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Week #25: Creative Writing Challenge – Jungle Alien

June 28, 2021

As a zoologist working in a jungle deep in the Amazon rainforest, you discover a new species of life. Turns out it’s actually an alien.

The noise was deafening and Julia couldn’t sleep. She’d been in the field for two weeks now and she hadn’t yet gotten used to the insect cacophony that assaulted her ears every time she collapsed into her tent each night. Unfortunately, those jungle noises were never enough to drown out the thoughts in her head, the life she was trying to run away from when she came to the Amazon for her field season this year.

Julia Tesdado was an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley and she hated it. She hated being on a university campus. She hated having to teach sniveling undergrads who didn’t understand her love of biodiversity. She hated paperwork, and she hated trying to find money so she could fund the things she didn’t hate. She hated the academic system that kept her tied to an academic institution.

Much to the chagrin of her long-time boat broker boyfriend Miguel, she lived for her field seasons and spent the rest of the year analyzing her data and planning for the next season. If she was being truthful, she didn’t really care much for her boyfriend, but cultural norms and the desire for convenient sex kept him around. Julia didn’t really know why he stuck around, often treating him with nothing but indifference. She just figured she must have been really good in bed, or that, despite his complaining, he really did like the freedom of having her gone for half the year.

Things had been different this year before she left for Brazil. In the heady rush of getting a million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation a month previously, Julia and Miguel had had a whirlwind night on the town followed by mind-blowing sex on Miguel’s boat to celebrate. Within a couple of weeks Julia realized she was pregnant despite being on the pill. She told Miguel, who immediately asked her to marry him. Julia had responded by telling him she was getting an abortion and left him standing on the dock. She hadn’t returned any of his calls and got on the plane to Brazil two weeks later.

Each night she had laid in her tent listening to the jungle, as if it held some answer to the questions swirling through her head. The jungle usually soothed the angst and hatred that built over the rest of the year. So much life everywhere she looked, all surviving in harmony. The more diversity of organisms that existed, the stronger the harmony, the more resilient the ecosystem. It was the most beautiful thing Julia had ever experienced and it usually centered her. But this year, it felt different. It felt too full. She felt too full.

Three weeks into the trip, the field team Julia put together every year, full of grad students and local guides and colleagues, picked up camp and traveled deeper into the jungle. A full day of traveling by canoe and another two days of breaking trail through virgin rainforest took the group to their next sampling location. This place hadn’t been touched by humans and had been tagged as a potential prime location for surveying the copious insects that virgin rainforest contained and Julia did her research on.

The local guides spent the whole next day surveying the area for danger from animals, plants, and any local inhabitants. The scientists spent the whole next day putting together their survey equipment, making repairs, and planning their next sampling effort.

After making sure that all her equipment was ready to go for the next day, Julia wandered away from the camp. It was dusk and she wanted to check on the Hyacinth Macaw nest she’s spotted on the way in. She didn’t plan on going too far, knowing that it was dangerous until the local guides came back with their report. The nest was empty, but had evidence of use and guessed the birds would be back as long as the camp was quiet enough. Julia made a mental note to warn everyone.

The nest was only a few minutes trek from camp, and on the way back Julia started thinking about Miguel. She was sure about some things, like that she hadn’t been fair to Miguel and that running from him wasn’t going to solve anything. He’d just be there when she got back. Alternatively, she wasn’t sure about some things, like why she’d lied to Miguel about getting an abortion. Julia lost track of time as she wandered the jungle.

When Julia stumbled on a round moss-covered stone she realized that she should have gotten back to camp already. A small thrill hummed through her blood, followed quickly by fear, and then curiosity as she studied the round stone. It was rare to see large rocks in the amazon, as the soils were very sandy and the constant humidity and rain tended to erode stone quickly. It was even rarer to see a rock that seemed perfectly round.

Julia approached the rock and wiped the thin layer of moss off of it to reveal a variety of carved symbols. The small thrill she’d had earlier turned into pure excitement. This could be some kind of written language from a hidden amazonian tribe, or a marker of some kind, or it could have some kind of religious significance. Julia continued clearing off the moss.

She traced one of the symbols and felt heat in her fingertips. She drew her hand back quickly as the symbol started to glow a soft electric blue. The other symbols were all soon glowing. Julia didn’t think she was breathing. She couldn’t take her eyes off the rock. When nothing else happened, Julia gently touched the top of the rock again and a small round circle of rock popped up from the top. Startled, Julia jumped back but soon approached again to study the button. It looked like a button.

Absentmindedly, Julia put her left hand over her abdomen and with her right hand, pressed the button. Julia quickly pulled her right hand back to see a small drop of blood welling on the finger that had pressed into the rock. Nothing else happened for a few seconds. Then Julia heard it, a slight hissing sound, like air escaping. The rock slowly peeled into three parts like a flower opening.

Julia took a step closer to see a small round object the size of an ostrich egg sitting on a pedestal inside the opened rock. Julia reached a tentative hand toward the egg and then jumped a bit, as what looked like a scroll rose to envelop the object. She removed the scroll and read:

“Your blood has opened this precious package and encoded this message in your native language. We have sent encased younglings to the far corners of the universe in the hopes that we may find a place where we can live in peace and harmony with the diversity already existing. This location on your planet matches all our needs. While we understand your possible reluctance in introducing a new organism to this ecosystem, please know that we have run many simulations, all of which resulted in a stronger and more resilient ecosystem. There is a compartment at the bottom of this pod containing all our data so that you may confirm our findings. If you find our data acceptable and wish to help our species survive, a touch of your blood on the encased youngling will start the blooming process. The youngling will be self-sufficient upon hatching and integrate seamlessly into the ecosystem. The pod will close for protection until your decision.”

Julia didn’t know what to think. She had always imagined other sentient life somewhere out there in the universe. Statistically it was probable, but now it was in her backyard. The logical part of her took control and she retrieved the data mentioned from the compartment at the bottom of the pod. Then she headed back to the camp, from which she could now hear dinner getting ready in the distance.

The next week was a whirlwind of contacting other scientists over the sat phone, forwarding data, taking photos and measurements of the pod, and monitoring for other changes. The field site was so remote that the U.S. government didn’t bother sending troops or additional security to protect the pod.

Julia frequently found herself lost in thought during this week, not comprehending how a species could send children, “younglings” they’d been called, so far from home. That their survival would mean the survival of an entire species. Julia thought a lot about the biodiversity of the universe, trying to scale up what she knew of resistance and resilience to a universe scale. Everything deserved a chance at survival and, as Julia understood the data, these creatures would fit seamlessly into the Amazon ecosystem. They deserved a chance at least.

On a dark night, another week later, she found herself alone and approaching the clearing containing the round pod. She stared at it for a long time. Everything deserved a chance at survival Julia thought as her fingertips again touched the pod.

The pod opened just as it had a week ago. Julia pricked her finger with a small field knife and lightly brushed the encased youngling. The egg-sized capsule emitted a faint green glow and morphed from a round inert shape into a small greenish creature. Julia stared, and the creature stared right back.

It was reminiscent of a mouse and the same size, but green and with long antennae and a lizard-like tail. The creature was still staring at Julia when she started hearing a faint voice. Thinking that someone from the camp had noticed her absence, Julia looked around, but didn’t see anyone. The voice was speaking into her head.

“Thank you for allowing us to integrate with your forest. We appreciate your trust and hope, and will never betray it.” Julia nodded her head in acknowledgement.

The creature continued. “I heard you thinking over at your camp this past week. You are right about many things as a scientist and many more as a human. Everyone deserves a chance. A chance for many things, but you will only find them if you open yourself up and give them a chance. Good luck human and thank you again.”

With that, the creature bounded off into the dark jungle and the pod hissed closed. Julia stumbled back to camp and laid awake listening to the insects from her tent.

The next day the U.S. government ordered the pod to be left alone, all coordinates erased from any research data from the team, and requested that Julia’s field expedition be terminated. No one knew she had opened the pod and released the creature.

Julia was on a flight back to the states two weeks later. She went straight to the marina when she arrived, knowing that Miguel would be working on his boat. The sun was setting over the water as Julia walked down the dock, going over her apology again and again. She was scared he would tell her to leave, tell her that he didn’t want any part of her anymore, that she had ruined any chances with him already. But she knew that she’d regret it if she didn’t at least try.

There he was, varnishing the wood on the cockpit of his boat. Miguel heard her before she made it halfway down the dock near his boat and turned to look at her. Julia froze and Miguel jumped down to the dock and slowly approached her, as if unsure whether she would run away if he got too close.

Julia didn’t move, but mouthed “I’m so sorry,” and then held her breath and waited to see what he would do.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Yael Kisel permalink
    July 16, 2021 7:11 am

    oooh, nice ending!!

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