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Nesting GardenAlycia Calvert

Alycia Calvert
+ posts


This story was shortlisted for the Writers Rebel Flash Fiction Competition.


Jane finds it cooler under the greenhouses hanging tree limbs, as the ground outside browns. Holding hands or alone, others join. Under metal and glass, heavy breathing in the sweaty humidity. Outside, tan grasses crisp. Emptied aquifers become blistering, caving sinkholes. Sheets of steel banded glass; doors streaked with irrigated mineral deposits. The doors close themselves in advance of the rushing sandstorm. Slurping moisture drips down interior windows, painting the outside world in hues of burning rain. They begin exploring.

Jane meets Joan. Community evolves in mazes of greenery. I was an engineer, cook, farmer, they justify a tenuous place. Makeshift habitats spread behind bush and vine carve privacy into residences. Jane and Joan collect mushrooms from roots, and apples from branches. Hammocked together, they plan a cautious future.

These leaves are thinning, Joan feels them crisping under their bare feet. The foliage in this first room has become sparse, somehow evolved into another ecotone of cactus and creosote. Was it always like this? Joan can’t remember, so, they move on. This inner door is open, Joan pulls Jane through. They see another door, a third and possibly more beyond. The space larger than originally perceived, they move from room to backroom scaling global ecotones in seconds.

They encounter familiar faces, can’t recall names. How long have we been here? The father huddles with family in Mediterranean scrub. It seems difficult to measure time without happy hours, and emailed task-lists. A localized rainstorm drives them under the low branches of a date palm. They wake sometime later, feeling spines in their back, tongues thick like cotton. Sun scorches through glass roof, sizzling off precipitation. Where was that door, Jane? And the family? They scramble through low brush and see the door, somehow not where it was before. They don’t see others, try to recall faces of those who entered with them, and forget the question. They close another door, hoping to preserve moisture. Rainforest canopies tower hundreds of feet above, and also right over their heads. Flowers and vines, arc around thick trunks, roots sunk deep into the ground. Let’s double check doors. Jane traces their steps. They can’t find the outside boundary of this inner greenhouse. They sense, a lurking awareness. Fans of leaves stretch, gloating over the luxury of a glistening pond. Fronds reach after them. Pitchers of glorious fragrant wine beckon. Dates faintly glow amber; cherries are striped, red, yellow, black. Trees loom too close. Vines reach for naked ankles.

Joan wipes liquid from their neck, and clavicle. Jane gasps, feeling each breath. Sentient whispers… Enjoy the clean, fresh oxygen. The air palpitates, the oxygenated sacrifice quelling their anxiety. Jane kneels in worshipful obeisance. Nearby Joan rests amidst the roots. A creeping vine drips from the branches, winding under armpit, pulling until intertwined body in body, Joan and Jane are nested. In chlorophyll cocoon they’ll wait, hibernate perhaps, emerging when the outside world is ready.


Alycia Calvert is a neurodivergent emerging author from the desert southwest in the USA. Her lush little stories blur the line between poetry and fiction and always have a speculative bent. 

She writes: “On campus we have this really spectacular greenhouse separated by biome. The smell of soil is centering as climate catastrophe looms. This story asks… What if humans had to live in a greenhouse to survive? I needed to feel the possibility of joy, and rebirth. I love that it kind of emerged in the form of a queer-centred love story.”