The Last Garden

Petunia's garden was full of sunflowers, salvias, pansies, roses, and many more flowers which made bright bursts of colour amongst the vegetable plots, and greenhouses full of ripening fruit. It was the last garden on Earth to escape the catastrophic change in climate.

And Petunia was the last human. But she was now old and could not carry on tending the flowers, fruit and vegetables for much longer. The work was hard and she was becoming frail, but the large garden was all she had known.

When she had been small, her wealthy parents used their fortune to build the towering wall around the grounds of their single story mansion so no one could see in, and no one could see out. It protected the small estate from intruders and the worst ravages of climate change. The power they needed came from windmills and solar panels, and an aquifer directly below provided clean spring water. Petunia could vaguely recall being allowed to look out through the security gate at the parched, inhospitable world beyond those high walls. Since then no one had ventured outside. One by one Petunia's parents and siblings had grown old and died. She was the youngest, but now in her late seventies.

Before her older brother died life had been hard, but bearable.

But now she was alone, never having known the company of other children, or whether anyone had survived in the devastated world outside.

Petunia had been tempted to open the heavy gate to see what had happened to everyone else. As a child it had been drummed into her that doing so would only invite in the wilderness and desperate survivors.

The way her father had gone about creating this safe haven had been unscrupulous, taking the land and labour from desperately impoverished people willing to accept a pittance to stay alive just a little longer.

Petunia had been brought up to believe that these people deserved their fate for not having the same determination to survive. But her family had made their fortune from the very polluting industries that had laid waste to the environment. What had it all been for? There was nothing to look forward to but lonely death. And the last garden on Earth would die with her.

The guilt of what her family had done still haunted Petunia. Despite that, now her parents and brothers had long gone, she yearned for company other than the gardenís pollinating insects and rare glimpse of something fluttering high overhead. She often wondered what it was. Her eyesight was no longer very good and the spectacles of her deceased family not much help. Birds surely couldnít have survived beyond her sanctuary, out in that landscape blasted by extremes of temperature.

So Petunia remained in the garden, protected from the rest of the world by those towering walls her family built when they became convinced that climate change could not be reversed.

Eventually, she could no longer fight back her curiosity any longer. With the little strength she had left and help from a hammer, Petunia drew back the enormous rusted bolts on the heavy gate and forced up its large latch. The hinges were so corroded she could only open it a fraction.

The creaking of the heavy metal attracted the attention of something outside.

She heard voices.

Childrenís voices.

And then an adult joined them.

Petunia was alarmed.

Hands seized the gate and pulled at it.

Petunia leapt back, expecting to see the deformed survivors of a ruined world.

Instead there was a rush of clean air as the breeze swept in from a landscape of woods and green hills.

She didn't know which amazed her more; the happy, healthy people who had opened the gate for her, or the beautiful world they inhabited.

Where was the devastated environment her family had been so desperate to escape?

The young people helped her down the overgrown path that had led up to the fortressed family estate.

Had her father not insisted that the walls were built too high for anyone to glimpse over them, Petunia could have years ago witnessed the extreme measures taken to lower CO2 and other pollutants in the atmosphere. Carbon capture, efficient energy storage, elimination of fossil fuels and reduction in population growth had brought the planet back from the brink of disaster.

At least Petunia could now have the company of the children she had not known during her childhood.