Channie Greenberg and Rusty Lynn

Rusty Lynn
“A Bloomin’ Flower Icon”
Inspiration piece

By Channie Greenberg

Following the apocalypse, when the moon was no longer regarded as a commodious prison, but was lauded as the lone alternative to living on the deadened Earth, Luna’s residents reevaluated their housing priorities. Collectively, they decided it was better to live among the first penile colony’s descendants than on the moon’s more heterogeneous, yet more highly contaminated, shadowy half; The Plague had followed the immigrants.

So, local transfer laws notwithstanding, large numbers of people tried to move from the moon’s Dark Side to its Bright Side. Few succeeded. Those who were able to change places of residence, ultimately, were no safer from The Blight than were the individuals they had left behind. Mere years after a storm of paperwork had glutted the moon’s resettlement offices, and after uncharacteristic overcrowding had compromised the Bright Side, the Dreadful Disease, which cared nothing about location or social strata, fully poisoned the “elite” side of Earth’s only natural satellite.

First, panic persisted. Thereafter, increasing numbers of lunar citizens, on both hemispheres, realized that despite their lack of a remedy for The Epidemic, most of them survived and the majority of them enjoyed improved health. Of the small per cent of citizens that remained stricken, just a very tiny number died. The persons that remained infected simply failed to shed The Germ or simply produced one inconclusive blood workup after another.

Conjointly, the Bright Side and the Dark Side administrations warehoused those contaminated individuals. They placed them in Dark Side sanatoria, where only inmates, who were willing to pay exorbitant sums, were given the orchid treatment known to speed healing.

Bethanny was among the Bright Siders listed for displacement to the Dark Side, but not among the persons receiving the foremost care. Moreover, she was rare in that she managed to avoid being institutionalized; she arrived on the Dark Side not as a prisoner of The Plague, but as a sponsored refugee. Her organic chemistry professor, the one with whom she had long since taken a correspondence course, had offered her “lodger” status.

That same teacher cautioned Bethanny to reveal nothing to anyone about the glitch in the government’s software that had confused the young Bright Sider with another citizen by the same name. Accordingly, although Bethanny’s wounds oozed and her lungs were marred by much scar tissue, she was eventually able to be hired by a Dark Side greenhouse to plant, to prune, and to control weeds, in a building housing the healing orchids.

As a youngster, Bethanny had saved up her allotments of unstructured minutes until she had had enough time banked to visit her community’s library. There, she had delved into all available public materials on fertilizing, on cultivating, and on mulching. Bethanny meant to gain an understanding of green allies and had fancied eventually living in the Verte Nursery District of the Dark Side.

She was fascinated with landscape design and installation, especially as pertaining to Terrascaping. In her esteem, the cultivars of ancestral plants, and the vestiges of Earthly mores, ought not to be the province of a handful of politicians; all lunar citizens needed and deserved both the green things and the ethical configurations that were their Earthly heritage. Bright and Dark, tutored and less-educated, well-to-do and poor, all of Luna’s people ought to be able to come together to reap agricultural bounty and to build social accord. Whether or not her fellow citizens found a cure for The Plague, they still ought to seek a cure for their various social lues. Table grapes and fat oats, voting rights and freedom of speech, alike, belonged to all of Luna’s denizens.

As she grew into adulthood, Bethanny became both more idealistic as well as more focused on her studies. She enrolled in a biopharmacy program, while pursuing both a minor in biochemistry and a certificate in first aid. In her free time, she studied policy making and the oratory of coercion. She dabbled, too, in interpersonal communication theory and in the history of Luna’s social movements.

Prior to being stricken by The Scourge, she had amassed enough tributes to become a Luna-certified herbalist. She had, by the same token, been admitted to Luna’s Green Ideas Party and had become one of its delegates to the moon’s Electoral College. Catching The Malignancy, though, permanently prevented her from receiving her medicinal permit and exiled her from politics. In brief, Bethany lacked the wherewithal to contemplate Earth-type edible and fiber plants. She equally had no energy to protest with activists. Necessarily, she single-mindedly tried to survive.

Thus, after relocating to the Dark Side, Bethany took advantage of her mentor’s network to learn more about plant growth plus to learn more about local group actions. Very limited information had been downloaded onto public vinicultural forums and even less had been made available on sites devoted to redemptive or revolutionary rhetoric. Fortunately, the professor’s university access included points of entry into the entire system, which, in turn, enabled Bethanny to glean the best ideas about the science of farming and about contemporary cases of insurgence. Because of her advisor, she was able to gain admission to many parliamentary data arrays. Thus empowered, Bethanny developed stratagem for fighting wilt and despotism, and for overcoming both botanical and municipal troubles with graft.

Bethanny encouraged her sponsor to publish those ideas in her sponsor’s name – the moon’s elites might heed a scholar in instances in which they would never attend to the notions of a known evacuee. Cultural norms wouldn’t change just because Bethany had an insight or seven about how to use alliums to heal other plants or about how to use tiny pieces of wire to hold together budding scions. Society would not stand still in anticipation civil resistance that a welfare recipient deemed therapeutic.

Whereas Bethany regretted her unearned herbalist certificate and still wished to serve among the workers making the plant-based Epidemic-countering injections, she appreciated being able to contribute to botanical research. Correspondingly, whereas she had reveled in being part of the public face of a political party, she was content to impact collective behavior from a distance.

Had Bethany’s patron not caught The Sickness from her, Bethany would not have sought work and would not have been discovered. Formulating from a terminal in her host’s house had been lonely, but useful.

In fact, as Bethany’s patron was being loaded onto a gurney, she bid Bethany to stay home. Had Bethany not tried to pay for orchid-based treatments for her teacher, she, too, might have survived.

With her defender in need of the expensive treatment, it seemed correct, to Bethany, to seek work at a greenhouse. The young one’s skill set and political ambitions directed her along that route. In balance, she lacked the vision needed to prepare immune-boosting tinctures. Orchids were culled at night. Bethany, like all expatriated Bright Siders, suffered from achromatopsia. She could not acutely discern among objects in dimly lit spaces nor could she accurately discern among ideologies in dimly lit societal convergences.

Additionally, Bethanny needed camouflage since she remained Sick. She tried to cover the facial flares she sustained from The Illness, with frequent trips, at odd points during her shifts, to the loo. She hoped her teammates would believe that her peculiar colorations were dirt, not antibody fragments, and that they would pay no notice to the social dogmata she unwittingly seemed to be sloughing.

When in the loo, Bethany fantasized about using her bare fingers to dig her fallen hair, and other bits of her fallen detritus, out of the bathroom drain. She daydreamt, too, about leading a peaceful protest down her town’s main street. As it were, she merely pushed the sink’s swill level and then pulled the cord that released a disinfectant wash. She merely envisioned being part of the cooptation of the government. Bethanny never touched the small pieces of her body that fell loose while she was working. She never messaged the other rebels of whom she was aware.

Upon returning to her work table, Bethanny would try to inhale the spicy fragrance of the beautiful orchids that she passed. She pretended to herself that she benefited from her minute time under the false sun that warmed those flowers’ heads. Although antinociceptive and cytotoxic in nature, those Orchidaceae and Rasna not only paid her workplace’s utilities, payroll, and more; they kept haves and have-nots apart.

Likewise, whenever Bethany recited, to herself, records of civil disobedience, she pretended that she had participated in those acts. She tried to envisage how it would feel to brazenly oppose unjust leaders.

It was ironic that the orchids, those sun lovers, had to be harvested at night. It was paradoxical that Bethanny, who needed their juices, could utilize none of their healing power. In parallel, it was incongruous that the antiestablishment regime was peaking while Bethany was locked up in a holding cell of anonymity. She was eager to help propagate the nonconforming movement’s ideas and supposed herself able to help synthesize the shifting of the moon’s governance.

Two years after she had begun working at the greenhouse, and more than a year after her professor had recovered and then had returned home, Bethanny was promoted. Although she still was not permitted to help make the orchid-based medicine, she was entrusted with horticultural-related tasks involving more skills than sweeping the floors and burning the trash.

Around the same time, someone in a clandestine political group had surreptitiously contacted her. Their communication came in the form of a chalked symbol on the doorpost of her sponsor’s home. A somewhat flagged Bethany became reinvigorated.

The problem was, the asylum seeker made a serious mistake. She continued to engage in her habituated lingering in the orchid chamber. Inevitably, her boss caught her loitering and maligned her for not running to tend to the plums and almonds to which she had been tasked. That overseer reprimanded Bethanny that young plants, lacking adequate pruning, fall over. Trellising is necessary, but insufficient, that superior continued, for growing spliced lives.

Bethany stood quietly. She neither cried out nor in any other way contradicted her employer. In social control, too, collective behaviors that failed to get lopped to manageable proportions seemed to grow strong, but proved to be frail. Historically, much unrest had easily been put down by sagacious existent powers that let opposing, charismatic leaders be subdued by those leaders’ followers. Selecting headship always dictated some manner or another of cutting away.

The boss stared at one of the “smudges” on Bethanny’s face. Next, she punched some numbers into her communicator and then hastily left the orchid room, saying nothing more to the girl from the other side.

After watching the manager recede into the depths of the horticultural complex, Bethanny looked out the greenhouse’s glass. Past the horizon, she could see Earth. It was neither in its full nor in its new stage, but in that ungainly phase known as “Half Earth.” Between Bethanny and her view stood town.

Townies sometimes roamed with silver-tipped knives in search of rehomed Bright Siders. In calling to mind the Bright Siders’ former, restrictive arrival policy and in remembering the panic that their ancestors had felt when they had been barred from the Bright Side’s “medical haven,” contemporary Dark Siders had no empathy for well-heeled transplants among them. What’s more, Dark Side police looked the other way when vigilantes eradicated Social Blight. It was whispered that not only plague victims and survivors, but also hapless demonstrators, were removed from Luna’s population by self-appointed players.

Except for Loretta, whom Bethanny suspected was preoccupied raising, trading, and sampling the sorts of weeds not officially grown under the glass, Bethanny’s peers hated both sorts of fugitives. She’d seen JoJo, Andrea, Dhaka, and Meer sharpen their personal weapons on the hothouse’s commercial stone. JoJo preferred a sickle, Andrea a dagger, Dhaka a Kama, and Meer a guandao. Although none of them ever spoke of flaying, of freezing or of burning their victims, when they boasted of their deeds, Bethany’s associates produced a head count.

When confronted by them with greetings or other courtesies, Bethanny had smiled and nodded. It remained true that to alter upsetting realities, those matters had to be brought to their actors’ attention. However, the girl from the Bright Side had had no wish to receive further notice by any of those self-styled enforcers. She analogously did not want to test whether or not they considered mere thoughts and unexpressed passions to be as much of a crime as participation in organizations poised to alter society. It was enough that she was atypically symptomatic with The Disease and with a wish for far-reaching reform. Even if Bethany was possessed of a gain-of-function mutation in both her body and in her personality, such things were best kept hidden.

In the end, her and her professor’s precautions made no difference. Shortly after Bethany’s employer made that special phone call, Bethanny was abducted. Before the Earth set that day, an ambulance came for her.

She pleaded with the medics to leave her alone and, instead, to hunt down the residents that took it upon themselves to be both soi-disant police and managers of the scarce orchids. She was an innocent.

Unluckily, the more she spoke, the more that the ambulance attendants’ eyes glazed over. They quoted that she was guilty of trespass, of impersonation, of attempted larceny, and of treason. They incarcerated her in a nearby hospital. There, Bethanny died.

Between the day of her capture and the day of her expiry, Bethany’s mentor had been forbidden, for unclear reasons, to import orchid-based balms and tinctures for her. Additionally, all records of Bethanny’s social contributions were expunged from the rulers’ computer.

Time passed. Bethanny’s erstwhile guardian published a few more works based on Bethanny’s biological and political findings. Subsequently, the woman built a small greenhouse on private land bordering the Bright Side. It is suspected that the professor spent her retirement participating in one of the multiplying undergrounds.

As for Bethanny’s co-workers, they continued to murder nonnatives, to assassinate dissidents and to tincture the invaluable orchids. Some of those horticulturists married and raised families. Bethanny’s boss continued to supervise the greenhouse. Forty years after Bethanny’s slaughter, that woman was felled by a heart attack.

No cure for The Plague was ever found. Dark Siders and Bright Siders never rebuilt a unified society. New generations of plague victims continued to be born in both literal and figurative locked wards.



Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.