A World for Georgiana
Vasilis Adams A.
She leaned her head back now and stretched her swan-like neck soaking up the titillating humus of the pool. Her body felt warm and rich. The phantoms of the dream ebbed with the flow of dawn.
Somba Evans did not know about it, that it was the same dream every time: short and tall scuffed pylons that extruded from the soil with swelling tops, bipeds that ingested solids...
She was fully awake when Somba rose, dressed, and went outside to farm the plots, collect the sap and cover up the cells. It was the end of perihelion, but daylight was still too harsh for the sensitive neurophyte cells.
Georgiana drew herself out of the pool and settled on its pulpy edge. She leaned over her reflection and tidied the dripping, shoulder-length strands of black, serpentine hair. The eyes, she regarded, had not tinted notablely. Somba's irides were more perky. They gleamed emeralds in the morning, and at dusk acquiesced to pool-green. How lucky, a mate with such innovative eyes. Yet, tales were around of blue, even brown eyes.
She perused over her cheeks, a smidgen of azure upon pallid green cheekbones. The fine contours of her dainty nose accentuated the flare of the nostrils. Below these, two gossamer-thin ridges led to a delicate upper lip and a slightly fuller lower one. Her chin jutted petite, recherche.
A silly notion piqued her. She brought her little finger up and sucked and feigned the chewing motion in her dream. A kindling charge swirled up her spine. The cheeks blushed cyan and the plumb line of down below her navel-less tummy tingled.
"Oh, Green--!" she gasped.
Chagrined she sprang up and donned her one piece cellular suit. She wandered into the laboratory disturbed by her frivolous experimenting.
When Somba came back there was the smell of sap dew in his suit. He handed her the vessel of chloroplasma and newcells.
"How did you sleep?" he asked.
She took it, and turned away. She did not want him to see her preoccupied, "Very well," she said.
Somba then ambled to the ancient hard-stuff counter and sat on an equally old and scarred stool. He commenced checking the tendrils leading to the terminal before him. Georgiana watched as his elegant hands gently rippled over them, running the length of the pasty-green synapses down to the half-buried cell beneath the counter. He patted the neurophyte and it noticeably bloated to his touch.
"Things look fine on our side," he said.
She responded with a wide grin exposing tender, baby gums.
"You've got the cutest smile in all of Cloverfarm," he said, then switched the terminal on.
The turtle-sized cell below gave a visible kick and burrowed deeper into the soil by flattening its hump allowing dirt around it to fall and cover it completely. Georgiana could picture the cell's fibrous piths boring deeper into the earth, absorbing minerals and converting their neutral charges into ionized elements by stripping electrons and depositing them on the complex root-grid.
Somba got up. "Have a try at the old fossil," he said, indicating the machine. "Just a reminder, no one must know."
"I promise," she said in earnest.
Her round eyes got bigger with so much conviction in them. He put his arms around her. "Tonight, in pool, I'll want more than a promise," his words came out lisping.
"That too...." she could hardly articulate from her own lisp, and felt herself dilating. She resorted to silently nodding her consent and participation.
Somba then left for the day and Georgiana felt a wisp of emptiness. But it was only a momentary thing.
While Somba in the day's course consulted at several data archive centers spread throughout Cloverfarm and overspilling beyond into Marshgardens, Georgiana's job was to separate the 'soup' he collected each morning by centrifuging it. The newcells accumulated at the bottom of the container, while the chloroplasma remained on top. After separation, the flee-looking phytogenic cells were dumped onto petri dishes layered with chloroplasma and sifted soil of high nutrient derivation.
She would watch over the cultures and replenish the nutrients, 'til three weeks later the ochres showed. The yellowish-green cells went into stasis conglomerates deep within the freezing caves of Marshgardens where light could not get to them. Their transport there and later their fabrication and construction cultivation was not her responsibility. Hers was only to keep records of quantity and ochre, and to segregate the yellowish-greens from the reddish-greens.
As complacent as the y-gs were, their counterparts, the r-gs, effervesced with uneasiness and activity, at times to the point of mischief. At infant stage, the venturous r-gs would quiver with unrest, and some managed -- to Georgiana's professional disconcert -- to move by a centimeter or more on the mud-layered petris. A scientific improbability since they lacked muscle tissue. Their teensy, watch-spring tendrils served no other purpose than to absorb and catalyze nutriment. Yet, in the years she had been observing them not once had she caught glimpse of the slightest of spacial displacement at its transpiring.
The lit terminal flickered and flashed as though calling to her to take prompt notice of it.
It was noon by the time she finished her allotted work. She centrifuged all of the sap Somba had brought in. She placed the newcells in the dishes, used one hundred twenty-four in all, discarded the dead or damaged ones, and emptied the fresh pure chloroplasma in their sleeping pool. As she did her eyes remained glued on the swaying flux the falling sap stirred. The new batch worked itself around transforming the pool into clear green glass. Ready for the night, she thought, anticipating, and pulled her eyes away from its twinkling lure.
Returning to the laboratory she threw a professional glance over the petris arrayed on a shelf grown out of the homogeneous wall, and sat in front of the terminal's monitor. She had turned it off after Somba left. Now she prepared to reactivate it. Only one other time had she felt this way: when she had mistakenly touched the tips of an r-g's hind genitalia tendrils instead of the forward boring pair.
It had happened a couple of seasons ago. She would never forget the blinding surge that had rendered her unconscious 'til Somba came and lowered her into the sleeping pool. Of course the charge expelled was not lethal and defensively triggered by the adult male cell, but enough was there to transpose all the stars in the night sky within her field of vision. It taught her that privacy was a cosmic appanage.
The knot in her belly was still there when she flipped the switch and caught sight of the twitch the buried cell gave below. The console brightened and symbols, ignoring her presence, raced through multiple changes on the bright green of the screen.
Georgiana did not wait for them to stop. She was familiar with microprocessors from her early apprentice years at Cloverfarm Academy and the Genetics Model Simulation courses. She would have to rely heavily now on the theory that had been taught to, or rather drilled into, her. As her fingers ran over the keyboard, familiar patterns, notes and comments appeared.
"Not mutation," she felt annoyed at herself, "mutation kinesis manifestation types -- Execute." She whispered and spoke to the empty room and the machine, while her long thin appendages tried to reacquire their old dexterity. Text rendered with biogenetic diagrams made its way before her. Then:
For unabridged supplements consult the Main Stores Databank of Marshgardens.
"Anything worthwhile you have to get from Marshgardens," she remonstrated in a tug-o-war with the computer.
Meanwhile, a vestige of disquiet, piqued her. It wasn't so much that Somba smuggled the antiquated, bulky terminal into their abode, which he'd return in a day or two after she had a go at it. And it wasn't her reoccurring dream either, or the strange-looking brutal bipeds in it that defied any explanation mottling her efforts to be rid of it once and for all.
It was more immediate; somehow connected with the old artifact she faced. A snippet, possibly a clue given by the scurrying information before her, may have caused her agitation. But time nagged.
She would not have indefinite access to the terminal. So, Georgiana shrugged off the pricking from inside and set to work. She evoked the supplements from Marshgarden's Main Stores concerning recorded responses of r-g newcells. When the index came up she went over it thoroughly, double-checking each entry.
"Mobility, mobility...," she mumbled to herself. After a long stretch of time, "Nothing." Eight more indices had similar negative results.
The buried cell next to her feet gave a shudder as it adapted to a new, this time concave, shape to allow more soil to trickle around its surfaces insulating it further from encompassing aridity. Georgiana glanced down and with the side of her foot pushed more dirt over it. The cell seemed content and became once more still as though nothing else mattered but its job at hand, breaking down complex molecular chains into simple anions and cations. Georgiana knew that the process was no more demanding to the ensconced neurophyte than that of an amble to a biped.
She resumed to the ninth index. But in its place, a blinking monitor sounded with sharp, shrilling protests. Georgiana stiffened. She instinctively jabbed several keys all at once responding to quieten the machine down.
The machine did. The penetrating shriek cut off. The blinking screen now flashed a chain of nonsensical alphanumerics, and next to them a yes/no option.
She drew in a deep breath. The sudden commotion started her. A thin wet layer brooded on her forehead and neck. For an instant she had fears of being discovered.
She lingered a while, and punched 'yes'. The screen went blank and half a dozen tiny indicators played havoc with her sight, flickering intense needle-thin lights. She held her breath. The timeworn computer intermittently hummed and whirred as it searched, retrieving -- "What?"
It dawned on her. The alphanumerics she stumbled on were not just gibberish, but an upload code. This primitive generation computers did not carry limiters, narrow-band filters, to suppress all but the job-at-hand program parameters. They had no discretion capabilities, so all that reached them was processed unchecked.
The console finally lit up. At the four corners of the screen the word CLASSIFIED flashed in bold letters. Then:
Main Core Index
A list of topics followed, the last being a glossary. The cross-references for each topic were endless. They ran on page after page. On the twenty-fourth she spotted something resembling her query:
J. K. Pietroff and L. P. Ellingsworth
She went through the introduction, her brows not stopping an interactive dance to every other line.
...the tropism from pygmy ferns to giant redwoods. Closer study disclosed that at its infancy, a seedling has been noted to relocate itself to as far as a meter from its original planting site in search of more suited surroundings...
When she was through she looked up fern and redwood in the glossary. The first was a very small quasi-version of the second, while the second -- she cowered -- grew straight out of the soil to sky-scraping heights.
The dream came to taunt her once again.
"It's true then." It relieved and jarred her. But when did these colossi live?
"What year is that?" she heard herself ask.
This rang a bell. But it was still too distant to make any practical sense.
The paper made references to three other documents. She alluded to the first:
...Population drain is rapid. Marginal success, however, reaps unpredictable as yet rewards. The melon-size monocell, among other things, is capable of converting chemicals in the soil to widely adaptable, cheap and unlimited low-voltage emf. Similarly it can transmit and receive transient electrical data through soil strata...
The excitement now turned her cheeks to sapphire. She understood most of this.
"A-n-i-m-a-l," she keyed in.
: 1. Living being capable of feeling and voluntary motion.
: 1. Adult male.
"A hu-ing!" she hissed grimacing.
The sight of 'it' instinctively repelled her--and, yes, 'it' did have hard bare bones in its jaws to crush and chew. She examined the diagram again and scanned over the information.
"Green Chloro!" surprised still when she thought she could not be. "It does assimilate raw nourishment through its oral cavity!" The pores on her started to swell and more droplets of sap gathered on her skin.
"Why am I looking at hu-ing records? O Somba, where are our own!"
Nauseous she drew away from the machine, got up and headed for the pool, her color sallow. Phalanges felt empty of sturdy matter and her body drained of strength. She looked down at the sap pool. To submerge in it and savour its vitality. Nourish and replenish herself for Somba. But no, she couldn't, the pool had been purged. The newsap she had emptied into it that morning had revivified it. She could not spoil it selfishly.
Reaching with her hand, she took two handfuls and washed the old sap off her face and arms. She closed her eyes and relished it. She would wait for Ben to arrive and go in then, with him. Meantime, she mustered her courage and energy to approached the green screen again.
"Chlorless hu-ings!" she declared taking her place in front of the monitor and not really understanding her moot, utter repugnance. All they were was a differently evolved life-form, all but extinct now.
But what of the Lores and Myths.
Lores from The Testaments of Chloro told of the once infested planet -- scourged with poisons.
The ancient odes from the Myths bewailed over massive destruction and constant strife among the Denizens, when time was still young, fermented by their fitful and ornery propensity. Legends incanted of their breed having factions warring for complete control of the lands, vast pools called seas, and the air.
Georgiana puzzled over why anyone would contend to singly possess such overwhelming expanses. A habitat, a plot of land to grow cells on, work that rewarded your endeavours -- and, the stir of simply life itself and its sharing of truths with others -- were these not ample?
The Denizens, she concluded, had lost control of themselves in their endeavour to control all else. And their imperfection had simulated and emulated, then equalled and exceeded their boldness and dare. A world that must have been so markedly different and wondrous such as she, and her own, had never seen had been contemptuously squandered: the trees, the animals, all of their kind.
Smidgens of fleeting images now goaded her awareness -- she must have been a tender sprout then -- of bipeds being shown to her and foreboding words spoken by those that were with her. Stares and fingers had pointed at the biped's oversized, blotted hands -- No wonder she was distraught.
: Short thick division of the hand opposing the fingers.
She studied the diagram and raised her own slim, streamlined hand next to it. How powerfully crewed the other showed, her own slender as her wrist with no offending bulge sticking out at the side. It must have gotten exasperatingly in the way... although, with it, one could grasp things more firmly. But why? Everything around, anything needed was light and soft. Who would want to move mountains when you could grow them, and just about whatever else, with y-gs.
She looked over the ancient machine. The long bar-key for spacing was for -- thumbs. The missing little helical shafts that fitted in the orifices were probably gyrated by a thumb-supported hand-tool.
These discoveries prodded her to place aside her sensitivities and dig deeper.
Her original query about r-y mobility had been generically answered: being descendants of animal-plant hybrid origins, the light newcells maintained fractional capability of mobility. Their springy infrastructures could be used to hop about in the dark of night when light did not dull their senses.
Still, at the back of her mind, there were questions unanswered. Why the maelstrom of bustling last-minute hu-ing experiments? And why no mention of her own kind?
The computer, the counter on which it rested, the stool she sat on were a legacy of artifacts shrouded in silence. Such hard-stuffs her own species could in no way tool. The hands of her own could mould and manipulate the soft y-g newcells, the building-blocks of her civilization, but never could y-gs be crafted to grow into such complex and granite-hard matrices. The very philosophy, she realized, was extraneous and anachronistic. Her sort did not need hard and intricate implements. The y-gs were yielding and malleable, suited for the fingers to ply and form; and the r-gs provided them with heat at aphelion, and through their deep root networks a means of communicating when necessary.
All nutrient substances covered by earth were to their avail through the cells' sap. Ample sap. Some of which ran into the pool directly through hidden and protected latices in the habitat's cultivated structure, while others were harvested each day at dawn. Sap cleaned, nourished, removed wastes and fatigue toxins from their bodies; made the males grow fertile pollen and females gestate healthy seeds.
"How unwholesome," she shuddered, repelled by what she read. It buttressed further the reason of her antipathy -- to inseminate and give birth through orifices situated next to waste excretory outlets; so far removed from the epicenter of the clean and sensuous, from the body's temple of love, the -- she revered the word -- Mouth. To think that such delicate and sentient organ be covered with bony stubs and used for grappling and cleaving hard-stuffs. It was like using the eyes to roll on and the ears to lift burdens with. Hard-stuffs, Georgiana settled, belonged in her world as much as primitive hu-ings.
She summoned the list of contents once more. When it emerged she sifted through it till, spent and her eyes raw, she found it.
The security classification was the highest of all so far. The computer thrummed and whizzed as it decoded the incoming data from meaningless machine pulses to legible, processed information.
She braced herself as she read.
She was well within the treatise when the screen jumped, blinked, and blanked out... blinked suddenly on again to give her another leap-frog start on the stool. But in place of text, a live image filled it.
A facsimile of a smile brought her face-to-face with two rows of bare, shiny jaw-extrusions. Quickly the hu-ing pressed lips together, as if aware of the other's discomfort.
It looked straight at her with unwavering coolness, as though it waited to be studied, expected it. The right hand -- thumb and all -- raked back spilling tousles of hair, then over... what must have been hair too, but on its face! Georgiana shivered, but did not avert her scrutiny of this... this relic.
"My eyes," the hu-ing's raspy voice came, "are light-blue. Your monitor does not show that." There was no trace of lisp, she noted.
She tried to imagine the face without the hair but couldn't. The shoulders were broad and the neck and arms thick with exercised muscle. She knew, from her recent endeavors, that the skin would resemble the pale sunsets of solstice. That the epidermal pigments were melanin - and not chlorophyll-based.
She now knew that their vital fluid was not purged sap-extract renewed by pore-osmosis, but a composite, a frightfully complex concoction of microzoa and plasma called blood, produced within its body not outside it. Though physically the hu-ing's general shape resembled her own, the physiology differed radically, was incompatible to any life form known to her. Hu-ings prevailed in ambience that would choke her and stiffen the body-fluids of her own kind, starve her species of light and breathable air. No wonder their few remaining habitats were hermetically sealed and beyond any phyto-sapiens' obvious reach. Yet....
Then the fact pounced on her, gouging a vacuum below her feet -- and she fell.
"The databank you were accessed to? It activates a subroutine that tells us whether the user is cleared or not," the hu-ing prattled. "But it takes a while."
"So...Georgiana Adamson, of the Abraham A. Adamson (God bless his soul) culture of 2000 AD + 1053 PVS, you are hereby charged of illegal possession of Commonwealth property and of unlawful ingression upon Classified material, thus besetting your person (and that of your mate) to the travails bequeathed to such contravention..."
Agog, she listened.
The hu-ing went on-and-on with dire-tone rhetoric and formal reproof, admonishing and reprimanding.
After a spell Georgiana lost herself. Heavy eyelids drooped, and she drifted into a gentle doze.
"Are you -- I say, are you napping on me!"
Her head jerked violently up. She shook it and her eyes blared wide. Loss of sap, anxiety, and a deluge of apocalypses had more than drained her: they reduced her to limpid cellulose. The hu-ing's droning voice had effected the lulling pool sap languidly swaying her to slumber.
In her weariness she realised...that she no longer cared.
"You made us, and I know it, and it's no longer a secret. I won't tell Somba or anybody else, if that's what you want -- but now, please let me rest," she gushed out in single breath.
"My, we do have a temper." The hu-ing said, drawn out of its platitudinous elocution.
"Well?" she grumped.
"Well?" the hu-ing echoed.
"What are you going to do?"
"Slap your hands --"
"--if we could meet, face-to-face, that is. But as you probably are aware, kinling, that can never be."
"Yes, definitely. Several centuries back your line meets mine. The databank didn't squeal on that now, did it? A strain of our family clones. I'm an Adamson, too."
"Oh, Green, Greenest Chloro--"
"Crude of me," the hu-ing exhibited weariness itself. "We do look and act like savages, after all..." The hu-ing rambled on looking elsewhere. "Our hands -- they're the ones that need slapping."
Georgiana, fatigue ridden, "You built and maintain the machines and equipment, ...and us," it was an indictment.
"Yes...and, no." He was looking at her once more, but this time the visage held little snap to it. "It's we that have made and look after the accoutrements, yes." It sucked its lip, "But, no, Lord no, you have been free and on your own since you could mind after yourselves, hundreds of years now. We haven't tampered with you or your social structure since. And never shall."
His voice now came out hoarse. "You see, you were made a step better in the evolutionary ladder. There is no disease for you. No premature death because of it. The sap sees to that. No pain when you regurgitate your tender offshoot, a little discomfort maybe.. And without thumbs, your times will be more tranquil, free of industrial 'civilization' -- practically cauterized life out --"
"For us, all hope is lost," the hu-ing raved on. "Living on the outside, beyond the bleak walls of the vivariums, these caves below you, is a coveted, an unreachable, dream -- never to set our eye upon a Sun, a Moon, or amble beneath a jewelled sky at night.
"No, it's your world, Georgiana. Yours and Somba's and your children's blessed children --"
"You," she pointed an unsteady finger at the screen, "you are the Denizens, the Lores and Myths!" She was too used up to say more.
"The Fallen Angels. Yes. The sum of our greed and callousness. Fated to grope the darkness of Marshgardens' and other cavities in the bowls of Earth, to depend on those of you who know for subsistence and safety, to endlessly query through experiments for a spark of salvation among the ash."
"I'd slap your little hands, little sister -- and kiss them afterwards."
The tube went blank.
Georgiana rose from the stool and waded to the opening of the door. The evening was brisk for perihelion, the artifact thermometer read a refreshing one hundred sixty-three degrees F.
In the distant blaze Somba waved. She waved back. She took long steps toward him letting her lungs inflate with rich carbon dioxide. Already she began to feel strong enough to jump in pool and ravish him.
Poor, poor hu-ing, her thought interloped to the homely creature, and with a sigh, "Don't ever venture outside your dark hole to either slap or kiss me."
Vasilis Adams A. is an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. He has been teaching English full-time for the last twelve years. Prior to that he worked as a Technical Specifications Writer for seven years and as an Engineer for five years. Although born in Thessaloniki, Greece, Vasilis attended university in the United States where he received a B.Sc. degree.
His writing credits include published fiction and non-fiction appearing both in Greece and in the USA. His work has appeared in such U. S. publications as Greek Accent, National Herald (Proini), and Crosscurrents. In Greece, he's been published in 30-Days, Key Travel News, Greece's Weekly, Athena Magazine and he had a weekend travel column in The Athens Star newspaper.