How did the world end? Well, it wasn’t like the books or the movies. There would be no fiery apocalypse, no rapture or alien invasion. No epidemic, no zombies, no flood, no time for global warming. In spite of our best efforts, it wouldn’t even be by our own hand. No technological misadventures; nuclear, biological or chemical. No rise of heartless robot overlords. We would not even suffer the fate of the dinosaurs, no titanic rock, strewn down from the heavens.
No, it would be a single grain of sand that would seal our fate when the hourglass finally ran out. A sand grain plucked from atop a sun-scorched dune deep in the Sahara. No different to a trillion other grains it was blown on heated wings halfway around the world and like Icarus, its wings lost, it fell. Falling through frigid water-saturated clouds the grain would become a seed. The seed of our destruction.
As the grain of sand fell, a microscopic crystal grew bloomed around it. Pointed tendrils of ice expanded and weaved into a complex intricate fractal. A snowflake. Unique, delicate, beautiful and ultimately deadly. It came to rest in a rivulet of water that ran aside a sodden farm field. It should have melted away like the countless other snowflakes, but it didn’t. This snowflake was truly unique. It wanted to live, to survive, and finally, this time, it had the microscope machinery to do it. Angular crystalline tendrils spread through the water, as it began to replicate. It sucked the heat energy, from every drop of water as it expanded its icy reach.
Within seconds it was spreading upstream, growing exponentially. It stretched up each furrow, each root, all the way to the tip of every plant. It corrupted each cell, as it liberated their water for its own purpose. The crop was gone within a minute, followed by the hedges and trees that bordered the field. Maybe if it hadn’t been raining its progress might have been slowed. In the damp waterlogged valley, through ditch and puddle, it spread inexorably towards the farm.
The sodden livestock outside were first. The snowflake flowed over them, not hesitating to follow the dampness inside. They would not make a noise or even fall to the ground. They simply froze where they stood, their eyes the last to glaze over.
The farmer alerted by the sudden deathly silence stared out at the eerie arctic scene. It was June, frosty green leaves of the oak was a sight he’d never expected to see. He rushed outside his eyes wide, panting, his breath hung in the air as he stared in disbelief at his frozen flock. An icy chill went down his back.
The snowflake continued its expansion at a staggering rate. The larger the body of water the more energy it could consume and the quicker it grew. By that final sunset, the snowflake was at the delta of the river. Behind it lay a dying frozen country. Ahead, a world to devour.
There would be no need for the other horsemen. No need for War, Pestilence or Famine. Conquest would complete the task riding high on his cold white horse, with Death along to keep the score.