I sat on a bench in the temperate gardens I’d created, listening to the gentle hum of insects and catching the odd snippets of conversation as people passed by. The gardens were in the style of an English cottage garden, interspersed with areas of lawn where families could picnic and play.

The landscape was ever changing, the idea being that it would prevent boredom amongst the colonists. Today’s landscape was open fields with grazing sheep and cattle, rolling hills in a background that could never be reached.

Every plant had been carefully chosen to encourage pollinators—bees, butterflies, moths and beetles. There were hundreds of different species out there for those who cared to look. The bees in particular were essential to our colony; the hive providing honey and wax that went into different areas of production.

It was early summer, the garden ablaze with colour. Rosebuds were opening, showing petals of deepest red, dusky pink and palest purple. Peonies were in bloom, inviting the bees to their bright yellow stamens as they disappeared amongst the petals and emerged with legs coated in sticky pollen. Beds of meadow-flowers, pansies, dahlia, lobelia and oxalis. The bell-like flowers of fuchsia nodded in the artificial breeze. The entire ensemble was a little patch of paradise in an otherwise stark and monochromatic world.

The shadows lengthened in the simulated sunlight. “Rain mode in sixty seconds,” came the tinny female voice over the tannoy system. Families quickly moved to the pathways. The sprinkler system lifted up through the flowerbeds and lawns, engaging with a gentle hiss of water, followed by the delighted squeals of children running through the rain on a dare.

Eventually the gardens fell into silence—even the insects had gone quiet—and I sat in peaceful repose, waiting for my favourite time of day.

“Night mode initiated.” The light in the gardens dimmed. I leaned back staring upwards as the panels in the roof opened, giving me a perfect view of the stars through the dome as our ship cruised across the galaxy in search of a new planet to call home.

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    1 year ago

    A skillful evocation of what seems to be a magical/technological natural environment, with wonderfully wrought details of flowers and pollinators. A fun surprise at the end! 

    1 year ago

    This is a lovely story, Carrie – so comforting and joyful. I especially liked the children playing in the “rain”. I knew there was something unusual about the setting, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it until the ending. Even though you gave the reader many clues, it was still a surprise. Great writing!

    Marianna Pieterse
    Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
    1 year ago

    Carrie, this is a bitter-sweet picture you created. Your protagonist was seemingly very content with the situation, but in reality all wasn’t perfect. Reading your story, I thought it was a ‘safe place’ they created on earth where the air, water and land wasn’t as polluted as everywhere else. I did not expect them to be in space. Can you imagine the night-time view? Must have been spectacular!

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    1 year ago

    Hello, Carrie. It is awesome. And Fuji is right, the ending was totally a surprise. Great story and a lovely twist, I really never expected it. Great job.

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    Reply to  Carrie OLeary
    1 year ago

    You are most welcome. Congrats for another job well done, Carrie.

    Linda Rock
    Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
    1 year ago

    Loved this, Carrie, one of your best I think. Beautiful and vivid descriptions, especially of the flowers – dahlia’s are my favourite – and the starry night. And the surprise ending is the icing on the cake!

    Greene M Wills
    Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
    1 year ago

    I closed my eyes and imagined myself in your beautiful garden, smelled the flowers and heard the insects buzzing…It helped me through a very difficult day. Thank you, Carrie!

    Sandra James
    Sandra James(@sandra-james)
    1 year ago

    Lovely story, Carrie. Sometimes if we over-think it, the future can be a scary place with environmental concerns, conflict and war, viruses etc but your home from home paints an optimist picture of hope, showing that even if the worst were to occur, people will find a way to re-create all the wonders we have and, especially, the stars over us. Well done!

    allinonefitness steven jenkins
    allinonefitness steven jenkins(@allinonefitness-steven-jenkins)
    1 year ago

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful words.

    1 year ago

    Carrie, I really love this story. When it was first published, I was having trouble sleeping. When I read this story, however, I slept like a baby. So now I read it as my bedtime story any time sleep eludes me! Great job, and thank you.

    1 year ago

    Hello Carrie – I was so glad to see this story in the list of Finalists. It’s one of my favorites of all your stories. So soothing and peaceful. Thank you for this gentle gift.

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