Prompt: By the year 2100 Earth’s ecosystem is dying due to a lack of trees. In an effort to combat this, the world’s scientists develop and plant millions of genetically engineered trees. The current year is 2118 and you just witnessed a sapling strangle your childhood pet.
X Y, 2119
Surprised this thing still works… If the emergency battery indicator wasn’t beeping, I’d probably look back through all those stories I wrote… Wasting time Ben, you’re wasting time.
By 2100 the world was decaying, more so than any other time. The ice caps were nearly gone; trees were sparse; the dry season was no longer a season but a lifetime. The leading scientists at the time developed a genetically modified seed that would grow faster than a regular tree, be more colorful, be able to grow in extremely high temperatures, and would produce more oxygen.
Eighteen years they said until they sprouted. Eighteen years is a long time for a dying planet but it was all that we had. I was only ten. A boy. Didn’t know anything about the world except that we all used oxygen tanks to get by and our beloved AC suits and units seemingly were always in need of a repair. But we had hope, finally. The world collectively held their breath for eighteen years…
Twenty-eight years old and I adopted my first puppy. Even though I was nearing thirty, bringing Zylo home felt like I imagined it would be when I was ten. A childhood pet without the childhood. His black spot blurred as he zipped and weaved down the book-lined hallways, rooms, up and down the stairs, then to the sealed backdoor that lead the modestly sized yard I specifically picked out because of the amount of modified sapling were planted there. I wanted air. I wanted real air, not put through a dozen filters or artificially made by a science I didn’t understand.
I put on my ACO2 suit, then put on the smaller, pet-friendly one on Zylo, and lead him outside, sealing the door behind me.
He ran around the sprouted sapling, the lush, shimmering leaves bopping as hot wind blew over them. I stood on the porch and watched as he stopped, inspecting a sprout, putting his nose to its leaf and sniffing, even though smell was practically non-existent once in the suit. Then…
The leaf split apart and veiny, emerald vines ejected out over Zylo. They scrabbled over his AC02 helmet, his suit, down through the air filters and cooling unit in the rear. He started yelping and wailing. I sprinted towards him, but the other sprouts exploded around me, shooting sinewy tar over the grass. It smelled like burnt wood, charred paper. Green-tinged smoke billowed from the grass as I stood helpless while the pet I had just adopted, who I had just started to love, was consumed — not killed, not murdered, consumed — by the leaf. The vines wriggled their way into his pointy ears and up his long snout and life was sucked from him like water from a pouch.
I didn’t know what to do… What I could do… I went inside, took off my suit, and called the local authorities. Who said they would send someone out as soon as they can. They were overwhelmed. I wasn’t the first to call about the saplings.
The police never came, and soon after, their phone services were disconnected. I called my parents, then any relative I had in my contacts, but all the lines were disconnected or busy. I couldn’t reach anyone. I went to the window and looked through the heat-resistant pane and all the houses that stretched down the street were still, except for their yards… They brimmed with vines and leaves, spitting tar on the fences and sidewalks. The vines crawled up porches and doors, down chimneys that were long sealed— A vine slapped my window and I stumbled back, closing the curtains.
I turned on my PC and searched a dozen news websites. Thousands of reports across the globe — SPROUTS RUN RAMPANT; SEAL YOUR HOUSES FROM THE SAPLINGS; DON’T LET YOU ANIMALS OR CHILDREN OUT — screamed for everyone to stay inside, stay safe…
I don’t know how many days or weeks passed until there was a breakthrough on the saplings… It was too late by that point. The saplings were now towering trees, blocking out the sun, foresting houses in their depths. Their canopies shimmered and rained crystallized emerald specks but I knew it was just the burning tar now solid. They might provide more oxygen now but for who?
The breakthrough… The breakthrough… The batteries dying and I’m still rambling.
The scientists used ancient genomes found in an almost prehistoric substance discovered in a 2,000-year-old tree. They took this and cloned it, modified it genetically and technologically, and installed microscopic AI chips within each seed. This made it so that trees would grow by absorbing energy from things that destroyed life and/or caused death. It made sense… Until you realize that the reason the planet ended up the way it did was because of life, because of us.
I don’t know how many of us are left, or how long I’ve been prisoner in my home. I say it’s 2119 but I haven’t a clue. It could be 3119 for all I know. But what I do know is that the filters have lived this long because despite everything, the air is fresher and cleaner than ever before, and they hardly have to work now. Its cooler, too, so the AC unit only kicks on during the afternoons. Soon, it will be a pleasant temperature. But… I haven’t eaten in a few days and the water supply is dwindling — a root must’ve broken the piping.
The saplings were a success, but no one will be alive to reap the rewa
Read my previous prompt, “Safer Inside.”
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