A story by Emma McKenzie

When I open my eyes my grandmother’s hands are held out in-front of me. Her skin is smooth and soft, age halted mid-way in its journey. Turning the box carefully to me she pulls open the lid.

‘One hundred years old’

Our eyes meet.

‘We must never forget.’

I look from her to the box again. Inside a single perfect bee is held in place by a pin. No glass encasing it, not suspended in amber, or frozen in plastic resin, a real Bee just as it was as if it were simply resting there.

It is so tiny. How could something so small move anywhere at all? I lift my finger to touch the curve of its back, the thousand tiny hairs. But I know I must only imagine, not touch, and lower my hand again.

My grandmother takes a seat by the window and turns her gaze outwards. The clouds are thick today her eyes look nowhere into the mist.

‘I remember them you know. I wish you could have seen it Elle. I would give everything to take you back. I only saw I a few, but it was enough, I will never forget.’ The bubble lurches she steadies herself with one hand, glances at me to check I am still holding the box securely.

‘It’s ok’ I lift the box to show her.

These damn bubbles, she motions with a hand, how are we meant to live like this? Sometimes I wish I had stayed behind, but what if we had all done that? Those families that did, that are living down there, don’t think they are heroes, they put their own needs over all others.

‘When you saw the bees Gran…’

‘I saw three Elle’

‘Where were you?’

‘I was very small, maybe five or six, my Grandmother had an allotment – you won’t know what those are – it was like a large garden but you grew vegetables and things to eat. It was the last days before all this, they had already started moving some people up – you know up here. I went with her to say goodbye – she had that allotment for fifty years, but she said it was right to leave it – to leave down there. It broke her heart to see everything dying like that. The Bee you have there is only one of many kind, I was lucky enough to see two of that type – that one my Gran gave me before we left. She had kept it to draw and take sketches from but her eyesight was going by that point.’

‘Her eyesight?’

‘We didn’t have the anti-age injections then – they only came in when I was a young woman, it was too late for her honey.’

‘Did she kill the Bee Gran?’

‘God no – they were dying off – she saved that one, said she found it just lying as it was.’

I look down at the Bee again, I can’t imagine getting old, can’t imagine dying. I’ve seen all the books, the films of what it was like. Outside the walkway lights up Obe is coming to pick me up.

‘Can I see this again?’

‘Sure, next time you visit’ she takes the box and carefully closes the lid again and returns it to the drawer which shuts with a smooth slick mechanism as a chime sounds alerting us to Obe’s arrival.

When Obe enters he is red in the face and has his cylon jacket zipped up to the neck.  Mist hangs off his jacket in beads.

‘It’s hanging thick out there’ he says stepping in. ‘How are you Ma?’

*                *                  *

I am woken by the sound of sweeping, a thin brittle sound with its own rhythm – shcwmmm, schwmmm, schwmmm outside my door. Sunlight is piercing the edge of the shutter that doesn’t quite close all the way, a thin line of light spreads like a lazer across the white covers. I jab at the button that releases the screen and throw an arm across my eyes when it finally lifts as the motor kicks into action. Sunlight floods into the room, it hits the surface of the Bubble hanging outside ours and sends a flicker of colour across the solar cells lining the surface. Condensation has gathered along the bottom rim of the window portal and created a fine mist outside. If I press my nose and cheek against the shell I can see down – right down. Green lines like the veins of a butterfly’s wing thread across the surface of the earth where the regeneration programme has been successful. I can make out the glinting surfaces of the uniform reservoirs but we are too far away to see much else.

‘Is that you Obe?’ the sweeping stops.

‘It’s me – sorry I was trying to be quiet – did you sleep ok?’

‘Sure, is Ma up?’

‘She’s gone to fetch more filchon.’

‘Oh.’ I sink back into the bed, the door slides open a crack disappearing into the wall.

‘What will it be today then? How about white trousers, white vest top, white jumper? Or white dress, white tights, white shoes –‘

‘Shut up Obe will you –.’

‘You could put the projector on you know.’

‘I’m bored of it – who wants to see a world you can’t even touch –‘

‘What about the old age stuff – anything new come up?’

‘Nope, afraid not.’

‘Fine’ I turn my attention back to the window shell and reach for the screen reader. At least when I read I can be somewhere in my head. The words flick up the screen – black and white. I flick the colour slide and choose a violent purple instead it hurts my eyes to look at it.’

‘The tank guy has just been, water should be up.’

I ignore Obe as he leaves and slides the door shut again and concentrate on finding my place in the text. Ma will be back soon. Yesterday’s clothes are crumpled on the floor – the only thing cluttering up the blank space.

*                 *                    *

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