by Meghashri Dalvi
“So long, take care.” Mom’s eyes were moist, but her voice was firm. She adjusted the antennas. “Remember, you have to transmit all that you see. And all that you hear.” She smiled. “And baby, all that you think. It is important. You have to think all the time. Think hard. Understand the planet, its weather, and its inhabitants. Then send us your findings. OK?”
I just nodded. I was too distressed to speak. I was going to be alone, on a planet so distinct from my home planet, and which looked so unfriendly. And Mom wanted me to think and study!
Why couldn’t I keep going around with Mom? On fascinating trips to the far galaxies? Why was I sentenced to this lone observer’s job? Why not get someone else to do this while I keep myself close to my Mom.
But I did not ask these questions. Because I knew the answers. There were only a handful of qualified ones like me. With the right combination of genes that guaranteed long life and resilience of surviving on any host. I had to do this. However difficult it might be – I had to do this. I knew it, and Mom knew it.
She checked her space cruiser and got in. From inside, she waved. I was in no mood to wave back and just watched silently.
The cruiser took off. The ground shook a little. I had trouble keeping myself upright on the soft soil. I looked around. There were some small shrubs, and a few flowers on them. The flowers were beautiful and much more colorful than my home planet. The thought of home again brought tears to my eyes, but in this form I had no chance to let them roll.
A small bird came chirruping sweetly. He glanced at me and fluttered his wings with fear. In a moment he was gone.
Time passed. Not much happened around me. I had my antennas tuned perfectly, and I transmitted continuously. My observations, and my thoughts.
Some more days passed. I started liking the water and the taste minerals lent to it. The weather was good, though the Sun was scorching around noontime.
Generally it was quiet. Some birds came, looked at me, and hurriedly flew away. Some small animals came by. They hardly noticed me. I knew my peculiar smell kept them away from me. Mom had said so.
Her memories were still strong. I could almost see the tough woman standing beside me. I could hear her thundering laugh when she had first seen me in this form. And I could feel her warm breath when she had hugged me last.
More time passed. I got accustomed to the planet. Its light, its weather, its birds, and its animals. I started liking the beautiful flowers and those wonderful butterflies. The bright-colored insects kept me company. The small animals did not bother me, though occasionally the larger animals tried to sniff at me.
Then one day one odd animal came by. It was not very tall, but stood erect on two hind legs. Its stiff stance had immense pride. It held a number of shiny things in its front legs.
This creature looked around. I was somewhat scared by its sharp glances at me. It did notice me, but quickly looked away. Then it started using the shiny things to whack the bushes around me. It cut the tree branches, the bushes, it even tore some flowers. The little insects and birds had already disappeared. The surroundings were quiet except for this strange animal’s baffling doings.
The animal collected the cuttings and left. I had not seen such a disastrous thing before. I mean I had seen large animals eating small animals, birds eating insects, and some tiny creatures eating bush leaves. But I had yet to see anyone cutting others and not eating. What possible use this being had for the massacre it did?
I dutifully transmitted my findings.
For the first time, my Mom replied. I really didn’t know where in the vast Universe she was; her voice was fading away all the time.
“Son, keep an eye on this creature. It seems to be very destructive. We have not seen any animal being so violent like it is. Keep us regularly updated.”
I shrugged. I was merely doing my duty as an Observer. I would keep on transmitting.
The bad animal returned often to my patch. It now brought more of its kind along with. They cleared some ground by burning the grass. I had seen fire before, but not seen anyone making it purposefully. I informed this to my planet. Once again my Mom was distressed.
“This animal is the one we have to watch out for,” she said. “It will ruin the planet before we know!”
I started looking more seriously. I was afraid of this animal, but at the same time in awe of it. To me, it seemed to be getting more powerful day-by-day. It did not grow in size, but it certainly grew in intelligence. I could see it overcoming the difficulties with pleasure and in fact conquering the nature with force.
I was growing up as time passed. I could see the landscape changing slowly. The grass being less abundant. The animals more aggressive. And the air turning foul.
The mysterious animal and its likes kept coming. Again and again. Surprisingly, it did not touch me. It saw me, it saw my growing size and my sheer height, but did not attack me at all.
So here I am. Still transmitting. And waiting for my planet people to come along. Watching this planet and the strange bad animals. They come and hug me these days. They poke me once in a while, do some testing and calculations, and in the end they simply marvel at me. I don’t understand anything they say, but they call me repeatedly by one name, and I can easily recollect it.
They call me General Sherman, the oldest living Redwood Tree on Earth.
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Meghashri Dalvi consults in Technical Communication, when she is not writing science fiction or teaching Management. Her stories have appeared in Aphelion, Ascent Aspirations, Anotherealm, Quantummuse, Flash Fiction Press, and AntiSF.