March 13, 2013


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

H Trope: the attack of the killer ALGAE

Jefferson Bentley looked up from the microscope and said, “What do you mean, ‘it looks like it’s spreading’?”

Terace Miller shook her head, “I didn’t say that. It IS spreading.” She held out her hand. A thin patina of greenish-brown made the skin on her forearm look wet.

Jefferson leaned back. “What happened?”

“I was working late – I’ve got to have the slides examined and summary prepped for Dr. Hester by tomorrow at the latest. She said she wanted it today.”


“So, I worked until about four this morning then fell asleep at the computer.”

“How’d you get algae skin from that?”

She slugged him in the shoulder with her uninfected arm. “I dozed off – slept sideways. My back was to the microscope and my arm was against a dish with a sample of the stinging algae in it.”

“Stinging algae crawled out of the dish?” he looked at her, scowling.

“Algae can’t crawl, idiot!”

“Hey! Just because my master’s thesis is in the histology tapeworms doesn’t mean I’m ignorant about plants! I know they can't crawl!”

“It just means you’re plain ignorant,” Terace said. “Listen, for whatever reason, the algae got on my arm. I washed it off, but it grew back.”


“It grew back in about an hour. Even after I swabbed it with alcohol and betadine.”

“You try salt water?”


“Isn’t your algae a freshwater variety?” She blinked at him in surprise. “Hey!” he exclaimed. “I listen to what you talk about!”

“You just never…” she looked down at her arm, brushing over the slick spot. “I don’t know. I used the other things so I’m sort of afraid of trying saltwater. Besides, the same species has been found in freshwater aquariums and off the coast of California but this is some sort of weird variant. It has stinging cells -- like nettles or poison ivy.”


She nodded slowly, stared at the slimy patch for a moment, then said, “What if the algae has taken up a commensal relationship with epithelial cells?”

“You mean like lichen?”

She pursed her lips, looked him in the eye and nodded slowly.

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