- Extract -
The aroma of coffee hung in the air as Jackson Carling finished the last of his toast. He watched his friend Lemuel stir a spoon inside an empty mug. Lem didn't eat breakfast.
‘I have a theory about that habit of yours,’ Jackson offered, ‘if you care to hear … Remember when you were attacked by the 21st century? And whatever you ate tasted foul except just one thing?'
Lem remembered. Three years ago he'd suffered an abrupt outbreak of everything: itchy skin, sore throat, red eyes, and numerous food allergies. In less than a month he'd lost 15 kilos, at the same time developing a brief but passionate love affair with iron oxide.
‘The doctor said I was too healthy, so my system was doing a test run. Checking that my antibodies were still in perfect working order.’ Privately, Lem had been convinced the consultant was a complete quack.
‘That wasn't your system—that was Earth's test run … seeing if she could make the required changes with the existing raw material she had laying about. Us. That's why you were compelled to go round sucking on rusty nails.’
Lem cursed himself for having confided about the guilty side-effects of his many afflictions. ‘What required changes?’
In response, Jackson unzipped his Adidas sports bag and plucked a small slender object from inside. It was emerald-stemmed with tiny blue spikes. Glittering tendrils dangled from one end.
‘What the hell's that?’
‘I'm pretty sure it's a metallic flower. Found it ... uh ... growing in my garden.’