This story was written for the Reedsy Contest "Winter Wonderland".
More specifically inspired by the prompt: "You go for a walk in fresh snow. Suddenly you realize you're not leaving any footprints."
“I think I forgot my keys,” I say. When I turn around to go and fetch them, I suddenly realize that I didn’t leave any footprints in the snow. “Oops, I might even have forgotten my body.”
I walk back to the office, and indeed: there I am, sitting behind my computer screen, still trying to figure out how to fight global freezing. Watching myself I must admit that my wife is right. She always complains that I look like an old, scattered professor. I wonder if she still loves me.
“Come on,” I tell my physical self, “It’s time to go home.”
“Is it that late already?” my body answers, “Why aren’t there more hours in a day?”
I reply with another rhetorical question: “Why is everything we say so predictable? Let’s go!”
“But I’m almost ready,” my living carcass whines, “Let me just finish one more thing.”
I look over my shoulder from behind my body.
“HIT ANY KEY TO SYNTHESIZE SAMPLE D-FROST 51!” says a dialog box on my screen. I watch my index finger hit the any key. Funny story: there was a time that key was missing from computer keyboards. It’s a miracle people succeeded in getting things done without it.
“Let’s see what we have,” my body proposes when an alert on the screen informs us that the “PROCESS HAS STARTED”. Together, we walk to a machine in the room next door. I hear cogs and gears moving frantically inside the device. Fluorescent lights flash on and off. Suddenly the room is filled with a deafening beep-beep-beep. A flask appears behind the glass of a small door of the contraption. It contains a green substance that glows in the dark.
“Excellent,” my body says, “We’re ready to go.”
“Good evening, Professor!” we hear on our way out. It’s Katrina. She’s our youngest and brightest assistant.
My body responds immediately: “Good evening, Katrina. See you tomorrow!”
Kristina returns a smile as sweet as honey. If only my body was forty years younger, I think, but I don’t say that out loud.
The ride home is uneventful. Traffic would have been hell if hover-cars hadn’t been invented. In the old days, snow and ice on the roads used to cause accidents and traffic jams, but the ability of mankind to find a solution for every problem made that a thing of the past.
Granted, man-made solutions don’t always turn out right. Three years ago, my team succeeded in solving the problem of global warming, but by doing so, we unleashed an eternal winter. Our experiment froze the complete state of Massachusetts instantaneously, along with some neighboring states. A specialized team had to fly over from New York to our laboratory in Boston to defrost us, only to discover that the cryogenic state we had put ourselves in by accident had caused our mind and body to be detached from each other.
Ah well, that side-effect has its advantages. For instance, I no longer need to get up to see who’s at the door when the doorbell rings; I can go and take a look with my mind. Of course, that doesn’t work well when you need to pee; that’s something I’ve had to learn the wet way.
Anyway, it was decided that we’d keep the larger part of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island in its frozen state, nature and people alike. We moved our research team from M.I.T. to Stanford where we set up a new lab to solve the new and interesting problem we created: global freezing.
In those early days, California wasn’t affected yet, but it didn’t take long before it started to freeze and snow in the Golden State too. That gave a whole different meaning to the famous quote attributed to Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I’ve ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
If Alcatraz had still been in use as a penitentiary institution, prisoners would have easily escaped skating over the ice on the Bay.
I know I’m almost home when I cross the Caltrain railway next to Redwood City’s arch. “Climate Best by Government Test” it says on the famous landmark. It’s not entirely clear which government did the test that led to this conclusion, but I’m told that Redwood City used to be the best place to live in Silicon Valley.
With the content of the little flask I carry with me, I can make that claim come true once more.
After dinner, I ask my wife to clear the table while I go outside to fetch a bowl of snow.
“What are you up to?” she asks. She has never shown much trust in my work.
“I think I’ve found a solution against global freezing,” I tell her, “Let’s do a little experiment.”
I put the bowl in the middle of the table. Carefully, I add a drop of the substance to the snow. A fluorescent green glow emerges from the bowl. In the melting snow, a plant begins to sprout. Roots form three little legs; leaves grow on tentacles that look like slender arms; a blossom opens in the bud.
“What a beautiful flower!” my wife says, “The petals look like shiny crystal wedges.”
The plant turns it head to my wife as if it responds to her words. She moves closer to get a better look, and before she knows it, the flower is at her throat. The sharp petals cut through her skin like shards of glass. I can tell from the way she falls from her chair that she’s been killed on the spot.
“I’m a genius,” are the first words that come to mind when I see my latest creation in action. With my wife dead, I’m no longer obliged to hide my love for Kristina, I think, but that daydream only lasts for a handful of seconds. My body doesn’t share my thoughts; it experiences a panic attack.
The plant is growing fast now. It’s already two feet high and it’s crawling out of the bowl.
“What have we done?” my body screams, “We’ve created a man-eating plant!”
“That’s called a triffid,” I reply, “I wonder if that word is already trademarked.”
The triffid reaches for the flask with the green substance. My body knows it must at all cost prevent our solution to fix global freezing to cause an outbreak of aggressive, carnivorous plants.
I see how the triffid grabs the flask, manages to open the door —it’s four feet high now— and starts creating an offspring by throwing drops of the green substance on the snow in our front garden. I chase after it, but when I look behind me, I don’t see any footprints in the snow. I see my body lying on the doorstep. It’s bleeding and barely alive. The plant must have attacked my body while I was distracted by my thoughts about Katrina. What will happen to me if it dies? I hope I surv
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