I’m no expert on eggs. But this egg is not an egg.
It looks just like a chicken egg. But it cannot possibly be a chicken egg, or a bird egg of any kind. It can’t be anything we’re familiar with. It can’t be reptilian, or mammalian (sorry, platypus). Definitely not amphibian. Hopefully not insectile.
It’s…well, the word I want to use is “alien.” But that doesn’t really apply, does it? I mean, not the first meaning that comes to mind, to my mind. But it does in the sense that it is, despite its outer appearance, unfamiliar to us.
Let me be clear, I wouldn’t have known there was anything special about this egg—assuming it even is an egg—if I’d seen the egg lying on a kitchen counter back home. I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between it and eleven other eggs if I’d seen it nestled in a cardboard carton. The only reason I knew there was something special about that egg was context.
It was just out in the open, lying on a bed of rich-looking soil flecked with golden sand contained within a golden basket. On second look, that basket was more like a deep asymmetrical dish. That dish didn’t appear to be a natural occurrence. It appeared to be a purposeful construct.
So, was there a purpose at play here?
Beneath the vault of the sky lies our entire world. We know there is more world out there, beyond the sky, but most of us will never see or know that world, not for ourselves.
We are contained within a shell of protection from the myriad forces and matters in the cosmos beyond that would most certainly kill us. Instantly.
But that is not to say that we are entirely safe and protected. Not from what is within that shell. Disasters both natural and unnatural.
It’s different with an egg. There is only one entity within the world contained in an egg, an entire world with a sky made of calcium or jelly, and a mysterious ocean of rich nutrient, all the sustenance one needs, just one, to grow and to thrive.
When I was growing up, I visited my grandmother on her farm, and she showed me the modest chicken coop she kept. Most of the eggs, we collected for eating. But there were some that were meant to grow and hatch. She’d have me help her check the eggs by candling them. I’d hold one up to the light (it usually wasn’t candlelight). Early on, I could see the network of blood vessels reaching out into the yolk, drawing sustenance toward a central mass. And later, I’d see the shape of the bird growing within.
I wonder, if I were to hold this egg up to a candle, would I see the shape of the creature growing within? I argue for it, but I am denied. Just observing is disturbance enough, I’m told. If I try to shine a light through it, pass any kind of energy through it, it might disturb the natural processes within. So, at least for now, all I can do is observe it from the outside.
My agenda, inspired by a growing curiosity, is crystal clear. I make a not-so-radical suggestion.
What if that so-called egg is not an egg at all, or any kind of natural occurrence? What if it is a purposely built construct, and we are just not sophisticated enough to discern it? Or what if it’s just a smooth stone? How long do we wait for it to do something before we decide it’s okay to just pick it up and hold it against a light? Just a light. Nothing more invasive.
I am denied. Because either way, the outcome was unpredictable. Interference from us—from me—might trigger something we couldn’t reasonably expect, and there was always the chance that something might be dangerous.
We’re surveying the area. Mapping and observing. So, I’m not really supposed to keep going back to the same place again and again. Maybe if I were with the first survey crew, I might not have been allowed. But we’re expected to be a bit more thorough this time around.
I didn’t name it or anything, but I did grow a little attached to the egg after just three visits, even though all it did was lie there on its bed of glittery soil. It was breezy on one of those days, and I was tempted to move the egg—dish and all—to a more protected location. I didn’t. I followed protocol. I reminded myself that it might not even be an egg.
I had to keep putting the thought of fluffy yellow chicks out of my head.
The egg has begun to crack. I wasn’t sure at first, the lines were so faint. But then jagged edges began to appear on the previously unmarred moon-white surface. I’m warned not to get too close now, just in case something unpleasant comes out. Something insectoid and venomous. Something with claws, or teeth, or pincers. But in the grand scheme of things—and at the risk of jinxing myself—what are the chances that something truly horrendous will climb out of that egg?
The cracks aren’t big enough yet. I can’t see inside. But from a distance, I try to take images. And I swear, when I look at those images later, it is a strange thing I behold within that thin but stalwart shell. Just a hint, through the crack…shimmering ribbons of light against an indigo night sky.
That was the first time.
The next time, in the next images, I see a snow-capped mountain whose base is encircled with the black silhouettes of evergreens. And the time after, I swear I see a clear blue ocean lapping up against a shore of yellow sand.
This egg is not an egg.
Is it a toy? Is it a tool?
Is it natural? Or is it a construct?
Is the egg cracking, or am I?
Yes, I’m a scientist. But that doesn’t meant I can’t appreciate the multivariate world.
My world. This world. Every world. Contained within a package so small, it can fit inside a jacket pocket. A package so delicate, I could crush it in a single hand with a fraction of my strength. And yet so strong that it by itself can sustain perhaps the most precious thing in all the cosmos…life.
This whole time, I’ve expected that when it hatched, the egg would have a single animal inside, as would be expected based on the behavior of all the eggs on Earth. What are these vistas I’m seeing?
How is the egg still here? How has it not been carried off by now? Or damaged? It doesn’t seem to have any microscopic barbs or thorns. It’s not emitting any energy that we can detect. Or odors from pheromones. Or any other kind of signaling molecules or chemicals that might be keeping it safe by repelling potential dangers.
I want to step towards it to see what would happen. I’m not afraid of being defiant. I’m not afraid of getting hurt, not by an egg. But I am afraid of what harm I might do.
Yes, I’m a scientist. That doesn’t mean I’m always trying to make sense of things. Sometimes I forget to observe. Sometimes I just marvel.
I wonder, will I remain forever haunted by these glimpses of worlds within?
No, I don’t believe I will. Because the egg is still cracking. And soon, it will hatch.
And I will see exactly what lies within.
It rains. Another thing I didn’t expect. Drizzles maybe, but not downpours. We don’t go out that day. And I worry about the egg. I would have gone out to get it, if it had been safe. But it wasn’t.
We go out the next day, in the late morning. The atmosphere looks so different. True vivid blue on the horizon. Dark purple above, and between the two, like frosting between two halves of a cake, is a thin unbroken layer of teal-colored cloud. The color is reflected in some of the puddles that we carefully skirt around.
We don’t survey new ground that day. We go over ground we’ve already mapped, to gauge the changes, if there are any.
I go straight to where I expect to see the egg, and I am nervous. Because it rained hard, and the egg has a stalwart shell, but that shell was already cracked.
The asymmetrical deep golden dish, filled now with wet soil and sand, is still there. It lies in puddles of bright blue rain. I’m still not allowed to go too close, in case something sudden and extreme happens. But I can see what I need to see, for now.
What is inside? It has finally cracked open, and my question is answered.
The two halves of the cracked egg lie next to each other, their open halves tilted up and facing each other.
One half of the egg contains a portion of terraced farmlands peeking out against what seems to be a star-filled night sky. That sky looks like it might have been painted onto the inside of the shell, except that I could see the stars twinkling. Just as I could see the grasses on the terraced fields bending against stray gentle breezes.
The other half does not seem to match in content or proportion. Ridges made of red-brown scales rise from inside of the cracked shell. Each scale follows a similar pattern of coloring, dark in the center, a mahogany red. Flaring out from that is a lighter red-brown, like burgundy (or the color of a liver). Then kind of peachy coral toward the edge. The lower scales are oval or round. Longer scales erupt from one side. And from inside the longer scales, there emerges some kind of jagged purple-violet casing. And within that casing, a pink tendril or root or stalk reaches up, then bends down toward the other half of the egg. It’s not a fleshy pink. This is a vivid pink, like the pink of a flower petal, or…bubble gum. There are thinner tendrils growing out of the central stalk. A few of those thinner tendrils seem to be drilling down into the terraced fields. Two large pink structures that look like pine trees are sprouting up from the fields. It’s the same pink as that of the pink stalk.
I don’t see any eyes in or around the scales. No nose or mouth. Nothing resembling features. Nothing indicating an animal or creature. Was I looking at a plant or a fungus? What were those tendrils doing to the terraced fields, or with the terraced fields?
One half of the egg looks like the world I know. Terraced farmlands carved into a mountain, like rice fields. Indigo night sky filled with stars. The other half looks like this world. Strange. Alien tendrils, like blood vessels, reach up and out, seeking sustenance. Or is it giving sustenance, I wonder, as I observe more pink pines sprouting up?
Or is this artificial after all? Just because something moves and changes doesn’t mean it’s alive. What is the egg’s purpose? When I first laid eyes on the egg, the mystery was that it might contain anything. I didn’t imagine it might contain everything. Landscapes. Lifeforms. Three-dimensional space itself was inconstant within. What about time?
If we were home, above the crust, on the surface, we would be trying to put the egg in a controlled environment and figure out what’s going on by reducing variables. We would be worried about potential infection. Concerned that the tendril or root would begin to pervade and then invade our environment. Containment would be a priority. As would categorization and definition. So we could keep ourselves safe as we try to understand and learn. But compared to this egg, our powers of containment are feeble. This egg.
This egg is not an egg. But it does contain life.
What is inside? I can now see what is within, and that question is answered.
But many more arise.
Is it a toy? Is it a tool? Is it natural? Or is it a construct? Is there a purpose at play?
Daily now, I watch the cracked egg and the still-growing tendrils, the twinkling night sky on the inside of the shell, the sprouting of plants that look like pink evergreens on the terraced fields, the reddish-brown scales that are definitely rising and falling ever so slightly as if with a rhythmic breathing. I can make no assumptions. Only observations.
There is only one question that I’ve been able to answer for certain.
What do I see now?
Copyright © 2017 Nila L. Patel.