Beyond now, a shattered star from eons past smashed the Orbiter Arkansas. Dr. Samuel Gotlieb jettisoned his secret, space-born son to Earth. He radioed: "My son, Noah, descends in a data capsule. Oxygen, makeshift, one hybrid algae cartridge. Do you hear me? Eight years old. A hydrocephalic. Raised in space. Speed rescue. Oxygen limited, crucial. Touch down off Alaska. Dear Earth, receive my son."
The dispatch was received by the elite scientific community housed in biospheres necessary to escape Earth's atmosphere of escalating heat.
The diminishing common population stayed alive circling the Polar Regions barely surviving in the shelter of winter's shadow.
Noah's capsule landed amidst Arctic kelp gatherers. Withered men pulled the capsule closer and peered through the moon lit porthole. One elder rejoiced: "The Heavens sent a child!"
The Senate of Scientists had reluctantly approved the expenditure of fuel for an ancient helicopter to retrieve the capsule, if only to recover data from Noah parents' life-long research to reforest Earth. They had believed enough trees would bring back Earth's life sustaining climate.
Before the kelp gathers could free Noah, the helicopter arrived. Quickly a cable was lowered. The crew aimed their lasers. Delivered threats and instructions. The gathers surrendered the capsule. The crew was relieved. Encounters with the tribes were dangerous. They had nothing to lose. Their survival was minimal. Infertility was universal. Seeing a child even a dead one might provoke an attack to a biosphere. Nomads were violent. Death more reward than deterrent.
The gatherers told the wanderers about Noah's arrival, the wanderers told the cave dwellers. Men and women cried remembering their childhood. A few made clothes and toys for the boy.
Outside Noah's hospital room a pine's limb tapped on his window. Tap, tap.
Inside by the bed, a pink cushioned robot stood on metal rollers, stroked the boy's forehead, and repeating in monotones; "Noah, can you hear me?"
Noah's body spilled beneath the covers. Tubes fed and drained him. A spigot attached to his head. His nose smeared flat across his face. His cheeks dripped on his ears that fanned out on the pillow more like pancakes than ears.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, beat the tree.
"Can you hear me? Can you hear me?" said Pink.
Noah opened his eyes and saw an undefined pink cloud. He couldn't speak. His tongue glued between his top teeth.
Pink swabbed and misted Noah's mouth.
Pink said, "Earth."
"Earth? My father. Is he dead?"
Pink didn't answer.
Noah remembered the shower of meteors, blood pouring up his father face. His father's last words, "Know that I loved you."
He whispered: "He's dead."
Pink placed the boy's hands in the soft-cling of his pink shoulders, eased his tri-claws under the boy's head and shoulders, and exerted practiced pressure. The vanilla scented hug disarmed Noah. Pink gently returned the Noah's jelly mass to the bed, leaving his hands indented in his soft pink shoulders as he leaned over. "Children like my hugs. I will stay until you no longer need me."
"Give me my hands. They float in front."
Pink brought them down for the boy to see. "Here are your hands."
"I can't move them. They are too heavy to be mine. Where are my wonderful floating hands?"
Pink brought one of the hands to Noah's face. The fingers hung like milk drops. "Here. Feel your fingers with your tongue."
With effort he extended his gray tongue to feel and taste one finger and realized his large head was anchored and his flaccid muscles were nonfunctional in Earth's gravity. "Don't smother my hands in your fat body."
"I could not permit them to fall. You are my boy." Pink held both hands in front of the boy with the fingers higher as if on a shelf. "Is this where they floated? Above your chest?"
"You can't hold my hands up forever."
"I can until my energy source depletes."
"Put them down. If they don't work, I no longer want them."
Tap, tap, the tree's bruised needles repeated on the window.
The boy felt his hands return to his side. Pink placed a pinch of pajama-cloth between his thumbs and the next finger. The small deed made him aware of his hands but he didn't care to thank his strange attendant.
Wearily he looked above. The dome was high and empty. Space, wasted space. Bigger than a hundred Arks. The Ark where his body swam and his mind had longed to live on Earth. Yet on Earth he was mush, imprisoned and sinking in what, he thought must be a mattress on a bed.
The tree tapped again, tap, tap.
His father had said: "Don't miss anything. Journey to your last moment."
His pillow creature was bending over him again so he focused more keenly and he was shocked. "You have no face."
"My face is for you to chose. I can appear as your father or your mother. Their pictures are in my file."
"My mother? I don't remember her. No one could replace my father."
"I can only be one or the other although a two-headed model was once in production.
Tears welled and spilled. He couldn't hid them. He couldn't wipe them away.
"You are my boy. Do not cry."
"I am no one's boy."
Tap, tap, tap, the tree's tapping became insistent.
"What is that Earth noise? It seems I've heard it for days. Is something disengaged?"
"A tree grows on the North side of our biosphere. The wind whips the tree against us. It won't last long in the heat.
"A Tree! I want to see it. Take me to the window."
"Here on the table beside you is a holiday tree recycled from the landfill."
"No! Not a plastic one. My father said Earth's Trees were alive, and like truth firm and rooted, reaching to the sky. Take me to the window. Take me to the Tree."
"Please chose a face for me and a name. You will like me when you input my origin. This has been proven."
"Take me to my Tree."
"Look, the nomads have brought toys and presents for you. Some exhibit remarkable craftsmanship."
"The Tree. I need to see it. This why my father sent me."
"I need permission to move your bed to the window. My supervisor does not like to be bothered."
"I don't care. Call him. Now."
Noah's machines spiked erratically. Pink took the boy in his arms, "I will ask. Please be calm." Again Pink's vanilla hug soothed him and while Noah drifted into a temporary sleep, faceless Pink phoned the human supervisor, a nervous ill-tempered man who knew he would be blamed when Noah died. "You pinks kill me. Tell him the bed can't be moved. He won't last much longer."
"His parents volunteered their lives believing Earth could be reforested. He needs to see the tree."
"He wants to know why trees were more important than he was. His hydrocephalic condition would have been corrected had he been born here."
"A baby? Born here? When has that happened? I have not cared for a baby in years."
"Babies are born at other biospheres."
"If you say so."
"Shut up or I will remake you."
"But you can not remake yourself."
"I told you to shut up. His father should have sent him back to Earth to be treated."
"I believe he loved him too much to send him away."
"You know nothing about love."
"I am programed to love."
"I've been listening. He doesn't like you."
"I do not hear what is not said. I will move the bed and his supports to the window."
"Wait a minute! What if he wants to touch the tree, smell it, lick it like you let him do his hands, you stinking-pink concoction?"
"The window does not open."
"That's right. Don't forget it."
The boy woke and was quiet while Pink rolled around rearranging the room, moving the bed last.
All the while the tree tapped.
"I can see it. Open the window. I want to touch it."
"The window does not open."
"I don't believe you. This is not space." The boy was weaker, his gauges barely registered.
"It really does not open. I would not lie to you...now."
"I must see how Earth keeps the Tree while it reaches away?"
"I will hold you to look down."
Pink hurried to climb on the bed. The tree tapped. The boy leaned against Pink. Pink's tri-claws held the boy's large head to the window. The boy whispered: "Oh! Earth hugs it tight."
The Tree tapped louder.
Noah's neck bent, his head poured forward, life was letting go. Compensating Pink quickly leaned in to support Noah's flowing body, and one of his heavy-wheeled feet kicked the window. Glass shattered. Pine's perfume surrounded them. The tapping stopped.
About the author:
Connie Davies continues writing and looking for an agent. She attends a weekly writers' group when she and hubby aren't 'RVing' all over the country. Her short stories have been published in State Street Review, Short Stuff, Sunscript 1995, and The Times Union. "Noah" is her second story to run on Pboz Web site.