The Dandelion

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

What do you think of when you see a dandelion?

Submitted: June 16, 2018

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Submitted: June 16, 2018



The Dandelion

“We filed past; our faces pressed against glass darkened to protect our eyes from the bright artificial light within. Ours had become a twilight existence. There was no time to stop, so the glimpse of our national treasure was all too brief. It is said that people once wanted it to disappear, but I don’t believe it. Why would there be a perennial queue to see the last of its kind? What would life be, without once looking on the beauty of a Dandelion?” That was what he told me the day we met. 

I had been walking across the field; hoping a story would come to me, and that's when I saw him. He was on his knees, next to the path; looking around him at the grass and everyday meadow plants. It was an overcast day, yet he wore dark glasses that were not merely tinted as sunglasses are, they were darker and they contrasted with his pale skin. From beneath the glasses I could see tears running down his cheeks. I asked him whether he was all right, and whether he needed any help.  

He replied with a single word: “Paradise.”

I didn't know what he meant by that, but he seemed very upset. I opted to sit with him for a while, to make sure he was okay. I reasoned that any muse worth its salt could find me just as well whether I was sitting or walking.

“Where are you from?” I asked. He didn't answer, so I got out my notebook and my pen to jot down ideas for the next story. I had half a page of jottings when the answer came.

I don't know whether he had only then decided to trust me, whether it had taken him that long to think up an answer or what his reason was, but he just said “A dead world.” 

I didn't quite know what to say; I looked at my notes for inspiration, but all I could manage was crass and predictable. “Are you from another planet?”

He just smiled and said “Yes, another planet. One where there is no sun, and no beauty like you see around us.”

I remember thinking what a silly thing that was to say in the field with the pylons running across it, and with the road and new estate in the background. Now that I know where he comes from, I no longer think if it as silly. I could not help but scribble down the words he spoke.

“On my world,” he said, “we'd used up almost all we had. There was no grass, no sun, no bird song and no chance of survival. Yet there was hope, but it would mean risking everything. All we had left would be used in one go to send me for help. It would bring a quicker end, but we all knew the end would be coming for us anyway; that could not be changed. Even the light keeping alive the last dandelion would have to be sacrificed. It would be the end; the death of the last surviving plant on earth.”

Noticing my surprise at his remark, he understood my concern, and without me uttering a word he answered it. “No journey off the planet was possible for our race; the complacency of our forefathers had seen to that. Resources necessary for such a venture had been squandered long since and my people had become prisoners of their own folly. It was our darkest hour, both literally and figuratively. That's when Watson went to the Council with a plan that he said could save us all. Unfortunately it failed.”

“How do you know it failed?” I asked.

He just looked around at the grass and at the houses nestled against the patch of woodland. I knew he was trying to look everywhere but at me, so I persisted in trying to catch his eye. He couldn't evade my gaze for ever and he gave in.

“Because I failed,” he said, looking me straight in the eye.

I sat back and leant on my hands as I asked “What exactly were you trying to do?”

“Change history,” he said. Seeing my furrowed brow and vacant expression, he continued, “You see Watson had a theory that he could send one person back in time to change what had transpired.  To save our world from the path of destruction it was on.”

I'd met people who live rough before and they do come out with some fanciful stories. This was his; an alternative world to the one in which he lived. There was something in the way he said it though, something that told me he believed it.

I decided to play along with it and humour him, so I asked “Where's your time machine?” I thought this an innocent question, but he was irritated by it, and I saw him get to his feet and begin to walk away. I quickly got up and followed him. “Hey I'm sorry, but it was a fair question.”

He stopped and spoke to me over his shoulder, “A fair question from one who doesn't care about the answer. You don't believe me any more than the others.”

“What others?” I asked.

Still not turning, he said “Politicians, scientists, whoever I thought I could tell. I've lost count of the times I've seen the sun rise and set. Though I never tire at the wonder of seeing it, I can't help but worry that I will never achieve what I came here for; that perhaps Watson was wrong after all.”

I grabbed his arm and turned him round to face me. “You mustn't give up.” I could hardly believe what I was saying, even less so when I continued, “you must be special, they must have chosen you for a reason.”

He shrugged off my grip. “The reason they chose me is that I was the only volunteer that had no family left.”

I didn't know what to say.

He walked a few paces from me and then spread his arms as a gesture towards the whole field. “This field is gone. There is no colour, no sunshine and precious little of anything else.”

That's when he told me about his visit to see the last dandelion before he was sent back. As he did so he knelt down and looked at one of the thousand dandelions there were in the field.

He looked up at me and said, “I'm still here, that's how I know I've failed.  If I succeed, my world will never exist and neither will I.  But here I am, spending each day looking at, and walking through paradise; knowing that each day I've once again failed to save it.”  He bowed his head and said no more.

That was the moment; I didn't doubt him anymore; I believed him. “What are you here for?” I said, “Is there some pivotal event that happens?”

He went from kneeling to sitting, and I sat with him.

He said “I don't even know when this is. It was the first, and only, attempt at time travel.  I don't think we'd have tried it at all except there was no choice. I'm here to do what I can; to try to make people listen. If they don't listen, I am their future and I have no future.”

I was nonplussed, “You mean you just came back with no plan, and no idea who to convince?”

He nodded, “No plan; just jumped into to the vortex. Watson was convinced it would go backwards through time.”

I just sat listening, unable to think what to say.

He continued “I could have ended up alone on a dead planet, or just simply torn apart.”

“But you didn't,” I said, “you came through, back to our time.”

“Back to where it might already be too late,” he said softly.

Now it was my turn to avoid his gaze. I just sat and looked around, I wanted to reassure him and say that he was wrong, that we would pull through, but I didn't believe it myself. I became aware that he was looking at me as I looked around the field. Eventually, I shot him a glance.

He was momentarily embarrassed. “I'm sorry,” he said, “I just thought for a moment you believed me.”

“I do believe you,” I mumbled.

We sat in silence for a moment.  I'm not sure he knew what to say, and I certainly didn't know what to suggest. I doodled and scribbled on my note pad, until I let out an involuntary laugh.

“What is it?”  he said, sounding hurt.

“Perhaps you are who I’m looking for.”

“You're looking for me?”

“Yes; I came out hoping to find my muse, and perhaps I have.” I flipped my pad to a new page. “I'm going to write your story.”

He fell back momentarily on the grass, clutching his stomach. I put my pad down and quickly went over to him.

“Are you all right?” I said, feeling foolish even as the words came out of my mouth.

He sat up and he was smiling. “Yes, I'm fine,” he said. “What else can I tell you to help with the story?” 

I didn't know what was wrong with him but I thought it would do no good to tire him further, so I said “Nothing at the moment, you'll have to leave it to me.”

“Very well,” he said, “I'll go and lie over there in the shade; I burn easily you see,”

He got up and walked over to a lone tree, but he seemed weaker.  I was sure he was not telling me everything.  Still I had to admit that being left alone suited me. It was nice to get the interaction, but writing is a lonely business and I like it that way. I sat with the thoughts of the conversation and this stranger. I tried different ways to tell what had happened and what was to come, but none seemed to be as effective as the way he had told me. Looking around me at the grass, the flowers and in particular the simple yellow flowers that he found so endearing I knew how to start the story, and so it flowed easily. How to finish the story was a different matter. I needed to consult my muse again.

As I got closer, I could see that he was much weaker than before. “What's the matter? What's wrong?” I asked.

He held his hand up, palm towards me, motioning me not to touch him. The smile was still there, and if anything, it was broader.  “I'm fading,” he said, “you are the one I needed to talk to; you just need to finish the story.”

“How should I finish it? What should I tell them?”

“Tell them the same thing I say to you. This is a beautiful world, with a warm sun, fresh rain and grass to lie down on.  Feel the sun's rays as though it is the last time they will ever fall on you; see every flower as though it’s the last flower you will ever see; and care for this world the way you would a parent that had loved you, raised you and kept you safe as you grew.”

I did not want to finish the words, for I knew, as well as he did, that it would end his existence. I was wrong. The last word was written, but though weak, he was still there.

He reached for my arm. “Promise me you will tell my story to everyone you can.”

“I promise,” I said.  They were just two small words but they caused him to blink out of existence.

It was then I realised that a story is worthless until it is read.  Though I don’t know who you are, I do know you will save the future, and ensure that there will ever be a dandelion for those who care to stand and see its beauty. 

© Copyright 2019 Kevin Broughton. All rights reserved.

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