Pandora's Box

Reads: 981  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 14  | Comments: 2

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The dinosaurs didn’t have a chance either way…

Submitted: May 06, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 06, 2015

A A A

A A A


The creature crouched in the brush while the large animals passed on their way down the trail on the edge of the forest.  She knew the large, lumbering beasts could not smell her since the wind was blowing in her direction.  Otherwise she would run into the forest and seek the protection of the giant trees.

Once the danger was gone, Chma resumed gathering berries and nuts.  There were hungry children and winter was approaching.  The risk of being eaten by a 20 ton animal had to be balanced against the possibility of starving to death beneath an endless blanket of snow.

Chma is the first of her species to have a name.  She gave it to herself.  An ordinary task from the perspective of a human.  For her, a giant step.  It was the first time a member of her species used their brain for something not directly related to survival. 

She has never spoken her name.  Her kind will not speak for thousands of generations.  That is the nature, and pace, of evolution.

Chma filled the makeshift basket with her harvest and began the trek back to the village.  Her kind lived on the side of a mountain, behind the thick trees.  Where the giants of the valleys and the plains cannot go.

She was the first of her kind to fashion a basket out of leaves and reeds.  A few weeks ago, she picked up a bird’s nest that had fallen out of a tree.  She had what humans call an idea.  Birds take twigs and leaves and weave them together in a circle.  It did not take Chma long to figure out how to do the same thing.  After all, her brain was a lot bigger than that of a bird.  And, she had two arms, two hands, and opposable thumbs.  Birds only have a beak and a pair of claws.

On her planet, Chma was the very first Galileo.  The first Albert Einstein.  The first Steven Jobs.  The first Nobel Prize winner.  The first Super Bowl champion.  And she was about to paint the crowning masterpiece of her brilliant career.

On Earth, an asteroid strike filled the atmosphere with dust.  It was a planet-wide disaster and the vast majority of life perished.  Creatures as large as dinosaurs had no chance.  Anything that big needs a lot of food to survive.  When the sun has been blotted out for months by thick, unrelenting dust clouds, vegetation dies or goes dormant.

What can survive a planet killing event?  Something small.  Something that can crawl into a hole.  On Earth, that was our predecessor.  Some rodent-like mammal, who survived the calamity by hiding in a hole.  One that lived off of the detritus of the dinosaur age.  Until the planet healed and ushered in the age of mammals, and eventually the age of humans.

No such event had happened on Chma’s planet.  The giant creatures still roamed.  The mammal-like species had to spend countless more eons evolving, always in the places where the big animals could not go.  Life was hard on the side of mountains and in the top of trees.  Evolution was slow.

A simple event tilted the balance forever.

It had been raining on and off all day.  Chma started walking faster as she heard the thunder closing in at an alarming rate.  She realized she was not going to make it back to the shelter before the worst of it reached her. 

More than one of her clan had died in these storms.  Falling trees, landslides, and flood water pouring down the slopes like an avalanche make the forest and the mountains dangerous places for Chma’s people. 

She found a tree that had fallen at a 45 degree angle and was being held up by other trees.  The root ball had been pulled out of the ground, making a hole large enough for her to crawl into.  The hole was on a slope sufficient to keep the rainwater from entering.  She crawled in and waited out the storm.

As the rain ebbed, Chma noticed the smell of burning vegetation.  A lightning strike had started a fire.  Another threat.  Every species, on every planet, has a built in fear of fire.  Chma wanted to run.  But her inner voice told her, “The forest is too wet to burn for very long.  There is no threat today.”  Instead of running, she calmly walked toward the flames.

There is a plant on Chma’s planet similar to what we would call a cattail.  It has a long stalk, with a seed pod at the end.  The material around the seeds is oily.  Chma had rubbed it on her forearm before and it left a shiny residue.  A stand of these plants had been trampled by some animal, and one of the seed pods was on fire.

Chma grabbed the stalk and held the flaming pod in front of her.  The inner voice began speaking again.  It told her how the flesh of animals burned in fires always tasted better than the raw meat her people usually ate.

And she remembered the giant beast she saw as a child.  It had gotten trapped between a prairie fire and the edge of the forest.  Even the largest animal cannot uproot a tree with a 20 foot thick trunk.  And no living creature, big or small, can defeat fire.

It occurred to Chma that fire is a weapon, just like a rock or a sharpened stick.  But a thrown rock does not pick up other rocks on its own and throw them.  A sharpened stick will not pierce the thick flesh of the giants.  Fire, on the other hand…

Chma pushed the stalk end of the burning plant into the ground.  And invented the tiki torch.  She buried the basket filled with berries and nuts in the hiding hole.  She’ll come back for those tomorrow.  She gathered the other stalks, and held a new one up to the one on fire.  It was almost out.  Chma realized keeping the fire going would be no easy task.

As she walked back to the camp, clutching as many of the reeds as she could carry, Chma worked out a plan for how to use fire to clear the giants out of the valleys and the prairies.  The age of dinosaurs came to an end on another planet.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

More Science Fiction Short Stories