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A SHORT STORY: Counterfeit by Lorilyn Roberts

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The powerful leaders of the New World Order sat eating lunch in the new Hanging Gardens of Babylon designed by Kai, a renowned horticulturist. Surrounded by tropical ferns, prickly succulents, meandering vines, and exotic flowers, they chatted about secret matters of which the common people had no knowledge. Kai knew their secrets because the garden he created was their favorite hangout. He noted that while the rest of the world ate green—they ate meat and other delicacies he couldn’t even identify.

The globalists valued Kai’s knowledge only to satisfy their selfish ambitions. Kai was not important except for his horticultural expertise, and he was under orders to keep what he knew a secret. That wasn’t hard to do in the largely deserted city.

The plebeians, like Kai, had once been middle-class citizens. “Own nothing, and you’ll be happy,” the World Economic Forum touted. The globalists convinced the masses that a virtual world would be far more pleasant than the future world which would not include animal meat, living in big houses, or driving gasoline-powered cars.

“We must make sure the population is reduced so we have sustainability. The future of humankind depends on our willingness to sacrifice,” they claimed.

As Kai thought about their lies, he suppressed his anger only to perform his job. Then he would go home, turn on the computer, and escape. His virtual reality consisted of dozens of gardens worldwide. He had the benefit of both worlds—but was it a blessing or a curse?

Kai lamented. The common folks probably couldn’t even remember the fragrance of a rose. Living in ghost towns because of population depletion, they would return home each day from monotonous factory jobs, plug themselves into the computer, and escape into a virtual existence.

One of the guests waved his hand to get Kai’s attention.

Kai walked over. “Can I help you?”

The man nodded. “Yes, I would like more wine.”

Kai went to the bar. As he poured the drink, he saw his daily visitor, a white dog, eating some elderberries nearby. He had recently noticed the white dog limping, but today the animal seemed better. Kai knew the berries were good for inflammation, but how did the animal know that? The world-renowned horticulturist knew almost everything about every plant species, and he had intentionally planted medicinal specimens in the garden. Therapeutic drugs were only for the elite, but Kai knew of the healing powers in the leaves of plants.

After serving the wine, Kai returned to tending the garden. His mind wandered as he imagined some divine being speaking everything into existence, and now that God had given him this unique position, he made it his goal to protect every green thing he had painstakingly planted.

But there was a cost. Kai lived a lonely life. He knew too many “secrets.” They would liquefy him if he shared that secret knowledge. The uncomfortable truth was that isolation caused by multiple pandemics created a lifestyle where commoners lived alone. Things didn’t go well for those who complained. Liquefaction was how they eliminated humans who were troublemakers.

The white dog came over to Kai, and Kai leaned down to pat him on the head. “I should give you a name,” Kai said, “but if I do, I will love you too much.” He feared the elite would discover the animal and remove him from the garden. So Kai maintained his distance emotionally but longed to embrace the dog’s unconditional love.

It was almost time for the rich rulers to depart, and Kai would close the garden and head home, eat his veggie meal, enjoy his allotted wine, and hook himself up to his computer. Before going to bed, he would enjoy a few hours in the gardens he had virtually designed.

Seeing that the dog no longer limped lifted Kai’s spirits. He ran his hand along the dog’s back. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.” Kai glanced in the direction of the restaurant guests. “Now go hide. They’ll be leaving soon, and I don’t want them to see you.”

The dog brushed up against his legs and ran off. Kai smiled. The garden was not only a getaway for the globalists, but there were a few animals that had survived the war, and they made their home here, too.

*

Later that evening, Kai parked himself in front of his computer, and his 3-D virtual reality sprung to life. Kai enjoyed traversing the gardens worldwide—gardens that no longer existed Pollution, war, and plagues had decimated the grasslands and forests. His virtual world was the blueprint for recreating those gardens.

Tonight, though, his interest was superficial. Kai thought about the white dog who lived in the natural garden. The botanist yanked off the headphones and removed the 3-D glasses. Was this how he would live the rest of his life? If given a choice, which world would be better? No beauty existed now, no gardens—except the one he designed.

Virtual reality wasn’t freedom; it was bondage. Despite his preeminent position, Kai knew that he would always be inferior to the globalists. They only wanted his knowledge.

What would he give to have the old world back? With its realness came love, joy, and the travails of experiential living, even if it was messy and unpredictable; at times, even painful. But sameness was dull and boring. A virtual reality contained nothing but figments of one’s imagination. Without realism, nothing was real—especially a virtual world that didn’t exist.

*

The next day Kai went to the garden, and the white dog greeted him as usual. His appearance was reassuring, and Kai would reward him with a treat. Afterward, the dog would disappear into the woods. His leg was healed now, and Kai figured he probably wouldn’t see him as much. That made him sad, but it also kept his best friend safe.

That afternoon, a truck pulled up to the garden gate. Kai saw an unusual tree in the back of the truck—a tree he could not identify. “I didn’t order this tree,” Kai said.

The delivery man handed him the purchase order.

Kai glanced at the paperwork. “I don’t know this person.” He watched as the delivery man set the tree on the curb, and then he left. Kai examined the tree’s leaves. He knew every tree on the planet, or almost, and he did not recognize the species.

Later in the afternoon, Kai’s boss arrived. “I bet you are wondering about the tree?”

Kai nodded, “Yes. I don’t recognize the species.”

“It’s a brand-new creation, developed in the laboratory by our top scientists. The tree has a triple helix.”

Kai blinked. “What?”

His boss laughed. “You heard me. Scientists have improved on the double helix design and can’t wait to propagate the tree. They selected this garden as the trial site because of your expertise. As you know, there are only a few gardens left. You must be thrilled.”

Kai was speechless. Finally, he muttered, “I will keep you apprised.”

His boss seemed pleased. “Good. You’re an excellent record-keeper, which is another reason why the elitists chose you. If this tree thrives, the geneticists plan to create hundreds of new species with the triple helix design. Perhaps it will replace all double helix life forms.”

After a few more disturbing comments, Kai’s boss left. Kai walked over to the triple helix. Sadness filled the gardener’s heart. He had poured his life into what he hoped would regenerate the wastelands of the world, and his garden was about to be destroyed by an invasive, artificial species.

As he moved the tree to a more permanent location, his boss returned. “I forgot to mention, scientists created the tree in the lab under low light conditions, so be gentle with the sunlight.”

“Okay,” Kai said.

As his boss requested, he moved the tree away from the others into the shadows. He also didn’t want to contaminate the habitat if it had any parasites or diseases. He set up a file for the tree, meticulously entering the data into the computer.

Three days passed. Kai checked the tree each day. But he noticed when he was near it that it felt like the tree was watching him, or was it just his imagination?

He also noted that the white dog would not go near the triple helix. He went out of his way to give a wide berth to it. And the trees next to the triple helix were no longer thriving. Fallen leaves littered the ground leaving some of the branches bare. Concerned, Kai moved the triple helix further away to protect the precious trees he had raised from saplings.

Nighttime approached, and Kai was running late. As he made his final round in the darkening garden, the dog was reluctant to accompany him. Normally, the white dog followed Kai, wagging his tail, as Kai checked on plantings and secured the building. Kai shrugged. Maybe his leg was bothering him again.

When he checked the triple helix, he noticed something odd. What was that dark strand on the trunk of the tree? He approached it to get a better look, and something lunged out at him and bit him on the cheek.”

Kai writhed in pain. Petrified, he watched as a snake slithered up the trunk. The third strand of the tree’s DNA was a snake!

Horror filled him as the pain increased. He ran his finger over the injury, and blood covered his fingertips. He hurried inside the building to examine the puncture wound. When he looked in the mirror, relief filled his mind. The fang mark was small, and it wouldn’t be noticeable in a couple of days. But how much poison had entered his body? He knew the snake was venomous because whatever the globalists did was toxic. Did the dog know something he didn’t know?

He walked outside looking for his four-legged friend, but the dog wasn’t around. Who would believe him if he shared what happened?

“A tree bit you?” they would scoff.

“No, a snake. The snake was part of the tree—part of the triple helix…” He couldn’t even put it into words.

Every horrid thought entered his mind. He sat on the ground with a cloth covering his bleeding cheek. If they fired him for insanity, where would he go? Nobody needed a gardener because there were no gardens on the planet. Spending hours each day in a virtual world hooked up to a computer was a different kind of death—and not the way Kai wanted to spend the end of his days.

Maybe God who created the plants and trees and flowers that he so dearly loved was punishing him for entertaining powerful people who claimed to be God.

“Oh, God, please have mercy on me.” But Kai heard nothing. He had never been a religious person anyway. Perhaps the Creator had gone to another universe to start over, but would a loving God abandon his creation? Surely He wasn’t that fickle.

Besides, Kai wanted to preserve God’s great handiwork. Otherwise, the remnant that he cherished would be destroyed by a concoction that Frankenstein scientists dreamed up in a lab.

Unexpectedly, he felt the presence of something nearby. At first, he was terrified, but when Kai looked up, he saw the white dog standing beside him. Relieved, he reached over and wrapped his arm around his neck, clinging to him as if his life depended on it. Then the dog pulled away, ran a short distance, and arched back, wagging his tail.

“He’s coaxing me to follow him,” Kai said. He remembered the direction the dog was leading him—to the elderberries. He stood. The elderberries had healed the dog. Perhaps the berries could heal him.

He followed the dog, wondering how many elderberries he should eat, but after consuming a handful, he fell into a deep sleep. The following day, when he awoke, he was surprised he felt no lingering effects from the bite. He promised God as he began his gardening work, “There will be no triple helix plantings in this garden as long as I am the gardener.” The question was, how could he destroy the tree that tried to kill him without getting caught?

An idea entered his mind. What was it his boss said—expose the tree gradually to sunlight. What if he did it quickly? What if he burned the tree in the sunlight?

He wasted no time moving the triple helix to the brightest spot in the garden. He would also deprive the tree of nutrients and water.

Then he had another thought. He would hang a bright light over the tree at night after the sun went down. That way, the tree never saw darkness, and the third strand of the helix would be forced to endure unrelenting light. With no reprieve, the snake couldn’t hide in the shadows, striking anything that came near. He was exposed now—a snake that wanted to substitute God’s perfection with his own counterfeit.

After a couple of weeks, the tree died, much to Kai’s delight. He made careful readings of the tree’s demise, and the snake disappeared into the tree never to be seen again.

The scientists brought more trees, and they died, too, because of Kai’s expertise. After a time, the scientists gave up and moved on to other projects. For now, the garden was safe under the care of Kai and the man’s best friend. But who knew for how long?

Published inShort Stories

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