“And the last question for tonight- everyone ready?!”
Looking back at the rest of the table, Cammie hovered above her seat, poised to write. At least four times, she swapped the pen into her opposite hand to wipe her clammy hands on her legs. The other five displayed varying degrees of stress; jittering legs, fiddling fingers, heavy breathing. If we win this last point, we win.
“Ok here we go-” the announcer winced as he read the question in his head, his piercing yellow eyes shrinking on his helmet screen. Yellow. Fairly usual choice. “This is a hard one folks, hardest one of the night by far.” I took in a sharp gulp of air, holding my breath.
“Before our helmets, what natural growth gave humans the ability to breathe without aid?” He said, before erupting into a cackle.
Before our oxygen helmets? None of my team were old enough to remember a life without them, neither were many of our parents. I think I remember learning in secondary school that oxygen tanks became compulsory in-
“2025 right? That’s when helmets were first put in place I think.” Cammie practically read my mind and found the shred of information I was looking for.
“Could it be grass maybe?” Holly suggested, but we all chimed in to correct her.
“No, grass was ruined about a decade ago I think and it was replaced with what we have now pretty quickly.”
“A natural growth? What does that even mean though? Isn’t electricity and metal natural?” Grant asked, saying exactly what the rest of us were thinking; that our helmets were the most natural thing in the room. Calling our helmets unnatural was as ridiculous as calling the hair on my head unnatural.
“Plants and stuff I guess? Something we learnt about in ancient history maybe?” I offered, knowing that my ideas were weak for this question. How were any of us supposed to know pointless things like this? I know it was a trivia quiz but this was just silly.
In complete unison, the five of us turned to face Jen. She had been on a roll all evening with answers and surely she would know useless trivia like this. I stared into her concentrating grey eyes, she blinked every 3 seconds. Grey. Pretty. Like the sky.
“My parents did once tell me about something called a sunflower-”
“A sunflower? Come on Jen, surely they just made that up.” Pete scoffed.
“No I’m serious. It was a really tall, gorgeous yellow flower that grew in the direction of the sun when my great-grandparents were alive. So maybe something along the lines of that? If humans were so un-creative that they called something a ‘sunflower’, would we call something an ‘airflower’?” She explained her theory logically, but was
met by stunned silence from the rest of us.
“But an ‘airflower’ just sounds so stupid.” Pete was the first to put forward some sort of feedback.
“Well it was just an idea Pete, clearly none of us know the answer do we? I don’t know, it could be anything like ‘breathe flower’ or ‘oxygen flower’.”
“Time is nearly up teams, please write your final answer of the night on the screen.” Snapping us out of our puzzled silence, the announcer’s screeching voice reminded us that we still didn’t actually have an answer.
“So what are we going for then?” I asked. The enthusiasm had been completely sucked out of our once exuberant group. The group had been drained of its life.
“I think ‘airflower’ is a fairly safe guess.” Cammie said, getting a nod from Jen, Holly, and Grant. Pete wasn’t quite so easy to win over.
“That sounds as stupid as sunflower though! That can’t be right!” His green eyes widened as he shouted. Green. An unnatural choice.
“Unless you have another idea, we have no other option.” Jen said, clearly reigning in her frustration. Pete simply sat back in his chair, folded his arms and looked over to Cammie who had already started writing our answer. Her glowing brown eyes fluttered as she stumbled over writing ‘airflower’. Brown. Like the sea.
“The moment you’ve all been waiting for- answer time.” His yellow eyes flicked over to the iPad he had been using all night to read off the answers. I placed my hand lightly on Cammie’s knee in attempt to stop the unbearable bouncing. Things became hot in my helmet very quickly, not knowing how to deal with my stress in this situation. Slowing my breathing, I leant forwards, hanging on the announcers every word.
“The correct answer is… trees! Who got that?” Not a single hand greeted the announcer. He continued nevertheless. “Trees once grew on the Earth and naturally gave off oxygen thanks to a process called photosynthesis. At the height of their existence, there were 60,000 different species of trees. The last tree on Earth died in 2026.”
I inspected the pictures of trees the announcer displayed on the projector as I was packing up to leave. So green, so unnatural, so out of place. Hugging and congratulating my team on another successful night, I stepped out into the freezing January air. My coat clung to my shivering body as I hurried home. It was supposed to get as cold as 45°c tonight. Winter was definitely here.