Atomic Seed Dispersal

A Sci-Fi Short Story written by L. R. Conti

Atomic Seed Dispersal

by L. R. Conti

 

L. R. Conti is a science editor and writer based in California. Her short fiction is published or forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, Nature: Futures, Word Balloon Book Anthologies, and elsewhere. You can find more about her at www.lisarconti.com and on Twitter @lisarconti.

Not many saw the light that pierced the night sky on May 02, 2050. The few that reported it said an arc-like streak, white, blue, orange, yellow, and red, stretched east to west just minutes past 2:00 am. Justin saw it. Tucked in his sleeping bag, blinking in the cool misty air, Justin made his wish.

The object at the light’s leading edge, a van-sized mass, landed with a thug and a splash where the ocean met the sand. Heat fused the surrounding sand into a glass casing. The whole thing sat like a smoldering half-cracked, hard-boiled egg, which, coincidentally, smelled of sulfur.

That night, just before the glowing-steaming object took hold of the earth, Justin found himself wishing; it was almost a prayer. He wanted more than anything to catch the perfect wave.

It was Justin’s third-night camping at the popular surf break. His mission, to catch the perfect wave had, so far, escaped him. There were always too many people in the takeoff spot. Glossy wetsuits vying for nature’s liquid slopes littered every surf spot. But Justin was an almost-optimist, and persistent. He thought that, eventually, his ride would come. And maybe it had. After all, his wishing star had just landed.

But, by the sun’s first light, it was clear that the object was just another obstacle for Justin. Lifeguards, scientists, and news crews contaminated his beach space. They strung yellow tape around the object, scraped samples into test tubes, then scanned the area with a square metal device. Crackling static sounds emerged, and soon, evacuations were underway.

Justin made his way just past the surf point, where a rocky ledge protected him from view. But they found him. On their final beach sweep authorities dressed in white suits, complete with hoods and booties, rousted him.

This site is highly radioactive,” one explained. The asteroid was a hazard, so the beach was closed.

Indefinitely,” another said.

Justin took his cue and made his way up the coast, cradling his surfboard, and his hopes, in one arm. It didn’t take long for him to decide that he didn’t care about radiation hazards. So, when the sun went down, he turned back, and for the first time in adulthood, his meandering saunter turned into a skip. He found a new outcropping to make camp, slid into his sleeping bag, and once again, almost-hopeful, enjoyed the night sky.

In the days that followed, Justin had the water and the beach to himself. He caught every wave. Aside from an occasional bloody nose, he never felt better.

Eventually, he stepped across the yellow tape and peered into the asteroid’s deep crack. While black and metal-like on the surface, inside sat a purple, coconut-sized, pitted stone.

Through the sulfur, a sweet smell rose. It tickled his nose and gave him visions—the future unfolded. Somber politicians nodded. Then a satellite view revealed consecutive mushroom clouds. Giant waves. Matter sprayed the atmosphere.

The visions didn’t scare him. On the contrary, they enticed him, especially that perfect wave. Those visions brought him back to the asteroid each evening.

Occasionally, an official in a radiation suit came with the squeaking box. Justin always ignored white arms waving on the beach. News stories aired; one about the surfer who wouldn’t leave the asteroid beach. Another, titled “Asteroid-baby,” featured satellite images of the alien rock. But Justin didn’t know about that. He didn’t watch the news. He lived the life of a surfer’s dream.

Yet, it wasn’t perfect. Some days, the pitch wasn’t steep enough, or the drop didn’t drop enough. The rides felt too short, too shallow, or too mushy. They weren’t perfect.

After a couple of weeks, the waves had pushed sand around the asteroid, creating a mound by which he could climb. With time, the purple stone softened. Then a small shoot appeared. Each day, the stem grew. Finally, fan-like leaves folded out and down.

Justin’s daily visits were rewarded by vivid images of the perfect wave, and first-person views, tiny clips, of what it might feel like to ride. One day, he noticed purple knobs developing just under the fanned leaves. Most of them expanded into coconut-sized objects that dropped to the ground. But, one stayed attached and continued to grow. It swelled to the size of a large boulder. The tree curved before gravity had its way. When the monstrosity fell late one night, Justin felt the earth shake a little.

The next day, he ran his hand over the stone’s surface. The purple had deepened to black. When Justin breathed in the aroma, he felt compelled to fracture it. Using rusted flotsam like a parrot cracking a nut, Justin scraped, peeled, and pried.

How’s that?” he asked the asteroid-baby after managing to crack a few. The cracks weren’t deep enough to garner any fruit, but that wonderful smell gave him his answer.

Perfect, it seemed to reply and induced another vision of the perfect ride. It was as if they both now waited for the perfect wave.

Then it happened. Justin didn’t follow current events, so he didn’t know about political tensions. He didn’t know new nuclear weapons had been developed again or tested. Most of all, he didn’t know that they had just been launched.

On that fateful day, Justin let his arms paddle him toward the horizon. He heard a sonic boom. Before he let his mind consider the possibilities, he noticed an enormous wave coming his way.

If there was fire or mushroom cloud, Justin didn’t see them. He saw only a blue wall. It lifted him to a bubbling tip where, somehow, he got to his feet. He let the fins cut their way down the liquid mountain. Then the wave curled over him. When he was in that blue glass room, before the blackness hit, Justin knew that he had just had the perfect ride.

The consecutive concussive blasts ensued, ensuring that the ride would be his last. It was, in fact, the last for everyone. If the experts were there to describe it, they would have said that earth vaporized. What didn’t evaporate, or melt, or fragment, was one slightly cracked boulder-sized black object, which, was at once catapulted by the earth-ending blast.

The cracked black mass rode the wave of that human-induced nuclear blast for ten thousand years. Then by chance, it became stuck in the gravitational pull of a planet.

As it fell through the atmosphere, enveloped by flames, onlookers saw an arc-like streak: white, blue, orange, yellow, and red. The pit, or egg, or, as they called it on earth, the asteroid-baby, landed, a seed ready to grow. The planet was ripe and filled with intelligent life. The seed simply needed one of the curious creatures to crack it, and a few more to start the cataclysmic end, perfect for dispersing space seeds.

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