Fading

It was surprising how few people enjoyed the Botanical Garden. Danny was often alone there, or maybe there were other people around but in different sections – the Amazonian Rainforest or Egyptian Oasis areas, or in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, though these were being regenerated after the recent war. Anyway it was a shame that more people didn’t make better use of Lucerne’s wonderful amenity.

Danny had first met Sophie – with her long arms and legs, black hair and big brown eyes – at the seed fixture, and their date at the garden’s cafe had gone very well; he often saw the green-suited founder of the place, known as The Gardener, strolling around. But apart from some young rascals running between bushes, that was it in terms of regular visitors.

He spotted a new guy strolling along the main path and said hello. The next day he saw him again, and said hello again. The new guy didn’t look too well. Maybe he was recovering from illness and taking a stroll daily for his health. He moved with hesitation and his responses to Danny’s greetings were slow. Danny also imagined that he could be mentally sub-normal, or maybe depressed. He couldn’t enquire about these things of course; it would be considered most rude.

One day the man really looked terrible. His skin was greenish and his greeting was more slurred than usual. Danny said, “Excuse me, are you feeling all right?”

The man stopped struggling to walk and stood beside Danny. He said, “Yes I feel okay, thanks pal.” But this was difficult to believe when he was green and trembling, with froth forming on his lips.

There was a crash in the bushes and some cries for help. It must be those boys mucking about again, thought Danny. They’ll hurt themselves.

The man said to Danny, “Listen pal, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you don’t look so good either. Your skin seems green and you’re shaking.”

“That’s funny,” said Danny. “That’s what I noticed about you. Maybe we should leave this section of the garden; there may be allergens here. Are you allergic to pollens or spores? I suffer from severe hay fever but I’m not sneezing. It could…”

“Look at those caterpillars,” said the man, pointing to yellow and black-striped bugs the size of his thumb. “I’ll bet one touch of those would make you break into a sweat. I picked one up when I was a kid and it…”

Danny wasn’t paying attention to what the man said. His eyes opened wider as the man reduced in intensity, became transparent, and faded away. Was it a trick of the light, or of his eyes? Where had he gone? Was this a joke?

Then he noticed that his own hands had disappeared. A moment later he was no longer in the Botanical Garden.

Danny was back in a bed in Lucerne Village Medical Centre. Misalignment of satellites had caused his signal to break up, and neither his, nor other patients’, virtual retinal projections could be sustained. He was just another client of the centre’s Permanent Life Enhancement unit. He would never walk or talk again, but once the satellites were realigned, he could at least continue to enjoy the garden.

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