Granger's Comet

January 5, 2014
By jmckinleyfc BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
jmckinleyfc BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

‘Beep Beep,’ chimed the alarm clock. Dr. Wallace Granger rolled to his side and looked with squinting eyes at the clock. 4:17 on the dot. Below it was the date: Monday January 8, 2159. It continued to buzz at even intervals until he pushed the top button down.
He could see that he had left the door to his deck open. He sat up, slid over to the right side of the bed and stood up. A cool sea breeze blew on his face and he saw the waves breaking into countless white caps along the shoreline. It was dark out, but the sun had just begun to rise in far beyond. He snorted, for he never did like sunrises or sunsets for that matter, because they were just the sunlight reflecting off of the pollution particles in the air.
The hardwood floors were damp; he assumed it was because they had a small rain shower the previous night. But he also felt something else under his foot, and as he picked it up he saw the outline of a small dark shape on the floor. He turned on his side lamp, putting on his glasses and then examined the specimen that lain on the floor. It was a beautiful butterfly, with little white dots that spotted its edges, like white dwarfs that illuminate the dark of space he thought, and he saw how it was a striking golden orange hue, which at that point reminded him of sunrises, and he presently was disgusted by it. Granger exhaled and inhaled, and as he did, felt his chest tighten slightly. “Biologists’ work,” he said and proceeded to flushing the lifeless insect down the toilet.
He went along his morning by completing his daily nine minute shower, dressing in his regular polo shirt and khaki pants (which were the only clothes he owned), and boiling water for his Chai tea. At this point he watched the news, the only channel that he got on his television. He turned the TV on via voice command and sat down in his chair. He slowly drank his tea, savoring its herbal flavors. He studied the screen watching all that was happening:
“Aloha Honolulu! Today is a beautiful day to be on Oahu…” the newsman said.
The newsman’s words eventually became background noise to the methodical thinking that was occurring in Granger’s mind. He had been at work late the previous night trying to investigate the contortional rotational velocity of a planet orbiting a star in the Phoenix Dwarf Galaxy. Suddenly, something caught his attention.
“…we have just been notified of something. Scientists from the United States Conservation of Wildlife Project in have verified that the last type of butterfly, the Danaus plexippus, or Monarch Butterfly, is now extinct. They reported that the last one died in captivity yesterday during an attempt to clone the insect. They confirmed that our clear-cutting of forests for commercial use has destroyed most of their natural habitat. Since bees and many other forms of insects went extinct decades ago due to insect pesticides, we no longer have natural pollinators of our food sources, which could lead...”
“Hmmm…pity.” Granger scoffed and turned off the television.

Granger drove to the observatory on his motor scooter, and was thinking about all he was to do that day.
“Drop off laundry at mother’s later, organize book alphabetically on my bookshelf…” He said.
His mind drifted away until his thoughts came to an abrupt stop, as did his bike. He flew forward and his whole body jerked in the collision. He had hit a bird, rather a pelican, which was dead in middle of the road. Granger, a little disheveled, dismounted the vehicle and examined the creature. He noticed that there were no physical wounds, other than the fact that its webbed feet were a blue color. He looked up and saw the sun in the distance but no other pelicans in the sky.
“Peculiar, very peculiar.” He said warily and climbed back on his scooter. He noticed how bare the landscape seemed and drove down the street.
When he got to work, he noticed something different. No one was in the lab they were all in the lounge with the television on.
“What’s going on in here?!” He shouted, annoyed.
“Shut up Granger,” Dr. Jim Quasi said. “We’re trying to listen to this—it’s important.”
“What’s it all about?” Granger asked him condescendingly, ignoring his previous statement.
“Just listen.” Jim said angrily.
The newsman spoke. “…There are apparently low levels of gases, especially oxygen, in the atmosphere, which is causing many problems with local, as well as worldwide flora and fauna. As you can see here many plant species are withering away and dying from lack of pollination and not producing oxygen to replenish the atmosphere. As a result, there is less oxygen for animals to breathe, thus hindering the rate of the carbon cycle. As you can see in the footage here, many animals are now dying from hypoxia, or lack of oxygen. Symptoms are headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, as well as a blue discoloration of the skin. For example, many local species of birds, such as seagulls, grebes, pacific loons, brown pelicans, herons, spoonbills…”
Granger cringed and a cold shiver ran down his spine. In order to cover up his apprehension, he shouted: “I’ve just about had enough of this! I’m not about to get in a panic about some conspiracy that the atmosphere is deteriorating or about some stupid birds!” and stormed out of the room and down the hall.
After a couple of days, everything seemed to have returned to normal. No one was talking about the atmosphere problems anymore and no more dead birds showed up on the road when he was on his way to work. Granger continued to devote himself to his work (as he usually did), but his worry still continued to act as a rock in his shoe.
One day he stayed at work late, and was studying the sky. It was around 10:00 and was very dark outside. The sky was a black canvas painted with bright constellations.
“Wow I haven’t seen a clear night like this in months.” he said to himself.
Just as he was about to go get his notebook from the table, he noticed something. He increased the objective. It took him about twenty minutes of looking back and forth between objects and notes before he realized what it was.
“A comet!” He shouted. “Hey look at—”
He then realized that there was no one else there and he was just talking to himself.
“What should I name it? Honolulu’s comet or uhhh…Oolong’s comet [because that was the type of tea he was drinking when he discovered it] or Danish’s comet [because that was the pastry he was eating when he discovered it], ummm… what about Winter’s comet? I don’t know but it has a nice ring to it.” He said.
He then decided to calculate the approximate time when it would pass in front of earth. After a while, he came to a conclusion. Luckily, the comet would travel past earth in about 3 days at around 4:54PM.
On the morning of the estimated arrival of the comet, Granger got up extra early and went work that day. At work, he fooled around in his office such as organizing his desk and shredding papers until around 4:30 PM he went to the telescope. No one was around, but he hardly cared and could barely contain his excitement.
At 4:45 PM he went outside and walked along the beach. He could see for miles in either direction, but saw no wildlife anywhere. He looked to the northeastern sky where he predicted the comet would pass and waited. Feeling a little light-headed, he sat down on the sand.
All of a sudden a shiny object came into view. Instead of moving east to west, it seemed to be coming towards him. When it finally reached the size of about a nickel Granger raced back into the laboratory. He turned on the large microscope and increased the objective power. It was round with a tail on it. Unsure of the object he had just seen, he sprinted back outside. Sweat dripping from his brow, he thought back to 3 days before. Dumbfounded, he realized he had made a mistake as what the object was when he was looking through the telescope. His uneasiness returned, and was suddenly short of breath, rapidly hyperventilating.
“What—was--it? WHAT WAS IT Dammit?!” He said between gasps.
His face relaxed.
“A meteor.” He said.
“No--wait it can’t be!” He shouted and looked up at the object. “Why--didn’t--most of it burn up when it entered the atmosphere--the atmosphere, the degrading atmosphere--” He said hopelessly.
The meteor was seconds away from impact. He passed out, but before he did, the last image that appeared in his mind saw a fist, his own fist, and as he unclenched it he saw in the palm of his hand, Earth’s last Monarch butterfly.
‘Beep Beep,’ chimed the alarm clock. Dr. Wallace Granger rolled to his side and looked with squinting eyes at the clock. 4:17 on the dot. Below it was the date: Monday January 8, 2159. It continued to buzz at even intervals until he pushed the top button down.
He could see that he had left the door to his deck open. He sat up, slid over to the right side of the bed and was about to put his feet to the ground, but stopped before they hit it. He picked up right foot and looked underneath it. He saw a butterfly. He picked up the beautiful creature with his finger and it flew out the door and coasted on the breeze. He took a big breath in and exhaled. Granger smiled. Relieved, he set his foot down. ‘Smush,’ came a noise under his foot. He looked down at his feet, frowned and fell back onto his bed.

The author's comments:
I was inspired by Ray Bradbury's "Sound of Thunder" when I wrote this story. I wanted to show that one change,one path,or one choice could make such a large difference and can change the world. And as humans, albeit we are small, we musn't forget the huge impact we will forever have on the earth, space, and time.

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