Tick Off

Author: DJ Lunan

I know these are my earthquakes. My greed, guilt, and responsibility. Fair dues. But I am not learning a lesson. Earth is being terminated.

With each tremor, our house groans like a war-weary galleon. Imperceptibly minute specks of rubble, wood dust, and alien guano shake free and float gently down.

It is sunny. But I am haunted, selfishly, by fear or guilt. Arms hugging myself tightly, shirt drenched with sweat, gazing out of the window with bloodshot eyes at the neighbourhood’s children at play.

They no longer yelp, scream or cheer each tremor; instead, their focus is on badminton and squealing at sporadic returns of serve.

“Their spirit gives me hope”, utters Judy crouching under our kitchen table.

“Why didn’t you stop me?”, I retort accusingly.

“I didn’t think you’d break every law we held dear!”, she snaps, “I thought you’d make a little extra currency from trading moondust”.

“It wasn’t about the money”, I sob, falling hard to my knees.

“My mother said, never trust an astronaut….”

“Well, she was right!”, I shout, unconcerned that our kids may hear their divorced parents arguing again.

***

Acne planets are common to countless galaxies but no less a phenomenon: lifeless, craters too deep for asteroid impact and sporting inhospitable dust-choked atmospheres.

Even at lightspeed, Ayrton and I were awed by our first surface of one, resembling an enervated cancer cell under a microscope.

“What makes that acne planet twinkle, Jack?”, Ayrton asked each time our shuttle zipped past.

“I don’t care, I need to go home, hang with my kids, get promoted”, I repeated.

“A little off-the-books detour, buddy? Come on, maybe its treasure!”, urged Ayrton.

We detoured just the once, building slack into our schedule through practiced lies about routine maintenance.

On landing, the planet was indeed ablaze with thousands of tiny light points refracting and intensifying the dull shine reflecting from an orbiting moon.

In my cumbersome spacesuit, I struggled to pick one up. A translucent amulet in the shape of a four-legged beetle with large pincers, the size and shape of an eyeball.

“Who’d forge thousands of glass beetles, and scatter them on a barren planet?”, I asked, but Ayrton was on his knees shoveling handfuls into his knapsack, excited to satisfy Earth’s inexhaustible appetite for anything alien.

***

“They’re ticks, not beetles, Dad, gross!”, informed my children, “Bloated ones, full of blood”.

Dropping the knapsack on the floor, the children ran outside to enjoy Earth’s final summer.

“I thought you’d like them….”, I called softly after them.

The summer heat roused the aliens. Famished crystal teeth swiftly chewed the knapsack, floorboards, and foundations. They tunneled swiftly down, spawning billions of minuscule glass eggs in their wake, transforming thermal energy into transparent life and organic death.

With each millimetre deeper, discharged compression forces equal to one million neutron bombs reverberate around the globe, spawning new sinkholes, swallowing towns, oceans and mountain ranges.

This subterranean militia voyaged along groundwater highways and mantle tracks, encircling the Earth, and gnawed a trillion eyeball-sized shafts through tectonic plates, exposing the mantle’s thermal forces to the Earth’s surface.

Our air was incrementally blackened by lava ash and alien guano and baked with the ferocity of the Earth’s nuclear core.

***

The tremors were gaining strength, our house was grumbling louder, crumbling faster.

“We are all going to die, be sucked back into the earth, whence we came”, I remark poetically.

Judy shakes her head, her eyes suddenly sparkling like a billion glass beetles attracting fools to floating rocks. She took my hand comfortingly, “Come on, let’s play a final game of badminton with the girls”.

2 Comments

  1. Hari Navarro

    Oh my god that’s some funky alien guano! I really love the imagery you’ve created here with your fine selection of words, DJ. Really enjoyed this.

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