by Josh T. Alto
Someone witnesses a natural catastrophe of unpredictable consequences
|(Submitted for the Classic Story Contest)
It was the end of the season, dark clouds were gathering in the sky over the sea and the wind drove enormous waves against the shore as if it wanted to swallow my little camp with all my appliances and devices that were lying around in the sand. I was sitting on a rock, hiding in the lush vegetation at the far end of the beach and waiting.
I cannot recall for how long I had been staying there, but finally there they were! I spotted their dark silhouettes in the distance as they were slowly approaching the forest where they used to be at this time of the day. I had been observing them for more than fifty years and I knew every little movement they took, I had drawn thousands of maps illustrating their migration over the continent once northbound and then back to the south again; I had taken millions of pictures of them with my camera, some of them are even hanging on the walls in my home now.
I loved those creatures, it was my only passion spending every second of my free time there, registering their behavior and collecting all the information I could to find out every detail about them. I knew they weren’t intelligent at all but they had dominated the land for millions of years. There were lots of different species of them and my favorite was one with a long neck and a long slim tail; even though it was the mightiest of all it looked graceful. I could sit and watch those giants all day long as they proceeded with a timeless elegance in the distance.
Our spaceships discovered the planet a few thousand years ago at the beginning of our deep space expeditions, after the problem of the space jumps had been solved. That made it possible for us to travel as far as millions of light years without getting old. In fact, it took only a few days; and even then most of the time was needed only for calculating the start and end positions of our jumps. The planet of the giants, as we sometimes called it, was the third planet in a small solar system and was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. It looked quite blue from outer space because of the water that covered most of its surface. Our planet could have looked similar once but we destroyed almost all the beauties of it in the last few thousand years.
Although the planet was classified as a rather safe one there weren’t too many visitors there, it was lacking in modern conveniences. There were almost exclusively biologists and archeologists like me, who traveled there yearly or even more often if they could afford it. And certainly photographers because of the planet’s uniqueness. Those beautiful sunrises and silver colored landscapes with the full moon hanging above, they were something special that our people really appreciated. And for us it was a unique opportunity to study these early forms of life, as if we traveled back millions of years in time.
We knew too little about our own planet, whether a long process of evolution gave rise to our race, or rather there had been some kind of outer intelligence that had planted the germs of life on our planet. It was a real puzzle and our biologists couldn’t give any adequate answer. Apart from us researchers only a few tourists came here but the worst of all were the adventurers. I could never understand people who came here to hunt down those creatures, why should one kill them when we didn’t even need their flesh, we almost never ate natural food; it was more exciting to watch them alive, the biggest living beings ever to exist on the continent.
I sat there watching them, the trees were bowing in the intensifying wind and I felt quite lonely. Even the last ships had departed weeks ago, I was the only one left, I couldn’t persuade myself to depart, though I knew in a few hours I had to leave or else it could become too late. An asteroid was rushing towards the planet, I could even see it already in the night sky and over the last few days it had become bigger and bigger. Our astronomer had forecasted it long ago and we were aware of the danger. There was nothing we could do, how could we destroy an object of that size with our small tourist ships, with hardly any weapons on board. Even if it was a smaller asteroid the consequences of an explosion could be unpredictable. As a result over the next few million years it could even change the climate of the whole planet, exterminating thousands of species but also favoring the evolution of others at the same time. I wondered if I would see them again, it could take thousands of years for the planet to recover after the explosion. Do they have any chance to survive?
Finally I started the engines and my spaceship was slowly rising over the treetops. As I looked back tears came into my eyes, I could see them wandering southbound again as they always did at this time of the year. I was sure I could see the sadness in their eyes, sadness over leaving this paradise: the trees, the grass and the sunshine; leaving it behind and never coming back again: it was the end of the season.
(Word count 918)