The Miracle

Craig Chalquist

An archetale of the Assembling Terrania Cycle

 

In what had once been the Silicon Valley, now swallowed in its asphalt entirety by the Bay Area Metropolis (BAM), the online buzz about the invention intensified just before dawn. The day of the great unveiling had finally arrived.

Digital comments flew back and forth in fits of electronic mania:

“I wonder whether it will live up to all the hype?”

“Hard to imagine something that could solve so many urgent problems.”

“It has to! What if things keep getting worse?”

“Scientists say they will get worse. Much worse.”

“Jeff Muskerberg is the greatest genius since Einstein.”

Dawn came and went, but the sun did not rise. The burnt-orange sky glowed dimly above a Northern California grown used to choking fire smoke. Those who could afford to leave every fall did so; the rest had to suck it up and make do with government-issue oxygen masks and public service warnings to stay indoors.

Below the giant interlocking-branches logo of the Cambian Corporation headquarters in Palo Alto, lines of fans braved the airborne particulates for the chance to see the most recent invention. Some had camped out overnight on sidewalks and in driveways, just for fun and to make a night of it. Many wore ventilators. Most sported t-shirts bearing the corporate logo. The rumor was that the logo had come to Muskerberg in a dream. An early sketch of the image was about to be auctioned for half a billion dollars.

The chatter quieted in the streets and online as the giant HQ wallscreens flashed to life. Every wall of every company building went live simultaneously. What new high-tech marvel would they announce today?

The device which ads had dubbed the Miracle would repair ecological damage on a worldwide scale, or so it was claimed. Those on the left of the political divide hailed it as techno-salvation. Those on the right condemned it as yet another Mark of the Beast designed to make them subservient.

Everyone could have one for…how much? The world waited to hear, much of it caught between skepticism and hope.

The inspiring intro by a pop singer played briefly, accompanied by images of breeze-brushed flowers and green grass grown at enormous expense in the HQ park. (The expense was mainly water, hard to come by nowadays, especially in California.) The view came to rest on casually dressed Muskerberg, who waved and smiled:

“Greetings everyone, and welcome to this beautiful day of grand news for us all! And thank you for waiting so patiently all these months. We hope you’ll agree with us that Earth Day seemed the perfect time for our announcement.

“For several years now, Cambian has conducted extensive research on the urgent question of how to repair our damaged planet. Billions of dollars have gone into this corporate initiative; the best scientific, financial, and technological expertise available contributed to it. What you are about to see is the fruit of a massive creative effort culminating in one essential insight, an insight that will guide a global campaign of restoration, repair, and hope.”

He reached into the left back pocket of his jeans.

“Hard to believe, isn’t it? That the prototype could be small enough for each of us to carry around in a pocket. And yet it is.”

Holding forth his closed hand, palm downward, he smiled again and continued:

“What I hold in my hand is a promise made long ago. A promise that we would all live beneath clear skies, surrounded by abundant life, fresh water, good soil, and clean food. People still walk among us who remember seeing the stars at night.

“All of that can return if we each invest in—this.”

He turned up his palm and opened his hand. In it lay a seed.

“Properly planted and nourished, this small startup, Earth’s promise to all her children, will grow into a tree.

“Over billions of years, this innovation, perfected through long experimentation, grew to fashion oxygen from carbon dioxide, pulling the excess out of the air so we can all keep breathing. Trees store and filter clean water, attract rain clouds, improve the health of soils, feed and shelter birds and many other rarely seen but important insects and animals. Trees intelligently monitor and repair damaged ecosystems, preserve genetic diversity, reinvigorate exhausted soils. They block desiccating winds, grow food, and ornament our cities with fresh colors, pleasant smells, and cooling shades.

“We humans can make marvels, it is true. But we cannot make one of these. Our insight is that we must support what has already been so extensively designed and tested since long before human beings arrived.

“We have decided, therefore, to devote a significant portion of our revenue and resources into making these precious promises available to you for free. Much of our research has gone into planning out how to do that responsibly and putting what we need in place.

“As of right now, you can go online and order tree seeds suitable for planting in your part of the world. Each package comes with instructions and background information. You may also order them for people who aren’t online. We will send these without charge, not even shipping costs. Effective immediately, all our new marketing will reflect their availability.

“Let me be candid and say that we also think this will also be good for business. Not all our investors agreed; some have sold out and left. That’s OK. We have reached a point where we would prefer not to receive money from people who don’t care if we wreck the world. Many others do care, and we welcome them. Their investments will also help us retool to make all our products friendly to the planet and even nourishing of it.

“Planting trees alone will not undo all the damage inflicted on our planet through decades of greed and willful ignorance. However, we hope this project will offer a new symbol for the great task of our time: to help repair, regrow, and regenerate not only Earth and everything living on it, but how we live with ourselves and one another. We have other related community projects in the works and will announce them shortly.

“One company cannot bring the crucial change by itself. Only you can do that, and we commit to giving you whatever resources you need to help us work and play toward a just Earth-honoring civilization in the truest sense of that ambitious word. It’s time we set all distractions aside, made peace with ourselves and each other, and came home to a blessed homeworld restored.”

Skeptics shook their heads and chuckled at such naïve optimism. That is, until Growing Our Future One Tree at a Time bloomed into the most successful business campaign ever. After all, it was based on truth, a word sharing etymology with “tree.”

Perhaps the biggest miracle was that now people camped out for seeds, just for fun and to make a night of it.