As promised, here is the original version of “Regrowth”, exactly as I had submitted it to the contest.
Allisandra gazed out over the dead forest at the city’s edge. If only she’d lived a hundred years ago, when the forests thrived. But pollution and neglect had taken its toll on the world, leaving 2099 barren of most plant and animal life. All that flourished now were buildings and factories.
Well, almost all. She turned away from the skeleton forest and walked back into the city, stopping frequently to tend her plants. A rose here. Some daisies there. She still didn’t understand her power. It started a few years ago with a weird dream about a small grove of trees. A voice in the dream told her she could bring nature back to life.
So far all she’d managed was to revive small clusters of flowers throughout the city. Was it enough? Did anyone notice?
Allisandra knelt beside a small rose vine that climbed the side of a bench on Main Street. She had planted it at the base three days ago and now it reached the armrest. There were no thorns on the vine, only flowers. Just the way she liked it. She cupped a bud in her hands, then brushed her lips against the velvet petals. “Grow.” The bud opened, and fresh, green vine spread from the armrest to the back. At this rate, the roses would frame the bench within a week.
A young girl and a woman approached. The girl pointed at the roses. “What are you doing?”
“I’m growing flowers.”
The little girl gasped. “Are those flowers? I’ve read about them!”
“Yes, they’re roses. Do you want me to show you?”
The girl looked up at the woman. “Can I?”
The woman smiled and nodded. The young girl drew closer.
Allisandra wrapped her hands around another bud. “Watch.” She kissed the petals and whispered. The vine grew, covering the back of the bench, and more buds appeared.
The little girl’s eyes grew wide, as did her smile. “Wow! They’re so pretty. Can I take one home?”
“No, little one, you musn’t.” Allisandra waved her hand over the bench, now framed with rosebuds. “This magic is for all to enjoy. If everyone took a flower home, this place would become sad and lonely again.”
The little girl took the woman’s hand. “Then we’ll just have to come visit again so I can see them. Thank you for showing me.”
Allisandra smiled as the girl and her mother left. She pulled herself to her feet, limbs shaking. Sitting on the bench, she rubbed her sore arms and legs. She’d used too much of her power, but that girl’s smile had been worth it.
Once she was rested enough, she said goodbye to the roses and turned down a nearby alley, heading home.
The voice was warm and inviting. Allisandra looked around for the source. A narrow walkway veered off the side of the alley, unnoticeable unless you were looking for it. At the end, a gate covered with living vines. How? She’d never been here before. Did someone else have her power?
She opened the gate and walked through. Beyond was a lush garden, rich with color. Butterflies flitted from one flower to the next. A soft hum reverberated inside her, matching the beating of her heart. Warmth spread through her body, renewing her energy.
At the center of the garden stood a small grove of pine trees. Squirrels and chipmunks scampered around the trunks, leaping from branch to branch. Many species of birds circled, singing lovely songs. How had she not known about this place?
Allisandra gasped. These were the trees in her dream! This paradise is where her power came from.
“Allisandra. Come inside the circle.” It was the voice again. Was it coming from the trees?
She stepped into the center. “Hello?”
“Thank you for coming.” The words echoed inside her head.
“Uhm…you’re welcome. Can I ask a question?”
She turned slowly, addressing all of the trees. “How does this place exist?”
“This place thrives because of people like you. The plants you touch and help grow pump life throughout the city, keeping both the grove and your charges alive.”
“What about the dead forest outside the city? I can’t plant anything there, I’ve tried! You said in my dream that I could bring nature back to life. How can I do that if I can’t revive the forest?”
“Until now, we’ve had to grow slowly so humankind accepts us. But with your power, our growth could be exponential.” The shroud of leaves in front of her parted, revealing a dead trunk. It seemed out of place amongst all this life.
“What happened to it?”
“Someone else with your power left the city. In their absence, their plants died, and the death fed back into this tree. If you desire, you have the power to bring it back.”
Allisandra placed her hand against the bark of the dead tree. Warmth flowed from her fingers, and the tree pulsated beneath her soft touch. It wasn’t completely dead! The grove of nature fueled her, but was she strong enough?
The magic breathed through the tree, sending a tingle into her fingers and igniting her soul. She knew what she had to do now.
Allisandra closed her eyes. “It’s okay. Let me give you new life.”
The tree welcomed her, and her essence fused with it. She took a deep breath, and her arms–now the tree’s branches–filled with new growth. As she exhaled, her heartbeats synced with the tree’s, and her vision expanded. The dead forest appeared. There, at the edge, fresh green grass and a single rose bud appeared.
Regrowth had begun.