This story is by Chris Murphy and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I’ve been told I need to record recent events in case someone survives this nightmare and wants to know how this nightmare started. Since we’ve been more than a week without power, I’m afraid my horrible handwriting will have to do as an official record. I just hope there’ll be someone around to read it.
I guess I should start at the beginning…
Anyone who knows me knows any day my beloved Texas Longhorns are playing football is a holy day. Last Saturday just happened to be the holiest of holy days on the college football schedule; the famed ‘Red River Rivalry’ between the ‘Horns and the hated Oklahoma Sooners. I had cleared my calendar and sent out my ‘do not disturb’ messages to every sentient being within 1,000 miles. Silence was the law of the land in the Peterson household and everyone knew it.
Well, everyone except my beloved bride.
My full body weight was still on its way to the deeper recesses of my sofa cushions when Mary’s voice rang through the house, “Paul, are you going to get to the yard before your game starts?”
Admittedly, my response wasn’t very clear due to the handful of chips I had shoved into my mouth.
Of course, my bride spoke fluent ‘husband’, “So, you’re neglecting the yard for another weekend? That grass hasn’t been touched in almost three months, Paul! We’re starting to look like a Tarzan movie set for God’s sake.”
Now, I work hard to provide a decent living for my family. All I ask for is one day a week to watch sports, especially college football. I don’t normally refuse my wife when she asks something from me. But on this holiest of football days, there was nothing in Heaven or on Earth that was going to move me off of my sofa.
I explained this to my bride in a calm and non-confrontational manner, “Relax, honey. There’s not enough time to knock out the yard. Besides, the world’s not going to end if I don’t get to it today.”
I’m sure it was the sound of my cussing and kicking stuff around my garage that attracted Virgil. He was helping himself to my beer fridge when I noticed him standing near the garage entrance. He tried to lighted the mood, “Hey neighbor, whatcha lookin’ for?”
I shot him a withering glare before answering his question, “Gas can.”
“That it over there?” He was pointing to the gas can sitting in plain sight on my workbench.
Without a word I filled the lawnmower with fuel and gave the starter rope an aggressive yank. The engine roared to life with far more eagerness than I had for the task at hand. I gave my neighbor another angry look before heading towards the back of my property.
I ‘rage-mowed’ half of my back yard while calculating how much time I had before my game started. I was fuming about missing the pre-game show when the mower’s blade slammed against something hard and instantly killed the engine.
Not sure what I was expecting to find when I pulled the mower back to see what I’d hit, but I know it wasn’t a single, solitary weed sitting in a patch of bare earth. At first glance, there was nothing remarkable about the plant save for two things: the pieces of my mower blade laying around it and the fact that it had no marks on it at all.
Virgil was sitting in a lawn chair working on his fourth beer when I pushed my useless mower into the garage. “Hey man, you ok?”
I pointed to my mower, “Broke one of my blades on… something.”
My neighbor grimaced in a futile attempt to empathize with me. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the closest Virgil ever came to yard work was when he was cultivating the ‘special’ plants in his shed. “Dang man, that sucks. What’d you hit?”
I grabbed a few gardening tools and moved toward the garage entrance, “Not sure. Going to go investigate.”
Virgil rose and headed for the fridge, “Alright man. Let me know if you need help”.
The weed sat innocently in its little island with the remains of my mower blade scattered around it. I glared at the plant as I dropped everything but my shovel, “Let’s see what you do with this.”
The shovel’s blade barely penetrated the topsoil when it slammed against something solid.
Every spot I chose to dig around the plant ended the same way. Since I didn’t want to excavate my entire yard, I moved to ‘Plan B’. I tossed the blunted shovel aside, grabbed my scissor hedge trimmers, and nearly broke my wrists with my first attempt at cutting it.
“What in the world is this thing?” Ten minutes later, I had ruined every gardening tool I had.
Virgil was on beer number seven when I returned to the garage, “What happened? Did you find what tore up your mower?”
“You’re not going to believe this. I’ve got an indestructible weed out there!”
I had him at ‘weed’. “What kinda weed? Where is it?”
I gestured toward the rear of my house, “Around back. It’s the one surrounded by my broken tools.
Without a word, he left me to search for another tool for the strange plant to destroy.
He returned a few minutes later, “Naw, man. I ain’t never seen no kinda weed like that.” He grabbed a fresh beer out of my fridge, “Where’d it come from?”
“No idea. We haven’t been able to do much yard work with all the rain we’ve had lately. Guess it sprang up sometime during the last few months.”
He nodded as if his pickled brain was capable of understanding me, “Yeah. So, what’s the plan?”
“Well, I either call it a day and face my wife’s fury for not finishing the yard, or I keep fighting this thing and miss my game.”
“So, whatcha gonna do?”
I smiled as I held up my gas can and a box of matches. Virgil returned the expression and eagerly followed me towards my back yard.
It’s at this point that everything gets a little crazy, so I just want to take a moment here to express my deepest regret for what happened to Virgil, our subdivision, and apparently the entire state of Texas, as of this writing. Honestly, if I had known there was a creature sleeping beneath that weed, I would have chosen to weather my wife’s wrath instead of wasting the day doing something I didn’t even want to do. I swear, my only goal was to get my wife off my back so I could watch a football game.
What I’m trying to say is I’m really sorry for setting that thing on fire…
“Pååg! What in the name of The Mistress are you doing with those?”
Gloved alien extremities returned the tattered documents to a charred lockbox and gently closed it. “My job, Våålsh. You know I have to examine each piece before I catalogue it.”
Våålsh frowned, “Yes, and you are aware of the Exploration Ministry’s restrictions concerning handling artifacts of such advanced age. Preliminary testing indicates this system and those artifacts are older than our star by thousands of cycles.”
Pååg nodded, “I know. All the data we’ve collected thus far indicates the cataclysmic event that claimed all life on this planet happened nearly nine hundred cycles ago. That puts it occurring around the age of our scientific and technological awakening.”
“Shame.” Våålsh turned to face their ship’s enormous view screen, the blackened globe filling the frame. “The Ministry’s findings have determined there was a thriving humanoid population and an impressive zoological and botanical ecosystem on this world more than a thousand of its solar revolutions ago.”
“Gåån is going to enjoy studying this one. It’s rare to find a world’s destruction chronicled in such detail.”
Våålsh nodded, “Well, now that you’ve catalogued it, better send this back to him before he reports you for mishandling artifacts again.”
Pååg pushed a button and watched the lockbox dematerialize from the examination table. “Done. Was that the last one for this period?”
“Gåån said there was one more. He’s getting it ready for transport now.”
Pååg sighed, “Good. I’ve been at this for twelve of this planet’s rotations. I could use a break.”
Våålsh moved toward an empty console, “Well, we’re going to be here for another twelve, at least. There is a great deal of scientific materials and resources to harvest down there.” He noticed the blinking light at his station, “Gåån’s ready to transport.”
Pååg nodded, “Got it.”
A small container materialized onto the examination table. Pååg opened the box and frowned, “What am I supposed to do with this?”
Våålsh joined him as Pååg pulled a small ceramic pot holding a single weed from the container.