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The glass felt cool against my forehead as I let it rest against the wall. I was breathing heavily from my run through the gardens. The sound of birds chirped through the dome, echoing off its curved walls. But no one expected to see any sparrows or finches. No, the music of our garden came through white plastic speakers cleverly placed and hidden behind fiberglass trees and set in the plastic grass. I opened my eyes and turned away from the glass. A cement walkway wound through the gardens and out into the corridor that led to the senior dome. I took that path, jogging steadily until I passed a rosebush set by the cement. I leaned down and grasped one, bending the plastic stem until it came off with a soft snick. I held the rose, bending away the sharp edge of the wire center as I passed through the corridor.
The senior’s dome was different than the others in that it wasn’t transparent. This dome was coated in clean white plastic, blocking away the view that made so many of the seniors bitterly remember the world they had known. I trotted past chess tables and old-fashioned flat screen televisions. No matter how many times the Colony Committee offered to replace those, the seniors always refused. I guess it reminded them of the old days.
I found my grammy sitting alone, listening to soft music, her fluff of white hair bobbing along to the beat.
“Hey Grammy.” I said softly, hoping not to startle her. I clutched the rose tightly in my hand and held it out to her, a peace offering for interrupting her time alone.
“Hello, dear.” Grammy said pleasantly and opened her eyes. She smiled at me and I smiled carefully back. “It’s been a while since you’ve visited me.”
“Yeah. I know. Sorry, Grammy. Life has just been busy lately.” I said and held out the rose even further to her. Her eyes fell on it and the corners of her mouth turned down.
“They don’t smell the same.” she whispered and I brought the rose up to my nose. Soft fabric brushed the tip of it and I inhaled the scent of artificial rose. “You won’t know the difference.” she snapped, her somewhat pleasant mood disappearing. “You’ve never smelled anything but that artificial junk.” I brought the rose away from my face and dropped it to the floor.
“Leave.” Grammy said, turning up her music and closing her eyes. I hoped she was remembering a happier time. This is why the rest of my family had stopped visiting her. Her bitterness of losing the world she knew had never faded.
I left without another word, tears burning in my eyes. I jogged back to the gardens and walked up to the glass wall again. I stared out, trying to imagine the world my grammy remembered.
I could see the shifting sands outside the dome, stirred by the constant and furious wind. Out there, it was dark, not lit by the artificial light we had in here. Dark shapes moved and became invisible, the remnants of cities uncovered and instantly buried again by the wind and the sands. The sky was a deep rusty red caused by all the air pollution.
I tried again to imagine the earth Grammy had known, with that mythical sun beating down warmth and heat from the sky, a soft blue. But I couldn’t. That was Grammy’s world, not mine. The domes that protected us from the poisonous air quality and the whipping wind were my world. A contained, artificial world, simulating the old earth as closely as the scientists could manage. But the simulation would never be good enough for anyone who remembered how it used to be.
Litter and paper scraps also whipped through the air. One stuck to the dome for a few seconds and I had time to read the headline, LOS ANGELES DEEMED UNHABITABLE, and the date, November 22, 2030, before the wind whipped it away again. That was 50 years ago, when they’d still had time to listen to the warnings.
For a moment I felt a bit of the bitterness Grammy harbored. They’d had the chance to save that beautiful world Grammy remembered, and they’d chosen ignorance.