Nigrumium: Chapter One

Below is the beginning of a story written during NaNoWriMo 2014, mostly to bump up my word count. But I like where it's going and wanted to share. I'm calling it Chapter One but who knows if this chapter is finished. It sure hasn't been edited! So please disregard any misspellings or grammatical issues.

The engine slowed as the craft approached the surface. And by slowed, I mean that it really slowed to a crawl. And by crawl, I mean that it didn’t literally crawl but more like, you know, slowed down. I mean, it didn’t slow down too much. That’s silly. Then, it would have stopped in mid-air and what’s the point of that? No, silly, I mean it slowed down just enough to land on the surface.

Asteroids. Funny creatures if you ask me. They glide through space, taking their time. None has the guts to hit Earth. Earth’s satellite, the Moon, sure. That gets punched on a regular basis.

Well, actually, to be fair, I haven’t done my research about this. It is possible, I’ll give you that, that Earth does get hit by space objects. Whether said objects are asteroids, hey, go look that up, yourself, if you’re so interested in “facts.” The original Moon landing was a hoax, by the way.

Anyway, as I was saying, the engine slowed down and the spacecraft touched the ground. The asteroid on which the craft landed was widely known in space-traveller circles as the “rocking rock,” not because the asteroid wobbled, but because, well, all any traveller ever did on that rock was drink and listen to music at the one bar on the surface, cleverly named The Rock Bar. But the official name of the asteroid is 6969 Dionysus. We think the astronomer who named it didn’t get out enough.

Rumor has it that one person fell off the asteroid one time. But, that person must have been pretty drunk to fall over the steel railing. That railing is pretty high. In fact, you’d have to run at top speed to have a chance at making that jump. So, on second thought, maybe the jumper meant to do it. Huh, maybe they thought they could fly. Those bartenders put some wild cosmic ingredients in their “rocktails.”

This particular spacecraft, the Virgin SpaceMonster Lite, carries only one human passenger. In this case, on this particular mission, that passenger was a scientist named Dr. Maladrot Adam Dervisher, necessarily called Dr. Mad for short. Dr. Mad was a little mad to most people. Most people on Earth would rather watch space flight from the comforts of their virtual reality headsets and augmented living rooms than pay lots of money, only to have to train for months, and then hop into a tiny, claustrophobic box with cryptic, multilingual buttons and a fairly decent probability of explosion at some point, either coming or going, especially when trying to land on an asteroid. And that says nothing about astronaut food. If you think hospital food is bad, try going to space!

But Dr. Mad didn’t mind. No, sorry, what I should have said is that Dr. Mad was madly in love with space travel. He really, really enjoyed his trips into outer space. He lived for it.

And today was another one of his lucky days. Today, he got to land on an asteroid with a bar! Well, yes, but, more to the point, he got to land on an asteroid with an incredibly rare chemical element that almost no one had ever heard of. That element was called—shh—Nigrumium. Nigrum is the Latin word for black.

How black was Nigrumium, you ask, not thinking at all of a racist joke? Nigrumium is so black that you had to shine an incredibly intense ray of light on it, a ray so powerful that the average person could not possibly afford the machine required to emit such a light ray. And, even if you could afford the machine, aside from needing enough room to store it, because it’s as big than a typical refrigerator, you would need the right glasses to prevent your eyes from burning and popping out. I’m pretty sure that would happen.

Dr. Mad had a thing for Nigrumium. Why, you ask? Let me tell you first about Nigrumium and then you will understand. First, as I said, Nigrumium is super, extra black. You can’t see it without the right kind of light, as I said, which means that you can pick it up but you can’t be sure if what you picked up is 100% the rare element in question.

But that’s not the amazing part. Nigrumium is rare, yes, but so are other elements in the universe, often simply because that’s just the way it is. Not everything is evenly distributed. Not everything is fair, OK? So Nigrumium is rare.

Yes, but the amazing part, if you’ll let me get to it, is that it makes anything taste amazing. No one has any idea why. They can’t even begin to understand. There isn’t an element on Earth remotely like Nigrumium.

Let me give you an example. And, before I begin, let me also note that no one has a clue who was dumb enough to try to eat a rare element from outer space. I mean, it had to have been an astronaut’s son. OK, so, anyway, back to the example. So, one day, after word had gotten out that Nigrumium is awesome and amazing for bad cooks, a rich old lady who had never had to cook for herself in her over 80 years on the planet decided to try making something and adding Nigrumium to the mix. I think it was a pie or something. But, supposedly, the old lady didn’t have to tell anyone that she would die for a slice of that pie, because she, in fact, did die after eating the pie. And toxicology reports showed that she didn’t die of poisoning. Nigrumium isn’t toxic to humans. She literally died from mouth-watering pleasure. Can I say “literally” in that context? I don’t think so.

Anyway, the old lady’s death spread like wild fire and anyone who could afford the smallest amount of Nigrumium bought some and began using it. People quickly found out that this is not MSG, an additive to make so-so food taste good. No, this was an additive to make cardboard taste like prime rib. With A.1. sauce. It’s that amazing. You don’t need salt, which saves most dishes. You don’t need butter, which makes almost anything delicious. Nothing compares. Nigrumium is what you add when you haven’t had sex enough lately or you’re clinically depressed. It’s that amazing.

And Dr. Mad had a plan to create an artificial version! Think of the possibilities! Think of how much better a soggy lunch sandwich would taste on a construction site. Those workers would make those buildings in half the time! What am I talking about, again?

I’m talking about one of the most revolutionary advances in human life ever, in the form of a tiny grain of pitch-black alien dust. Dr. Mad would make a fortune! I mean, even more of a fortune! If only he could make it back to Earth.