Friday, November 30, 2007


This was a story snippet (i.e. not complete, despite it's length) I wrote some months ago. It was rather universally panned by my writer's group, while I thought I was trying out an original concept. What do you think?


A light appeared in the night. The photoreceptors of the beings below it were stimulated, and sent signals to the network of brains they were connected to, noting how unusual it was to see such a bright light at that time of night.

The light grew bigger as it slashed and burned its way through the atmosphere. The brains grew more agitated, and began to coagulate in the mud of the sea marsh. They began to form a lump as the photoreceptors were pushed together.

The light split in two as the heat shield fell away. A white parachute fluttered out and expanded behind the now fading light. The photoreceptors strained and turned in the mud, tracking the falling object. A sonic boom raged across the night, but went unnoticed by the beings watching in the mud who lacked organs to detect sounds.

The object fell into the southern end of the marsh, instantly killing the many brains in that vicinity. The other marsh beings felt a burst of electrochemical signaling across the network. Repair, repair, repair.

The object began to unfurl it's solar panels. They unwound to many times the breadth of the object, shlupping onto the thick mud as each panel locked into place. The panels waited for dawn. The brains underneath the panels shifted away under the weight.

One part of a being oozed up from the mud and onto the top of one of the panels. It licked the alien surface. What could it be? It was hard and flat and long, tasting vaguely bitter. Soon the whole marsh knew that the object tasted bitter. Other beings came up to the hard of the object, over their dead comrades, covering the sides, feeling the hard, angular surfaces. The brains consulted each other, and came to the conclusion it was a rock from the sky. Many had fallen through the countless eons to come to rest in the marshes of the world. It was not food, nor could it be used in anyway, but it was completely harmless, of that there was consensus. It was best just to forget about it.

Suddenly the object shook violently. Beings that had oozed up to cover it were flung off, landing out of place in the mud. They were forced to reforge their connections to the marsh. As they reconnected, the whole marsh began to wonder about the rock from the sky. They searched the archives of memory, bringing up every recorded rock fall. None of them had ever moved of their own accord. It was decided that the marsh was to exercise caution around the rock.

Dawn broke, and the object was illuminated with a dusty pink glow. A hundred thousand eyes saw the blue and red logo punctuated by white, but the brains could not comprehend what it represented. Below the logo was the caption "EARTH ARK 21". The brains did not know if the scritches they saw carried any important information at all.

The panels began processing the bight light of the once distant star, charging up the batteries. When this was complete, the interior nuclear reactor went into sleep mode, preserving itself for emergency use. One of the computers inside booted up successfully, relieving the smaller descent computer of it's duties. An antenna emerged from the top of the object. It extended fully before blossoming into a metal flower. The stamen began to send out a beacon signal back to the place of manufacture, a narrow strip of grassland in the middle of a marsh in what was once Alabama. By the time the first signal would arrive, there would be no one left to hear it.

Hatches opened on three sides of the object. Through each hatch emerged a nozzle. Each nozzle tilted slowly to point up at the sky at an angle. After a short passage of time, a fine black spray misted out and landed on the mud. The nozzles continued until they had produced a contiguous layer.

The marsh eyes were blinded with the sticky substance. They withdrew into the mud trying to remove the goop, scraping it on hard casings of their brain buds. Soon the goop began to itch, then it began to burn. A flurry of signals crisscrossed the network. Pain, pain, pain! The brains consulted, and it was agreed that the area around the object would be evacuated.

Many of the marsh beings died from the pain before they could retreat. The nanomachines in the goop were efficiently deconstructing the silicon matrices in the photoreceptors of the marsh beings. Silicon was the ideal material to forge new solar panels. The goop replicated itself continually outward from the landing site. The marsh could not escape the onslaught.

As more panels grew and integrated they began to feed energy into the object. Another critical milestone had been reached. The computer executed a program that knitted together a new substance. It was a dull brown liquid. This liquid was fed into the lines connected to the nozzles, and a second mist landed on top of the new panels. Enough of this mist was sprayed that it pooled on the new panels.

The liquid began to coagulate, forming tiny fiber tubes. The object lifted itself up on its landing feet and the brown liquid rolled down the ramp created by the panels leaving microscopic trails of tubes down toward the edge of the panels. Much of the liquid seeped into the mud. As the liquid coagulated and hardened further, the object slowly lowered itself back to its original position in the mud.

The tubes drew water up from the mud, and through capillary action, began to pump water onto the top of the panels. When the computer detected the weight of the water on the panels, it ran another program, and created another liquid filled with another type of nanomachine. It was the consistency and color of skim milk. This too it sprayed over the surface of the panels.

By this time, the star was beginning to set. On the first night, the object rested. The marsh beings noted that the object had stopped expanding. Was that the end of it? A few of the brains thought that the object might continue growing in the sunlight. They recalled the existence of beings on the landmass to the north that grew into the sky in the presence of sunlight. The other brains argued that this rock from the sky was not a being at all, and therefore could not truly grow. No consensus was reached that night, though it was agreed that this was because there was too little information about the rock. They waited to see what would happen as the sun rose the next morning.

As morning starlight once again kissed the object from the sky, thousands of photoreceptors waited with tense anticipation for any sign of change.They saw nothing, but an imperceptible change was taking place. The last liquid sprayed on the panels was busy working to sew the capillary tubes into tiny orifices where the panels met the object. The leak of water was slowly stopping,feeding now into waiting bladders inside the object, and the pool began to evaporate in the deepening midmorning heat. The deadened mud around the edge of the object began to harden and crack. The tubes grew deeper and wider into the mud.

At noon, the brains conferred, and it was finally agreed, though not unanimously, that it would be best to ignore the presence of the rock. Whatever had caused it to grow certainly wasn't connected to the sunlight. If it were to grow more, surely it would have done so. New brain buds would have to be grown to replace the many that had died, and it was decided that the complex courtship of gamete material exchange should begin as soon as possible to allow for migration times to and from the neighbor marshes before the onset of the rainy season would make travel impossible.

The dissenting argument was that the rock possessed intelligence of some sort, and would continue to grow when and how it decided. This argument was easily dismissed by the others. Still, the dissenting faction continued to worry the matter. A stray thought developed that the neighbor marshes ought to be warned.

As the day wore on, the bladders inside the object became full, and the computer began to taste for different chemicals dissolved in the water. It needed to know what it had to work with. It needed to design a building program so that the master program could eventually be executed. It began to compare the local chemical profile with the global weather and climate information it had gathered during its decade long orbit of the planet.

For six days, the object processed the new information. The memory of the rock began to fade in the memories of the beings in the marsh as they busied themselves with preparations for travel. It took the effort of the community to build the appendages that allowed them to travel across the rocky shore to the next marsh. It was decided that five emissary beings would be built, one for each neighbor marsh.

On the seventh night, the computer inside the object finished writing the building program. 38 microscopic species were selected from the database and their genetic information was downloaded into carrier nanomachines. The nanomachines were injected into two of the bladders, along with a catalytic agent that would activate them once they came in contact with carbon in the mud. The computer squeezed the bladders and the water rushed back out through the capillaries on opposite sides of the object. The tiny machines spilled out into the mud and began to build bacteria and fungi.

Months past. A fuzz began to form and spread around the ring of the object. This happened too slowly for the brains in the mud to take notice. The beings had finally built the five emissaries, and the treacherous journeys across the rocks had been launched. The mud in the marsh was now so dry that the remaining beings burrowed deep below where there was still some moisture. They began their hibernation in wait of the rains.

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