dendrophilia?”
Prudence shook her head in and said, “I think it's vulgar and abusive.” And then realizing her tip for service may be dependant on her opinion of people choosing to have a sexual relationship with trees, she went on to clarify, “Personally I don't care how others live their lives; but for me, I would never.”
Prudence took a long heavy breath before asking, “You work in the building?”
“No,” Fosser responded, “We're in the area for work.”
Hoping to change the topic, Prudence asked, “What work do you do?”
Fosser looked at Vespillo and smiled, “We consult with a private council.”
“Consultants,” Prudence said. “I'll bet most of your work is done without ever meeting other people.”
Vespillo nodded as his eyes seemed to smile, “We make a point of making connections with people though.”
“That's great,” Prudence said. “I think I see the same hundred people in here and it makes me sad to think of the billions who never are exposed to natural sunlight or breathe air from the trees.”
“Sounds like you do have an affinity for the trees.”
Prudence smiled and said, “I like the trees.” She paused and then continued, “For their intention.” She winked and walked away from the two.
Prudence peeled off her work uniform and replaced the clothes with a cotton dress that covered her arms and legs. The sun was rising, and she was exhausted from working overnight but knew there was further work to be done. She pulled a journal from a stack of books and a pen from her desk. She pulled a key from a hook near the door and clipped it to a silver chain she wore around her neck. She pulled a dark silk scarf from the same hook.
Prudence stepped through the door of her mobile home making sure the lock engaged when she pulled the thin piece of aluminum closed. She stepped barefoot into the soil and closed her eyes to feel the connection to the earth inhaling the air deeply into her lungs. She walked a haphazard path, some steps in soil, some on rocky earth and some on patches of grasses and ivy. She walked a mile from her home and asked permission to sit in the grass.
Prudence fell to the earth and pulled the scarf from her bag. She reached in her bag to retrieve the journal and pen. Thumbing through the journal, she found the space in which she last wrote. She tied the scarf around her face to cover her eyes and picked up the open journal and pen. Prudence hummed a melodious tune. The trees responded in her ears with their own song. She wrote feverishly in the journal words that she did not know existed. The energies that danced through the air invigorated her fingers and the notes she made filled page after page as the sound her tongue made pressed against her palette mingled with the song of the trees in the air.
For hours Prudence sat among the trees listening and writing until she grew weak from exhaustion. She leaned back in the grass and dropped the journal to the ground to her left and the pen to her right. She untied the blindfold and lay it across her belly. She yawned; drawing in the fresh air provided by the trees and extended gratitude for her time in the woods.
Prudence rose and collected her things, pushing them into her satchel. She walked a quarter mile to a line of cells she had used to collect energy, so she could record information from the monitors indicating the amount each cell had stored and then walked back to her trailer to sleep a few hours.
When waking, Prudence went to her desk and powered on her computer. She transferred notes from the journal into a data program. She typed the words she was not sure she had spelled correctly that the trees had shared with her. She opened a second computer program to transfer the melodies she recorded into music notes on a staff that appeared on a screen and when she depressed a key on the computer, the machine replicated the sound the best it could. A third computer program allowed Prudence to record the cell readings.
She worked for hours analyzing what appeared now to be data and making notes on her commune with the trees until it was time once again to go to work at the coffee shop.
Prudence received a letter with the official seal of FOFA creating an unease. The letter was delivered by a young boy on a bicycle to the door of her mobile home. He did not speak when she came to the door; only pressed the paper envelope toward her. She craned her neck to see if she could tell by tire tracks from what direction he had come. She did not think anyone was privy to the position of her home. Before she could say thank you, the boy picked up his fallen bike, straddled it and rode off in between the trees.
Dear Prudence Aqila,
It has come to our attention that you not only communicate with the trees, but you have been successful at harnessing their energy. As you are aware, the machines and processes our world uses for everyday necessities and conveniences have dropped our fuel stores to critical levels. It is the duty of every citizen to provide ideas and theories to the For One For All Committee under the regulations of the Communalis Charter Libertatum.
This letter is to inform you that you must bring the research and theories you have developed within three days receipt of this letter. This provides sufficient time to compile the information you believe you have as well as any ancillary materials with which you have worked.
If you fail to comply with this request, a representative from the office will provide transport of any materials found in your home and on your land to the local office for analysis and you will be escorted to a detention center until the materials may be analyzed and determined if you are an asset or liability to the global society.
Prudence only had to read the letter once. She stuffed it into her pocket and walked into the woods crying out to the trees.
“I have to leave.” Immediately, the trees wailed. To the untrained ear it sounded like the wind howling. Prudence however knew the sorrow in the air.
Prudence dismantled the complete grid of cells and then stumbled back to her home. She thumbed through a box of papers to find a phone number and called a man to request a meeting that very afternoon at a place she knew she would one day need to call home. She uncovered an antique truck that was outlawed for its size and fuel consumption years before and then loaded the stack of cells onto the flatbed.
Prudence scoured her house for every electronic device and removed all batteries. She placed every piece of equipment into a cardboard box and took it and lit a match to ignite the box. She watched the plastic pieces melt and the metal pieces curve. There was crackling and popping until she was certain the devices could not be repaired.
Prudence fell to her knees crying in the residual heat and smoke. She could not shut out the sounds of the trees around her sobbing. She apologized over and over and explained that there are casualties in any battle. Unfortunately, her wooded retreat would suffer.
Finally, she picked herself up and walked to the truck. She drove to the location she requested on the phone and then sat and waited.
“I need discretion. My uncle gave me your name and number. I can't emphasize enough how discreet you need to be,” Prudence explained.
“Hey Pru, what’d your uncle tell you? I don't know who you're hidin’ from but I’m not givin’ you away.”
“What about your navigation tracker?”
“It has a scramble on the computer.” The guy explained, “I can turn on and off the scramble so when I'm asked, it's legal. Right now, I have the navigation moving west. I’m tellin’ you, I’m not givin’ you up.”
Prudence explained that she needed to turn a cave of stone into a home in only two days.
“Two. I have to be completely unplugged in three.”
Prudence returned to her car far from her mobile home and destroyed it with another fire. She hitched the mobile home to her truck and drove it to the cave.
The cave was transformed just as she requested. Although it remained a cave, it was a home complete with a door jam and access to the outside using a hinged window piece for screening visitors before she opens the door. The door was the only thing that gave away the abode. Windows appeared to be overhanging rocks and a waterfall was rerouted over the structure to concealed even the telling door.
Prudence emptied the contents of her mobile home into the cave-home and when she was finished, she drove the trailer off a cliff and abandoned the untraceable truck.
It took a full eighteen hours of walking to reach the waterfall again. Prudence fell on to her bed and slept for days waking only to hydrate and empty her bladder.
Prudence lived modestly using the food in cans that she had stock piled in the mobile home for years. She drank only water she collected from the rain and wore only the clothing she owned when she moved into the cave.
She continued her research placing the cells again in the middle of the trees and singing with them daily. Her journals were the record of songs and words. For months she lived in seclusion without the thought of venturing out of her world.
One day, when the winter chill had become severe enough to turn the spray from the falls to ice and she had no more paper on which to write, she decided to bundle her body and walk until she reached the closest town to retrieve supplies in a plastic bin she augmented with a rope to drag her purchases back with her.
Prudence walked for hours and was numb with chill by the time she reached a modest store selling everything a person could want. She loaded her bin and when it was time to pay for the goods, she reached into her satchel to retrieve currency.
The shop keeper said, “You don't see much coin anymore! Folks have been using their hands to pay so long, I think I forgot how to tell if this is real.” The shop keeper held a coin up to the overhead light while laughing.
“Yes ma'am. The thing is, I did some work and this is how I was paid. You do accept money, don't you?”
“Oh sure, we take money,” The shopkeeper said. “I just mean to say it's not a regular thing to see it anymore.”
Prudence laughed and said, “Next time I come I'll have my accounts in order so I can scan my hand.”
Prudence pulled the plastic container from the store and started the trek back to her cave home. She walked until the concrete of the town was replaced with sparse trees that could produce peaches or apples in the summer. She twisted and turned to get back without navigational help to her home in a cave in the shadows of thick tree coverage.
And as she slipped behind the waterfall feeling completely frozen she was pulled to the ground by two gentlemen she did not notice.
Prudence saw their faces only a moment and pressed her memory to recall where she had seen them before.
They were wearing thick coats and hats and wrapped in gloves and scarves. And yet with the cushioning of the winter clothes, Prudence felt their fists punch her face and the steel-toed boots kick her back. She felt her ankle and wrist snap in their hands.
“What do you want?” Prudence cried out, “I have nothing!”
The men did not say a word. Prudence finally fell limp on the ground behind the falling water.
Prudence woke in a hospital bed and quickly closed her eyes so she could listen to the people in her room. There was a team of doctors talking about her broken bones.
“We need to perform surgery to disrupt the clotting agents so that her heart does not burst,” said one. “We make the incision on the ankle to lessen discomfort,” he continued while tapping the intravenous bag introducing fluids to her body.
Another doctor depressed the plunger on a syringe to add a dosage of an opioid analgesic and Prudence fell into sedation.
When Prudence woke, her parents were in the hospital room. Her leg and arm were immobilized. She had bruising on most of her body and she had tubes from her ears, nose and lungs draining fluids from punctured internal organs.
“Pru, you're awake. You're not going back to live in seclusion,” her mother insisted. “You're coming home with us.”
Prudence felt her head throb with the movement of blood though her swollen face. She tried to ask, but her muffled voice sounded as if it made only a groan to her parents.
“Don't talk,” her father said. “I'll get the doctor.”
Prudence closed her eyes again and leaned back onto the bed. She was trying to remember what happened.
Prudence woke in a bed in the middle of the trees. She was disoriented and still could not move her arm or leg. Prudence sat up and looked at the nightgown she wore without recollection of ever seeing the garment before. She closed her eyes and when she opened them, spun her head on her neck to again look at the trees around her. The air was still and dry. It was a space in the forest with which she was unfamiliar. She closed her eyes again, stroking her forehead with her mobile hand, urging the memory of arriving in this space to come to the front of her thoughts.
A tree in front of the bed slid to reveal the image of a hallway and Prudence's mother came through the space to stand amongst the trees.
“Mom?” Prudence was trying to make sense of the images before her eyes. “Where am I?”
“You're home sweetie.” Prudence's mom sat on the corner of the bed. “We brought you home after your fall. I'm not letting you go live in the woods again.”
Prudence closed her eyes tight and opened them again trying to reason the trees she was seeing surrounding her body.
“You've been laying in here for three days. We've been waiting for you to wake up. The doctor told us you won't want to get out of bed, but we can't give you any more sedation. You must get up so your bones can heal right.”
“It looks like I'm in the woods. But I don't know this place.”
Prudence's mom rose from the bed and walked to the same tree that slid for her to come close to the bed. Again, the tree slid from the space and Prudence's mom walked out to what appeared to be a hallway beyond the tree. She made a motion hidden from what Prudence could see and the room was transformed into a traditional bedroom showing clean white walls hosting family portraits, a closet with shoes, clothes hanging on hooks, and even a window allowing the sun to shine through gossamer curtains.
“You're home,” Prudence's mom said as she closed the sliding door, walked to the closet to pull a dress indicating non-verbally that the expectation was for Prudence to dress and come from the room to be a part of her family again.
Prudence complied and when she opened the door and stepped into the hallway, she recognized the apartment to be the same one in which she was raised. She sighed with the first step of her bare foot onto the tile floor, dragging her limp leg behind her to the living room where her parents were being entertained separately by two different computer screens.
A buzz startled Prudence. Her mother looked at her father as they both frowned. Her mother rose to receive the visitors at the door.
“Prudence Aqila please,” one of the gentlemen who stood at the door belted out into the room.
Prudence looked at her father for a clue. There was nothing that she could discern. She screamed internally but saw the frown of internal discord instantly forgave whatever it was her parents had done.
“Yes?” Prudence did not rise but cocked her head toward her limp leg indicating that she couldn't.
The gentlemen sat on the sofa and explained how resources were diminishing and how the population was growing. They outlined the need to allow procreation and the necessity of every citizen to share their thoughts and theories on energy production.
Prudence sat confused. She was certain this group was the cause of her attack behind the waterfall. She remembered the full incident in the few moments she lay still in the simulated forest bedroom. She recalled the faces of the two men from the coffee shop pushing her down and beating her. Easily they could have broken the wooden door to the cave and retrieved her research. She remembered the transport to the hospital falling in and out of lucidity. The same two gentlemen were driving her as she lay flat on a gurney in the back of a medic van. And in the hospital, when she woke from sedation, the doctor her father called in to extend discharge instructions was one of those two. Surely, she thought, they must be a part of the people looking for her research.
Prudence's mom said, “Sweetie, we found this in your pocket when we went to the hospital to pick you up.” Her mother unfolded the letter Prudence received indicating she would need to turn over her work.
“My work was destroyed in a fire.”
“We saw the remnants of the fire. We also found your mobile home and the shell of your car. We know where you were living for years. We haven’t been able to determine where you were living after you destroyed your home. We assume you have the findings of your work there.”
“I've been living here. You can search the apartment; but honestly, I don't know what information you believe I have.”
The second gentleman took a more stern approach. “Ms. Aqila, we know you have been working to harness energy from trees. We don't know how you pull it into the fuel cells. We also don't know if the amount of energy will be a solution to the current energy crisis or if the resources spent to care for trees exceeds the value of potential fuel. If you do not have any tangible proof of your work, you will be detained until the intangible information can be extracted. The letter you received gave you three days. We’re here to give you one chaperoned day to comply.”
Prudence's mother had tears streaming down her face.
The gentlemen in the apartment moved out the front door and two other men armed with weapons moved into the apartment.
Prudence continued to sit without words.
For the remainder of the day, the armed men followed Prudence with every movement. She did not have a moment alone. They were in her bedroom when she changed into pyjamas and flipped the simulator to create trees in the room again while she lay in bed.
Prudence placed the pillow over her eyes as she cried silently. She was conjuring ideas all day how to leave the apartment and get back to the cave so that she could retrieve her journals and start over again in another space. She felt the pain in her leg and felt the absence of feeling in her arm. She knew even if she did get out of the apartment, she would never be able to navigate her way on a hobbled leg to the cave.
In the morning, Prudence was taken to a detention center having said no words to lead FOFA to her research.
For months she sat in the cell. Her arm and leg healed. The cuts and bruises from her attack disappeared completely. Daily, she met with a psychiatrist to determine her emotional state and receive a plea to share her data with the government. She was told the trees would be compensated for their efforts in the energy crisis and she would be paid handsomely. Prudence did not waiver.
And then on a night when the air was warm and she felt discomfort on the cot in her cell, she felt a stabbing pain in her leg and heard a faint buzz. Prudence sat up and rubbed her fingers along the ankle of the leg that had been broken. There was a scar that seemed to pulse beneath her skin. The pain was not unbearable but remained a discomfort.
Weeks passed with the same activity. She was cared for physically in the detention center and given necessities to survive. Periodically her leg would throb with pain just before she heard a faint buzzing. She knew something was in her ankle. She tried to tell the psychiatrist who negotiated giving her an internal scan if she turned over her research with the trees. She did not give in.
Months went by and when her father came into the detention center to make a plea for Prudence to turn over her research. She asked for a pen and notebook suggesting she would write down everything from her head - the only record she claimed existed.
“You will write your thoughts and remain in detention until theories are confirmed with engineers. Do you agree to these terms,” the psychiatrist confirmed before giving prudence the journal and pen as requested?
Prudence took the pen and paper in her hands and wrote one sentence before taking the pen and plunging it into her ankle ripping it through her skin and up to her thigh. The psychiatrist pulled her hand with the pen away from her body. Prudence kept her grasp on the pen and swept her hand up to her neck stabbing and severing her carotid artery causing blood to spew over every person that was in the cell with her.
Prudence fell to the floor and the journal she had in her hand followed. When her father picked up the book, he read the words silently, “I will not be the cause of their abuse.”
Prudence was buried in the ground without a coffin. The only people in attendance were her parents, siblings and the gravediggers.
“Into the earth, as she always wanted to spend her days,” her father said during her eulogy.
Jerome Fosser and Eugene Vespillo removed soil from the earth as requested and then moved Prudence's naked corpse wrapped in white linen fabric tied with plant roots as her parents thought she would prefer.
“Mindful of all things natural,” he father described her to the forest as he mimicked what he believed was odd behavior asking acceptance from the foliage.
As Fosser and Vespillo moved the turned soil back onto the body, Prudence's family lowered their heads and walked to their vehicles knowing the time they had with Prudence was at an end.
When the family was out of sight, Fosser and Vespillo went to work removing the soil from over Prudence's body and then walked under a nearby tree to sit on the ground.
Vespillo pulled out a small rectangle of glass and dragged his finger along the piece without words. An aircraft came silently through the trees, lowered a claw-like appendage into the earth and pulled Prudence from the fresh grave ascending into the clouds as quickly as it came down.
Prudence woke in another facility where her body was reconstructed. The process took months. She retained the scarring on her leg, but the scar around her neck was almost undetectable.
“My name is Foster and I will help you acclimate to society on this planet,” the man spoke with little inflection as if he had introduced himself to millions of folks and was reading from a script.
Prudence questioned? “Where am I?”
Foster explained the similarities and differences of his world to what he remembered of Earth. He explained pharmaceuticals Prudence would take routinely for survival. Finally her body and spirit were ready for reintroduction into the society.
Prudence was given a tree house in which to live and she communed with not only trees, but with other botanists. She felt a harmony with the planet she now called home. Her life span, she was told, would be as long as the trees for whom she cared.
Prudence was vexed by the trees. They seemed in every way the same as they were on Earth, less one special attribute. Prudence could not, regardless of her attempts, convince the trees to sing. The energies collected in power cells were scant. Prudence knew immediately that without the song of the trees or the joy they emit while communing, the energies would never be enough to power a cell for use.
Prudence tested the exhalations of the trees over and over. Years passed and regardless of the age of the tree the inhalation and exhalation were constant and equal.
Prudence awoke in a start hardly able to catch her breath. She looked at a glass panel near her door where she knew the time was reported and groaned because the screen appeared blank. She had been living on this planet for hundreds of years, waking, taking serums and pills to keep her body virile and her mind astute.
Prudence walked to the blank panel and waved her hand before the screen. It lit up with numbers revealing what Prudence already knew; it was the middle of the night and she should be resting. Prudence inhaled and tasted the stale air from her apartment in the back of her throat. She closed her eyes and inhaled, unable to smell anything but the faint aroma of citric cleansers used for the hallway beyond her apartment permeating the door. She walked into the kitchen and filled a glass with water, tasting the salinity of the minerals as the cool beverage slid down her throat.
She closed her eyes to recall what woke her from her sleep. It was a song. She knew it was a song, but she could not recall why it had disrupted her so intensely.
Prudence let her body fall into a chair in the dark and tried to recall by humming the tune she thought she remembered. Instead of remembering the remaining melody, she remembered the last time she heard the song. It was the melancholic cries that rang into her ears as she burned her computer equipment and retreated into the cave on Earth.
Prudence picked up a glass rectangle that contained every bit of information that she collected since coming to this world. She used her fingers to manipulate the screen and review data in projections appearing in the air around her. Her eyes darted from one number to another. Her eyes read line after line of words without retaining any in her thoughts. She was distracted by the song that she could still hear in her memory.
Aloud, Prudence asked rhetorically, “Why?”
A low hum and a series of beeps occurred.
“Pru? Everything okay?”
Prudence had inadvertently connected to a friend's communicator.
“Cy? I'm reviewing data.”
“Always working,” Cy said.
“Can I ask a question that I'm not sure why I never thought to ask before?”
“Why are there botanists here? The only botanical creatures here are ones that have been replicated from species found on Earth.”
“Pru,” Cy explained, “When I first got here I was told that the best of the best humans from Earth were brought here to work on advancements without bureaucracy to impede said advancements.”
Prudence was dumbfounded. “Advancements to be used for what?”
“Earth. We're making things better on Earth.”
Through a series of verbal commands, Prudence closed all applications and projections from the glass rectangle and placed the device on a table. She looked at the dormant piece.
Prudence lifted the glass of water from the table and as she felt the water wash over her palette, she had a thought. She said the word, “Cy” and the glass rectangle sitting idle on the table buzzed with activity again.
“Yeah, it's me again. This time I meant to call out for you.”
Cy begged with a groggy voice, “Can we talk in the morning?”
Prudence ignored his question and just spoke. “They don't sing because they've had no experience.”
Prudence's co-worker sat quietly. But Prudence spoke to work out the thought aloud. She spoke for her ears to draw in the words.
“A seed pulls in nutrients and judges time and temperature before splitting open to push out and create a root system. It's sometimes years before a sprout appears in the soil. But when it's ready, the sprout begins growing bark to protect it as it matures, learning how much to sway in the wind while the bulk of its trunk remains close to its roots. Without that knowledge of flexibility in the elements, there would be a rigidity causing it to break instead of bend.
“It's just like people. People wanted to sterilize the experience of living but eliminated so much life from their days that they are just replicants. People need the dirty experience. They need to give and take anger as well as joy. They don't need the best of everything; just like the trees, they need exposure, so they can build up their protective bark. Because when the communal song of joy emerges after the trials of life occur,” Prudence's thought lingered in silence around her. Her communicator flashed a green light indicating it remained connected to the call with Cy.
“The power does not come from all emotion. It comes from the release of joy. And the greatest joy comes from the anguish to which it is compared. Sprouting of buds in the Spring occurs after the fight to keep warm through the Winter.” The thoughts were furiously piling up in her head and her mouth was not working quick enough to translate the thoughts into words.
Cy finally spoke but only said the two words, “Tomorrow Pru.”
Prudence nodded silently in response. “End communication.”