The True Treasure

Sofia Schisler

Finally, after years of searching, she had found it. The only known way to save the human race was just inches away from her face. The fruit of her labor was within reach. She examined it, ensuring that her eyes had not deceived her. Her entire life had led up to this moment; she would finally be envisioned as the hero she had always hoped to be.

She knew it was very likely that this treasure was the last of its kind. Its orange flowering buds, it seemed, were reaching out just for her. Its bright purple thorns promised more hope than danger. It was tightly wedged between the saphire blue stones that made up the cave encompassing her. This planet of fluorescents was the last planet of many that she had set out to search; perhaps it should have been the first.

“The flower,” Polly said, barely believing the words that were about to escape her lips, “has been detected.” She continued into her two-way radio, “I will now begin the extraction procedure.” Her crew, back on the spaceship, remained speechless, most likely shocked by the words they never thought they would hear. Polly knew there was no longer time to gaze at the dazzling flower she had just discovered.

The procedure went smoother than expected, and Polly quickly began to make her way to the spaceship, precious blossom in hand. She stepped briskly but carefully as she knew she would never deliver a more significant package. She had to get to the ship to plant the flower in the nutrient rich soil that would keep it from withering away on the trip back to Earth. Once the plant arrived, scientists would reproduce millions of the same flower and utilize all of its healing properties. Without the flower, humanity would be entirely wiped out by disease over the course of the next two years.

Her feet sunk through the fuchsia slime-like surface with every step. She watched for the colorful spikes that were underfoot. Some spikes were only an inch tall, others were taller than
Polly herself. One particular ruby red spike caught Polly’s eye as it twinkled with the light of the many moons surrounding it. Luckily she didn’t step on it, as that ran the risk of puncturing her space suit and sending poison through her body. Despite the planet’s welcoming colors, it was a place of danger and potential demise.

She was only 100 feet from the spaceship when Polly’s life changed forever. Polly was so focused on the mission at hand that she almost didn’t notice the teal slimy creature blocking her path. The creature’s lime green knuckle-hair reached the floor, and its golden antler-like horns pierced the humid air. Although the creature looked considerably odd to Polly, she knew her bubble of a spacesuit must have made her look unusual as well, threatening even. A local of this beautiful planet was not something commonly seen by interplanetary prospectors.

“What is that creature doing there?” Polly wondered, “Shouldn’t it be hiding like the rest of them? Why isn’t it afraid of me?” It was only then that Polly realized how malnourished the creature was. She noticed how fatigued it was. She knew it was in no condition to attack her.

The shuffling behind the creature only confirmed Polly’s concerns. A smaller creature, almost certainly the offspring of the first, stepped out from behind, revealing that it was even more emaciated than its mother. These creatures weren’t just hungry, they were sick. Sick with the same disease that had spread to much of the galaxy. They were infected with the same disease as the humans, and they would need the same antidote; the precious flower.

Now Polly knew why the creatures remained before her. They had nothing to lose. Their kind had obviously had the disease for much longer than humans had. Without the flower their species would likely die before the end of the month. The aliens were not here to fight, they were here as a last resort. They were here to beg.

Polly had a decision to make, and it would be the hardest thing she ever had to do. She could easily take the flower selfishly back to the ship, and continue on as if nothing had happened. She could save the human race at the expense of, arguably, the most unique species alive. Or, she could save the creatures and hope the humans found another way. She could cross her fingers tight and hope for the best for her species, assured that she had saved another. It was only guaranteed that one species would survive, and she had to decide which.

Polly found her way back to the spaceship deeply saddened by the consequences of her decision. She opened the door, inspecting the excited faces of her crew. She climbed aboard, and the crew’s smiles melted as they noticed Polly’s expression. Her face was gloomy, but her eyes remained hopeful. “False alarm. Mission failed. We’ll get it next time.” Polly spit the words swiftly, as to make the blow as quick as possible. With small sad smiles, the crew got ready for takeoff.

Back on the beautiful planet of fluorescents, the creatures stood watching the spaceship exit their atmosphere. The bright orange flower was held gently but firmly in the smaller creature’s hands. They finally had the antidote, thanks to the most selfless interplanetary prospector alive, and the true treasure of her kindness.
Runner Up in the Middle School age group for the 2020 Flash Fiction Contest.

Sofia Schisler

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