Forever Garden: Chapter Four by Sophie Gardiner

We’ve teamed up with RMIT’s School and Media and Communication and asked students to respond to the themes of Melbourne Knowledge Week and reflect Melbourne’s future. This response by Sophie Gardiner explores the humanity of Melbourne as we move into the future. This is the first chapter in her series ‘Forver Garden’.

Sophie was really interested in the idea of Melbourne as an entity and how it interacts with its inhabitants, specifically the young people that will decide its future. With Siggy, she wanted to explore how we will move towards the future, whether this manifests in a utopia, dystopia, or something uniquely Melbourne.


Siggy has no choice but to follow the voice’s instructions. No one’s ever hacked an implant before, and she wants to know who is in her head. Maybe they can show her some tricks, even help her get her implant to come back. The cameras continue to follow her, whipping towards her as soon as she comes into view, and tracking her until she’s out of sight.

The voice leads Siggy deep into the bowels of the station, down escalators and stairs. She accidentally disturbs a flock of earbis, who hiss at her and go back to scavenging the bins. A scientific failure from years ago, where scientists grafted ears on the featherless backs of the rampant ibis population as a trial. A few birds managed to escape and breed, and now the earbis infest like cockroaches anywhere filthy.

It grows gradually warmer and smellier as Siggy walks, and the light has begun to die. Soon it is dark enough that her eyes can’t register anything. It is only by the echoes of her shoes on the dirt that she knows the space in which she walks is enormous. The rain drums on the ceiling high above. Siggy, usually brash and big, feels a dry, nervous tic in the back of her throat.

As she acknowledges this, the walls of the cavern start to glow an LED blue. Somehow the voice seems sheepish:

I am not afraid of the dark.

Siggy snorts. She was right: the roof is so far up it’s invisible. Similarly, over the side of the generous path there is nothing but fathomless black. The path gets thinner and thinner until it’s the size of a suburban sidewalk. It leads towards a sheer rock wall, smooth and featureless except for the glowing.

You will not fall.

Siggy feels her legs stabilised by some imperative force. Whoever’s controlling the voice has somehow managed to hack beyond the implant. She makes it to the endless wall and plants both hands there to steady herself. The wall ripples, apparently reading her palmprint, and a small, Siggy-sized door slides back and open. She steps into a small, round room. It is remarkable for how cornerless it is. The walls form a perfect circle, interrupted only by Siggy. She has to be careful not to hit her head on the ceiling, which is just tall enough for her small, stocky frame. The air is damp and warm, but smells strangely of a hospital.

Welcome to the source.

The voice is outside her head now, reverberating around her. It seems like it’s coming from the room itself. The blue glow pulsates in time with the words. In the middle of the room, embedded in the floor, is a body.

It’s only obvious on closer inspection: a nose and a mouth peek up out of the dirt, a knee, a foot, the fingers on one hand. Siggy doesn’t think it’s dead, more like it’s never been awake. Ethernet wiring attaches to it from every angle, and flashes like a strobe light as exabytes of information transfer. Siggy tries to dig around the exposed parts, lever it out of the ground. The parts are too perfectly formed; there are no creases in its dusty skin. When she tries to dig out a finger she hits a solid block, like a statue partway through being rent out of marble. At the same time as the body seems to be carved from the outside, it is emerging from inside the earth. The fingers elongate and twitch. Siggy can see the start of a smooth, hairless forehead.

The ground rises and falls slowly, like breathing. The round room is a petri dish.

We have shown you the source. The source is still growing.


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