Thursday, April 25


"This is really special," he says with a grin. "This one is a tomato." Elise takes the small, slightly squishy orb from him with pursed lips. She holds it up to the light and turns it carefully from side to side. Stephen watches, his long fingers twitching slightly. The sounds of the lab bubble around them, a shell of privacy held in place by the murmurs of their co-workers, all involved in recreating the delights that once were commonplace.

Elise's white hair glistens under the bright lab lights, a creamy pale color, rich as sheep's milk. She brings the tomato close to her face and inhales its sour, slightly spicy aroma. When she smiles at last, her eyes are nearly hidden in a collapse of soft and wrinkled flesh. "When I was a child, we would hide in the seed storage unit and tell each other stories about fruit. You can't describe the color blue as a flavor, but we talked about blueberries and the color of the mythical sky in the same breath as the idea of lemonade.

"The idea of summer as a cultural wellspring," she continues, "is not something a child ought to be able to argue from. But the desolation among our parents and grandparents, when they realized that we would never see a fig tree, a strawberry--it was a sadness that encouraged us. I never thought I would see a tomato. We imagined them tiny, the size of a thumbnail, heart-shaped and violet, and we knew they were poison."

"I think Erica had found some old records. Today, of course, I recognize the Solanaceae are more than that, but at the time..." She trails off, and Stephen lifts his eyes to her mouth.

She is old, older than the memory of nights and days, and still the young scientist wants nothing more than to press the fruit into her mouth with a kiss. But it is the first tomato, the first and only success in a thousand years, and the sacrilege would be unimaginable.

The lights in the lab flicker, and the sound of workers, the sound like a thousand voices humming, falters. Elise raises her ancient face to the ceiling, a sighted Tiresias straining to listen.

"The fans," she whispers, the faintest look of dismay beginning to dawn. "The air exchangers have stopped." The lights flicker again and the workers begin to run, heading for their cells, their families.

In the panic, no one sees her take the first bite.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, SAM gave me this prompt: "Summer pleasure, winter sin."
I prompted FlamingNyx with "blood under the fingernails and sand on a red velvet skirt."