Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Dust Mote

by T. N. Dockrey

A mote of dust flew into Kate's eye. She blinked, tears welled and caught on her lashes. Rubbing her eye, she walked back to her cubicle.

Afternoons at the office were torturous. The air conditioning never seemed to have any effect. Even her favorite music failed to disguise the utter dullness of data entry. Her hands felt grubby from lunch even though she had washed them. And the debris in her eye just toppled the stack. She went to the bathroom. In the mirror the eye was red and swollen.

It was sufficiently horrific in appearance to make her supervisor, a stuffy old prick, shoo her on her way when she asked to go to the employee clinic.

"There's something in my eye," she said to the nurse at the clinic. The nurse gave her a look redolent with contempt. It was obvious the nurse thought she was just trying to ditch work.

But, miraculously, the doctor was in, and there was no one else 'ditching' at that exact moment, so she was shown right in.

"Well now," said the doctor, shining a light in her eye, holding the lids apart roughly with gloved fingers. "This is very interesting."

"What is it?"

"Not your normal 'dust in the eye,' oh no," he chuckled. He produced wicked-looking tweezers.

"What are you doing?"

"It's wedged in there good," he said. "Try to relax."

Might as well try to enjoy one's job. Gleefully, unmercifully, he held open her resisting eye, applied the tweezers, and extracted what felt like a massive splinter coming out.

She keeled over in tears. The doctor chuckled.

"We'll give you a patch, just until it heals, and proscribe you antibiotic drops. You've had a very foreign substance in there; don't want to take chances of infection."

"What was it?" She peered at what the doctor had set on his tray. It looked vaguely like a bug, but it was too small to tell.

"Wanna see?" The doctor whisked the thing under his microscope, and adjusted the view with childish glee.

She put her good eye to the view piece. It was a tiny, bullet-shaped object, with fins at the end. It did not look like a bug. It was too mechanical in its lines.

"Watch this," said the doctor. He set it on higher power and suddenly she could see words--unfamiliar words in an unfamiliar language, but definitely words nonetheless. And there, at the end, was unmistakably the exhaust of some kind of rocket drive...

"I think you've averted an intergalactic incident," the doctor said. "Though you might have to answer a lot of questions. I'll testify on your behalf, of course. It was obviously an accident--if anything, the pilot was at fault."

"What is it?"

"The delegation from Earth. Haven't you seen the news today? There's been a big to-do, because one of their shuttles went missing around noon. Hopefully they were smart enough to all stay inside. You're lucky they didn't panic and shoot you--even on a miniscule scale, a plasma cannon is a plasma cannon."

She stared into the lens. She thought she saw someone moving, through the pilot's observation port.

Almost as an afterthought, the doctor tilted up her face and shined the light, magnified by a lens, into her eye once more.

"Oh my," he said.

"What is it this time."

"Looks like one of them decided to play hero. Well, there's nothing to be done for the poor fellow now."

"Can't you remove him?"

"Hmmm, well, we could disintegrate him with a laser, but that might be risky for your eye. Better to just leave him. He's so tiny, your eye should flush him out naturally, the way it would a mote of dust."

"But what if they want his remains?"

The doctor picked up the rocketship with his tweezers.

"Shall I squeeze? Drop it down the toilet? No one would ever know but you and me."


© 2009 T. N. Dockrey

Bio: T.N. studies law, language, history, and contemplates the strange relationship between the ways Human societies define the world and the actual state of the world, the power of belief, and whether peanut butter exists in Heaven (surely it would be incomplete without it, even if ghosts do not need to eat). T. N.'s story Time Warps and Jump Fever appeared in the September 2009 edition of Aphelion. For more information, visit: Stories of Dust and Moonlight.

E-mail: T. N. Dockrey

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