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Back to the Garden

by C. E. Gee

Part 1 appears
in this issue.


Evelyn’s mother managed a weak smile. “It took a while. I mean, your dad’s just a technician. And he’s also a veteran — fought during the Treolian Swarm Incursion. I couldn’t believe I’d ever have anything to do with a guy like that.

“You know all about his service to the masses; whenever he’s had too much beer, it’s all he talks about. Because he was a technician, he was conscripted into the Bot Legion, controlled a squad of androids. I never really knew a guy like that before. I mean, it takes a different type of person to be willing to live with androids — someone who can understand machine intelligence and artificial consciousness. I’ll admit, at first I was confused.

“And it was only after I got to know him that I realized how special he was.”

“But, Mom, when did you know you loved him?”

The weak smile broadened. “We still lived on Earth back then. One day he took me for a walk in the woods. I’d never done that before. It was so beautiful there, like the gardens are here. And then he picked me some flowers. No guy I’d ever known before had given me flowers. It was at that exact moment that I knew I loved him.”

“But Mom, how did you know?”

With the back of her hand, Evelyn’s mother wiped away a tear. “You’ll know it when it happens to you, honey. You’ll know. Don’t worry about it.”

That evening, Evelyn went to bed early.

Sealed into her independently pressurized sleeping compartment, she switched on the rest-and-recreation array, tuned it to some raucous comedy, cranked up the audio to mask her movements.

Evelyn reached into one of the compartment’s cubbies, removed a doll her grandfather had sent her way back when she was a level one student.

Even though Evelyn now considered herself much too old for dolls, she loved that doll. Not only was it a link to her grandfather back on Earth, who vee-mailed her often, and was the only adult Evelyn felt really understood her, the doll also reminded Evelyn of how happy she’d been as a young girl. She’d spent many an hour playing with that doll while her parents were on duty. Evelyn treasured the memory.

Hidden within the doll’s clothing was the ring. Evelyn slid the ring onto her ring finger. She put the doll back into its cubby, turned off the array and the light, snuggled down under her blanket.

In the darkness, the ring had a soft glow. Evelyn felt an ache in her heart. For a moment she was concerned; she thought there was something physically wrong.

Then she smiled to herself. She kissed the gemstone, softly whispered, “Good night Aubry.”

* * *

When Evelyn fell, she thought she was dreaming.

Martian gravity is barely more than a third of Earth’s; the fall was gentle enough. Despite Evelyn’s frailty, induced by living her life within the weak gravitational influence of Mars, she felt unhurt.

Still under the delusion she’d been dreaming, she kept her eyes closed, reached back over her head for the light’s touch pad. There was nothing there.

Evelyn waved her hand about for a second, then rolled over onto her side, tilted her head back, opened her eyes.

She was outside! Without her pressure suit, Evelyn briefly panicked.

But she was breathing. The air was warm and relatively humid. Again, she assumed she was dreaming.

She took in a deep breath. The air pressure was low, like the air in an orbital shuttle.

What a dream! She was on the ground. Before her, a vast prairie of knee-high green grasses. Far off, a small herd of animals grazed peacefully. Beyond the animals, low rolling hills.

Evelyn scrambled to her feet. Even at the distance, she could see the animals were dinosaurs.

Evelyn’s peripheral vision detected something unusual to her left. She turned.

Less than 30 meters off, a huge sphere hovered just above the top of the grass. Its color was red ochre, the same color as normal Martian soil. The color was enhanced by a sheen, as if covered in thin plastic or a lacquer-like coating.

At the very top of the sphere, an antenna protruded. It was short and surprisingly thick, indicating high-frequency, short-range communications. There was an oval opening near the bottom of the sphere and, from just below the opening, a long ramp extended outward, down to the ground.

And at the bottom of the ramp, off to one side, standing in the grass, stood an alien.

The alien was reptilian, bipedal, nearly as tall as Evelyn. Like Evelyn, the alien was completely unclothed. It was covered in scales. There were no genitals visible. On its head, the alien wore a crown. Frequently, a forked tongue flicked out and about a wide mouth.

The alien held another crown in its left hand. The alien raised its right hand, palm out. The hand had only three fingers.

The alien rotated the hand. On it, a ring much like Evelyn’s. The tongue flicked again. Evelyn felt the alien was trying to communicate something.

Evelyn quickly glanced at her own ring. The gemstone was rapidly flashing.

The alien placed the crown on the ground.

The alien used both hands to repeatedly move its own crown up and down on its head. The alien then pointed to the crown on the ground and then to Evelyn.

Evelyn realized the alien wanted her to don the crown.

At that moment, Evelyn’s ring slid off her finger, flew off to her right. Evelyn watched the ring as it disappeared with a barely audible ping.

Evelyn turned her attention back to the alien. The alien again raised its right hand, palm out. Its forked tongue flicked once more. The alien disappeared. Air, rushing in to fill the vacuum, made a faint clopping sound.

Tentatively, Evelyn walked toward the sphere to the end of the ramp, where the crown was on the ground, in the grass.

Evelyn picked up the crown, crowned herself. The crown contracted so that it fit snugly.

Evelyn suddenly felt light-headed. She nearly swooned. She recovered. And then she knew. She knew so much she felt her head would burst, so filled was it with her newfound knowledge.

Evelyn now knew she wasn’t dreaming.

And Evelyn knew that the alien was not alien; it was a Martian, a true Martian.

Evelyn knew her ring and the Martian’s ring were time machines.

Evelyn knew that the ring had transported her into the far distant Martian past — a past in which Mars was slowly dying.

Evelyn knew that Martians used time travel to continuously cycle their near immortal selves back in time to a period when Mars was warmer, much more comfortable and livable for cold-blooded reptiles.

Evelyn knew the Martians had seeded Earth with life.

And Evelyn knew that the Martians were now making their final contribution to life on Earth.

Evelyn knew that the reddish sphere was a spaceship, a spaceship to take her and Aubry to Earth.

Aubry! Aubry had been right. Evelyn now knew that she and Aubry did indeed have a destiny.

And Evelyn knew that her ring had gone off to the far future to fetch Aubry.

Tears filled Evelyn’s eyes. She knew her destiny. And she knew their destiny, the destiny she shared with Aubry.

Evelyn turned to her right. She wiped the tears from her eyes. She knew what to look for. At that moment, Evelyn felt the crown disappear.

A couple of hundred meters off, a figure strode across the prairie, striding directly in Evelyn’s direction. She knew it was Aubry.

The feeling in Evelyn’s heart grew strong. Evelyn leapt up and down and waved her arms. She shouted Aubry’s name. Aubry quickened his pace, then broke into a run.

When Aubry arrived, Evelyn threw herself into his arms.

Though both Evelyn and Aubry were completely naked, Evelyn felt no shame. Their nakedness felt natural to her. And she was happy, happier than she’d ever been.

Breathlessly, Aubry said, “I was sleeping. When I woke up, I found your ring on my finger. I actually thought I was dreaming. What the hell is going on?” he demanded. “Where are we, and what is this thing?” Aubry pointed at the ship.

Evelyn took one step back, then replied, “It’s a spaceship. It’s going to take us to Earth.”

“What? Why?”

Around a sly and crooked little smile, Evelyn answered, “It’s our destiny. Remember in the garden yesterday, you told me you felt we had a destiny. Well, this is it.”

“That’s crazy,” insisted Aubry. “I’m not getting on that thing. This whole situation is insane!”

Demurely, Evelyn bowed her head as she took a half-step to be nearer to Aubry, all while she calculated a determined course of action.

With both hands, Evelyn gently clasped Aubry’s hand, the hand with the ring. She noticed the ring had gone dark. She brought Aubry’s hand up to her lips, kissed the back of the hand, then pressed the hand to her cheek.

“Listen,” she softly said. “Remember before you gave me the ring? Remember you told me that when we got to the garden you were going to give me something?”

“Sure, I remember that.”

Evelyn dropped the hand, stepped back. Using the term of endearment her mother had always used, Evelyn said, “Well now, honey, if you get on that ship, and if you go with me to Earth, I’ve got something I’m going to give you. It’s something I know you’re going to like.”

The crooked little smile grew into a knowing smirk.

“But, what about our folks?” Aubry asked.

Evelyn laughed. She tilted her head back, looked up into the azure Martian sky. The laugh became maniacal.

“They’re not our folks,” she suddenly declared. “They’re our children.”

Evelyn quieted, spread her arms outward, to the side at shoulder height. She spun around. “All Solarians — they’re all our children! All of them!” The maniacal laugh returned.

Evelyn lowered her arms as she went silent. She began to weep. But then she got a grip on herself, stared into Aubry’s eyes.

Abruptly, Evelyn turned, walked up the ramp.

Halfway up the ramp, Evelyn stopped, looked back over her shoulder. Her voice had lost its loving lilt, had become more authoritative. “Well, Aubry Adams, are you coming or not?”

Evelyn then continued her walk up the ramp.

Aubry stared at Evelyn’s backside for one short moment and sniffed. Then, both resignation and determination tingeing his voice, he said loudly, “I’m coming, honey. I’m coming.”

Aubry quickly ascended the ramp, joined Evelyn at the oval opening.

Aubry asked, “So when we get to Earth, what do you think we’re going to do there?”

“For one thing, we’re going to change our names,” replied Evelyn.

“Really? To what?”

“Well, not so much change them as shorten them.”

“To what?”

“I’ll let you figure it out. We’ve got some time on our journey. It’ll be fun for me to see if you can come up with the names.”

Aubry placed his hand on Evelyn’s shoulder. This time, Evelyn didn’t slap away the hand.

“Hhmmm,” Aubry mused. “Shorten Evelyn Foster and Aubry Adams. I should be able to figure that out.”

The couple stepped into the ship. The oval opening winked shut. The ramp withdrew.

Slowly, the ship ascended to an altitude just above the height of the surrounding hills. Then it sped off laterally, just clearing the hills.

It didn’t take long for the ship to reach the spot where, in the far future, a Chinese probe would land.

The opening near the bottom of the ship winked open. Evelyn, her left hand firmly gripping a grab-handle, leaned through the opening. With her right hand, with an underhand toss, Evelyn threw out the ring.

The ship waited until Evelyn went back to the acceleration couch she shared with Aubry, then the ship accelerated upward.

As soon as the ship cleared the atmosphere, it set a course for Earth, constantly accelerating at one-gee. The acceleration would begin acclimating the ship’s passengers to Earth’s gravity.

Halfway through the trip, the ship would roll over, begin decelerating at one-gee.

The ship was intelligent enough; it needed no supervision. It knew exactly where it was going.

There was on Earth a place bordered by a number of rivers. The place was lovely, much like the gardens on Mars would be in the future.

There, Evelyn Foster and Aubry Adams would live long lives together. They would have children. And eventually they would cross yet another river, their eternal spirits together forever.

Copyright © 2014 by C. E. Gee

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