He’d lived a remarkable life, being born sometime in the 1850s when his tribe still practiced their traditional way of life as farmers and herders and dying well into his 90s (at least) in 1941. His real name was long-forgotten, lost with most of his people when they were moved to a reservation; people mostly called him John Green.

From the time his people were forcibly resettled around 1885 until his death, John Green lived a quiet life in his ramshackle government-provided reservation house, tending to his true passion: gardening. As a youth he’d been trained in the cultivation of the Three Sisters: squash, corn, and beans.

Finding himself with nothing but time on his hands, John Green set out to perfect them.

He carefully bred and nurtured new varieties of each in his garden, year after year, decade after decade. The cultivars that worked were sold out of a small booth in the nearest town every other Sunday. John Green was intensely private, but did show the occasional interested party around his garden; a notebook from a state official that visited him in 1927 is the best source for many of the varieties he created.

Ordinarily, that’s where it would have stopped; John Green, the interesting footnote in botanical history, the humble man responsible for over 45 varieties of corn, beans, and squash.

But that was before the contagion that began sweeping through the cornfields of Middle America, resulting in massive crop failures and the specter of a supply chain collapse for the first time in centuries. The only strains resistant to it?

John Green’s.

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The isle of Cevkawesi in the East Indies, known as Kawas to the Dutch and Portuguese, was of little interest to Europeans prior to Dutch consolidation of their colonial rule post-1814. It was small and mountainous, with few of the spices or safe harbors desired by the VOC or the Crown in Lisbon.

In fact, Cevkawesi was best known for the volcanic eruption of its central peak in 1800, one which violently ejected much of the central island into the sky and left a caldera full of seawater. While paling in comparison to the eruptions of Tambora (1815) and Krakatoa (1883), the eruption still caused a localized cooling and mild tidal waves in nearby harbors, with ashfall recorded in Jakarta and Singapore.

However, archival research has indicated that the island may have been inhabited at the time of the eruption. The Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie archives in Amsterdam show a visit to Cevkawesi by a trading vessel in 1787, and the master’s official report includes mention of oerbevolking (aboriginal inhabitants), ruïnes van steen (stone ruins), and hindoe beelden (Hindu statues). The ship’s master’s notes indicate that there was little of economic value, mentioning that the inhabitants were squatting in the structures and did not appear to have the technology to make such structures.

In a controversial paper published in the Historical Bulletin of Southeast Asia and Oceania, a group of scholars argued that the VOC records indicate a relict population of a much larger empire or entity living on Cevkawesi and surviving in monumental architecture from an earlier period until the time of the eruption.

The paper went on to propose a number of origins for the “stone ruins,” from the Sailendra dynasty on nearby Java circa 800 AD to the Mataram kingdom circa 1000 or even the later Srivijaya, Singhasari, or Majapahit empires. A totally unique and independent origin was also discussed (the VOC ship’s master mentioned being unable to understand the Cevkawesis despite the presence of a Javan translator in the ship’s compliment).

It was possible, however unlikely, that the inhabitants of Cevkawesi had an entirely unique culture, architecture, and language.

Whatever the case, the answers lay buried on the flanks of the island. Volcanologists estimate that the eruption would have unleashed multiple pyroclastic flows into Cevkawesi valleys, scouring them clean of all life and burying any structures deeper than Pompeii.

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To save on the cost of raking and bagging the leaves that fell every autumn, Southern Michigan University policy was to have the groundskeepers mow over the leaves in place, mulching them into a fine dust that would naturally fertilize the grounds. It was touted as a cheap and green solution to the problem, the hydrocarbon-spewing leafblowers and mulchers aside.

Then, ten years after the policy was enacted, SMU found itself in the crosshairs of a class-action suit.

Attorneys representing the groundskeepers claimed that the fine particulate generated during the annual fall leaf mulch had given their clients “leaf lung.” Characterized by shortness of breath, chlorophyll poisoning, halitosis, winter lethargy, and PTSD, “leaf lung” was said to have cost the groundskeepers any chance of earning a livelihood in the future. Their attorneys asked for a million-dollar settlement for each victim.

Horrified at the prospect of bad PR, SMU paid immediately and resumed the old practice of bagging leaves to be hauled away and become someone else’s problem. The doctor’s reports came in one week after the settlement checks cleared: there had been no sign of anything harmful in the groundskeepers’ lungs, and the physicians at the University Hospital cheekily prescribed facemasks and goggles for the condition, including a pair (total cost: $2) with the report.

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Taera walked among the delegates, but she was not of them. In spite of the form she assumed there was no mistaking her for a mundane thing of dust and clay. There were waterfalls in her eyes, soft plains of waving grass in her hair, and the shifting expanse of desert sands played impossibly across her skin.

Even the delegates who has seen her before were visibly enraptured as if they were first beholding a world wrapped into a quasi-mortal guise. Some could be heard muttering wonderingly to themselves under their breath; from the audible snatches it was clear that each saw Taera differently–as they wanted to see her.

When she reached the dais, Taera turned and spoke in a voice that was both sea-breeze and premonition of storm. “We are pleased,” she said. “Pleased at the steps that have been taken and the progress that has been made.”

The rapturous applause that followed was indicative of how her praise cut to the quick of even the most hardened delegate’s soul.

“Under our guidance, you have done much to roll back the ongoing rape of the natural order,” Taera continued. “We spoke to you once of a gun at the temple of the world. You have removed the finger from its trigger.”

Pandemonium among the delegates. Even the most hardened, grizzled veterans of the cause, men and women who had torched dealerships and sunk whaleboats, responded as enthusiastic children.

“However.” That one word brought an unsteadiness to the acclamation. “The gun still remains, pressed to the very center of the world’s being. Eventually another hand will rise up to grasp it.”

Silence. The last cheers faded and there was no sound until Weatherby cleared his throat. “What would you have us do?” he asked.

“The immediate threat has been averted, but so long as hands exist to strike flint to rock, the danger remains. The cancer must not simply remiss; it must be cut from the body.”

Murmurs of unease. “I don’t understand,” Weatherby said, voicing the sentiment of all the delegates present.

“You ask us what we would have of you,” Taera said. “We can answer only in one regretful but necessary word. Extinction.”

Taera’s eyes flashed, burning with the molten force of a pyroclastic flow as the storm suggested in her tone of voice broke with shattering force. Weatherby didn’t have time to utter a sound before he was struck by blinding green lightning issuing from the center of the emissary’s being. He instantly crumbled to fine ash.

The other delegates, panicked, began to flee. But the green lightning arced from one to another, vaporizing each before each could move more than a step. Only a handful near the outermost periphery escaped the room with their lives.

“Flight will avail you not,” Taera boomed. “In your destruction lies the world’s salvation.”

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“Good morning, stockholders,” said Daniel Ellis Washer IV, president and CEO of Washer-Allen Paints. He strode into the boardroom as quickly as his advanced age would allow, passing in front of a massive oil and canvas rendition of the famous Washer-Allen logo: a paint bucket pouring over a globe to form the words “Coat the World.”

Washer shuffled papers in his hand. “I’ve got quite the major announcement for you all today,” he said, his voice as commanding as ever. “We’re poised to fulfill a long-held dream of-”

He was shouted down. Board members kvetched in a discordant hubbub about labor difficulties, unfair competition from Chinese paintmakers, the proposed merger with Belgian Boy, and a host of other piddling issues that didn’t interest Washer in the slightest. He banged the gavel for order, but was ignored. In disgust, he gathered his papers and walked out.

As the noise subsided behind him, Washer paused to look once more at the plan he had assembled to being his great-great-grandfather’s dream to fruition. A dream expressed simply and brilliantly in the “Coat the World” corporate logo that was to have served as a backdrop for the announcement.

Washer sighed as he looked at the plans for the Washer-Allen PS-1 Paint Satellite, an orbital device to convert cosmic dust and radiation into paint and dispense it on a slow drop from orbit. Ten hours after launch, the system would be capable of covering every square inch of the planet’s surface with green paint.

“Soon, my dear,” Washer cooed. “Soon.”

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In addition to his qualifications as an engineer and a theorist, Ryov Nechayev was also an amateur historian. As such, he especially delighted in old, obsolete, or obscure units of measurement and often used them in his research. Graduate students and international collaborators quickly began passing around informal sheets of “rnmetric units” that were essential in any dealings with Dr. Nechayev:

Horse: 2.4 meters (for measuring distances to be covered)
Bus: 8.4 meters (for measuring things that were large enough to display advertising)
Smoot: 1.7 meters (for measuring things in Boston)
Barn: 10^−28 square meters (for sub-atomic use)
Grave: 1 kilogram (for important measurements)
Dog year: 52 days (for medium scale timeframes)
Tael: 31.25 grams (for meauring thing precious or Chinese)