The old man’s rage washed over her in red waves, and Ivy shrank away from him. At least she would have if she had been able to move.
Her leaves trembled and shook as he stumbled, disoriented, around the small mining station on asteroid ST1701.
. If she had had eyes, she would have seen his disheveled hair, his pallor, and the way his lined face was twisted in pain.
Movement was not an option.
Flight from this horror was impossible, her roots firmly established in the huge planter that filled almost a quarter of the tiny room the old man’s wife had chosen as her private refuge,
the only place where she could escape her husband's anger.
The couple, Kira and Victor, had arrived on ST1701 years before when they were both young, in love, and ambitious.
She followed him to the asteroid belt on the promise that they would mine until they saved enough to settle in their own place in the new Mars Colony.
Trouble had started when Victor found the tiny green sprig carefully packed with the frozen provisions.
He threatened, she resisted.
He pointed out that it was against the Company rules, she still resisted, insisting that if she was to live on a desolate asteroid for years,
she would have this one small connection to her life on Earth.
As the months turned into years, Victor didn’t cease his bullying, constantly threatening to uproot the small plant, but the Kira continued to protect her beloved friend.
In spite of the rancor in the enclosed, sterile environment, Ivy flourished, much to Kira’s surprise and delight and her husband’s disgust.
The low gravity suited her, and soon the tiny pot became a larger one, and her tendrils spread until they reached around the room many times and her pot filled a corner of the room.
Daily, Victor threatened to rip the rapidly growing plant out of the small pot, but his wife defended her.
He claimed that Ivy took too much water and gave nothing back, but Kira insisted that the exchange of CO2 for oxygen was worth the water.
Victor would not listen, becoming more and more obsessed as time went by.
Now, as Ivy mutely screamed in pain, she seemed to hear Kira’s voice laughing.
That was impossible; the old woman had dropped dead of a heart attack the day before, and the man had gone mad.
With Kira’s body lying cold on the floor, Ivy imagined that she felt soft hands stroking her leaves and her tender voice speaking kind, soothing words to distract Ivy from the agony.
The man was indeed tearing her limb from limb, scattering shreds of her all over the room. Kira’s voice, imagined in the almost sterile living chamber, mocked the man for his bullheadedness.
“Well, he will soon know what use you are, Ivy my love.
Soon he will remember that the air purifiers stopped functioning last month and recall that you are all that is keeping him alive,
all that is providing oxygen and all that is scrubbing CO2 out of his air.
He will learn. He will soon learn. He should have let you live at least until a ship comes in answer to the distress call.”
A month later, the rescue crew forced their way through the airlock and into the little mining station.
They were greeted by the sight of two dead humans and what looked like a ton of dry, brown vegetation.
Most of the men were baffled, but Old Doc shrugged as he looked up from the autopsy table, “The woman died of heart problems,
but the old man would have probably survived if he hadn’t torn that plant to smithereens.
He died from acute asphyxia.”
Sadly shedding his lab coat, he hung it on a peg in his office on board the rescue ship and picked up the beaker in which he had placed a tiny twig from the plant on the habitat.
He smiled as he saw a single green leaf poking its way up from the brown stem in the water.