By Robert Lynch
At the end of the garden, near the row of beans, it sprouted. I was picking the morning’s harvest when I spotted it. A tiny purple sprout with heart-shaped leaves.
I raced to the house and grabbed Dan. “I need you to have a look at this,” I told him.
We went back to the sprout. He stared at it. “How is that possible?” he asked. “That shouldn’t be able to grow inside the dome.”
“Go grab a pot; we’ll transplant it and show the others,” I said.
We took the sprout to the colony hall and called around the others. They were as wide-eyed at it as Dan, and I had been.
“I thought that they could only live in a cyanide atmosphere,” Mary said, leaning in and tapping it with a pen. A plume of purple dust shook off the leaves. “Wow, that’s remarkable,” Mary said. But then she started to cough. She drew back from the sprout and fell backwards, the spittle foaming white as she stopped breathing. As she was taken to the Infirmary, I grabbed a cover and sealed in the sprout; then headed to the Infirmary.
Virginia managed to get Mary’s heart going again, Mary was still unconscious, but her laboured breathing was steady. “It’s cyanide poising, the blood test confirms it.”
“So the atmosphere is because of the plants, not the other way ‘round as we thought,” Dan said.
“It seems so,” Virginia confirmed, “I don’t know how that sprout got in here, but we have to destroy it. Contamination from the outside could lead to losing six years of work building the colony.”
As we returned to the table at the colony hall, we couldn’t get close. Fine purple dust was wafting out the doors at ankle level. Quickly we closed up the colony hall, but it was no use. A trail of sprouts had emerged from the garden to the colony hall. We had seeded sprouts all over the place when we had moved the sprout; they too were emitting purple dust.
We fell back to the Infirmary, calling the whole colony to rally there as protocol dictated.
Wearing hazmat suits Dan and I headed back out to the sprouts, now covering almost 10% of the colony. “We have to burn off the sprouts,” Dan said, holding up a spray pack and a lighter.
“No, wait!” I said. It was too late.
Dan ignited the hydrogen cyanide in the atmosphere. A ball of fire plumed up and hit the dome, shattering it. I was thrown back towards the Infirmary. Dan was engulfed in fire.
The cyanide atmosphere flooded into the broken dome.
Singed, but still alive, I crawled toward the Infirmary. My eyes stung, and I held my breath. Without an air supply, I didn’t dare breathe. I closed my eyes and tried to crawl toward safety with my eyes closed.