Black Frost

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Black Frost

Dash McCallen

 

Cold.

But then, it was always cold this time of year, so it did not alarm James Cutter, Ph.D, Sc.D. Still, the arthritis in his feet complained as he walked across the morning kitchen tile.

 

He yawned deeply and looked out the window of the kitchen window that was above the sink as he filled the pot to heat coffee for his choice of morning tea and toast. James looked out the window near his car, the sun had not yet shown on the ground fully. The light filtered through the trees and only illuminated islands of the yard.

But it was dark in those pools of light. As if the grass was still clinging to the night. James rubbed his eyes and turned way, he had overslept and over-drank the night before during a video conference with other biologists. The conference got heated and if it had been in the same room, may well have gotten past some name calling. Three of the doctors did not like each other personally. Which was rather sad as they tended to debunk each other’s work instead of giving any paper written by the other its due respect and consideration.

Instead they often did not read past the synopsis and then tore apart each other’s papers as best they could.

This was not helpful in the general meaning of things.

 

What was more important was the conversation that global warming was or was not in fact real. Or even if it was due to influences of humans.

 

The smell of coffee distracted him as he sat down in his chair that looked out the windows into the conifer forest just outside. The weather channel predicted heavy frost, but the light-colored ice could not be found. Everything looked wet – and decidedly dark.

Rubbing his eyes, James yawned widely as he leaned backwards and stretched in the morning chill. He had a meeting scheduled with administration about the use of observatory resources of a dark matter cloud that was just now passing between the sun and earth.

In the past few years, it had been a point of contention between astrophysicists about the amount and even if there was dark matter in and about the solar system.

Lately in the last six months since the earth had orbited around the sun- half of its orbit it had seemed as if cold had gripped the planet. Although the sunlight seemed normal level, there was a definite decrease in long-wave infrared radiation and thermal radiation had been markedly less for the time of the year.

It had done so for nearly a decade, frustrating the conspiracists and earth-warmers. Throwing equations into chaos. Those that said that earth was going through natural cycles were just as mystified as the earth was not just static but cooling in some areas, then torrid summers in the northern hemisphere.

The dark matter, studies predicted to have gravitational effects and the WAM (Wide Aperture Mapping) satellites in stable orbits around the sun to find and track dark matters presence.

He yawned as he poured the second cup of coffee. He gave it a splash of two-percent milk to cool it off some. The crunch of a toasted English muffin pleased his soul as he had his light breakfast before heading to the observatory.

Five-thirty. Dang! He was late.

Well, for him anyway. He liked to arrive an hour before the day officially started. He would drink another cup of coffee as he wandered around the facility and chatted with the night-crew on what they saw and where they looked.

Putting on his shoes, James stretched one last time. Staying up late and typing papers then early rising was draining.

Tomorrow, Saturday, he might sleep in.

Nah. Never happen.

He laughed at himself. A good cup of coffee and a toasted muffin put him in a good mood.

He tied the double overhand knot in the hiking shoes and stepped out into the cool morning air.

He stepped out through the door on to the path to the detached garage and took a few steps.

The frost on the ground did not look…

It looked…

Dark.

Black even!

Pulling out his phone, he took a video and many still pictures of the frost. Kicking over the crystals showing that the ice was black all through its structure. His footsteps showed the grass underneath and his shoes were just damp under the sticking frost.

James walked rapidly back to the kitchen and got a plastic bag and spoon. He spooned in the icy black crystals to the sandwich baggy where it melted and turned clear in his hand.

Taking his sample in the Tesla, his all-electric four-wheel-drive SUV.

He drove straight to the lab on site of the university. Calling on his bluetooth to his friend and cohort in crime when they were students, Niles Freeman.

Putting the bluetooth headset into his ear, he voiced the command to call Niles.

“Hello?” The sleep filled voice slurred the words, Niles would have gotten in as the sun rose. An administrator, he still tended to stay up all night at the observatory and coordinating telescopes from one area of the planet with another.

“Niles, it’s James. I am bringing something to your lab. It is the strangest thing, we had a black frost this morning. It was everywhere.”

“James? James who..oh! James!” He was waking up now and dropped all professionalism pretense. Although he had his forty-fifth birthday, at heart, he was still a surfing teen and party-animal. “Seriously, dude, I’m sleeping. Call back later.”

“Niles. Black frost, turned clear when it melted. It is all over the place.”

“Black Frost? What are you talking about?”

“Stand up you surfer slacker, look out the window.” Doctor Cutter laughed.  “Seriously, look out the window at your car.”

“What is that?” Niles muttered into the phone. “Soot?”

“You are the lab-rat, it looks like soot, but it melts clear.”

“I’ll go out and gather some.”

“I’m bringing some melt to you now.”

“Oh good, I can have coffee then.  What is this stuff?”

“I don’t know, it melts clear.”

“What?” Niles yawned. “Dude, you ain’t makin’ sense.”

“Okay, go out and gather some for yourself. You’ll see what I’m talking about by the time I get there.”

Hanging up the phone, Niles shook his head while getting coffee.

James was overreacting, ice is ice.

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