This month’s postcard from the future comes from a 23rd century exotic flower seller…
My working day is pretty ordinary I guess. Selling flowers to passers-by from my little booth at the west street entrance to the Nor’London Rocket Port. You’ve probably passed by me a few times and not even noticed me. I was pretty honoured and surprised when one of the terminal managers suggested I write a message to the people of the past. Time travel, eh? There’s a prospect to hurt your head. Nobody seems to actually have any time here apart from the maladjustniks I see occasionally come maundering in here, begging spare change and pilfering litter. Everyone else is usually in such a big hurry, trying to get to some meeting on time. They stop and buy flowers, for a wife or mistress, for their mum, whatever. Or maybe just to sit in the middle of the table at some big board meeting, or at a reception desk, or maybe just in the hallway of somebody’s house, wafting their aroma around, cheering folks up with thoughts and memories of spring and summer. Sometimes, when I’m bored or sad here in a quiet moment, I like to close my eyes and imagine all the different places my flowers might have found their way to the day before, and where they might go next. It helps me to connect with all those people who don’t seem to have time to stop and talk to me, although some do, occasionally.
Elle from the corner shop and Sylvi from Streathams over the road, they sometimes have a chat with me, particularly at weekends. One day last year I remember a guy stopped and talked for ages. Said he’d just lost his job, and was taking the flowers to his wife, to cheer her up, to sort of counteract the blow. He seemed really cheery at first, but the more he talked I began to think he was imbalanced. I saw him getting taken away from a bar nearby later that day, for getting into a drunken fight. A week later there was a story in the paper about a guy who’d jumped off the Murdoch Tower. I can’t prove it or be sure but I think it was the same guy. That made me sad, wished I could remember all he’d said to me. He was ranting.
Oh yes, that was it, and that’s why I’m telling you about it. He said there’s been even bigger recessions back in the past, back in the very century to which they’re saying they’re going to send these postcards now. A world crash, after which people had been rioting and eating cats and dogs and stuff. History repeats itself. But you folk in the past won’t want to hear that of course. Way too boring and depressing. You’ll want to know about the changes and innovations. These flowers, for instance. Back in the past there were more species, before the Bee Plague and the Pollination Crisis. Things called Orchids and Gardenias and Chrysanthemums and Tulips. But of course, we got some unexpected help after that with the new genetic material injected from Titan. You people won’t know anything about that at all.
It started out as an accident. Only scientists were supposed to get to muck around experimenting with the Astratropes and Hydraphiles, underwater flowers from Titan, thriving under the ice sheet. But their colours were so pretty that people got to smuggling them out as presents, then rarities on the black market, huge prices. Interpol tried to crack down but it all got out of hand when the mutations started appearing. That’s still reflected in my stock here even today. Folks can buy the pure pedigree thoroughbreds if they like, Titan water flowers to keep in their fish tanks at home, now that de-regulation has become official. Or they can purchase the hybrids, if they sign my disclaimer forms. Nobody is ever entirely sure how a hybrid will turn out. A will of their own they have. A guy tried to sue me last month because his Incandescent Orchid had turned tumescent on him. He’d been wearing it as a necklace to some hippy dippy love conference, and this thing had got a whiff of the herbal tea and gone ballistic. Punctured his veins while he was asleep and colonised his venous system, pumped him full of chlorophyll. You should have seen him. Green skin, purple eyes, fingers flat and fat as banana leaves. I told him he’d signed the disclaimer, he was on his own. Told him to be patient, go get some magazine article done about him, he’d be the next big thing and all the girls would be fighting over him.
Then there’s that famous musician who messed around with his Methane-Hydrangeas once too often, inhaled so much of their narcotic pollen that they entered his brain. His skin is a carpet of flowers now, like alpine succulents and sedums, except that they drink lemonade not water, then they all change colour and glow in the dark for two days. Man, is that guy unique, but what a price to pay. His wife must get sick of it. He’s not as young as he used to be. Oh yeah, then there’s that politician with the beard, except that all his facial and body hair is ivy. Been campaigning for years now for special rights for plant-hybrid mutants. Except he doesn’t use that word of course, that’s not politically correct any more. Botanically Augmented, yes that’s it. Says we’d all benefit from a touch of alien chlorophyll up our jacksies, but I’m not sure I buy that. That’s human nature, innit? (Pardon the pun). Whatever we are, we try to make the most of it, and if we carry it a bit too far then we start trying to tell everyone else they don’t know what they’re missing. Truth is, none of us know what we’re missing, unless we could somehow find time to have intimate relationships with everyone on the planet while our partners weren’t looking, and what a whole heap of trouble that would make.
Talking of which: my husband’s gone off plants, long since, what with all the stuff in the news. Doesn’t like me ever bringing my work home with me. Says you folks back in the past were better off with your big range of safe normal flowers and plants before the bees snuffed it, and alien life was discovered. He might be right, but I like our colourful, perilous, unpredictable world, for all its dangers. Someone buys a flower off me, they never know what they’re going to get, how their life’s going to change, and what they might turn into.