Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: A Sexy New Slime Mold

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

A Sexy New Slime Mold
World Count: 599

“So, is that it?” asked Tyson, scratching his forehead. He was half Valerie’s age and fancied himself a reporter.

Is that it?” Valerie scoffed. “It’s a form of life that arose completely independently of Earth. A genuine, literal extra-terrestrial. It’s the answer to the eternal question of whether or not we’re alone in the universe.” She stared at the yellow smudge in the hermetically sealed chamber. “Is that it?” she asked again. “What more could there be?”

“It looks like a slime mold,” said Tyson.

“It is a slime mold,” said Valerie.

“Right, well, I just don’t think our readers are going to find that very interesting.”

Valerie raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

“It’s just, they’ve heard all of this before,” said Tyson. “You know, crop circles, that Martian rat.”

“Those were both hoaxes,” said Valerie.

“Well, our readers don’t know that,” said Tyson.

“And whose fault is that?” asked Valerie.

“Look,” said Tyson, “I’m on your side, really I am. But if you want to get the word out—I mean really get it out—we might need to sex it up a little.”

Valerie’s eyebrow went back up.

“I mean, it’s just a slime mold,” said Tyson.

“You would prefer a sexy slime mold?”

“I’m not making myself very clear,” said Tyson, scratching his forehead. “So, why is it in this giant plastic bubble?” he asked, indicating the sealed chamber.

“To minimize the risk of contamination, obviously,” said Valerie.

“Right,” said Tyson. “That’s what I’m talking about. That’s something that will excite our readers.”

“All right,” said Valerie uncertainly. “I’m glad your readers are excited about scientific procedure.”

“So what exactly would happen if it got out?” asked Tyson. “How much danger would we be in?”

Valerie thought about this question for a moment. “You do realize that the threat is that we would contaminate it, not the other way around.”

“Oh,” said Tyson, visibly deflating. “But it could be dangerous, right?”

“I doubt it but, at this point, anything’s possible. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what it can do,” said Valerie.

“So, theoretically speaking,” said Tyson, “if it got loose it could—could—do something like latch onto a host and mix in its own DNA.”

“It doesn’t have DNA,” said Valerie.

“Everything has DNA,” said Tyson.

“Everything on Earth,” said Valerie. “This is different.”

“So, what does it have?” asked Tyson.

“We don’t really know,” said Valerie. “Now there are some exquisite similarities between this and terrestrial life. Both has differentiated cells with dual phospholipid layers. This slime mold has some mechanism for evolutionary inheritance, surely. And we’ll probably spend the next five years nailing down what it is.”

“But it’s not DNA.”

“Even if it was, the sequences would be completely different from our own. No chance of parasites latching onto us in our sleep.”

“That’s disappointing,” said Tyson.

“It terrifies me that you feel that way,” said Valerie. “Do you ever think about the harm you could do by trying to make this sexy? This is a harmless little thing that could maybe one day evolve into something with intelligence, and you want to make it out to be some monster. You make people afraid of it and they’ll panic. That’s the only way this thing could be dangerous. You want to make this thing destroy the entire world? Then keep on doing what you’re doing.” With that, she stormed off.

Tyson stared after her and scratched his forehead.

The next day the following headline ran in the Denver Star:

New Life Form Could Evolve Intelligence, Destroy Entire World, Scientists Say

Edited by Carolyn "It Is Nice To Know She Isn't A Crackpot" Abram.

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