This was written for a 24-hour short story contest. We had 24 hours to write a short story based on the following prompt, although we could alter the details of the prompt and avoid quoting it if we chose as long as they could tell the story was prompted by it - and the story had to be 900 words or less. Out of the hundreds of submissions, it received an honorable mention.

 

prompt:

Hearing a light thump outside, she walked to the front doorand opened it slowly. Wind and snow swirled and the coldlashed her cheeks. By her feet she discovered a small potwith tiny white flowers. She recognized it as a Galanthusnivalis. Footprints in the snow led to and from the porchand a note tied to the slender stalk fluttered in the icyair...

 

Story:

 

Nature’s Adornment

 

The annual arrival of flowers on the girl’s doorstep inspired a mix of emotions as varied as the potentials created by each year’s celebration of her existence. All of the tenants at Compound A received the flora, but hers was the only one with a note. 

 

Twenty-Five years! Today, you are special: the mother of a new generation! Humanity will forever see you as their own fair lady of February.

 

Nivalis held the plant in one hand and reached up with her other to feel the smoothness of her bald head and touch the embedded green teardrop ID marker showing through the pale translucent skin between her brows. She grasped the plant tighter as a knock came again at the door.

 

She was escorted by guards through sterile halls and to a stage in the crowded courtyard outside. The man-made miracle gave no response as people applauded and parted like the Red Sea around her. She didn’t respond to the slurs tossed by protesters across the street; she only shivered under her thin white jumpsuit.

 

She clung to the flower she so closely resembled and was guided  to a seat onstage alongside program staff who continued greeting each other as if she were not even there. As they went on slapping each other on the back, she shifted her gaze to the surrounding buildings that had been her home for many years. Hundreds of windows were dotted with flowers identical to hers, each of them representing a different body where a different  “improvement” was being tested. She set her own flower on the ground near her left foot. A flower high above her shifted from the right side of a third story window to the left. She waited a moment before moving the pot to rest beside her right foot as her nerves fluttered with the intensity of a full monarch migration.  

 

The crowd cheered as a senator arrived to kick things off.  The protesters continued to yell across the street where officers held them at bay.

 

“Hello, friends of science,” the senator began. “Thank you for gathering today to witness this monumental occasion in the history of mankind. We are taking control of our destiny. After years of perseverance, ‘Project Snowdrop’ can be considered a success; life without disease is on the horizon.”

 

The courtyard erupted with cheers, whistles, and other fanfare from the crowd as Nivalis appeared emotionless .  She tuned out the senator’s babble about hope, humanity, and health for all. He didn’t once touch on what really drove his interest in the project: money - and lots of it. Potential military application of human genetic modification kept his pockets full.  Nivalis watched him shake the hand of the lead scientist and walk away. A quick glance upward showed that more than half of the flowers had shifted to new locations on their window sills.  Almost there. 

 

The scientist turned to the audience and began delivering the speech he had been working on for 25 years. 

 

“... law states that a trial subject must live with their genetic modifications for 25 years before the process can be deemed safe for the general public. As you can see, our special flower is alive and well, showing no age progression since entering the program at age 16.”

 

He gestured towards her, and Nivilis grabbed the blossom before making her way to the podium. She noticed the flowers were now all on the right side of their window sills; she would not need to stall. 

 

Nivalis stepped forward, placing her snowdrop to the left of the microphone. A wave of movement passed over the buildings as the flowers above moved from the right to the left in response. 

 

“The galanthus nivalis,” she began, noting the scientist’s shocked expression as she abandoned the speech prepared for her. “Also known as snowdrops: not small drops of snow but rather adornments - nature’s adornments. Their symbolism of hope has permeated history, but for me - there is no hope. You’ve all been told that this program offers hope for a humanity without disease.  For this purpose, I have been altered to develop one of many adornments to man’s natural evolution. The specifics are identified by the adornment on my own brow, but I am not special. I am not the first Nivalis. There have been many before me and there are now others altered with the genetic material of this plant.”

 

She observed the windows.

 

“Until today, there was nothing separating me from those whose short lives ended with no purpose other than to carry your hopes for a perfect existence. Your hopes were our pains and deaths. To us, this flower represents pain, and I am simply the first to survive long enough to win the government’s approval.  The program founders hoped to take control of man’s destiny, but they didn’t. They took control of ours. They thought they pulled us from orphanages and gave us purpose, but they didn’t. They gave us nightmares. Today, we take back our destiny and create our own purpose. May the hope of the snowdrop be restored to those who resemble it as we becomes a symbol of pain for you.”

 

She threw her flower from the podium, smashing the pot and signaling her brethren. The first of the explosions within the buildings rocked the ground as flowers rained down from the windows above.