300-word story: Humankind heads to the stars in search of life, with unexpected consequences.
As humankind's technological capabilities steadily grew in sophistication, the tipping point arrived where interstellar travel became possible. And so, fleets of exploratory vessels drifted outwards from the Earth in search of life, like a dandelion clock gently blown by a playful child.
Whilst most of the envoys had a predefined destination, some allowed celestial happenstance to dictate their fate. All, however, followed the same protocol: land on a planet, transmit a report, dismantle the ship and build a habitat. Sterilisation had been mandatory, as the uncertainty of alien surroundings was no place to raise a family. In essence it was a suicide mission, though simultaneously an opportunity to embark on a wondrous adventure.
Leaving their suspension chambers after aeons of transit, these brave men and women stepped out onto countless orbs. Ranging from tremendous oceans and fierce deserts to luscious rainforests and vertiginous terrain, each crew encountered a unique environment. But alas, to their universal dismay, no movement welcomed them other than mischievous breezes and the crashing of waves. Far removed from the home they once knew, the humans lived out the rest of their days beneath the glow of alien suns.
Years passed inexorably, and with them came the mass diffusion of foreign microbes. Dead flesh grew rampant with strange fungi; exotic moss formed within ancient footprints; and the biological makeup of the many planets' ecosystems slowly began to change. In time, intelligent life emerged, as curious and determined as its progenitors.
Mirroring the distant past but in far greater numbers, these young species scattered across the cosmos in search of life. None would meet their makers, yet all would one day embrace a fellow pioneer with a common ancestry. Little did they realise that they were each a gift from humanity; sisters and brothers born amongst the stars.
Copyright © 2020 Rich Sutherland
Image: Edvin Richardson