4: Jonny Budd
4: Charlotte Bunney
4: Jack Cooper
The Devil eats flies
I came to the meadow at dawn, and sat with the buttercups. If you hold the corolla under your chin, your skin glows yellow, and according to the virtual assistant this means I like butter. I play with them absentmindedly. It seems strange to call them wildflowers still, when there are no wilds left. Standing to leave, I rotate my wrists ninety degrees, and the picked flowers reattach to their stems.
There are cornflowers growing beside the hedgerows, violet bleeding into cerulean. Blue used to be the colour of divinity. Ancient Egyptians ground lapis lazuli to adorn Pharaohs’ tombs, and the eyes of Cleopatra. Blue was in nature, not in man. This is no longer true. Having spent decades under hazy orange, a blue sky would cause more concern than comfort. Our buildings are saturated with it in an attempt at calmness and serenity.
The edge of the footpath is studded with silverweed and shepherd’s cress. I suppose we still call them wildflowers as an acknowledgement that they were suited to country lanes and woodlands. They’re too subdued to compete with our cityscapes. Rose/grows are almost indecent; open and available in every style, shape, and colour. I make a point of having a traditional selection, keeping modern plants to real/world.
The only meadows I’ve been in have been rendered. After most of the natural world had been built over, we decided to cut our losses and give up on conservation. Now we focus on providing authentic experiences in silico - better to do one thing well, than many second-rate.
I immerse for thirty minutes a day, sixty at weekends. Each meadow is different. The colours and species are calculated to perfectly fit your preferences, and you can always personalise with more avant-garde items. My company gifted me violets for ten years of service, but I hid them under the hedgerows for having petals shaped like our logo. Very tacky. I could have just deleted them, but it felt wrong somehow. Wasteful.
Walking to the forest edge, I noticed purple where there had been grasses before. I recognised it as lavender from hand soap packaging, and knelt down to take in the scent. I breathed deeply, but smelt nothing. It was so easy to forget this wasn’t real/world.
To my left, a bramble bush caught fire. “Your session is complete.”
With each word, the flames pulsed a little. “Are you ready to leave?”
The virtual assistant’s avatar was someone’s idea of a joke, an obscure reference. I suppose it was easier to animate than a face.
“No” I said, quietly. “I think I’ll stay a while longer.”
The flames dipped in what I took to be a nod, before extinguishing, leaving the bush untouched.
I came to the stream flowing along the verge of the forest. I never bothered asking for information on trees. They had never interested me as much as flowers. Bulk and magnitude were common enough in my homecity - I found delicacy more compelling. The stream was bordered by pebbles, which clattered when I lay on them.
Dawn transitioned to dusk, and fireflies appeared above the water. We were lucky to have isolated the substance they use to give light, before they went extinct. It works wonderfully in children’s toys, giving a sparkle or a glimmer when it isn’t safe to use electricity. The fireflies started flickering, and I saw they had become points of fuzzy light. The servers were under high demand. I touched my index fingers together, and air was empty. I watched the water.
4: Nick Smart
4: Sarah Spencer
4: Simran Uppal
Trees look opaque until the sun moves behind them
and a circle of leaves turns into a halo and
before-sunset gold sprays out like a sprinkler flame.
On the other side of the garden small leaves
are silhouetted against the pastelling sky
saturated pale blue behind them
shadowed green fragments in a layer
gold falling on the green, hazy sunlight-gilded.
I napped for two hours, woke before the golden hour
a while before sunset sunk blearily in duvets.
I went outside and the evening sunlight kept me warm,
air and grass against my skin held me half-woken up.