New buds were forming on the crop. A miracle. Out here.
He looked across the crop towards the horizon. Fledgling stalks were the only patch of green as far as his eyes could see. Green, a colour that soothed his soul. There wasn’t enough of it these days. As little as five years ago he could still see a disconnected tapestry of green from this view, a flag to the only farmers that could still afford water.
They said it couldn’t be done, the traditionalists that is. They said nothing would grow here now. Worse, even when the shelves were empty and their stomachs growled, they said nothing should grow here. It was desert country now, leave it that way, they said. He couldn’t understand, did they believe it was an act of God?
They could get stuffed. He’d prove them all wrong. He’d fill his belly first and then his pockets before he told them anything.
Nineteen years he’d toiled to get here, slicing and splicing in the petri dish at the agency. He’d told the folk out here too, back then, what he knew, what was coming, but they didn’t want to listen.
He wasn’t from here, they said. What would he know?
At the agency, two decades ago, the long-range forecasts had glared back at him from the screen. Then, he walked with eyes downcast, along with the other scientists. It didn’t matter which way they crunched the numbers, the result was always the same. The dead centre was spreading all the way to the sea.
He took the trip to Jordan on a whim. If you are going to live in a desert, better to understand it. The seeds were a present from the past. The trip yielded more than understanding, it gave the gift of possibility.
“You have to look back to look forward,” the old man had said as they descended into the tomb.
The old man dusted off a hand-carved box that contained a little known stash of the seed of an ancient grain, one that flourished in the waterless desert, long buried and long forgotten in the resting place of the ancient king.
“Even we forgot about it,” the old man said, “maybe an answer was here all along.”
On the tomb walls was carved a primitive list, the key to propagation.
“Remember this,” the old man had said as he pointed to the symbols on the wall.
“Soak the seed for three moons.
“Bury two hands below the soil.
“Wait three full moons,” he said, pointing to the last symbol.
It wasn’t much to go on.
“Three full moons, you mean three months? Are you sure?”
“Can anyone be sure about anything?” the old man had said.
He’d taken the seeds. He followed the list. He sliced and spliced and refined. No one had believed him, but now they would. They had no choice.