“There’s the heavenbird,” my colleague, Professor Anton Fogarty exclaimed, his voice a funny croak through his throat mike, excitedly pointing to a glowing mass visible amidst the metallic branches six miles up in the early evening sky.
“Oooh, and look!” he continued, in our noise-canceling headphones. “A solaris!” The darkness high above acquired a shape, a briefly visible form, at once mandala-like and random-seeming. Then it faded away.
I was impressed most by the noise. The ceaseless deep organ notes. The rush of air being sucked in and blown out at varying altitudes and apertures. In such incalculably enormous quantities, the great trunks of these sky-high growths create an omnipresent, variable howl, a cacophony of vast air-raid sirens. This immense noise arises from the vast fluted vents of the gigantic aluminosilicate stalks, it is a natural outgrowth of what we call their vascular system. The vents of the stalks are crucial to the growths’ aerostability as they reach through the clouds.
It’s said you can sometimes hear it all the way to Mount Shasta, 200 miles out. That’s mainly desert and all, canyon and scrub, so the billion-tubed whistling sometimes reflects just right off the mesas and it’ll go. Miles and miles. You hear about it, but until you hear it, you have no idea how strange it is. You’ve got to feel it. How strange the tickling in your diaphragm, a tickling itch, that occasions coughs.
Japan is gone, we read. At least, the Main Island. The rest of the islands are crumbling.
The six tethers holding Kobiyashi Maru have stabilized the orbital construction site and the half-constructed hull of the giant hydroship.
We could only watch in horror as Japan fell into the sea. It’s quite plain to us that she will be but the first of many that will be consumed in the Pacific. Perhaps 100,000 were saved before the central crane was severed, and we all looked down numb despair at the upturned faces of those left behind, beginning to be swallowed… then… loss of signal.
The Earth has begun to churn.
Along the San Andreas, here at Anomaly Farms, we have our own issues with quakes, awakened volcanism and a more benign but still unthinkingly destructive manifestation: bunches of Six-Mile Bamboo, and the stratospheric ecosystem they have spawned.
Who knew Earth was a seed?
It seems our planet’s suddenly getting ready for her interplanetary or even, perhaps, interstellar, debut.
Who could have known that humanity’s attainment of atomic power (with all attendant horrors of war and accident) was hyaluronidase to this planetary ovum’s wall? The concentrations of transuranics, the non-natural, man-made isotopes, pierced the crust, and finally hit the mantle of the earth. We managed to fertilize Her, to some schools of thought, and these inconceivable outgrowths are the progeny. Earth’s as Ovum. This is a process as inconceivably vast as the scale of our ignorance, exposed for all to see.
A germinating seed! And now, the Comet Swarm! Bombarding the inner solar system is an organic broth of meteoroids, comet dust and water vapor. We’ve been lucky, so far, spared a direct hit from an Oort Belt visitor. But more about that, a little later. Our corner of the Cosmos is getting the special treatment, now.
I could see, well off to the southwest, a towering thunderhead that formed a column of snapping lightning and swirling moisture connecting ocean to the sky. One sensed, but could not see, condensed and whipping, a waterspout shrouded in its steaming mist, from whence stroboscopic lightning bolts pulsed, seeking ground in the sea.
“That’s why there’s a barometric alarm in your headsets,” continued Fogarty, following my gaze.
The brilliant wall of cloud was stationary, its front stalled along the vertical axis of the enormous plant climbing into the sky 25 miles away at Fort Bragg. The storm hung like a windblown flag to the west of the setting sun’s brilliance. The immobile storm was lit almost in profile by the sunset rays, a three-quarters illumination, its rivulations and violently churning, ragged cloud layers glowing gold from top to purple-red at bottom, throwing sharp shadows into the deepening, electric purple of the darker mass of the stalled front.
The massive cloud formation’s familiar anvil top fitted neatly, leeward of the wind, within the dense, upward spreading bronze branches of the super-bamboo six miles up. An intriguingly perfect, almost designed, fit.
A further novelty… at high altitude, tiny amorphous lights swirling around and through the electrostatic mass of the storm.
“The barometer will warn you when a major recirculation is taking place. If the pressure drops below 900, or if the wind shifts the axis of the storm at Bragg this way, you’ll get the alarm. Start running.”
Fogarty pointed at the westward sloping outer glacis of one of the nearest protective rooms built near the base of the vast growth.
I raised binoculars to my eyes. The glowing dots resolved into wider globules that seemed to orbit the storm for a time, then dive into and through it, and then around the very center. They would then emerge radiating more brightly and zip away upwards into invisibility. Not so “tiny,” either, I decide. My wild guess is these celestial protoplasms oscillate between at least eight to twelve feet in length. You can, even with 7×35 binoculars like I use, see the glowing superstructure or components of the glowing blobs as they dart about. Some of these cell-like phenomena lingered near the branches of the tree, then zipped off, upward, until we lost sight of them in the darkness above. Feeding. Electricity like nectar? How far up do they fly? Do they change state at the ionosphere? So many questions. So little time.
The much larger heavenbirds are beautiful. diaphanous, glowing creatures, as much bioluminescent jellyfish as butterfly-winged and colorful, the heavenbirds seemed not much to mind the bee- or hummingbird-like business of the glowing orbs, even when the smaller orbs seemed to pass through them.
The bamboo’s roots go just as deep, and quite possibly deeper, than the branches reach high, for all that we can say. The so-called experts in the infant science of geobotany believe that the plants seem to favor the ready energies of the Pacific Rim and other volcanic hotspots.
We stood at the lip of the now mile-wide crater, or “moat” circling the immense stalk of the organism.
Around the fibroaluminoid trunk of the vast growth, steaming, flatulent mud bubbled, making the already strong sulfuric smell of the regions even more overwhelming. I made fast friends with my supplemental oxygen at this point, sealing my mask shut and avoiding the dizzying effect of the mix of gases bubbling, popping and spraying from geysers from the smoldering slurry within the moat. At this moment, a strident, low-pitched rhythm began in my headset and my computer glass washed red.
“That’s the seismic alarm,” reported Fogarty. “Not much we can do at the moment, ‘cept ride it out.”
The ground began to shake and I instinctively crouched low. Three hundred-or-so yards ahead of us, well within the moat, a geyser suddenly exploded, sending superheated steam and scalding mud and rock in every direction.
“Okay, scratch that. Run!” yelled Fogarty. With some alarm I had eyeballed the trajectories of some of the larger chunks of ejecta and had already begun running to the blockhouse.
Fogarty and I turned under the rearward-facing lip of the structure just in time as the first shrapnel began landing.
The scalding geysers offered clear evidence of the new subterranean circulation stream linking the Japanese archipelago with the Pacific Rim of North America. The roots are clutching at steam vents reaching as far as Earth’s mantle! Rich must be the nourishment offered by earth spaded from six miles deep! And think if this is only the beginning, as enormous a leap as… the creation of Life itself?
They spread like bamboo, do, too. Got ‘em at Bragg, down to Yakima and Boonville, and then all down the coast.
I like to think the bamboo point the way back upward, outward, into space. Our destiny. Another possibility: we caused this somehow and the Earth is irritated by us, or worse, bored with us.
Well, one thing’s certain. Earth is leaving the Earth. The cellulosic-geologic-tectonic worlds are taking over for the animated proteins, triggered we think, by the meltdowns, powered by who-knows-what forces from below.
Certainly we’ve been idle. I mean come on, Mother Nature practically handed us the car keys for interstellar space travel when she bared her Atom to us. Instead, we kept with the stupid chemical rockets… and the First Space Age fizzled like a roman candle. Nature seems to be telling us we should have harnessed the power of the atomic bomb to lofting great pieces of equipment and populations into interstellar space. We’ve spilled as much radioactivity into the world as we would have if we’d proceeded with a carefully calibrated use of the Bomb as propellant to power interplanetary and interstellar travel. By using the bombs to power dreadnoughts to near-light speed with each successive explosion astern, we could have expended earth’s built-in but highly poisonous uranium resource harmlessly in interplanetary and interstellar space. Thus we could have continued Earth’s destiny in the Stars.
So Nature has stepped up. Wine-dark space, through bronze leaves towering above us, beckons us to sail the ocean of sky. Rather than tarry any longer with us, she is leaping into the ever-thickening haze above to do it for itself.
Could it be she’s ready to reproduce?
Could it explain the newer novelty, the sudden arrival of the three new moonlets orbiting the Earth? And the old Moon, too. The orbital perturbations of these fast-moving chunks are fantastic to see. Papa Bear, the biggest, is 510-by-300 kilometers, Baby weighs in at 48×41 and Mama at 279×150. Mama tumbles end-over-end in her three-day orbit. Baby rolls by in two and Papa rounds Earth in one.
Word is NASA or the Air Force or the Russians and Chinese or somebody’s going to launch an exploration mission to check out the asteroids, but… get this, the big bamboo grows most densely in areas that nation-states deemed ideal for building rocket bases! The fast-spreading new bamboo seems to favor those latitudes that impart a little extra momentum to what we assume is their process of pollination, which is somehow tied into the fluctuations of the Earth’s ionosphere.
Whatever the cause, it’s hard not to feel that we’ve disappointed her, a little. Earth, that is.
These new stratospheric plants are an amazing sight, particularly at sunset. Long after sundown their willowy, yellow-bronze tops shine beneath the graceful curving trunk of the high-atmospheric bamboo. It is a golden light to warm us late into the night to discuss and wonder at these manifestations… and the comets! Seems something’s activated the Oort Belt and has sent these messengers from far outside Pluto’s orbit to see what’s up in the Inner Solar System and the apparently newly fecund Earth. Which means, of course, incoming!
Exciting skies. Not what everyone necessarily wants in a sky!
You’ve seen it, of course. Quite literally, who on earth hasn’t? The inbound or outbound comet somehow reacting, at great distance, to New Earth. Using their cometary ice as maneuvering fuel to draw closer to our planet and effect stable, low earth orbits. Or, alternatively, impacts.
Yep. The old space program is over thanks to the new arrivals in our skies. It’s made us, Earthlings, that is, a world of skywatchers because of the unbelievable show above. It’s good we’re looking back up, instead of at a device in each one’s hand or staring at some other medium that allows us to experience the world at a safe one or two removes from reality.
Yes! You wake up a bit when first you see a chunk of sky rock hit atmosphere and drop with meteoric brilliance near you. Suddenly you are alive! At least the pure animal part of you, which holds no truck with the vague and vaporous musings of one’s philosophizing gray matter. No. Your body wants cover, deep underground, when you experience your first cosmic shelling! Your brain, too, is reduced to a feeble repetition of a most heartfelt and palpitating prayer, and words whimpered like “Holy Mama!” and “Oh, Dear Lord!”
You get the feeling someone wants us to move out. And, truth be told, the way things are going in the Solar System these days, it’s hard not to feel like a sitting duck here on Earth. Thunderous Jove reigns, raining ice and stone upon us, while flaming Helios discharges plasma at us.
Mankind came down from the trees and now it appears he’ll have to climb back up them.
What, after all, might we find? As mentioned, the vast, leafy tops of these mega-pseudo-Bambusoideae, shimmering gold like rooted clouds, continue to flare in the sun long after dusk for us blinking here in our new, surprising night.
It’s getting shady down here. It’s suddenly like we’re ants in a very Old Growth forest. There’s a new platform being built, between six and eighteen miles up, by these new species.
Some people link the appearance of the Six-Mile Bamboo to the gradually intensifying ionizing radiation from the western Pacific, accompanied by a surge in seismic activity and volcanism and, suddenly, these giant weeds were growing, sprouting up all along the fault lines. They showed up first along the South Asian volcanic seam so some wonder if this isn’t some Chinese experiment that kinda got a little out of hand. Some think these mountain-tall plants are the product of a Chinese bioengineering experiment either gone terribly awry or it was designed as a structural paradigm shift, a new concept for the getting off-world.
But, back to the new trees.
Like I say. They’re pointing the way. Their balloon-like microfiber seed casings carry the seeds aloft for thousands of miles, borne upon the high-altitude winds, on miles-long, almost invisible tendrils, stronger than spider silk, spinning an overlay of stringy seeds that’s slowly weaving a high-atmospheric layer of microfibrous thatch orbiting six miles up, borne aloft into jet stream, an anchor layer up high, feeding from the wrong ends of the thunderclouds, a stronger and stronger latticework for the other new organisms, like the Tendril Blossom and the Star Ivy that are reaching down from these ultralightweight stratospheric moorings to their sister organisms rising from the surface of the earth. Reaching down, and up.
They pollinate in the stratosphere, remaining aloft like clouds yet growing, massier and massier, forming the beginnings of what remind you of aerial seaweed-like agglomerations, floating biomasses, cellulosic albatrosses, forever aloft, yet meeting and joining together the same as burrs’ll stick to your clothes. You easily see these Sargosso-Sea-like clouds of diatomic, sun-absorbing masses from the ground, five to six miles below.
It seems wild, truly unknowable nature is building a roof on the world. Or a new floor, leaving us below. Almost like it’s trying to seal us in and rebuild on top. Nature builds a new canopy, a planetary outgrowth. And indeed, the amount of biomass falling from this new cellulosic layer, coupled with the reduction in light breaking through, means it’s getting darker down here.
Earth remodeling herself. Most of us are drawn to this weird new place with a desire to climb trees. Do we climb to safety, opportunity, new worlds? All of them. We’re going to climb these trees. Return to the Trees.
We have to change our new ceiling into a new floor, else we become this planetary shift’s compost, a new organic layer from which new Earth grow. Especially since the exobotanists rate the lifespan of these bamboo shoots to be less than ten years. Once they start falling, lookout!
There’s no question the elevator ride to the top of the Anomaly Farms “Bamboo Chute” is unquestionably a highlight of any trip. Although, I must say, having stopped at the mezzanine for a quick lunch (and to acclimatize, the air, though appreciably thickening, is still thin at this altitude), getting back onto the elevator’s a little awkward. Everybody kind of looks at you all huffy, like you ruined their day, just because you made their elevator stop. Which is true on any elevator, really. Not just one that happens to reach the stratosphere.
Finally I must relate that these awesome ecological events are very humbling, and that the world is outgrowing us, on its way to its destiny in the stars.
For some reason, as humbling as this is, this makes me realize how much I don’t want to be considered unimportant. My body and my brain recoil from the thought of being abandoned by, well, I guess, the Earth Mother. Against this backdrop of cataclysmic bamboo, upon this new roof on the world, we must climb, and fight for our right to continue to exist. To matter. That’s why I walked through Anomaly Farms with my backpack and took the elevator. To the next level. The stars are for us, too.
Maxim Valentich piped up, his usual joke: Remember, Nature is trying to kill us.
And that’s where Project Raindust comes in.
Who knows? Seems how Nature doesn’t abide by the rules we write for her. Maybe these spores, or seeds, that start growing along the most volcanically active seams on the planet… and how these incredible, really bamboo-looking trees are providing powerful convection circulation, utterly changing the weather patterns all across the world. One gets the feeling that maybe, Nature aroused, we had best not tempt her fury.
But I digress. Brad Ohlendoerfer was relating how being perched on a cliff offering a 400-foot drop to the beach above the shoreline was an odd place for the original Anomaly Farms detox/recovery center to be. And that it would prove such an apt name for what finally grew out of here in all its New Age glory… well. Now everyone knows about it.
That’s Anomaly Farms for you. Funny stuff. Amazing stuff.
No question the bamboo’s helped to shore up the cliffs against erosion.
Hastily assembled teams of seismic scouts scour the region to find relatively stable crustal zones on which to build construction cranes for the Hydroships, moored like the leviathans they are. Seven ground stations connect the growing starships to Earth, a hexagonal arrangement of tectonically reactive tethers holding the great ships steady in synchronous orbit, 23,000 miles up. The orbital shipwrighting sites are, for now, well above the burgeoning new biomass of earth.
Like a 23,000-mile tall Eiffel Tower.
The vastest structure ever built by men.
Above it for now, but the new aluminosilicate organisms show no signs of breaking off their ascent. Their so-called “pollens” (for want of a better term) have already been discovered in the exosphere and are presumably peeling off, like some vast planetary dandelion gone to windborne seed, blown by the solar wind into the Solar System’s backyard, the Oort comet belt and beyond, into interstellar space.
The recent six-fold increase of interstellar background noise from the direction of the western Milky Way, the six-fold increase in comets grazing the inner solar system, and the arrival of the six new moonlets in Earth orbit support the uncomfortable conclusion that the cosmic neighborhood has been made aware of Earth’s awakening, of her newly found fertility, and that this results in catastrophic difficulties for humanity. We are in an extremely precarious state, caught between the rebellion of the planet that bore us, and the “interest” (for the lack of a better word) of surrounding space. What is coming to perhaps pollinate, or perhaps predate the Earth and her inhabitants?
What’s scented Us?
Is it an automated defense system? An immune system?
We are now racing against our planet into space.
Old Hawking crushed in his wheelchair was right. It’s time to make travel plans.
We have to get the hell off this planet.