It ignited two different burns. We didn't know. Not at the time
"Incoming!" one of the guys shouted. We were inside. We'd been tracking it for weeks and we knew it was coming
our way. We had some idea of what we'd be in for, but not nearly enough.
When the wind swept through, nothing much changed. "Was that it?" "I was expecting something epic. Is it wrong I'm a bit disappointed?
We had braced ourselves for the worst, but it seemed to do nothing. We didn't realize how wrong we were
"Back to your regularly scheduled programming
," our supervisor said. We shrugged. Soon activity at the station was like it was during any other week. We didn't realize the burn was still raging all around us. We just couldn't tell.It wasn't until weeks later
that its effects began to show. By then, it had spread far inland. Different people began to appear at the station. Sometimes they were the same people, but at increased frequencies. Their behaviors had subtly changed. Ours had too.
"Did you see that client who came in last week?" one of our people asked.
"Why, did something happen?"
"Actually I don't know if I'm going crazy or not, but I was thinking it wasn't just that one. It's like we're a different place
from a month ago."
"You're imagining things. It's just the recent weather. It comes and goes in cycles."
"No, I think something's definitely changed. Something about the culture."It would be months before the first suspicion
that what was happening could be tied to the burn. We had tried to prepare for worst-case scenarios, but nobody had thought much about other cases.
"The station seems a bit calmer these days, don't you think?"
"If it is, I bet it's just temporary
We hadn't realized we had become carriers
. We who were tasked to contain it if necessary, had inadvertently become enlisted in its spread. We carried it in two different ways, depending on who were were, how we viewed the world. We did not realize it would be able to make the distinction and spread itself through distinct methods.
Fortunately it was benign enough to prevent panic. Perhaps that just facilitated its spread
. It would take decades before we realized the burn had already mutated into two types by the time it reached us. It would be longer before our scientists decided it was a kind of lifeform in itself, that there was a type of intelligence to it that we never could have expected. It was so unlike anything our station had ever had to deal with before.
Considering the ease and speed of its spread, it shouldn't have seemed so far-fetched there would be some sort of intelligence behind it, but at the time, it was so far out of the realm of our personal experience
that we didn't even consider it a possibility.We live with it still
. I suppose we have a symbiotic relationship with it now. Maybe someday we'll figure out how to communicate with it, if such a thing is possible. For now, we just treat it as part of a new normal, and carry on.