The Deadly Crystal

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Rock collector accidentally releases plague on earth.

Submitted: June 02, 2012

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Submitted: June 02, 2012



The Deadly Crystal by Rolf Luetcke



I was filthy with sweat and dirt and looked forward to a dip in the cool river when I got back to camp.

The days collecting had been better than usual and even though my bones ached from weariness, I had a smile on my face because of the fine crystals I had found.

I glanced at the coffee can on the seat and reached over to run my fingers through the cool crystals.

In the back were several choice chunks of dolomite, rife with anthroxolite pockets.  Some showed good crystals and the promise of more inside.

One chunk was light for its size and had something moving inside.  I wanted it as a hollow with crystals still in the walls.  I hoped it would look good when I cracked it open.

It had a long journey ahead, all the way from New York out to my winter home in Arizona.  I stored the crystals in my trailer until I got out to Arizona.

The Herkimer Diamond Quartz crystals had always been a good seller and I had been lucky this season.  My trailer had four buckets of loose crystals and boxes full of matrix specimens.  I estimated four to five thousand in value for three weeks work.

The work was hard.  The tools were eight and twelve pound sledge hammers and various chisels. My hands showed the wear and tear and I was glad the collecting was over.  Now my raw knuckles would have a chance to heal.

Mining was hard work but the rewards for me were great.  I loved collecting and the labor kept me in pretty good shape for my age.  At 62, I could still swing a hammer along with men half my age and they would be completely exhausted.

I spent two days at my camp along the river relaxing and packing the trailer for the trip west.

This summer, I had collected at six different mines across the NE and had the trailer loaded to its limits.  I would have the winter to clean, trim and box all I had collected.  In February, I would set up at the big Tucson mineral show and earn what I needed to spend the next summer collecting again.

My kids thought I was crazy but they’d let up a little when they saw how happy I was.  They wanted me to come home for Christmas but it was so miserable in New York then, I told them I’d try.  I was already looking for an excuse and it was nearly three months away, so I had a bit of time.



Out in Arizona, I parked the trailer in its spot under the mesquite trees.  The San Pedro River was only a few yards away and the owner of the property allowed me to park on his land and hook up to his utilities, because it meant someone was there to watch his house when he was in Europe.

He was also a rock hound and we’d met at the Tucson mineral show a few years back. He’d bought several fine Herkimer quartz crystals and had invited me to his place near Benson to see his collection.

When I visited, we’d talked for hours and he’d offered me the old foundation to park my trailer for the winter.  We’d become friends over the last five years.

He was there when I pulled in and was eager to see what I’d found this summer.

After a nights rest, Ben and I unpacked the trailer.  We had built several long wooden tables I used to clean and sort my material and we started setting out my finds.

Ben was like a kid in a candy store and I enjoyed his enthusiasm as I opened boxes and buckets.

Ben liked the Herkimers the most and he bubbled over with excitement.

Herkimer diamonds were a very clear variety of quartz that came in beautiful six sided crystals.They looked like diamonds but were just quartz.One mine site had glass clear crystals that sold for nice money.I had a couple of boxes of thumb sized clear crystals in my private collection.  Most of the crystals at the mines had inclusions inside that ruined their perfection.The flawless crystals demanded the best prices.The inclusions sometimes had water and a black organic material called anthroxolite.  Nobody knew what this really was but it was a carbon material that was ancient.

I remembered the big hollow dolomite boulder and we took it over to the splitter we’d built from an old car jack and railroad rail.  You placed what you wanted to break on the ground out hollow in the old rail and brought down the chisel point from above with the hydraulic jack.

I held the rock in position as Ben carefully cranked the hydraulic jacks handle.

There was a pop and some liquid ran from the inside, down the rail and onto the table.  As it ran over my hand it burned my skin slightly and I quickly went to the faucet to rinse the fluid from my hand.

I assumed it was acidic and hoped it wasn’t toxic to my skin.

I came back over and warned Ben to keep it from his skin.  We lifted the rock to the table and I used a screwdriver to open it the rest of the way.

We both gasped as the large greenish crystals tumbled out onto the table.  The hollow was unlike anything I had ever seen at Herkimer.  Instead of the black anthroxolite, this cavity had a green material and the walls were slimy.

We got the hose over to the table and washed off the rock and the crystals.  I picked up one of the greenish crystals and immediately noticed it had liquid filled cavities inside.

“Wow, do you see that?” I said to Ben.  “I’ve never seen such well preserved large cavities inside a crystal before!”

I held the crystals up to the sunlight and noticed the liquid inside was filled with tiny specks.

Several crystals were loose on the table and each one seemed to have inclusions.  We washed them and I brought out my microscope.

Under magnification, I could see the greenish coating on the crystal was only on the surface.  Inside, the particles floating were still too small to identify.  I changed to the maximum power and got another shock, the particles were moving.

Ben spent some time watching the tiny things in the crystal before he spoke.

“Could this really be?  Can the things inside the crystal be alive?  I can’t see how it’s possible?” he said.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me either.  I could see life inside the dolomite, its’ somewhat permeable but the quartz formed over 500 million years ago, when there was only primitive life on Earth.  There is no way I can think of that anything can survive for that long a time, sealed inside that crystal.  It makes no sense.”

We picked up the other crystals that had fallen from the hollow and placed them in a small plastic bag.

“These crystals could be worth a fortune!  Alone, the size of the bubbles, were quite amazing but the little things inside could make them invaluable.  Can you imagine what scientists would pay for the possibility to examine 500 million year old life, first hand?” I said.

I went back to the table and as I tilted one half of the hollow back, to get a better look inside, I heard a crunch and moved the hollow aside.  There was a small crystal that had apparently rolled beneath the rock.  It was broken into pieces and I wondered if it was one with liquid inside.

I didn’t want to risk the fluid inside being even more acidic than the stuff in the hollow and we rinsed the broken crystal with water before we picked it up.

Under the microscope, I saw that there had been a hollow inside. I briefly wondered if any harm had been done by breaking one open but couldn’t imagine the little things surviving in the open air.


Ben was called away to Tucson that afternoon, to get his tickets for the flight to Paris and I spent the afternoon unloading the minerals from the trailer.

The hollow got set aside and the crystals were forgotten for the moment.

Since summer was over and many plants were dying back, I never noticed the spreading patch of drying weeds.  The area was dry anyway and the dead plants didn’t seem out of place.

I was busy with my cleaning and sorting and Ben packed for his winter in Europe.

Before Ben left for the airport, he came over to see the minerals I had set out on the tables.

“What are you going to do with those green coated crystals?” Ben asked.

“At the show in February, I want to have a few people look at them.  Then I’ll find out if they’re worth anything.” I said.

“Let me know when you find out, will you?” Ben said.

“Sure, if you let me know where you are from time to time.”

Ben had me drive him to town, where he picked up the airport shuttle.

As I drove back to his place, I noticed a brown color to the mesquite over my trailer.  I didn’t remember it having gotten that cold yet, to freeze the leaves back.  I shrugged and didn’t give it another thought.

I went back to work on the minerals.

That evening the phone rang and Jill called to tell me Jack had a heart attack and the doctors didn’t expect him to make it.  He was still able to talk and wanted to see me before he died.

I could have gone up with Ben on the shuttle but it was too late now.

I tossed a few things in a suitcase, changed clothes and was ready to go, when I remembered the bag of green crystals.  I didn’t want to leave them sitting out and carried them into the trailer and then locked up.

I was glad I’d gone out, and seeing Jack was both fulfilling and really sad.

As I pulled into Bens’ property, I noticed the brown vegetation everywhere.

This time it hit me as odd and when I got out of the truck, I walked over to one of Bens rose bushes.

It was covered with a brown scaly stuff and when I poked it with a pocket- knife, the whole bush crumbled into a pile of dust

I jumped back and got a cold chill down my spine!

I called the agriculture department and my hysterical voice convinced them to send someone out.

I had a hard time getting back to my minerals as I looked at the dead plants all around.

I drove into town and took a room at the motel so I could think.

I met the agent on the property the next day and the puzzled look on his face didn’t do much to reassure me.

I told him about the mesquite tree above my trailer having been the first to look dead and I had been gone for a week.

He gathered some samples and left.

The next day I was working on the specimens again, secure in the knowledge that the plant problem was in capable hands.

That afternoon, a convoy of blue-black sedans pulled into the property.

As I turned to look who it was, a number of men in white spacesuits got our and all I could do was stand frozen.

Two of them were escorting me to a large van that had just pulled up.

Inside, as I tried to ask what was going on, a number of other similarly suited men started to peel off my clothes.  I was too much in shock to resist and figured I would be told soon enough.

My clothes were bagged in plastic and I was given new clothes to wear.

I was again escorted to another vehicle and when I got in a man explained why they were there.

The sample from the dead plants had set off a stage one alert and the whole area was being quarantined.

I was driven to a facility in Tucson and that was where the interrogation began in earnest.

When the one man said something about an ancient organism, I realized what had happened.

I told them about the quartz crystals and where they were.

Three hours later, there was a call on the phone at the desk.

The agent talking was very serious and looked over at me a couple of times and his eyes tore into me like knives.



Three weeks had passed and I didn’t even flinch at the shooting outside anymore.

The small motel room I was in was guarded by troops.

The TV was showing nothing but the latest news about the plague.

When I had first been interviewed, I had gladly given them all the information about finding the crystals in New York.  I knew I had done nothing wrong but as the situation got worse, people saw me as the person solely responsible for the end of the world.

They had to post a continuous guard to keep away the crazy ones, trying to kill me.

More gun fire outside.  It was nearly continuous now and I was complacent about my fate by now.

It seems that the little crystal that was accidentally broken had contained the tiny organisms and they had been released into a modern world, where the ancient microbes had no predators adapted to deal with them.

It also seemed that none of our modern control methods worked.  The tiny bacteria also found a world brimming with all the food it could use.

You couldn’t kill it with fire, they had tried.It only helped spread the organisms by floating them up with the smoke and spread them everywhere. 

The government had given up when reports came in form all along the east coast, the worst in New York.  I realized I had carried it there on my shoes when I’d gone to see Jack in the hospital.

Ben had also done his accidental part and spread it to Europe before anyone knew how dangerous it was.  From there, it had gotten onto every continent, due to our instant continent hopping airplanes.

The clincher came when it was shown it could be spread in the air and any breeze took it to new places.

The organism didn’t do anything to animals but it attacked plants, any and all plants and totally consumed them.  Since all life on Earth depended on plants, we were all doomed. Our air, our food supply, everything!

Yes, the crystals were rare and valuable but they were also the deadliest plague to ever hit planet Earth.

I had fought with my part in it all and had finally made my peace with what had happened.  If it wasn’t me, I was certain someone else would have found them and the end result would have been the same.

The shooting outside was getting louder and I wondered how much time I had left.

I reached into my pocket and took out my favorite Herkimer cluster, a grouping of 7 fabulous crystals.  They sparkled, even in the curtained room.

I shook my head as I wondered how something so beautiful could also be so deadly.

Suddenly, the electricity went off and I felt my way to the chair and sat down.  I fingered the crystal cluster in my hand and waited.


Copyright Rolf Luetcke


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