Three poisonous wells situated three kilometres from each other in a near-perfect triangle. Three lush hills overturned into valleys, the bare earth exposed to the elements. Three towers of acrid smoke rising from the horizon and curling over the rim of the sky.
People wonder why so many have fallen sick.
Those three wells spread their poison as they grow ever deeper and wider, swallowing more and more of the landscape. Now the toxin has seeped into the soil and the trees. It’s in the fruit that we eat and the water we drink. It’s in the milk of the cows that chew on the contaminated grass. It’s in the vegetables that we dig out from the soil and the honey made by bees that drink from infected flowers.
Even the sky has been ruined.
Those black towers of smoke permeate the cloud cover so that the rain isn’t safe.
I remember when there were three peaceful hills in their place. They were full of life and beauty. And then it happened. Three near-Earth objects suddenly drew nearer than they were meant to. Each one was the size of a football field, and each one plummeted to the Earth in unison, crushing those hills and leaving behind smoking craters.
Nothing remained of the meteors.
They had been vaporised upon impact.
People gathered in awe to look at the newly glistening craters, liquefied from the heat of the impact. They glowed for several days with an angry molten red. Gradually, they cooled and solidified into gleaming black scabs upon the earth.
What we didn’t realise at the time was just how valuable these crusts were. But soon it became common knowledge. And as companies began to mine away the new element, they found that whatever came into contact with its unrefined form would transform into it.
The element could change the molecular structure of soil.
It could transmute rocks and even plant-matter.
Birds that landed on its surface for longer than a minute were soon petrified into black statues. The only thing immune to its effects was iron. That’s why the workers wore metallic suits like medieval knights, and their steel machinery stood upon its glistening surface like noble steeds.
The substance behaved like a cancer.
It spread deeper and deeper into the soil, and the companies kept mining more and more, hoarding their treasure in metal vaults. The strangest part was that the ruins never stopped smoking. Long after the craters had cooled, those plumes kept churning in the air.
Scientists never gave an official explanation why.
They could only guess.
Maybe it was just the by-product of whatever chemical processes were going on in the soil. Or maybe it reacted with oxygen, or nitrogen, or starlight.
What they didn’t mention was what would happen when it spread too far.
I sit in the relative safety of my hill, watching.
I don’t trust those yawning gaps, but there’s nothing I can do but watch. The wells continue to eat away into the earth like ravenous ticks. I want to wipe them away from this beautiful place. I want them to collapse into themselves and disappear from the landscape.
But they don’t.
And all I can do is watch.