Cecilia desperately wanted a dog, and her whims were hopefully to be tended to on her birthday, approaching quickly around the corner. When the date arose with a vibrant golden sun, she anxiously awaited the arrival of her to-be lifelong companion. However, instead of getting the promised puppy, she was gently handed a pot filled with an unusual choice of soils and a packet of orchid seeds. Her parents had decided that if she had managed to take care of the plant, she could manage to take care of the puppy. By her next birthday, if there was a blossoming pink flower in the pot, she would be granted such a reward happily. Five years twinkling in her eyes, she looked at the pot as a great opportunity and placed it on her bedside table. She buried the seeds deep within the pot’s gravel and dried bark, and within weeks it began to sprout a stem.
Birthdays and birthdays passed and she never did get that puppy, but on her bedside table was that vibrant orchid. Cecilia had seen ten years when the world changed drastically around her. The pollution levels in the atmosphere had reached an all-time extreme from the careless burning of natural resources. Scientists pronounced the air too toxic to breathe, and people were suddenly confined to their homes with these “air fresheners”. Connection to the outside world was very controlled. The thick pollution blocked the sunlight, and the air became eternally cold. The weekend trips to the grocery store were taken place by food parcels shipped straight to the doorstep.
And yet, even as the time passed and the world around her continued to change, everyday she rose as the smallest fragments of light peeked its way through the smog onto the orchids on her bedside table. Confined to her home with the rest of her family, as they hungered for a recognizable breeze, she would spend the hours gazing as the color on petals danced around the room. The color was wild dashes on a dehydrated, starched palette. So deprived of any vibrancy, she gazed and gazed trying to understand the beauty until she had memorized every color of every shade.
The world lost relationships with their neighbors that even technology could not mend. Her family began homeschooling and her mind was drawn away for years from the flower. But, she subconsciously watered the orchids every weekend as she had done so for her entire life. It was merely another habit in a controlled world.
And then, in this controlled world, a terrible thing began to happen. The world around her began to forget the true essence of color and nature, and all of the hours Cecilia spent gazing at the orchids whittled away to tender moments.
But one Saturday morning that all changed. An alarm clock dragged Cecilia from her slumber and she rolled off her bed, wariness hanging at her eyes. Her glance caught the orchids on her bedside table, and then the mirror. Her eyes the green of grass gently covered in morning dew, with her lip still glistening with drool, she stared at her reflection waiting for herself to blink. She found it curious how she never was able to catch her reflection blinking, no matter how hard she tried to keep her eyes open.
She eagerly began her way to the hallway and down her steps. She felt like something was missing, and then her mind recalled the tone she heard drum through the house on these certain mornings. There was always a doorbell that signaled the arrival of new food parcels, but she must have slept through it today. Her feet pattered on the floor like the last few drizzles of rain after a long thunderstorm. There was a gut-wrenching sob, cut off as Cecilia’s feet crossed the threshold to the kitchen. An ominous feeling waved through her; something felt terribly askew in the universe. Her eyes traced around the room and she found something to be horribly missing: the packages. A news channel blaring on the television across the room announced that the weekly food parcels had been burned in order to provide fuel for the heating in homes. The recommencement of produce would be later determined.
Her young mind comprehended this with a gnarled scream that began to climb its way up her throat. Tears, unbridled, streamed down her face. Her mind raced with overwhelming thoughts that her conscience was not ready to confront. Her hands quivered, and she ran aimlessly around the kitchen, searching for a solution that wasn’t there. Her parents tried to hush her, but she escaped their embraces and ran up to her room.
She sat in her bed, sobbing until her head ached. She didn’t want to starve, and already she felt hungry. But there was no food. No food. No food. Her final tears finally dripped onto her blanket. The week slowly inched by and she spent her hours, once again, staring at the orchids. She had no energy to go downstairs, to attempt movement. When the next Saturday's moonlight struggled to pass through her curtains, her little brother crawled into her room and sat beside her on the bed. Hunger gnawed at her guts in an relentless throb.
“It’s so pretty!” He muttered, entrapped by the orchid’s beauty.
“I know.” She whispered. Her throat hurt.
“I’m hungry.” He began to whine, cutting through the carefully manufactured silence.
“I know.” She repeated. “Me too.” She said, resigned. She began to wonder why he was in here. Without warning, her brother dashed off her bed and made a hasty and desperate grab for the flower. He tore the flower off the stem and stuffed it into his mouth, destroying the only beauty she had ever known. A small fire ignited in her, and she stumbled with the meager remains of her energy. Screeching, she dove after him, stealing the pot away from his small hands. A single thought drove through her mind. I can’t let him eat it, her mind screamed. And so, as her brother’s claws returned to steal away her prize, she stuffed the orchid, roots and all into her mouth. It scraped down her throat and tears brimmed at her eyes. And suddenly her brother’s scratching hands were drawn. Because he had been beckoned away by the loud ringing doorbell.