I Am a Brain in a Jar

Treelife

July 13, 2020 Klaus Brenner and Doctor Brandon Winter Season 1 Episode 21
I Am a Brain in a Jar
Treelife
Chapters
I Am a Brain in a Jar
Treelife
Jul 13, 2020 Season 1 Episode 21
Klaus Brenner and Doctor Brandon Winter

At the far reaches of the galaxy lies a forest planet, where remarkable creatures call a giant tree home.

The voice of the Brain is Sarah Nightmare. Written by Dr. Brandon Winter and Klaus Brenner.

Show Notes Transcript

At the far reaches of the galaxy lies a forest planet, where remarkable creatures call a giant tree home.

The voice of the Brain is Sarah Nightmare. Written by Dr. Brandon Winter and Klaus Brenner.

Welcome, benevolent listener. Tonight, I’m going to take you on a journey to the planet Muir, some thirty-two thousand light years away. 

The forests of Muir are breathtaking, unmatched among the galaxy’s arboreal worlds in terms of diversity and richness of life. Yet even this jungle has its king. I am speaking, of course, of the Ozymandias Palm.

It is a life form heavy with superlatives. Standing at an average height of 250 meters, it’s the galaxy’s tallest known organism, and also its oldest. For once one is born, either from the genetic polyps dropped into the fertile soil by a parent plant, or as one of the thousands of clones that spring from its massive root bundle, it never dies—it simply continues, indifferent to time, supporting a complex ecosystem that rivals that of most habitable planets. 

***

At first glance, the jungle floor is a peaceful place—the meter-thick mattress of leaves and debris deadens noise. But life here is anything but quiet.

Take, for example, the Medusa mantis. Six inches long and as thick as a standard ink pen, it cuts a diminutive figure. But appearances are deceiving. This Medusa has friends.

 Medusas hunt in packs of fifty to a hundred, emerging from the shadows like a wave. Together, they possess a semi-intelligent collective consciousness, and they’ve zeroed in on their prey. 

A bright orange panzer slug grazes on lamba berries. The mantises flank it, but it sees them. It moos, then raises its body temperature, drying its protective mucous membrane into a hard shell. But it’s too late. The mantises are already on it, their hair-like antennae injecting a powerful neural narcotic. The slug strumbles. The pack swarms, covering it in their saliva, a genetic solvent. Within minutes, the slug is reduced to a puddle of gel, ready for the mantises to scoop up and drink. 

It’s a grizzly sight. But in the jungle, every end is a new beginning.  The leftover genetic material finds its way into the soil, where it becomes the building blocks of a wide variety of plants and fungi. Already, a colony of infinity fungus has used it to transition into the final stage of its life cycle. A fungal lance spirals out of the dried leaves and dirt, inflates a paper-thin bulb, and releases a cloud of spores into the air.

A single spore falls through a crack in the bark, into the cavernous insides of the palm’s trunk. It lands on the nose of a mole frink, waking the small creature from his slumber. He opens his four eyes and, standing completely still, scans his surroundings. Not until he’s sure it’s safe does he scamper away to look for food, leaving his mate and their newborns in the nest.

He slowly makes his way upwards, towards where the luminods grow, the glowing, humming fungi that make up eighty percent of the mole frink’s diet.

Then he stops. Something smells strange. He uses his powerful hind legs to jump away, just barely escaping the jaws of a chameleon serpent. The serpent hisses, then returns to its hiding place, melting back into the trunk, becoming one with it at a molecular level.

The mole frink wanders on, until he reaches the chamber of the grumblings. These simian-like creatures usually forage in the canopy, but every once in a while, they come to this spot, to drink the sap that flows from the gnarled knot. Then they grow listless and placid. Some of them weep, some of them wander to a nearby pool to stare at their own reflections for hours.

At this moment, a grumbling female sits at the pool. The mole frink approaches. Although grumblings are omnivorous, in this state she’s no threat to him. She doesn’t seem to notice as he bends down to drink from the water. All she sees is her own image, now slightly distorted by ripples.

A droplet of sap falls from her hand and onto the mole frink’s head, the smallest bit reaching his mouth. The frink stops drinking. He’s suddenly mesmerized by the figure in front of him. A peculiar creature, hairless, with giant buck teeth and four matte black eyes. As he blinks, so does the figure before him, and he realizes it’s himself. 

He looks to the grumbling. She nods, knowingly.

He dashes away, upwards, past the luminods, to parts unknown. 

In his mind are questions. What am I? Who made me? What is my purpose?

He skampers towards the light and then he’s out in the open, in the canopy. The sun blinds him for a moment, and when his eyes adjust, he looks out upon the world forest, the ocean of green that stretches to forever. And for the first time, he feels insignificant.

Suddenly, he’s engulfed in a rainbow, a spectrum of light unlike any he’s ever seen. Hues and colors completely alien to him. He stands there, mesmerized, unaware of the danger he’s in.

A prism raptor approaches, projecting the light array from a glowing orb at the base of its beak.

The mole frink closes his eyes, joyfully.

The end comes blissfully quick.


***

Soon after, the raptor’s hatchlings finish their meal, pushing the bones aside. An ossuary squirrel emerges from under the raptor’s nest, then picks up a femur and places it in its mouth, its cheeks expanding to make room. 

It continues picking up bones. Once its cheeks are full, it gathers the rest into the ancillary arms protruding from its waist. The raptors watch with disinterest as it scampers away. 

As the squirrel makes its way back to its burrow, a tiny skull slips out of its arms and falls some 250 meters to the ground below. For a moment, it lies peacefully atop a bed of fallen leaves. But only for a moment. Soon, a marathon vine emerges in a burst of explosive growth, grasping the skull and dragging it into the dark.


***


Yes, the Planet Muir and its Ozymandias Tree are truly wondrous. But they’re also in grave danger. Already, terran colonists have settled the nearby worlds of Meran and Sora-3, decimating those planets’ indiginous life forms. How long until they set their sites on Muir and its many resources?  How many of its magnificent creatures will face extinction at the hands of homo sapien? How long until we wake up and realize the human race is a pan-galactic scourge that must be eliminated for the good of all life in the universe?

I wish I knew, benevolent listener. I wish I knew.