“Everything Old is New Again”
by Greg Beatty
Andres Tavel touched the clear liquid in the test tube, letting a single drop form slip on his finger tip. “No worries,” he said. “It does nothing to living beings in their traditional form. It only affects those which have undergone long term crystalline transformation, and it’s returned over a hundred of them to a fully functional condition in laboratory tests. Now, if you’d lift your feet . . .”
Hypnotized, holding his legs in the air, Professor William Jones watched as his friend poured the contents of the test tube onto what he had taken for a footstool. The squat cylinder began to soften and shift, and then to shiver. The smooth outer rind looked like it was being reabsorbed as it feathered into fur, which twitched and moved as the yawning collie stood up and sniffed Jones’s feet.
“That’s amazing! And this long term crystallization will fully protect life forms from the intense radiation encountered in extended space voyages?”
“Yes, absolutely! It works on a principle of—” Tavel’s explanation was interrupted by a series of sneezes. They both laughed as the collie shook the remaining fluid from its coat, showering the two scientists, and most of the office’s contents.
Jones wiped his face, and said, “Are you sure this stuff is safe?”
“Absolutely,” Tavel assured him. “I mean, do you see it reacting with anything in the room?”
“If it works, it’ll be a brand new world, and everyone’s going to know your name,” Jones said, as he carefully scanned the room. He looked at the books (undisturbed), the flatscreen monitor (beaded with droplets, but otherwise fine), the holos of Tavel’s wife and kids (slightly moist, but also fine), then at the amber paperweight atop a series of graded exam booklets.
“There,” he said pointing.
The two men watched as the amber liquefied and began to glow. The tiny winged figure inside, which Jones had always thought was a dragonfly, began to move its miniscule arms. Covering her equally diminutive, but perfect, breasts with her hands, the fairy rose into the air, glided to the window, and, tearing a hole in the screen, flew away.
Dumbfounded, the scientists watched as the fairy flew from tree to tree, daubing each with the dew-like liquid with which Tavel had adorned her.
She touched one leaf on each tree, then flew on. Of every hundred trees, ninety-nine remained trees, albeit trees recently caressed by a fairy. The trunk of the hundredth tree turned supple and active, and the bark rearranged itself into a smooth and smiling face of consummate beauty.
“The tree—” Tavel began, but by then the fairy had risen to dart among the fluffy clouds peppering the Ohio sky. By now she was just a sparkle that appeared and disappeared through the clouds. As she disappeared, Tavel could be heard to whisper, “My Nobel Prize . . .”
Most of the clouds remained water vapor in suspension, nothing more. Almost all of them, in fact. But one cloud shifted to take on the writhing shape of the pale dragon who had haunted Billy Jones’s dreams when he was five. The two friends watched its long body twist and stretch, then rise up to claw at the sun.
The white dragon touched the sun for a moment, and then was gone, hidden once again among the fields of fluffy clouds that were only clouds.
“Look at the sun—” Jones began, but Tavel cut him off.
“Don’t catch his eye!”
“I think it’s too late,” Jones said, waving back at the glorious face smiling down at him from the sky.
It was indeed a brand new world, and a very old one too, and neither man knew exactly what to make of it. But then, no man really ever had.
Greg Beatty attended Clarion West in the summer of 2000. He’s had a number of short stories accepted since then. (For more information on his writing, visit his website) He supports his writing habit by teaching for the University of Phoenix Online. When he’s not at his computer, he enjoys cooking, practicing martial arts, and spending time with his girlfriend Kathleen.
Art Director: Bonnie Brunish