The sage sat on a stone wall overlooking the green field, holding the bulb of a tulip in the palm of his hand. The petals were cold and smooth. He closed his hand, crushing the bulb, and opened it again. A rose blossom sat in his hand. The smell of the tulip still lingered in the air. Far away, he heard a shepherd singing. Farther away, a platoon marched towards the valley. He closed his hand; a few thorns pricked his skin and drew blood.
He remembered Galileo, whose research had been funded by the church, who spoke blasphemy against his patron, who was punished, who recanted, and who kept a secret journal documenting his thoughts on the one subject he could not speak. He remembered the look on his face, the look in his eyes, the last time they spoke, so long ago.
He opened his hand. A lily this time, purest white. He closed his hand. He opened it. A lilac, whose scent quickly overpowered all the rest. He closed his hand again.
All the flowers felt the same: smooth, cold, delicate. As though it would be unbearable to lie upon a sheet of them.