MAKING A DIFFERENCE • by Gordon Pinckheard

Iggy was a curious rock, expelled from an adventurous planet to travel to an unknown new world, Earth.

The journey was long. Rocks make ideal interstellar travelers; they have no need of support equipment and bear the boredom well.

Iggy remained unhurried when it arrived above its destination. Politely, it announced its arrival to the seven major tectonic plates covering the Earth’s surface. After its final descent, there would be no return; it was an immigrant, not a visitor. It sought welcome and to understand this new world.

Iggy was shocked at what it learnt. The plates were unhappy. Only 300,000 orbits (“years”) of the central star (“the Sun”) ago, a new type of creature had emerged. In the last tens of years, its numbers had soared, and its abilities had become extraordinary. The creature was capable of disrupting the very foundations of the planet.

At first, the creature had used loose rocks, rearranging them, standing them on each other, troubling no one; then it had begun breaking rocks away from settled, peaceful masses; then it bored holes down to tear out black sedimentary rock from its brethren. And that rock it burnt! Now it had explosive devices that tore the surface of the world apart and poisoned the nearby land. The plates could not understand why it destroyed the ground that supported its survival.

The creature was destroying its habitat in other ways. The air was warming, affecting the plant life it needed, and the watery seas were rising, reducing the amount of land to support terrestrial life. The plates were curious about this activity but unconcerned. Heat, magma, was part of every rock’s lifecycle, and wetting rock was inconsequential.

But the plates were concerned for their future; so much had changed so quickly, so much rock broken, perforated, burnt, vaporized. They looked to the past for a solution, to 65 million years earlier; Chicxulub’s impact. Would Iggy help?

Iggy would. Its descent was brutal; it crashed down through the atmosphere, creating a huge crater, catastrophic blast and heatwaves, throwing up vast amounts of material into the atmosphere, blocking out the Sun’s light. Surface life was slaughtered.

Iggy had sacrificed a lot of its mass. A sliver remained in the center of the crater, deep under the sea. It sought comfort from the plates; had it done the right thing — exterminating so much life? No reply. Their peace no longer threatened, the plates had reverted to meditative silence, ignoring a sliver’s doubts.

Iggy was a curious rock; it discovered sharks. They were an ancient line from 450 million years ago, from before the disruptive creature, before Chicxulub. They comforted Iggy; the creature had been barbaric, cutting off sharks’ fins and leaving them to drown. They were glad for it to be gone. And if all terrestrial life was collateral damage, so be it.

Somewhat satisfied, Iggy was reconciled to what lay ahead; to coalesce with other particles of sand and mud to become sedimentary rock, eventually magma, and to be reborn again as igneous rock. Fulfilling the great circle of rock life.

Gordon Pinckheard lives in County Kerry, Ireland. Retired from a working life spent writing computer programs and technical documents, now freed of constraints and encouraged by Thursday Night Writers (Tralee), he can write anything he likes to entertain himself and — hopefully — others. His stories have been published by Daily Science Fiction, Page & Spine, Gemini , Grindstone, and Flash Fiction Magazine.

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