| Space Moss
By Rick McQuiston
Sammy gripped the twig in a trembling hand, never taking his eyes off the bubbling mass in the small,
He poked and prodded the mess, marveling at how it seemed to yield to his jabs, and yet still retain its
consistency and shape. It was a clump of thick gray moss that was streaked with a strange blue color and
dotted with bulbous nubs that appeared similar to seeds.
But Sammy, being interested in botany, knew that they could not be seeds. Moss did not have seeds
and only after fertilization did it develop sporophytes.
Then he remembered that this particular growth, for lack of a better word, apparently did not originate
on Earth and therefore would not have to adhere to Earth's laws.
Sammy ran his free hand through his shoulder-length hair.
"Okay," he mumbled under his breath, we need to get a sample of this and get it to someone who
knows more about these things."
He readied his stick for another jab at the moss, and with a firm poke, sunk the wood directly into the
heart of it.
"Steady there," he said to himself. "Need to extract a good sample. If it is moss, it will reproduce using
spores, not seeds." With a tinge of nervousness he looked around. "And spores are airborne."
The moss yielded to the invading object, slowly oozing over it like liquid.
Sammy held the stick firm and twisted it back and forth. He rolled it in the moss as he debated if
enough would stick to the wood.
After a few minutes, he was satisfied and slowly, carefully withdrew the stick, and to his delight the tip
was covered with moss.
He lifted it to eye level and stared at the sample.
"What are you?" he whispered.
Suddenly realizing that he had no way to contain the sample, he frantically began searching through his
pockets. Fortunately he hadn't eaten the peanut butter sandwich he brought with him and promptly emptied
it from the plastic bag.
"Not the best, but it should do."
Being certain there were no crumbs left in the baggie, Sammy then proceeded to wrap it around the tip
of the stick, extracting the moss into the bag. He was careful not to touch it, constantly reminding himself
that it was in fact from outer space.
"Okay, now I need to get this to someone who can tell me what it is."
Sammy held the bag in his hand. It felt warm and somehow alive, and not in the sense of inanimate life,
like trees or flowers, but life that could move on its own accord.
The thought struck him as both humorous and frightening.
And then, as if responding to his understanding of it, the bag moved in his hand.
But he held onto it. The importance of the discovery far outweighed any concern he had for himself. He
had to be brave. Greats such as Pasteur and Curie risked their lives for the sake of their accomplishments
so he would have to do the same if need be.
With renewed urgency, he tossed the stick to the ground, and holding the bag at arms-length, left for
home. Once there he'd contact the authorities. No, they might take it away from him. Instead he'd call
someone at the University in downtown. There had to be a department there for this type of thing.
As he made his way through the knee-high grass and weeds Sammy's mind raced with random
Moss can absorb liquids up to twenty times its weight. It can harvest carbon dioxide and sunlight to
create food through photosynthesis. It doesn't have roots, instead using threadlike extensions that are
anchored to the ground.
The moss bubbled in the baggie as he walked along. Once, when his sight was diverted for a split
second, he thought he saw it produce a pseudopod, a snaky tendril that tapped at the inside of the baggie
and then quickly retreated into the central mass.
But he dismissed it as his imagination.
Sammy continued walking along as quickly as he could. The baggie was growing heavy in his hand
and it was feeling warm… too warm. He could feel it pulsing with life.
He didn't see the stone. It was partially hidden by brush, and in an instant managed to trip him up,
causing him to crash to the ground. The baggie split open on impact, spilling its contents across the
soil…and onto the person sprawled on the ground.
* * * *
Professor Theodore Mutalis kicked off his shoes and fell into his favorite recliner. He was tired. He had
a long day at the University. He still had test papers to go over but would wait until the evening. He needed
to unwind first.
A knock on the front door jarred him from his thoughts. He forced himself to his feet, grumbling under
Theodore looked at the young man standing on his porch. He was disheveled, pale-faced, and was
holding a plastic bag in one hand, concealing its contents with his fingers.
"Yes, may help you?"
"Are you Professor Mutalis of the botany department at the University?"
"Yes, do I know you?"
The man pushed his way into the house. He wielded the baggy as if it were a sword, slashing through
the air, spraying its contents across the room.
Theodore fell back in both surprise and disgust. The substance in the baggy, gray and streaked with an
unusual blue color, flew at him. He was hit on his arms and shoulders, and immediately felt a burning
sensation incapacitate him.
He crashed to the floor, paralyzed, as the young man towered over him.
Theodore could see the streaks of blue in his eyes as mossy tentacles wrapped around his body.
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
|About Rick McQuiston
I'm a forty-eight year old
father of two who loves
I've had nearly 400
publications so far, and
written five novels, nine
anthologies, one book of
novellas, and edited an
anthology of Michigan
authors. I'm also a guest
author each year at
Memphis Junior High
School. Currently, I'm
working on my sixth