Crop Signs

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Crop Signs 1 (1)

Crop Signs

+++What had McNeil to lose? The new crop would not replace any already existing (he had a space seemingly perfect for it already set aside), and the seed batch was free. If the new seeds worked as well as the salesman, Phillip, had advertised, the yield would be substantial too; and McNeil was entitled to keep one-hundred percent of the profits. The old farmer really did have nothing to lose — and his trendsetting son pushed ever upon the matter — so he cast aside his classical suspicions, and responded to the salesman via email.


From: Luka McNeil [mailto:lukamcneil1981@outlook.com]
Sent: 22 July 2045 11:45 AM
To: Phillip James <phillip@futurefarms.com.au>
Subject: RE: Smartseed A1 Practical Trial Proposal

Phillip,

Thank you for considering my property for a practical trial of Smartseed. I must admit, I was at first sceptical of the technology (like I was with GMOs), but after allowing further thought on the matter, have come to a decision of which I believe will be to Futurefarms’ liking. 

I formally accept your offer, and am enthused to take part, as I believe such solutions may become a necessity in the highly competitive climate of the day. This investment may not come to financial fruition in my lifetime, but I hope, at the very least, it does for my son. I would be excusing the truth if I failed to state that my decision was nudged from upon the fence due to the eagerness of that very boy.

I have attached the “Smartseed A1 Trial Acceptance Form” as requested, as well as my financial data from the past 6 seasons in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.

If there is any further information which you require please do not hesitate to contact me.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,

Luka McNeil


***

+++A doorbell chimes, echoes through a breezy wooden home. Not so many visitors out here, so there is a rush of footsteps as a zealous young man with a blonde mane descends the staircase to offer kind greeting to a salesman.
+++“You must be Phillip! Come in, man. Would you like a drink? We have beer… it’s cold.” The youth is beaming. More crop equals more money, and more money equals maybe a city car. I can finally spend some time away from this place. 
+++“And you must be the bright young-fellow your father referred to in our correspondence. Forgive me, I don’t believe he provided me your name.” The salesman catered a wide grin, ear-to-ear; and complimenting the excessive cast were two rows of perfectly white teeth and a crisply-gelled trim of tan hair. The middle-aged Caucasian smelt like he himself had been through a dry-cleaner.
+++Connor stiffened, tried dearly to maintain healthy eye-contact. “Connor, my name is Connor.” He held out muscular arm and added: “It’s a pleasure to meet you”, while firmly shaking the eager hand of the salesman.
+++The salesman stepped into the McNeil’s home, taking the weight of the metal fly-screen door off Connor. “Assuming a beverage is still on offer, I would love a glass of cold water,” he says, while gently closing the fly-screen.
+++Connor gestures athletically toward the living room. “Of course, man. Take a seat in here whilst I quickly check where Dad has gone off to.”
+++“Thank you, Connor.”
+++“No worries, just a second… Dad! Phillip’s here!” He springs off into the kitchen.
+++The salesman takes a seat upon a leather couch, places a small briefcase upon the glass top of a coffee table and begins unloading its contents: a small holographic projector and a slim-strip speaker, and a clear vial with a corn seed gravitationally suspended within it. He fumbles the vial as the grey and stocky elder McNeil appears, places it upon the short table and stands to greet the man.
+++“Mr. McNeil, such a lovely property, such a lovely house.”
+++Brown-nose. “It does the job. Did you find the place okay?”
+++Heard of a thing called GPS mate? “No problem at all, Mr. McNeil. And the drive was lovely.”
+++Brown-nose in a suit. Hmmm, he’s a young bloke. Give him a chance, old man. “So, what are all these gadgets you’ve got here… Phillip?”
+++Connor glides into the living room, holding a glass of water, and in the other hand a can; he hands the glass to the salesman, who formally thanks him.
+++“What did I miss?”, asks Connor, before taking a generous swig from the can.
+++“I was just about to show your father my equipment.” Phillip again took a seat and reached for the black, pyramid-shaped projector. He prodded an indentation on the devices surface, and from its apex grew a ghostly topographical image bounded by the dimensions of the coffee table.
+++The old farmer couldn’t help himself: “That’s incredible… It’s so detailed.”
+++This brought a smugness to the salesman as he reached through the hologram to the pyramid, adjusting it. Now the basic topography was overlayed with the photoreal detail of an immature corn crop bordered by a thin strip of gravel on each side.
+++“As you can tell, Mr. McNeil, this device is a portable holo projector; this thin pad beneath it is simply a speaker,” confirmed the salesman.
+++The McNeil’s nodded in agreement. It was all very impressive.
+++“The scene which I am showing you is a sample quadrat located at Futurefarms’ Western Australian production facility. It may not show clearly in this image, but the quadrat is indoors: a section of our controlled variable microclimate.” Phillip took a sip of cold water.
+++“Like a big greenhouse?”, asked the curious young man as he leant closer.
+++“In a way, yes. The difference however, is that our microclimate creates artificial sunlight and weather, allowing us to fabricate ideal and uniform growing conditions for our product. See here.” The salesman zoomed out the image to show a vast array of transparent biodome, zoomed quickly back in to the quadrat.
+++The McNeil’s again nodded.
+++“This particular quadrat is a regular GMO crop at forty days past natural germination. As you can see, the crop has developed much as you would expect it to in a good — actually, perfect — season.”
+++The salesman again adjusted the projector, and the image changed to portray a similar span of crop, although the plants were much larger and ready for harvest.
+++“Now, this quadrat shows a Smartseed crop at forty days past triggered germination. It’s clear to see that the development of this sample far exceeds that of the latter.” The salesman got all smug again, shifted his glance to scrutinise the reaction of his elderly client.
+++“No shit!”, exclaimed Connor, genuinely taken aback.
+++“What’s the catch?” In seeped Luka McNeil’s suspicion.
+++“There’s no catch, Mr. McNeil… Our Smartseed is a regular GMO sweetcorn seed equipped with a synthetic symbiotic enhancement. The symbiotic can be triggered to germinate from a synthetic core which has been implanted inside the corn seed — much in the same way that the biological components of the corn seed can be triggered to germinate remotely. The symbiont grows with the plant, and functions primarily to catalyse and promote structural development. The symbiont core remains at the base of the plant, and acts as a nano-computer, receiving data from the growing tendrils of the symbiont and relaying it back to you via an included holo screen receiver. Information you receive includes data on growth and development, water content, nutrient levels, presence of pests and disease, and even competition induced by intra-species proximity and unwanted species… weeds. The system operates most efficiently once the symbiont tendrils are established, and have connected via root systems to other plants and paired symbionts. It is very precise data. You can only imagine the implications.”
+++“That all sounds very impressive, but——”
+++The salesman interrupts the old farmer, pre-emptively answering his unformed query: “Not only does the synthetic symbiont monitor and promote the growth of your crop, but it also functions to supply nutrients efficiently back into the soil. At the end of a season — or whenever you see fit, really — the symbiont trigger can be triggered to rapidly decompose its paired plant and then even rearrange itself on a quantum level to form vital nutrients if necessary. With these features, rotational crops become redundant for nutrient replenishment purposes… but can of course still be planted if you wish.”
+++The McNeil’s shot quick glances at each other, then refocused their attention upon the salesman. The salesman reached for the vial and passed it to Connor, who brought it close to his face and read the label: Zea mays var. Ss A1.
+++“As you can see, suspended in the centre of this vial is a Smart seed — or Ss — corn seed. You could remove it and eat it right now if you wished it: the synthetic symbiont core is completely digestible as well as the tendrils that germinate from it… Not that there would be a chance for anyone to swallow the core, as, again, it sits near the base of each plant, far from the cob.”
+++An excitement stains the room. The farmer and his son are brought forth into a new age, it would seem. In this moment, possibilities detach from the concept of finite.

***

+++Time Passes, and the old farmer grows sick, dies.
+++The last remaining McNeil is a wealthy young man, but he has long lost his curiosity and ambition. He finds solace in the arms of a woman, and together they occupy the property.


From: Luka McNeil [mailto:lukamcneil1981@outlook.com]
Sent: 26 July 2049 11:47 AM
To: Phillip James <phillip@futurefarms.com.au>
Subject: RE: Yearly Progress Inquiry

Phillip,

Thank you for checking up on us — much appreciated. The crops continue to impress, and the wealth continues to flow. The Ss supply has been on time, and the service exceptional.

This is Connor, incidentally. My father has passed away.

He always wanted to be buried out there, under the fields. Said it would be good for the soil.

I will contact you using my personal email from now on.

I hope things are alright with you.

Kind regards,

Connor McNeil


***

+++The young farmer is grounded by his wealth and a manifesting madness. The woman sees fit to leave him, for she is too simple-minded to perceive her fiancés affliction as anything but lunacy.
+++Alone? Connor occupies the property.


From: Connor McNeil [mailto:connormcneil@outlook.com]
Sent: 12 August 2049 03:01 AM
To: Phillip James <phillip@futurefarms.com.au>
Subject: Receiver Malfunction

Phillip,

I think my receiver is broken. You told me it had a lifetime guarantee.

For the past couple of weeks, in the daily summary section below the factor graphs, random text keeps appearing. It’s not summarising the data at all.

Shit like this:

Alive.
Help.
Stop harvest.
Thirsty.

I saw the fucking corn bend today. Not a single breeze about. Like it was alive… properly alive. The crops are always rustling now.

Phillip, as a friend, have you heard of anything else like this?

In the meantime, I’ll keep the auto-farm machines rolling through, keep watering.

Cheers,

Connor


***

+++Things escalate — these anomalies occur far more frequently; and the young farmer begins to formulate wild theories. His hypotheses circulate focus around his father — a dead man, who is now becoming, in the mind of his son, a most psychotic burden… obsession.
+++But how can this happen? It’s impossible. Then Connor remembered that possibilities are now infinite.


From: Connor McNeil [mailto:connormcneil@outlook.com]
Sent: 29 August 2049 01:15 AM
To: Phillip James <phillip@futurefarms.com.au>
Subject: Where the fuck are you?

I’ve called Futurefarms 100 times. No one answers.

You always reply quick. I know somethings up, man.

Is this how you treat your customers when shit hits the fan?

Drove the tractor down the row near where I buried him. The crops bent and flowed, waved to me. Patterns formed in them, like some weird alien shit. Circles, triangles. All of it unnatural. I think I saw a face. When I get close the stalks whip slowly at me, trying to draw me in. It feels desperate. The rustling is louder now, I can hear it in my dreams.

The messages keep coming too:

Help.
Connor.
Free me.
Stop the harvest.
So thirsty.
So hungry.

I know you will read this. So, let me at least provide my theory:

The symbiont cores and the tendrils, they form a network with each other, all link up. It’s like the neurons of a brain. And that’s usually fine, because there is something missing. A missing spark: a soul. The Ss tendrils have latched onto him, my father. And he thinks he’s alive somehow. He can communicate through the receiver, or by bending the plants.

Our entire property is Ss. EVERYTHING.

I can’t escape it. Can’t escape him. I think I know what I must do.


***

+++It is a clear night, void of cloud and moisture. Connor rattles through the tool shed, pulls from the mess a spade. He carries a small torch in his clenched jaw.
+++On a red tractor, he powers out into the depths of the McNeil property, over to where he approximates the location of his fathers buried corpse.
+++“There you are, you bastard!” Connor storms into the thick of the crop where he can see a crude wooden cross.
+++Connor hacks at the plants in his way, chops at those directly surrounding the open grave. Fiercely, the young farmer penetrates the ground with a rusting blade. He stabs at it.
+++Digging, stabbing, digging — soil about the air, covering him like his insanity.
+++Then the blade hit something solid: a skull or a sternum. More digging, more stabbing — and soon a rotting corpse is visible under the light of the stars.
+++“It’s over! Leave me alone!” And Connor stomps the shovel down into his father’s brain.
+++Everything feels quiet. It worked… Ahhh… silence…
+++Connor turns, covered in soil and gore, to head home and rinse himself of residual madness. But something grabs him by the foot… the arm… the neck. It’s the crop!
+++“It’s over! I finished you, old man!”, he screeches, as he chokes.
+++But the plants constrict, pull the young man into the thick of them. Outwitted by a crop of corn, Connor’s screaming muffles, and he perishes not so far from the mangled corpse of old man McNeil.
+++At least it would be good for the soil.

END

Crop Signs 2 (2)

Image Credit: Trandos Farms http://westaustraliancorngrowers.com.au/
Thank you for giving me permission to use these images and helping me to understand better the process of farming corn.

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