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Anne thinks: he never thought of me; not even when I needed him the most. Not even when she left. She observes the garden, the flowers. We should have killed the roses, she thinks.
Arnie comes out onto the porch and sits in the adjacent rocking chair. He hands his wife a plate.
They eat in silence.
Arnie thinks of his girl in the future, a sleek and silver future, where chrome hovercars leave clean foam trails in the sky. He thinks of her in a white lab, lasers at her fingertips, saving the world.
At first, too, his wife was proud. Their daughter Rose, the first time-traveler in the existence of humanity, name etched forever. The selection process was long and brutal. Rose was in the running, the longlist, the shortlist, then the final decision panel. Then she was picked. It wasn't until much further along in the countdown to launch that she told her parents tearfully that she wouldn't be coming back.
Anne thinks often of a bronze desert, a wasteland of old brick shacks and animal bones half-erupted from dust. She sees the waving heat rise from the horizon. She thinks of her daughter unloved by anything alive at that very moment. At this point, Anne has to stop thinking.
Nobody knew when or where the time machine would launch Rose. She would be cast out like a tiny glass bottle into the ocean. Anne had hoped that perhaps Rose would materialize somewhere close several weeks from now. Perhaps she would come back tomorrow. But she knew that with all the great eons of time stretching before them and behind them, it was unlikely Rose would come back to her--but she always held onto that maybe, that perhaps. Always looked out for her wherever she went.
Launch day: Anne had plucked a rose and told her daughter that perhaps a biological thing would not die in the machine and would go with her to the new world. Rose kissed her mother on the head and tied the rose carefully to her wrist. Perhaps, Rose had said, perhaps.
Years later, in a place not too far, three boys chased their labrador into the dark and wet yawn of a mountainside. Above them, the Earth creaked as if to twist in on itself to watch them.
The dog slowed and the boys skidded to a stop and bent over, doubled for breath. They swung their torch roughly and illuminated the wall beside them, revealing a large painting. A frightening, violent painting: a circle of stick people, all with contorted angry faces and jagged spears of stone held aloft.
In the middle of it all was a woman with long brown hair, her face petrifying with detail, screaming at the stone sky.
On her wrist, a smear of maroon with ancient blood, was a rose.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 30th, 2019
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