The Agronomist

starscape

Our craft passed through a time slip as I was walking down the corridor to the port side of the stern. A violet mist faded through the air, and I could not be certain of whether I had seen it or had felt it. I approached the doors to the crew quarters and placed my palm on the scanner. I was prompted for an eye scan, which struck me as odd since under usual lockdown restrictions I would need an authorized access card to enter that part of the ship. I was not prepared for the scene unfolding beyond those doors. The time slip had transformed the crew cabins into an extensive emergency dock, with dozens of escape pods lining the expansive hall.

Crew members ran about, some vying for available consoles while others scrambled into pods, firing off into space as soon as their capsules had airlocked. I stood in wonder, fixed upon a most spectacular view.

Each escape pod had its own trajectory, scarring the darkness with trails of fire before being swallowed by the void. At the upper edge of the viewing dome I could make out the distinctive spirals of the Kenora Galaxy. Impossibly, the time slip had transported us to the 4th string of the universe. With this realization I experienced a slip in my own reality as my consciousness began to turn itself inside-out. I soon found myself looking down on my body from above the ceiling dome. How strange it was to observe myself, completely motionless amidst the unruly exodus. From across the hall an officer noticed me, and ran towards the primary console, grabbing a satchel from behind it. He rushed toward me, weaving through the crowd with great effort. I returned to the first person as the officer shouted over the tumult. He handed me the haversack while loved ones shared short embraces before entering separate life pods.

“Where have you been?” he did not wait for a response.

“That has everything you need in it. Seeds, propagator, hydration crystals. Everything else is on board. You’re the only planter that made it. We’re counting on you, son.”

He did not say where I was heading. I already knew.

My father had taught me the ways of the planters since I was small boy.  A lost art form that could only truly be instilled in person. Instant downloads were at best only supplementary to learning how to germinate the seeds, my father always said. Hydrating and nourishing, and one day, eventually, harvesting. Planting is a sensorial endeavour. When I was old enough I was taught which species could be cloned, and the best methods of doing so. This lesson was also used as an analogy in explaining my own conception as a clone.

The officer led me across the evacuation dock and into my own life pod. I peered into the small vessel through the open hatch and out the bay window onto a dazzling starscape. The pod’s interior was unlit other than the glow of the controls, and the star light pouring over the twin seats. The sight of this filled me with an overwhelming loneliness.

Once I was seated, the officer closed they hatch and the cabin lights turned on. I was familiar with the pod controls from many training simulators, but there was nothing virtual about the challenge that laid ahead. My mouth was dry when I heard the sound of the air lock indicator. My heart pounded with the flashing red light of the ignition button. I thought of the last thing my father said to me: “From dust we came and to stardust I return.”

With the push of a button I was launched into the abyss.

 

Edward Hackett

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