He darted across the broken terrain, around purple trees flattened and aflame. He lurched gasping, dodging left and right, ducking the sonic pulses that delivered annihilation with a whistling caress. He ran until he collapsed in a hollow that shielded him from destruction.

A few minutes and they would be upon him. This is where it will happen, he thought. This is where he would make his last stand. There would be no escape.

He smiled.

The inhabitants of the planet Zornifera were scheduled for elimination five thousand years before the first Caldarian warships arrived. The lengthy preparations were offset by the swift termination of every living Zorn. Or so the Caldarian overlords thought. One defiant Zorn still scrabbled across the burnt planet, mocking the efficiency of Caldarian ruthlessness.

He was young. So young he had not yet reproduced. He crawled along the bottom of the hollow, digging into soft ground as yet unbaked by the fire of Caldarian weapons. The soil was dark and moist. Good, he thought. He could feel it happening already, the stirring within that would swell into a bursting profusion of life.

The peculiarities of Zorn reproduction horrified the Caldarians. They realized the danger of letting even one Zorn survive. One chaotic replicator could not be allowed to subvert their galactic imperative for beautifully sterile order.

He fell asleep, half buried in the nestling loam. It was normal. It was part of the process. He dreamed he was bipedal with bilateral symmetry. He stood before a room of other bipeds gathered around a table. He waved his two arms as he spoke, pacing back and forth on two spindly legs, gesturing at a large placard covered with graphics. He spoke of market penetration and volume sales and brand loyalty. But the others were skeptical and instead wanted to hear about market analysis and marginal costing. He skulked back to his cubicle and threw himself onto the couch. He grabbed a yellow pad and lay on his back, doodling and scribbling furiously.

And then it happened. From within the tumbleweed of pencil marks emerged something beautiful, something unseen and unplanned for, something that took his breath away in the grandeur of its simplicity. He could not help but admire his brain child. They could ask for all the analysis they wanted. Here was something breath-taking, something elegantly grand. Let them scoff at that. Exhausted, he fell asleep.

The dreamer on Zornifera awoke. He could hear the Caldarian soldiers rolling across the terrain, the contraction waves on the sole of each one’s single, muscular foot combining into a fuzzy whirring. They were coming for him, searching in a pattern designed to cover the most ground in the least possible time. The earth around him shook.

He thought the tremors in his limbs were sympathetic vibrations. But his shaking was out of synch with the machine-like whirring. He could feel the pressure inside him building.

It was time.

With his forelimb, he detached one of his arms and shredded the skin and shook the bones lose. He took each bone and planted it in the dirt, facing them away from him at a forty-five degree angle. He repeated this process until only his forelimb and vestigial clasper were left attached to the central hub that served as his body. The planted bones flared out around him in a beautiful radial pattern, like a huge flower with himself at the perfect center.

He folded his forelimb under the hub and began spinning, whirling in a wobbling gyration. He picked up speed, went faster until new arms began sprouting out of the sockets of the old. Around and around he spun, feeling disoriented and liking it. An electrostatic charge built up inside his hub, pulsing and throbbing, coursing through him like a drug. It overflowed onto the skin of the hub, surrounding it, engulfing it. He gave himself up to the spinning, to the sensation of rotating ecstasy.

A Caldarian soldier appeared at the lip of the hollow. He discharged his weapon, but the pulse glanced off the force field now protecting the hub. The Caldarian swiveled his antennae and signaled for help. Twenty more soldiers slid over and fired at the Zorn. This time, the pulse was absorbed by the hub. Twenty more soldiers came, adding to the firepower. The rotating hub took it all in, greedily, and spun faster. It rose off the ground, hovering, spinning, glowing with the collective energy of untold trillions of charged particles.

With a photonic burst, the hub screamed and unlocked its forelimb, which, rotating madly with the hub, threw out flashes of energy from its tip, disgorging the absorbed charge. Lightning flickered through the bone field, imbuing each planted fragment with nascent life. The charge surged out of the hollow, amplified a million-fold by the energy of the enemy weapons, vaporizing every Caldarian within reach, spreading out over the battlefield like a white wave.

On the mother ship parked above Zornifera, the Caldarian Commander watched what looked like a pimple of light spreading across the planet he had sought to subdue. It would take eight minutes, he calculated, for the wave to meet itself on the far side and in the process infect every bone fragment of every shattered Zorn body they had left rotting on the surface. When the edges did meet, he realized, the shock wave would move out into space, obliterating anything in its path.

The Commander gave the order. He wanted all the ships off the ground, as far away from Zornifera as they could get in eight minutes. There would be no escape, he knew. They could never outrun the particle field that would soon overtake them. He took cold comfort in knowing that the detonation of his armada would warn those on his home planet never to return.

He turned to his view screen and could not help but admire the tumbleweed of light that unfolded its fury across a reborn planet.

"Bone Child"
Copyright: © 2009 Robert Meade
Robert Meade is a transplanted Bostonian now firmly rooted in Mohegan Lake, in Westchester County, NY, with his wife and three children. He teaches at Loyola School in Manhattan. He won the Wordweaving Award for Excellence for his book, Daily Bread: Seven Days to aHealthier Soul. A published author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, his recent work has appeared in Angels on Earth magazine and online at Guideposts and Apollo’s Lyre.

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