By Gabrielle Paniccia

They sold the places to us claiming they were authentic,
but I was a smart girl.
I'd read old books.
I knew that the intricacies of the old forests
didn't lend well to synthetics.
Trophic cascades,
artificially engineered,
fell short of being stable.

My parents were too poor to afford any forest other than the standard.

I grew up running between brown-trunked trees,
beneath canopies stained emerald green.
My richer friends lived between phosphorescent branches;
their forests glowed blue in dim light,
studded with fluorophores that bathed their homes
in pastel hues.

I heard stories of more expensive woods—
those crafted of solid gold, with gemstone leaves,
every second a bask in excessive opulence,
the ground pebbled by reflections off sapphire leaves
and opalescent blooms.

The advancement of science could not replicate the complexity
of pre-extinction ecosystems;
One by one, the systems failed.
The leaves fell,
the trees collapsed,
and the forests of our youth decomposed to gilded dust.
What we enjoyed, we could not rebuild.
Synthetics died under the substance of reality.
Our children enjoyed a race of photosynthesis
tailored to ozone-hole atmosphere and artificial light.
Nature bowed to the unnatural
as coal fires belched the breath of ancient trees.
Hubris created our suffering
amid the drippings of septic skies.


Gabrielle is a New York–based writer currently in her second year at Stony Brook University. When not pursuing her biochemistry degree, she can usually be found cursing her writer's block in some cobwebbed corner of the library.