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User:Phil Geusz/Who Shall Mourn the Dandelions?

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Who Shall Mourn the Dandelions?

Author: Phil Geusz

I remember Rebecca under the dull red light of the dome, playing in the little park. She loved that last little vestige of a once-green Earth, loved it more purely than any adult ever could. Especially, she loved the dandelions.

“Dandies!” she would cry in delight. “Dandy Lions!”

Often for hours she played among the happy yellow blossoms, their little faces upturned towards the nurturing artificial grow-lights. She seemed to treat each little flower as an individual, to know each by name. I suggested once that we might pluck a few and take them home with us, but she was scandalized. “No, Uncle Pedro!” she exclaimed, “They’re happy here, where they belong. Where they can live and grow.”

So every day we trudged to the park, where fewer and fewer friends greeted us. Even so, the Dandy Lions were the highlight of our routine.

Once, Rebecca asked me why it was that some of the Dandy Lions had puffy white heads instead of flowers. I explained that these were seeds, to be carried far away by the air and grow new Dandy Lions. She became puzzled, and asked me where that might be. I didn’t answer, and instead hugged her close to me for a time. Then I cried.

She never asked again.

Eventually it came to an end of course, as we knew it must. We went to the park one last time, and it was only the two of us. But Rebecca didn’t notice, not really. She played among the yellow flowers for a time, and fussed when it was time to go.

“Rebecca!” I called again. “Playtime’s over. We have to go now.”

And she came willingly then, of course. Never has there been a more obedient, respectful, or loving child.

That night, we ate magnificently. Real beans, frozen since heavens knew when. Spinach leaves. Tomato sauce. And, for Rebecca, the very last dish of ice cream.

I enjoyed watching her eat it far more than anything else I have ever done.

Then, while she was asleep, I visited my profession upon her. With the ease of long practice I sucked the child’s essence into a cold hard memory cube. Then, I transferred the data once again, this time by radio, into the storage vaults of the distant space probe that even now was fleeing the suddenly and terminally insane sun.

The downloading process killed her, of course. It is universally deadly. The artificial intelligence aboard the Ark tells me that it is painless, that there are no recollections of anyone suffering pain or even discomfort from downloading anywhere in it’s files. And, it tells me that someday it is theoretically possible that humanity might be recreated on a distant world, that the memories might be brought back to life in new bodies, that the Ark is a library of humanity rather than the lifeless mausoleum I see. It even tells me I have nothing to fear myself.

But these empty words of reassurance from something that never really lived or breathed do nothing for me as I carry Rebecca’s limp and lifeless body to the tiny park, and carefully place her discarded husk among the little wild and free flowers she so loved. Could the AI have delighted in bouncing Rebecca on its virtual knee, as I had my very real one? Then and there, I resolve not to join those whose souls lie in stasis on the Ark.

For I am the very last. And the environmental systems will fail within hours.

Real life demands real death. Nothing else can do it justice. Together, the Dandy Lions and Rebecca and I shall lie unmourned forever.