I think that I shall never see, a serial killer like this tree.

Growing Humans
by Neil John Buchanan ©2011

Rhamnus cathartica’s journal: 4th light cycle, 3rd rotation

To start, my pet has no roots and only two limbs. Her bark is soft and spongy. A domed leafless flower grows from her trunk. She’s small; standing a mere four branches high and makes odd gibbering sounds when I draw close. I’ve provided an audio file for reference.

AUDIO FILE 343/H: “Oh God, get off me, please; don’t . . .”

The supporting consciousness can’t make sense of the sounds and my pet is non-compatible for upload; perhaps she makes these noises when happy and likes to be touched.

Insert note: Handle pet every day.

My pet is fast; scampering around on two stumps and likes to hide in dark corners. She’s also inquisitive, tampering with the aperture controls or prying open the viewing portal when my back is turned. Info-scans from the supporting consciousness have produced no data on why she might do this. Perhaps she comes from beyond the Zahrig swamps? I’ve heard other bio-domes grow there; different from my own.

Rhamnus cathartica’s journal: 4th light cycle, 4th rotation

I’ve decided to call my pet, NASA, as she sometimes points to symbols on her branch and makes this sound.

AUDIO FILE 3543/J: “Yes, N.A.S.A. They’ll track me here. Then you’ll . . . no, don’t; get your branches off me . . .”

I originally found NASA while my Forest-Father cared for the saplings in their life syrup, and took cuttings from the elders rooted into bedrock.

The sky was its usual purple, the four suns just peeking across the distant deadwood mountains. The bio-dome’s liquid shell was shifting to hard-light and the supporting consciousness was busy with a thousand different mundane requests. I could feel the distant whispering of the forest, one hundred-thousand voices sweeping me along in their song.

NASA’s seed fell out of the sky, a shining metal tube, and broke on the red rock garden; how it got in the sky remains uncertain.

The seed spewed black fluid and chunks of metal as far as the Bio-Dome’s walls. I picked my way through the glittering debris and saw NASA holding her flower; a diminutive figure trembling on two stumps. NASA staggered away when she saw me, but I caught up and scooped her within my limbs, surprised at how light she felt, like a gathering of wet leaves.

NASA gave a long, high-pitched note and moved into a down-cycle; her domed flower became floppy and her branches slack. I thought she looked helpless, all alone and in need of love, and made a solemn vow to care for her, at least until she was better.

Rhamnus cathartica’s journal : 5th light cycle, 4th rotation

Forest-Father called me in for uploading to the shared consciousness. I’ll hide my thought transfer until I’m certain what to do with NASA. Then I’ll tell Forest-Father for sure.

Rhamnus cathartica’s journal: 5th light cycle, 5th rotation

NASA’s flower fell off. I found it by the central aperture, cracked and broken. NASA seemed fine; she had a new smaller flower with soft brown petals and was making the following sounds.

AUDIO FILE 6374/P: “Ran out of oxygen; didn’t think I was going to make it. Turns out your dome has atmosphere, oxygen rich, very breathable. I’m going to live. Do you hear me? I’m going to live.”

NASA’s new flower has five holes of various sizes: two don’t appear to have any use; two extract and release air, and the last generates a range of inarticulate noises.

My pet is becoming quite the enigma.

NASA has also left small piles of body matter in the corner of my room. Body matter is a basic form of fertiliser. Is NASA telling me she needs to be planted? My earliest memories are rising from the soil, Forest-Father singing images, primary colours and shapes, from the shared consciousness into my mind.

I spent the rest of the light-cycle helping NASA stand in the fertiliser. She became animated through the process and I’ve provided an audio sample for later reference.

AUDIO FILE: 6472/U: “Oh, no, no, no. What are you doing? Put it down.”

While I was helping NASA, she shed her skin. A small circle of metal opened across her back and she slipped out: pink, sore and covered in slime.

NASA’s new form has two more holes in different areas of her trunk. I wondered what the purpose of these new holes might be, and fully inspected them as I had the others. NASA put up quite a struggle, but she was easy to hold in my lower limbs and explore with my frontal tactile branches. The holes are deep and different sizes. Inside is wet and soft; if I push too hard she leaks either a brownish or red liquid. I don’t know what to make of it.

I left NASA leaking in the vaults. I will tell the Forest-Father and share the experience in cycle unison.

Rhamnus cathartica’s journal: 6th light cycle, 2nd rotation

Forest-Father made me miss 1st rotation. My bark is pale from lack of light. I feel sick and nauseous without energy and water.

Insert note: Always tell Forest-Father first.

Forest-Father sat me down upon his coarse brown root. “I’m not upset,” he said, “just disappointed. You need to release NASA back to the wild. She might carry diseases from the Zahrig swamps. It’s not fair to keep her in the bio-dome.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry; go and make it right.”

We walked NASA to the red rock gardens, where her seed still lay. I hugged her close, before letting go; I’d grown fond of her over the last few light-cycles and watching her sprint across the garden, darting from rock to rock, making high–pitched squeals, made my leaves wilt and sap leak from my bark.

AUDIOFILE 8145/T: “Let the weapon systems be on-line. I’ll show you. Oh, yes, I will.”

“Could I take a cutting?” I said.

Forest-father lifted his huge branch to his trunk and sighed. “Go on then but be quick.”

It was great to run over to NASA. When she saw me, she gave a low moan and made the following sounds.

AUDIO LOG 9875/Z: “No, let go of my arm; please . . .”

Once I took the cuttings, NASA leaked warm red liquid and went into a down-cycle, so I put her back in the remains of her shell to rest. I’m sure she will recover.

Rhamnus cathartica’s journal: 6th light cycle, 3rd rotation

I’ve placed the cuttings in the observation portal. Five small digits in NASA’s fertiliser and the life syrup Forest-Father provided from the sapling gardens.

“To give it that extra help,” he said, ruffling my leaves and pouring the syrup into the soil.

I don’t know how long it will take to grow a new NASA, but I’m hoping only a couple of cycles. Forest-Father promised we can have it registered as a new life-form and then share it with the consciousness.

I can’t wait; anytime now.

I think I see the digits twitching.

x x x

This tale gets the place of honor (or should I write ‘honour?’)—leading off our lineup for 2011. The idea expressed is original; the writing terse, lively, darkly humorous, and so very British (drove my spell-checker nuts). I loved this one. How about you? Tell me on the BBS - GM

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