The first rays of sunshine poked through the crystallized gunk covering his eyes. He woke up and quickly began to tend his garden of thoughts. His roommates stumbled awake, a bit startled by the break in the morning routine. Marcos danced slowly, making waves with his hands and smiling without having a real reason for it. His first thought bloomed, a feeling of hope that can only emerge after careful care. “It’s the way we live now,” he said to his roommate.
Crumbled loose papers cluttering his bed tumbled to the ground in waves. He stuffed a few of them into his knapsack and walked right out. The cold air filled his lungs, and another thought bloomed, a sense of adventure. The roommate closed the door in a slam and looked at Marcos through the peephole.
“What are you doing? Are you nuts?”
“Is this how we live now?” he said, surveying the few thoughts that grew in his head.
“You know what happens Marcos,” the roommate moved from the door to the window following Marcos’ movement.
Marcos struggled to believe things in this beautiful world were dangerous to his thoughts. He walked down the street, swinging to the beat of a cheerful tune that nobody could hear. The thoughts were blooming one by one in his mind. A small garden, quickly turning into a small field of thoughts.
From dark windows in small houses, people looked at Marcos in disbelief. Hesitant thoughts emerging from each of them, a contagion brought about by sheer will. The thoughts spilling over his vision, but stalling to grow. As he walked, he took out pieces of paper with the seeds of thoughts – each one a tasty morsel that made his eyes water and his heart flutter.
He came across the first barren man, grey and pale and devoid of thought. He plucked a small idea from his mind and gave it to the man. The fully bloomed thought, an idea, was useless to the man. A fleeting image projected in front of his pretending to be his own thought. Marcos doesn’t remember why men became barren, but a thought of dread bloomed, and he could feel the shape of a nightmare idea emerge from his garden of thought. The barren man didn’t move, and his empty white eyes didn’t blink when Marcos waved at him with the idea.
The presence started to flood the street before Marcos could even lift his hand to protect his thoughts. Thoughts popped right out of his head like fast-growing weeds, together they hurried to form a memory. Marcos needed to remember, so he would run. The inhospitable environment of this moon wasn’t enough, the entity created a new perception, flowering thoughts. It made it easier for it to pluck them out and feed on them.
The houses, made to protect them from the entity, watched in horror as it loomed behind Marcos, like a snake made of stars. Marcos couldn’t run, his garden was an overgrown field clouding his vision. He grabbed the barren man’s hand, but the catatonic and wide-eyed shell of a man couldn’t do anything. The idea Marcos gifted him, floated between them, like a lily pad in the fog. Electric veins engulfed Marcos, and he felt his mind weighing less and less.
Every pluck, a siphon of nutrients that left Marcos with paper-white holes in his iris. The entity wiggled into Marcos’ ears, and he heard the sound of worms devouring his thoughts from within. The excruciating pain felt empty, as every thought of pain became a point of weakness for the entity to siphon more nutrients. Marcos collapsed; on his knees, he finally saw the entity. Enough of his garden died to clear his vision, and a pale skinny humanoid creature stood in front of him, towering well over him. He could only compare him to the size of a sequoia tree, with eyes devoid of color and discernable shape.
The sunshine wasn’t real. He felt it now. The cold snap of the empty space. Kilometers of darkness illuminated by this thing. The advanced technology developed by humans took them to this moon, kept them alive in space, but this was new. A different threat, they didn’t understand or could foresee. Marcos’ memories shaped quickly, and just as quickly faded into the creature. He frantically devoured every piece of paper in his knapsack until his garden grew enough for him to act.
He turned around and saw a reflective blanket walk towards him. It took him a minute to figure it out. His roommate beckoned him from underneath the blanket and yelled words he couldn’t make out. He threw a book at him that opened up to a page of squiggles he couldn’t decipher.
“Run, come on, just take it, read it while you run,” yelled his roommate from afar.
Thoughts floated away from his head like dandelions seeds being sucked in by a vortex of light. He felt numb, dizzy, and his run slowed. His roommate, a few steps away now, extended his arm to catch him. He missed, and Marcos fell to the ground face-first snapping the few remaining thoughts from his head. The roommate dragged Marcos all the way to their front door and hid them entirely under the protective blanket.
Once the light faded, the roommate opened the door and dragged the catatonic Marcos into the house. A small thought still lingered behind Marcos’ ear. The roommate nurtured it with some music and waited for Marcos to snap out. He placed him gently back on the bed, and gunk began to form around his eyes as the thoughts propagated while he dreamt.
When he woke up, he cleaned the gunk off his eyes and ate more of the paper seeds he had around the bed. Once he felt ready, he called out for his roommate. Sig was a noticeably shorter man with bulgy eyes.
“Yes sir, how are you feeling?” said Sig.
“Did it work?” there was no joy in his tone, all formal and militaristic.
“No. I’m sorry,” Sig stuttered and mumbled.
“Why are you sorry? I’m assuming you pulled me back in?” said Marcos.
“You might not be a soldier, but you’re a brave little nerd, I’ll give you that,” Marcos opened a large window by this bed and cleared the dew accumulated to look outside. “How many do we have left?”
“With you and me, 42.”
“How many barren?”
“444, that we know of.”
“How many dead?”
“4400, as of a few minutes ago.”
“How long has it been?”
“I don’t know, sir, nobody knows, the entity is messing with our perception of time.”
“OK, open the garden again, and let’s try another idea.”
Sig opened a metal door revealing a vast library of media. From books to music, to paintings and sculptures. The trinkets collected of a dying civilization were now the only effective weapon against this threat. They didn’t see it like that, they didn’t see the books, or hear the songs, or feel the sculptures, they only saw plants and flowers. The saw a literal garden because their perception was already altered when they first set foot on this distant moon. The understood it, but that wasn’t enough to break the change of perception. Now it was just a matter of finding the right flower in the garden of thoughts. The right thought to poison the entity and go home.