Fahrenheit 52


BPM 37093-E arced past Venus on March 4, 2038 at 13:06 UST. The Dodge Durango-sized asteroid cruised through the Solar System roughly 159 million miles from Earth, a bit too close for comfort, but somehow our dear leaders resisted the impulse to send a bunch of Armageddon-style oil-riggers up into outer space to blast the sucker back to Centaurus. In fact, a few outfits actually tried to do the opposite - get the dang thing closer to Earth. Why? Because BPM 37093-E (better known as Lucille) was entirely made of crystallized carbon.

AKA diamond.

That's right. Lucille's a giant-ass diamond the size of a pickup truck, a broken piece of an extinct star's heart, floating by our humble neck of the woods of outer space.

Can you imagine that? The engagement rings you could harvest off that beauty, hoowee. A real nightmare for the Dah Beer Company, amirite?

That's just the thing, though. They were ready for Lucille. Moreso than any of the rest of us. You wouldn't have thought a diamond-mining company started during the First American Civil War would be technologically savvy enough to anticipate (and prepare for) the systemic risks induced into the diamond market by an extraterrestrial diamond asteroid. But, you gotta hand it to 'em, cause they sure were. When everyone's favorite trickster-god-slash-tech-oligarch Eniac Rüst announced they were gonna go up there and lasso it, Dah Beer managed to stall them in enough United Nations Star Court proceedings to delay his mission entirely.

In the end, the best Mr. Rüst could do was point a giant satellite laser beam (which no one knew he had in orbit!) at Lucille, and just hope that some big enough chunks would break off for his robo-space-vacuum-drones to slurp up. His critics likened his stunt to the antics of an annoying kid with a laser pointer in a school assembly, causing havoc during the D.A.R.E. presentation. I always thought that one was hilarious, by the way.

Well, we were all waiting and watching the skies on the big day. And, you know what, it didn't work. Sure, the laser beam hit the asteroid and all. But Lucille didn't flinch. Remember, this thing's pure diamond. I don't know what Rüst was thinking. He probably wasn't. Quintillions of dollar signs in his eyes.

Anyway, I'm finally getting to the good part. You see, the way the laser refracted off Lucille's facets into the soup thick CO2 atmosphere of Venus on the way back to Earth, well, the whole sky turned into a goddamn kaleidoscope. We called it The Shimmering. I heard a few people near the North Pole went blind looking straight at it without those red-tinted glasses they were handing out in the newspapers. Even with the flimsy goggles, the shimmer stuck. For the next week, I swear I could still see the spinning discs of diamonds behind my eyelids at night in bed.

But that optical illusion faded, as did everyone's animosity towards Rüst for the stunt, because of what Lucille brought us instead.

On March 8, four days after the Shimmering, came the first reports of the power-ups.

We thankfully had some minor cultural precedent for this phenomenon. Remember magic berries? You could order them online, and when you ate one, sour stuff tasted sweet, and so on. Basically, opposite day for your tastebuds. A fun party trick, nothing more. But, other than that, we had to turn to video games to understand what was happening. Look, for millions of years, our species -- and the rest of them -- have been chomping down on various plants and animals, and we either get real sick, real fast, or we convert the fibers and meat and whatnot into starch or calories or the like. High school biology 101.

But now, when you eat a plant that was alive during The Shimmering, something else happens. You get super-powers.

They're calling it shimmer.

The first report was about some kid in in Istanbul who found a way to breath underwater for four hours after eating the mulberries outside his school. They found his body floating in the Bosphorus the next day. You see, he tried to go for four and half hours. Shimmers, they wear off. He didn't know, we didn't know. Then there was that old folks home where the lot of 'em just disappeared for 90 whole minutes after eating their pea-soup. When they turned de-invisible, half of 'em were naked. Horny wrinkly things, eh?

You can imagine the chaos this caused. People were eating everything. I mean everything. We honed it pretty quick, though, the whole world working together in the same Internet forum. It was just plants that got shimmered. Not animals, not people (thank the good Lord, but also -- someone must have tried, right?), and not funguses... fungi, I mean. For sure some people out there thought they were gonna grow real big by eating those spongey death flowers in their backyard, and the only thing they're growing now is daisies, if you know what I'm sayin'.

Yep, plants. All of 'em. Including the ones that you wouldn't normally want to eat. They all did something. The governments freaked out. Obviously. They can't stop us from shimmering, but regulators gonna regulate. For example, invisibility lettuce, banned. Super speed acorns, allowed, but you better have a massive umbrella insurance policy if you know what's good for you. Then there's the dark markets, where people are selling fake shimmers, of course, cause people are the worst. Some globo-corp invented an "anti-shimmer" spray, and mostly everything you can buy in a store's been coated with the stuff. That won't stop you from mowing down your lawn or neighborhood with your choppers, just to see what'll happen.

Maybe it's good that we didn't have shimmer before. I'm not sure we would have made it this far. People are still dying. People are still doing bad stuff. We're still human, after all, even with our powers.

Speaking of, the animals have figured it out, too. Sheep's Meadow in Central Park is now entirely run by hyper-sonic speed squirrels. Let them have it, I say. It's moments like these that I think we can all just be thankful that octopuses are exclusively meat-eaters. That's the last thing we need - they're already smart and creepy, and you just know that some rare kelp would have given them superintelligence.

This is probably all an overreaction anyway, because you can't grow new shimmer. Only the plants that were alive during the Shimmering got the stuff. And we're running out quick. I heard they're about to chop down the General Sherman Tree out in California. A damn tragedy, but a good run for the old bastard. Over two-thousand years. And now, being ground up into auto-language translation chapstick, it's downright shameful.

By the way, no one's heard from Rüst in months. Theory is he's off in space, loaded up with every green thing you can think of, and he's gonna go get Lucille and bring her back to Earth for another shine.

As for me, I hope he fails. Oh, stop it. I want him to come back, safe and sound, just without the giant magical diamond. I'm a simple creature. I want to eat candied sweet potatos again without worrying that I'm going to grow a raccoon tail or shoot fireballs from my hands, like last Thanksgiving -- sorry again, Aunt Betsy. I'll buy you another dining room table, promise!