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Phil Hudson

It was the size and shape of a human heart, resting in the cup of his palm; an elliptical triangle of bright green, the thicker end flushed with red. He held it with tentative reverence, conscious of his own pulse amplified through the fist-sized fruit.
            It was largely unblemished, save for a few light brown scratches where the wind had jostled it against other branches of the tree. He was out of practice; it had been many years since he had held an intact fruit. All non-native produce was processed long before it reached the Corporation commissaries, but the smooth, waxy skin yielded slightly to his gentle touch, and somehow his fingers knew.
            He hesitated for a moment, compelled to wait, but he knew the fruit would soon over-ripen and spoil. Preservation was not possible. He held it to his nose, inhaling the tang of chlorophyll, the distinctive scent of crisp apples nearer the stem.
            Having earlier cleaned his knife in the stream, he now held the blade against the skin, preparing himself for the delicate operation. He sliced the fruit down its length, the blade slipping easily through the soapy flesh and skirting the central stone. The perfume reached his nostrils, and he sighed, fingers slick with juice. Scoring the inside of the first cheek of fruit, he took his first bite.
            The intense sweetness flooded his mouth, overwhelming his weary taste buds. His eyes watered at the overwhelming intensity of flavour, and the memories it evoked. The shocking sweetness soon subsided, and gave way to fragrant notes of honey, peach and sweet orange, tingling on his bewildered tongue.
            He tried to make the fruit last for as long as possible, licking the sticky juices from his fingers, his teeth paring the fibrous flesh from the skin, the tender, riper meat nearer the stone melting in his mouth like liquid sugar.
            Soon, all that remained was a pile of skin and a stone, picked and sucked clean. The pit of the fruit was rich in nutrients and vitamins. They had once been ground down and sold at a premium to the affluent and gullible. He could follow suit and supplement the potassium and copper levels in his own bloodstream. Or he could find a patch of fertile ground somewhere and plant the remnant of his fortuitous prize, in the hope that some future, unlikely traveller might one day benefit in turn.
            In the event, he slipped the innocuous, fibrous pebble back into his pack, and settled down into a sated, contented sleep. He did not yet need to decide.