Mini adventures. Mini Sci-Fi. Mini History. Mini Fantasy. Mini-escapes. What you can expect from the…

“Five-Minute Escape”

short science fiction story.



 Copyright Terofil A. Gizelbach, 2013


“Horrible boogers, ain’t they? That’s why I called you, Doc. I can’t even show ‘em for fear of the kiddies wettin’ their drawer’s at the sight of ‘em. Heck, they give me the willies and I’m used to the little nightmares. Darndest thing I ever saw…”

Jack Billingsley mopped the sweat from his brow. “SEE ‘IT!’, ELEVENTH WONDER OF THE UNIVERSE!” “VISIT ‘IT!’ IN THUNDERBIRD CANYON!” “DON’T TELL YOUR FRIENDS THAT YOU MISSED ‘IT!’ And of course, just plain “IT!” Signs, shouting across six-hundred miles of desert highway. Dozens of signs. Huge. Orange. Bold letters in red towering over the cactus signs. Crass, obnoxious, practically screaming out loud signs.

“IT!” turned out to be a root covered in fuzz and twisted in the shape of a man. But this…

This was fantastic.

Jack glanced up at the proprietor of the trading post, a greasy fat man by the name of Homes, T.H. Homes.

“Where did you say you got this again?” Jack asked.

“I didn’t,” Homes answered, grinning. “But off the record, Doc, I got it up Winslow way in the federal lands. Let’s just say I didn’t come by it strictly legal like.”

Adjusting his glasses, Jack stared down at the large glass jar on the table. Desert and highway sounds drifted in through the single fly-blown window. They were alone, in Homes’s office back of the souvenir shop. The claustrophobic, shack-like, wood-slatted room was air-conditioned—barely—but Jack felt sweat beading his forehead.

He bent down level with the dusty jar and peered in. The things were moving… Squirming really. Putrid, greenish yellow, grub-like creatures—with huge, champing mandibles and dead, shiny eyes without pupils. They crawled over one another with clawed caterpillar feet, lazily, clumsily, mewing as they tumbled and writhed. There were six of the things, the largest about five inches in length. The nearest turned to regard Jack through the glass, yellowish saliva dripping from its jaws. Antennae bobbed. Jack shrunk back involuntarily.

“Kinda take you by surprise, don’t they, Doc? There’s something not exactly…right about them. Not quite…earthly, you might say.”

Jack gulped and nodded. “And you say they hatched…out of a meteorite?”

“Gnawed their way out, more like it. They munch through rock same as you’d eat through a banana. Heckova thing to see, like maggots coming out of meat. For some reason they don’t seem to like glass, though. Maybe silica gives ‘em indigestion.”

“This is beyond anything I’ve ever seen…I…I don’t know what to say…”

“You don’t know the half of it, Doc. The more these devils eat, the more they breed. Give one a rock and pretty soon you have ten of the little horrors. Darndest thing I’ve ever saw. And they don’t leave much in the way of droppings. Just let out a little gas. Like I said–”

Jack struggled to regain his composure. “I know, darndest thing you ever saw,” he said. “Pass me that piece of granite, please. I’d like to see what happens for myself.”

Homes shrugged and handed Jack the stone. “Suit yourself, Doc. But be prepared. It ain’t pretty.”

Using a pair of tongs, Jack gently placed the chunk of granite into the jar. The nearest “moon grub”—or so Jack had dubbed them in his mind—lifted its head as if sniffing, antennae twitching, its dead eyes searching. Opening its mandibles, it sprayed yellow saliva over the pebble, which began to steam and bubble. A thorny, spear-shaped tongue dug into the rock and drew it into its jaws, which began crushing the softened material into fragments. Other tongues, spatula-shaped, greedily scooped the crumbs into its tiny, pinkish-red maw. Its mewing intensified as it devoured the granite.

“Incredible!” Jack whispered, transfixed. “I…I can’t believe it…”

“There’s more, Doc,” Homes said, wetting his lips nervously. “Watch.”

As Jack looked on, gasses steamed from a vent at the thing’s rear, and, humping its body, it began extruding one-inch diameter eggs from its tail: green, shiny, and perfectly round. As Homes had said, it produced only a tiny amount of waste.

Jack shook his head. “It uses acid to soften the rock which it then takes to sustain itself and to generate offspring. Most of its waste material appears to be being converted into base gasses. Only a fraction of its excrement is solid. I must have eggs for study—”

“Way ahead of you, Doc. Put some in a jar for you up at the front counter. When you want ‘em to hatch, just throw ‘em some pebbles. Food brings ‘em right around.”

“Do you have the meteorite that they arrived in? It would help tremendously if I could examine it.”

“Yeah…anyway, I got what’s left of it. They pretty much ate it to pieces before I got it home. You can pick up a chunk if you want, take it back with you. Always happy to help science…just don’t tell ‘em where I got it, huh?”

“Yes, yes,” Jack mumbled absent-mindedly, examining a meteorite fragment. “It’s brittle,” he said after a minute. “Almost flakes apart in your hand. Not like any meteorite, I’ve ever seen…and yet it is a meteorite. I can see that too, from its composition. The creatures must have broken down its molecular structure with their saliva…God, the way they breed…if even one got out…”

“There wouldn’t be anything left of the planet but a big ball of them horrible things,” Homes finished. “Now you know why I called. C’mon, Doc, I’ll walk you to the door.”

Still in a semi-state of shock, Jack passed through the shop and took the jar as it was handed to him. The “eggs” rattled as they shifted. He stared in anxiously, half expecting the things to hatch. But they remained as they were: green, hard, shiny, and perfectly round. Jack clamped his hand over the jar’s lid.

“Don’t worry, Doc. They only hatch if they sense food. Just keep ‘em away from rock ‘till you’re ready to study ‘em and you’ll be fine.”

Jack nodded and followed Homes out into the approaching night. The fading sunlight burnished the rock towers of ThunderbirdCanyon to a deep golden red. Shadows from the saguaro cactus and jumbled boulders ran the length of the parking lot and threw the trading post into darkness. A few customers chatted by their cars. Jack and Homes stood for a moment on the porch and gazed at the sun setting over the mountains in a fiery blaze.

“A land of rock on a world of rock,” Jack said. “We were lucky, Homes, very lucky. This time.”

He was about to leave when the boy stopped him.

“Hey, Mister,” the boy said, brushing back his blonde hair nervously and pointing at the jar. “How do they work?”

Jack shook his head. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean, young man.”

“Those trick Super Balls, Mister. I tried bouncing it, but it just made a hole in the ground. I knew I shouldn’t have taken it, Mister, but I just wanted to try it out before I bought it. So how do I get it back? I’ll pay you for it, honest I will. Please say you won’t tell my mom.”

Jack felt his mouth go dry. Homes’s voice sounded scratchy, far-away, and very old. “You said you took one of these here balls, Son? Are you sure? You don’t mean maybe one of the others?”

“No, Sir. I like the green ones. They bounce higher.”

“Where is it, Son,” Homes asked, voice croaky, “Where? Where?”

“Over there, by that little cloud of steam. How do you make ‘em do that, Mister? Are they some kinda fireworks or something?”

Jack stared with horror at the rising wisps of yellowish vapor. “Oh…oh, God! Maybe…Maybe we can kill it…maybe if we hurry—”

“Whoops!” Said the boy, pointing at a second geyser. “There’s another one!”







For more information about meteorites, please click the following fascinating link:

For a general overview, try:

For further info, click:

ABOUT THIS BLOG… Each “Five-Minute Escape short science fiction story in this blog series will be kept under 1500 words; most will clock in at about 500. The “Five-Minute Escape” short science fiction story will allow you to log on, take a fast trip, and get back quick to what you should have been doing in the first place…though hopefully the experience will stay with you long after you have moved on to something else. Subscribe to the blog and take a weekly…”Five-Minute Escape!” “Five-Minute Escape short science fiction story copyrighted Terofil Gizelbach, 2013