It’s A Natural Thing

Astra’s brown eyes reflect the blazing heat overhead, irises blown out as her cheeks, dusted in pink, swell with a smile. “Yep! We’re officially plant parents now, Rei,” she says seriously, and Rei can’t help but shake her head. “I don’t even know if this is gonna work. But sure. I guess I’ll be your plant wife.”

“Model complete. Please extract file for use.”

Rei scans over the output that ‘FleeceAI’ has produced. It’s a drab, murky muse of a woman holding the palms of another, a tiny plant sprouting from where their blurred hands meet. The plant is a dirty brown, with crumbling leaves and withered flowers.

She sighs as she scans over the final picture, mentally calculating the amount of rework needed to create a decent final portrait.

“This thing just can’t get fingers right, hm?”

Astra’s breath is a whirlwind storm in the cool air of the apartment, warm and grounding against Rei’s skin. She peeps at the muse and walks away, scoffing at the “pure banality of AI-generation software,” as she always puts it.

“I don’t know what you want me to do other than use this thing, Astra,” Rei mumbles as she picks up her digital pen to draw. “I have no idea what a plant is supposed to look like.”

When Rei was four, her mother told her of a fairytale past: of an Earth covered in green and blue, of forests and jungles cascading across continents. As years passed, it was clear to her that this was a family heirloom: lore passed down from her grandmother’s ancestors to remind them of a world that once was.

But now, things are done a little differently. “Greenery is archaic,” she remembers her science professor saying. “The biosphere has evolved. And our tech can tackle anything. We don’t even need oxygen to be made by plants anymore. It is as easy to manufacture today as the gravity boots you young people wear.”

“Then why don’t we grow one?” Astra says. Rei blinks at her, eyes fleeting for a second to the loose strand of lilac hair hovering over her tan face. She wants to reach out and tuck it, then pull her in for a kiss. “What?”

“Why don’t we…grow a plant?”

The idea is redundant. Rei watches on as her best friend sows a few seeds that were delivered five minutes ago, after they scoured vendor lists across the world. “Sourced straight from Brazil,” Astra whispers as she covers the seeds in the soil. “Now all we need is some sunlight…” she says as she climbs up Rei’s ladder and onto the roof. “And some water. We should have a plant baby in…this dossier says about three weeks.”

Rei huffs as she climbs onto the roof and watches the sunlight curl across the plant-friendly metal pot placed on the railing. “Did you just say “plant baby”?”

Astra’s brown eyes reflect the blazing heat overhead, irises blown out as her cheeks, dusted in pink, swell with a smile. “Yep! We’re officially plant parents now, Rei,” she says seriously, and Rei can’t help but shake her head. “I don’t even know if this is gonna work. But sure. I guess I’ll be your plant wife.”

Astra turns away and waters their little plant pot, only before Rei catches her biting her lip.

“Okay. Serious business. What are we naming our babies?”

Rei strokes the tiny leaf sprouting from the pot, humming to it as it were sentient. Electricity crackles around them as a drone flies past in the afternoon sky, on their trip to release oxygen for the day. “Hm. I’m not sure. But if I had to, I would name her Gayle. You know, after…”

“Your childhood dog, yep. Totally. So, Gayle is gonna be here in a week and a half…”

“You speak like this is a human child.”

“…so how are we gonna split custody? Does she spend one week with you then one with me? I’m new to this whole parenting schtick, Rei.”

Rei’s throat fills with an intense urge to grab Astra by the shoulders, shake her and yell, “How am I not supposed to fall in love with you?” But for now, she settles her gaze on her soft lips.

“Relax, Stra. We’ll take turns watering her. You can come over every day. I  mean, you practically live with me.”

Astra’s face flickers with an expression Rei can’t place, before going back to her normal, full smile. “Maybe I should just move in with you, then.”

Rei feels her face heat up, and she looks away from Astra’s knowing smile. “No way. You have terrible hygiene.”

“She’s here.”

Rei’s skin buzzes like lightning when their shoulders bump against each other, bent over to look at Gayle. She’s as magnificent as Rei imagined, leaves full of life, green in a way that Rei has never seen in her digital sketches. The AI muse does it no justice. She’s alive now, in her full glory: their marvellous, little, plant baby.

They hold the pot together, hands touching, gazes too full and too much to even meet. The day is serene, and Rei dreams of it, carrying Gayle downstairs and placing her in a preservation pod so she can stay with them forever.

“You know, this reminds me…” Astra whispers, fingers inching closer to Rei’s wrist. “…of everything we have missed.”

“How so?”

“A century back, this was all so normal. Growing a plant. An entire forest, even. But now, even though we can manufacture oxygen and water in labs, freeze our bodies and transfer our memories to fully sentient bots, we spent so much time and care trying to bring this one to life, the old way.”

Their eyes meet, and suddenly, the warm breeze feels frozen in place.

“But back then, there were so many things that.. weren’t normal,” Rei says as her gaze dips to Astra’s lips. “That you could spend years nurturing and…even if it came to fruition, things would just wither away.”

Her friend’s lip curls into a smile. “Well then. Thank god for bad AI art and Gayle.” Their laughter rings loud in the empty rooftop.

When they lean in, over Gayle’s happy swinging in the wind, their touch feels weighted. Normal. Natural, and all too new.

But mostly, this kiss feels like a new seed, planted in fresh soil.

“Yeah,” Rei whispers as she pulls back. “Thank god.”

This story was about: Sexuality

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I am a writer, poet and journalist. In my free time, I indulge in poetry about queer love, body image and relationships. I love writing about politics, culture and lifestyle. I am deeply passionate about covering queer stories and highlighting unheard stories. I am planning to study international relations and make tangible, impactful changes for a sustainable future.
T.M. Amrita

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