by J. A. Buxton
Here is a lesson on surfing, Jupiter style.
Class will please come to order!
After extensive research, I present to you, for your edification and to increase your knowledge, the facts behind a scientific mystery. My story starts one hot day on the planet Jupiter. Since there are no cold days on the planet, I suppose knowing what the weather is might be irrelevant.
In any case, it begins with mature beings struggling to catch the wind under their bodies. The gravity on the gigantic planet, as always, tried to keep them down in the belts near the surface, but slowly they fought their way up into the active turbulent atmosphere raging around Jupiter’s higher zones.
Ton, not his real name since that is unpronounceable by humans, was the first to unfold his whisper-thin membrane. He surfed through the waves of hydrogen, pushed on by the strong tailwind to stay ahead of the rest. They raced toward their final destination, the magnificent and mysterious red spot. The squalls on the far side of the planet where the beings spent the early days of their existence were like a summer breeze compared to the fierce storm within the red spot. The beings had spent the long Jovian days practicing surfing on these milder winds for the day that was now upon them.
Next to escape was Egr, older than Ton but weaker. Egr’s membrane was thicker because of age and failed initially to open, causing Egr to return to the surface. A second try was more successful, and Egr took off after a rapidly disappearing Ton.
Eventually there were half a dozen beings surfing their way on the rapidly increasing tempest toward the red spot. Ibgh was the first to turn back, his membrane starting to tatter when he reached a distant region he had never been in before. He tumbled over and over in terror, knowing if the wind managed to remove the membrane, he would crash down to a horrible death on the surface. Gradually, though, Ibgh managed to fight out of the fierce windstorm, back to the milder and familiar breezes near home. He would have to wait until another time to again try to reach the red spot. For now, he flew home, his tail tucked between his legs. That was, if he had a tail and even legs, which he didn’t.
Sadly, Doz wasn’t as lucky as Ibgh. The smallest of the beings, and the only female to attempt this feat, fought to keep up with the stronger males. A sudden gust of wind tore off her membrane in one rapid motion. Her companions couldn’t hear her shrieks of panic when she started to plummet downward, gathering speed with each passing second. Her screams got fainter as she got closer to the surface, until they suddenly stopped.
Nearer and nearer to the red spot surfed the remaining four beings. Rapture filled them at the almost overpowering, erotic feeling of the raging storm. Mile by mile, they rode the crests of hydrogen waves ever faster. Already the memories of Ebgh and Doz were gone, and only what was about to happen remained.
Even though Ton reached the edge of the red spot first, protocol meant the oldest should enter first. In the blink of an…oh dear, the beings had no eyes, so that saying has no meaning on Jupiter. In the space between one breath and another…no, that won’t work either, since the beings don’t actually have lungs. They simply and very efficiently absorb the thick atmosphere by osmosis.
How about this? Instantly, Egr fought his way through the red spot’s outer edge and disappeared from view. With Ton now ready to enter, the importance of what he was about to do filled him with pride. This was the rite of passage the beings on Jupiter must go through when they reach a mature state. All knew the phosphorous compounds within their bodies were necessary for the continued existence of the red spot and perhaps even the planet. Without any hesitation, Ton was the next to enter and disappear.
One by one, the beings straightened out their bodies to the thinnest degree possible, took one last look around the planet where many years had been spent playfully surfing the wind, and eagerly entered the red spot. Nothing remained of these beings after each exploded except streams of red dust. Even that quickly disappeared to mingle with those beings who had come before them.
On our far distant planet called Earth, hundreds of astronomers trained their instruments on Jupiter and recorded the microscopic increase in the color of the red spot. It has been suggested that certain compounds of phosphorous are responsible for the reddish-brown hue. Where these compounds came from is still unknown, at least to those who haven’t read this story.
Class is now dismissed.
Winner of 07/22/07 daily "The Writer's Cramp" contest