Concrete stalagmites rose hundreds of feet into the air. Their human occupants moved in and out like ants. On the outskirts of the city the Outer Wastes boiled in dust storms of parched earth. From the viewing platform, Adam watched the storm forming on the horizon. The old man next to him muttered more to himself than Adam, “When my grandfather was a lad he would have said that it was bringing rain. Now we bunker down and wait for the dust to pass. Don’t think we’ll ever see rain again, mind you.” He looked towards the clear blue of the sky.
“Another sky that looks so pretty but will kill us all.”
Adam shuffled the drink container from hand to hand, wanting the old man to leave him alone. Wandering away to break the chance of conversation Adam moved outside the platform to the gantry where the red earth whipped against the metal framework like an approaching tide. Looking back he saw the old man leave. Crouching down Adam removed the lid from the drink container and scooped the earth until it reached the brim. Sealing the container Adam looked around for surveillance patrols but saw none and headed towards the interior of the city and home.
On the journey home the full drink container reminded Adam of his plan. He imagined passers-by spying his cup full of earth, knocking it out of his hands and spilling soil like blood on the footpath.
At the entrance to his building complex he headed straight for the biosphere. The sign above the gate proclaimed The Botanical and Zoological Ecosystem of this Building is Maintained for Your Existence. The biosphere tweeted to the sound of birds while insects scurried under leaf and twig. Adam walked the perimeter, following the pathways through the landscape.
The biosphere was on the lower level of Adam’s apartment complex, the living heart of the building’s ecosystem. It resembled sculpted parkland with a lush core of rainforest. Every building had one, compensation to the pillaged landscape outside the perimeter of the city’s walls. Animals, plants and humans regulated in synchronistic harmony. Sensors measured carbon dioxide output by the human and animal population and the release of oxygen from the plants. Sewerage and waste water fed into the biosphere where it was treated and returned fit for human consumption. The world outside the city limits no longer supported life. It was a savage beast formed by man, turning on its creator. Humanity controlled what it could and hoped for the day it could repair the damage.
It was Adam’s sanctum where he savoured the wet smell of composting leaf matter, the humidity of the rainforest walk and the smattering of flowers exploding with colour.
An officious voice sounded out. “All residents, please be informed that the biosphere will be closing shortly. You are requested to vacate the area.”
At the edge of the rainforest, manicured lawns carpeted the vista, a relic of agrarian pride. A chain-link fence six-foot high bordered the pathway, periodically chiding “Keep Off the Grass.” He wanted to feel the texture of the grass on his bare feet, to lie down and breathe in the musty warmth of soil, let the grass tickle his nose. Adam bent down and pretended to tie his shoelace at the verge. Looking around him quickly, Adam plucked seeds from the heads of grass from the nearest blades and deposited them into his trouser pocket. In a guilty sweat he scratched the back of his neck. What he was doing wasn’t technically illegal; the theft of a few grass seeds may be considered vandalism. Destruction of the ecosystem was punishable by exile.
At the exit to the biosphere Adam stepped through the decontamination vestibule where a fine mist washed his shoes and a forced gust of air removed loose organic matter. In the solitude of his apartment Adam emptied his pocket onto the kitchen bench. Removing his pants he picked the remaining seeds from his pocket and with his forefinger pushed them into a pile.
Opening the drink container, Adam pushed his finger into the dirt creating small holes. From a cup of water he poured rain onto the dry dirt watching it being soaked up. Between his thumb and forefinger he pinched the seeds and planted them in the soil. Like a womb he covered the seeds with the mud, pouring another cup of rain over the moist soil. Under the kitchen bench he had rigged up a single bulb as an artificial sun. Over the coming days he watched as the grass broke the surface of the soil, reaching for the sun and its warmth. Carefully he added water, not too little to starve his plants, not too much to drown them.
Every few days Adam visited another viewing platform taking another drink container with him, harvesting the red earth. Some days there were too many people and Adam deposited the drink container in recycling receptacle. He gathered more grass seeds and planted them in containers under the bench.
Foraging in the recycling bins Adam found a plastic tub about three feet square and only a few inches deep. A split ran through the centre but more foraging yielded some black plastic and thick tape. After repairs he began to fill the tub with soil. He wanted to carry two drink containers each trip to make it faster but he dared not arouse suspicion. When he had a layer of soil in the base of the tub, Adam began transplanting the grass from under the sink. Kneeling beside the tub Adam dug holes and carefully placed the grass in each hole. Meticulously he spread the spare soil around the tub.
Day by day he observed the grass spreading to fill the tub, sprouting new runners. He ran his hand over the tips of the blades, caressing it. With a pair of scissors he trimmed the blades, turning the cuttings into compost.
Weeks passed before he dared fulfil a dream. Adam sat on the dining room chair surveying the patch of grass he had grown. With deliberate purpose he untied his laces and removed his shoes. Socks were peeled off and tucked into the mouths of the shoes. He wriggled his toes, anticipating the texture. Standing to his feet he looked down on the square of green occupying the linoleum. Holding his breath he raised his right foot and lowered it onto the grass.