The Orchid

phalaenopsis equestris alba

It was cold, very cold. It seemed that he was alone in the apartment. Probably in the whole building. Maybe in the whole city. It certainly felt like that. The change occurred while he was sleeping. There was no sound and that felt new. He could not remember experiencing the complete silence ever before.

He has been awake for several hours now and the electricity apparently went off while he was asleep. That has never happened before.

Cold. So cold. The heating was not working. He put on the jacket.

He was walking in circles in the living room, following the shape of his thoughts. There seemed to be no way out. He was locked, as safe as one could be, isolated from the whole external world.

The sterile clean lines and gray-scale metallic colors of the furniture made it feel even colder. Or was it getting colder indeed? He went to the corridor, found and put on his gloves and a cap when it struck him. He ran to the kitchen.

The orchid was in the middle of the white table, in a miniature transparent glass bowl, its roots gently hugging the tiny branch; his baby orchid, the only flower he has ever owned, the only living being he shared his apartment with. He had it for years.

The orchids were extremely rare. Once upon a time they grew everywhere, they were like common weed. Then the species slowly, but inevitably started to die.

Although it was really easy to clone a plant from only a few cells taken from an orchid leaf, they grew up for a few weeks – 2 months the longest and died as if being programmed. It was like the dinosaurs and the meteor, just that no meteor ever struck in the story about orchids’ end. Those plants just refused to live. It was not possible for the best scientists in the world, with all the knowledge and the technology available today, to either find out what was going on or to stop it. No new orchids were being made to live longer than two months. They were no longer found in nature. The species was dying.

But there and then, it was so cold, and his little plant with 3 mm big flowers was freezing. He tried to put the bowl under his jacket, but he was a bit worried about the humidity. The air in the apartment was desert-dry.

The hours passed. He was hungry and thirsty. His fridge was empty, he never used it. The water was not coming out of the tap.

He did not know how much time has passed since he woke up and found out that everything changed. He took the bowl out from under the jacket and looked at the flower. The orchid looked so sad. Very dry and on the verge of freezing. He stared at it for a moment before he took a few deep breaths. He was visibly widening his nostrils while breathing in. Then he put the orchid in his mouth.

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5 Comments »

  1. pochp Said:

    It seems to me the subject was euthanasia.

  2. Neverword Said:

    Hm… I wouldn’t say that. If you mean, that the orchid was a symbol for a person, probably, but I can’t agree with you on that point.
    My thoughts curve around what an orchid’s meaning is. Nature, most probably, also beauty. Jelena wrote quite some lines about the texture and surroundings the character encounters.
    After the light is gone, he feels them to be cold, even somewhat menacing, and denying, although it is his own furniture.
    Probably he senses the same things that might have compelled the orchids as a species to die, and makes them refuse to be brought to life again.
    What the humans made, their world, their scenario, in which no room for deviant existence is left.

  3. johlrogge Said:

    When I first read this story I did not get it, it did not mean anything to me but it stayed in the back of my head on my way to work. Standing on a subway escalator it finally sunk in. To me the story is about nature versus technology, in the story the electricity malfunctions, it’s cold and unpleasant. The scientists are failing to save the orchids. It seems that the cells that have been cloned for generations are finally getting old.
    The orchid is the only living being in the apartment besides the main character and the characters obviously has feelings for the flower, like it’s a friend in spite of it being “just” a flower. In the end the character puts the orchid in the mouth seemingly in an attempt to give the flower the warmth and humidity it needs to survive. To me it’s not about euthanasia, on the contrary, the character is saving the orchid by the only means available, body heat and humidity, nature’s victory over technology I presume.
    But those are just my thoughts, I don’t know if that is what Jelena was aiming for.

  4. pochp Said:

    I think your interpretation is better johl.

  5. Jelena Said:

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts here.

    There could have been an ending where the main character was found frozen to death with the small orchid still alive in his mouth, but I felt that the story had to end where it did instead.


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