This short piece was prompted by Sue Vincent, back in February 2018. Thanks, Sue, for so many of these.
Sue Vincent’s latest #writephoto prompt is
There is no accurate record of when the land became infertile but certainly before the fifth century when the Abbey records speak of a strip of failure in what was otherwise the most fertile acreage possessed by the St Jerome Monks. Many attempts were made to change the base nature of the soil but ‘dead man’s passage’ it remained for several centuries.
In the second half of the twentieth century, soil samples were tested and, to the surprise of the scientists they were found to have a total absence of any nutriments. In the words of one expert, it was as if a defoliant many times as powerful as Agent Orange, used against the Vietcong had been sprayed across the middle of the field.
In 2021 a satellite image of the area appeared using a new high resolution camera. This revealed a curious feature: the strip appeared to continue under the nearby hills, much as if a trench had been dug and then the hills placed on top. ‘It’s as if it were man-made,’ said one, not bothering to hide the sneer from his voice.
Further detailed study was commissioned. More images revealed the faintest trace of a line spreading across the countryside beyond the hills and towards the east coast. Samples were taken and in each case the land along this line was found to be one of extremes. Either it was utterly barren or so fertile that absolutely anything would grow on it.
When the 2027 unmanned probe to Mars took detailed images of the Earth, using a new ultrasound technique, the men of science were astonished to realise the strip continued under the North Sea and across Denmark into Continental Europe, eventually disappearing under the Alps.
Seismologists opined that it might be the residue of some sort of now redundant tectonic plate edge but most people thought it just one of those things.
When the strip was found to continue in the other direction, across the west coast near Chester and then on beyond Iceland and through the Canadian tundra, interest turned to concern. A multinational probe was commissioned and work began in the autumn of 2031.
There is, inevitably no record of the events that followed the probe’s impact with the base of the strip that occurred on the 15th March 2032. Earth rupture was so sudden, so catastrophic no agency had any time to record the rapidly unfolding destruction of the planet.
The Mars Establishment Team were the last humans to be able to process what had occurred. They had two days mixing utter terror and incomprehension with desperate but unless planning, before the first wave of debris from the exploding Earth arrived. Amongst the stippling debris a piece of the planet that once comprised Iceland smashed into the surface of Mars, knocked it out of its orbit and condemning it and its recent inhabitants to a grim death. Had Jerome McKay been able to describe what he saw that morning on his Earth Watch monitor when his hope of a future exploded in front if his eyes, it might have been something akin to watching a boiled egg rip its own top off. Needless to say his mind was not focused on a food based analogy just then, and anyway, breakfast was long over.