“The Thing in the Trees”

I wrote this little story for Pseudopod. Unfortunately it would clock in at about an hour at almost 6000 words. So I thought I’d share it with you here.

It is an attempt to capture the style and pacing of H.P. Lovecraft but setting it into a modern framework. I may eventually podcast it myself and put it up here as well for the audiophiles. In the meantime, enjoy the words…

Also, download it for your ereader or phone: MOBIFB2

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The Thing in the Trees

by Christopher Brock

TheTruthWillSetYouFree Blog

May 24th

Good morning all my little “secret agents” out there on the Net! Your fearless leader Danforth here — but for all the noobs reading for the first time, please call me Danny.

I know it’s been weeks since I last posted. All apologies. Been slammed at work, and while I could promise to never do it again we both know that’d be a lie. LOL

Potentially awesome news for you all! I got this weird letter in yesterday’s mail. Backstory: I’ve been getting phone calls for the last two weeks from lawyers in the 617, and I’ve been ditching the calls cause I figured it was another Cease-&-Desist for one of the juicier entries here on the blog, probably some BEC. That’s Big-Evil-Corporation for you noobs. I get those from time to time—hazard of the biz and all—but these guys never left voicemail; just creepy wet breathing on the other end.

So today I’m going through the mail and this letter falls out from The Law Offices of Ashur, Pabodie, and Starkweather. I figure ‘Okay, if it IS a C&D I’ll scan and share with all my little secret agents and we’ll have a laugh, start some emails and call-in campaigns against whoever they represent.’  That’s always a good time, amIright?

I didn’t even connect the dots until I started reading the single page, printed on some oily-looking stationary with what I swear was an actual typewriter. You can feel the letters coming through on the back! These guys are in Arkham, Massachusetts. That’s where my mother (god rest) was born and raised… and promptly fled for sunnier climes as soon as she turned 18. Turns out, my crazy old Uncle Ephraim (mom always called him Uncle Eeph) has finally kicked off for the great hereafter. Never met the man, but my mom told me all kinds of stories about him. Mostly around Halloween, and I’m sure most of them fabricated from whole cloth.

They were the only two children, and born sixteen years apart. When she was still having tea parties for her dolls, he was studying at the university for his Ph.D. in something historical. When she graduated from Old Misky High, he was a junior professor. Anyway, they were never very close because of the age gap, and when she took off that was the end of that. Her folks died and she had to hear about it in a letter from a classmate that had been forwarded by the post office a dozen times. Nothing at all from her brother.

Mom corresponded with her old girlfriend and found out that: 1.her brother had gone nuts and attacked a classroom full of students; 2.he’d been 5 years in the local nuthatch recovering; and 3.when he got out, he’d packed up his stuff and moved way out to a cabin in the woods, and no one had seen him for years.

I was an impressionable young kid at the time, and that’s when she started telling me about Uncle Eeph and other crazy stories from where she grew up. I ate all that scary stuff up. She was such an awesome mom.

So, anyways, Uncle Eeph is dead and these lawyers represent his “inestimable estate and the execution of his final will and testament.” Since I’m an only child, I’m the last living member of that branch of the family. The old guy apparently knew more about me than I ever knew of him, and left me a trust, the cabin in the woods, and everything in it… mostly his “vast library of rare historical records” according to the greasy-feeling letter. Not even kidding! It’s not a lot of money, but it’ll keep me in mac-n-cheese for years. And who knows about the cabin—if the books are that rare, I bet I can sell them on eBay for a fortune!

So, I’m packing a few things and heading back to Massachusetts in a couple days. Gotta dot the I’s and cross the T’s. I’m hoping I can finally quit working the 9-to-5 (well, more like 6-to-midnight at the print shop) and run this blog full-time! I can focus on blowing the lid off all the government corruption and corporate greed for you who believe we aren’t being told the whole truth. Gonna. Be. Awesome!

I’ll be posting so every one of my loyal fans knows what’s happening during my trip back east. The lawyers bought me an e-ticket for Boston, then I’m on a puddle-jumper to Salem (yes, THAT Salem – I’ll get some pics of Witch Country to post here.) Then a train ride north to Arkham. Salem’s seriously the closest I can get by air.

That’s it for now. Keep fighting!

May 26th

Okay, sitting here and waiting to get on a plane, blogging on the free wifi. Yesterday I told my boss I needed a couple weeks off to wrap this up, and I’d let him know when or if I’d be coming back. Know what he said? Don’t bother, you’re fired. Seriously! He could’ve just given me time off without pay, but he had to be a dick. So I raised my one-finger salute and walked without finishing my shift. Spent the rest of the night packing everything I own with real value to have mailed to me in Massachusetts if at all works out. Depressingly little, mostly computer stuff.

Keep fighting!

May 27th

Boston looked nice, but didn’t have any time to see it before re-boarding. The plane to Salem came in late and I’ve only had airport food since yesterday. I only have about two hours in the morning for breakfast and sight-seeing before the train leaves for Arkham, but I’ll post what I can.

May 28th

[The first entry consists of ten pictures: grainy shots of witch-themed shop-fronts and trees where witches were supposedly hung. The final picture is of a huge lumberjack breakfast with eggs, ham, bacon, and flapjacks.]

Salem was cool! I’ll have to go back soon and really sight-see. One of the earliest and bloodiest cases of hysteria and government conspiracy in this country, for sure. This train is so unbelievably hip and old-fashioned. I have a private car, and it’s seriously like a hundred years old.

[More pictures, mostly intricate woodwork and views of generic countryside.]

Later: Just got to Arkham. Too late to meet with the lawyers, but they had a driver at the station and put me up in The Customs House. All my hipster friends on the Left Coast would totally shit themselves. This place is legit! Creepy as hell, though. I’m exhausted… I swear that even when I have all the lights on in my room, there are shadows in the corners that stay dim. When I turned them off to sleep, I thought I could hear breathing in the room with me, so I’ll leave the lamp on and get some shut-eye. Working too many graveyards at the print shop.

Keep fighting!

May 29th

Okay, just got back from meeting with the lawyer. The Firm of Ashur, Pabodie, and Starkweather are in a building probably 300 years old — not even exaggerating! I mean, it’s well-kept and sturdy but O-M-G it’s ancient. And I didn’t see any tech later than the mid-Seventies. They were still using vintage Selectric typewriters that would probably sell for $200 apiece to rich hipsters.

Met with one of the partners: Winthrope Pabodie. I think he was also the one calling and breathing heavy in the phone. Squat little man, constantly dripping in the heat of his office. He kept wiping his sweaty bald head with a stained handkerchief and reminded me of a wet frog the way he kept licking his wide lips. I tried to avoid touching him beyond our initial handshake.

Pabodie explained that Eeph (whom he always referred to as “Professor Phillips” even though, as I understand it, the college stripped him of his degree when he went crackers) had been “an invaluable member of the historical society of Arkham” and that due to his “solitary scholarly pursuits they never saw him enough” and that he’d be “sorely missed among the intelligentsia.” All in this slow, gasping, and what I can only describe as moist New England accent. It felt like I was in one of mom’s stories!

He went over numbers of the estate’s property value (not very high) and signed over the trust fund held in one of the local banks (quite a bit more than the value of the cabin, I’ll tell you.) Finally he handed me keys to the cabin, a rough map through the woods to get there, and keys to Eeph’s 1962 Cadillac parked behind the law offices, which they’d already had washed and tuned up.

I’m staying the day to see the town and one more night in The Customs House, and then I’ll be heading out to the woods. I’m told there’s electricity, but no internet. I’ll see what cellular coverage is like when I get there, but I’m not hopeful. I keep hitting dead spots even in town, and I’m writing this from the coffee shop across from the university campus where they have wifi at least. More pics later, I promise.

Later: [Random snapshots  without captions showing the odd architecture of campus buildings, shops on Main Street, an antique Cadillac, Arkham locals, and a burnt and gutted two-story house.]

May 31st

Sorry for the delay, first chance I’ve had to write anything since I got to the cabin. I’m blogging on my smartphone now since there’s no point unpacking my laptop with no internet.

First impressions: ‘cabin’ makes it sound like a tiny box with maybe two rooms. It’s a bit more than that: two stories plus the small root cellar. The first floor is comfy with a compact kitchen, two bedrooms, the sitting room with old couches and a Franklin stove, and bathroom — with working plumbing even! Every spare wall has built-in bookshelves packed tight with books and knick-knacks. Upstairs is pretty much one huge library and study. I can see exactly where Uncle Eeph knocked the walls out to make one continuous space. Upstairs is also lined with shelves and there’re some free-standing shelves on half the floor. The other half is left open with a couple of old, raggedy easy chairs where he could sit and read, and a large oak desk. There’s also a small balcony overlooking the ancient woods that stretch behind the cabin for miles.

Yes, there’s electricity and lots of lamps. No television. No cell coverage. The pantry (or larder as they call it hereabouts) has a few staples but not much. The fridge is empty and was unplugged when I got here, so it stinks. There’s a two-burner electric range and a microwave that looks like it’s from the Eighties. I’m going to drive back into town tomorrow (it’s about a half hour drive) to stock up at the grocer for my stay, so this post will get uploaded when I‘m in range of a cell tower. Gonna be on and off the grid for a few weeks, so don’t freak out if I don’t answer my emails or your comments right away, kiddies!

The woods here are awesome. So old, trees draped in moss. About twenty steps from the back door it’s like a wall of trees. There’s enough room to walk on foot, but I don’t think you could get a horse or even a mountain bike through there. I hiked a lot when I was a teenager so I’m looking forward to doing some exploring when I’m not going through Eeph’s old books.

June 2nd

I spent yesterday morning filling the trunk of the Caddie with enough supplies to last a couple weeks. The debit card for my trust fund works (yay!) so I went crazy. Hit the liquor store and even bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate my inheritance, albeit alone.

This afternoon I tried to figure out what to do with all these books. Since I can’t look the titles up online here, thinking I’ll have to catalog them into a spreadsheet or something and then I can google them when I make trips into town. With any luck, there’s a fortune to be had from auctioning these old things.

I don’t know what Eeph was into as far as research, but there are super-creepy illustrations in some of these. Sketches of monsters, fish-people, and human sacrifices. Diagrams and magical circles and shit like that. If I see something really gross, I’ll upload pics to show you guys what I mean.

June 4th

Holy smokes! There was an awesome meteor shower last night. It went on for hours so I sat out on the deck with a bottle of Jack, a bowl of ice, and a glass and just watched the stars streaking overhead. Better than any reality teevee I might’ve been watching back home. LOL

Just as I was dozing off and thinking about going downstairs to bed, a HUGE fireball dropped from the sky and exploded out in the woods! No joke! I watched the flickering orange light out there a few miles in the trees until I finally had to get some shuteye.

This morning I woke and ran back upstairs. I could still see a thin column of smoke a few miles out among the trees. I have an app that triangulates distance and direction based on pictures and GPS coordinates (which thankfully does work out here) so I recorded that info and I’m going to hike out there tomorrow. I picked up a cheap transistor radio at the store the other day, but there’s nothing on it about any kind of meteor crash. I can’t be the only one who saw it, so my guess is the military is stifling reports about it and are already out there! I think I saw that there’s a Navy base on the coast near Kingsport, south of Arkham.

I only have a little hiking gear with me and rechargeable batteries for my phone. I’m going to pack some supplies and the tent and leave at dawn. It’s all I can do not to head out right now!

June 5th

I’ll keep it short, since I’m conserving  power. Out in the middle of the woods right now. Not sure how many miles I’ve covered; according to GPS it’s just under three miles from the cabin. Been a lot of circling back when I find streams and gullies I can’t jump.

I set off at first light. Brought food for the day, but I honestly thought I’d be there by now so I’m trying to save it. It’s been hours now. These woods are crazy-dense. My compass app has been mostly reliable, but sometimes the GPS loses me. I should’ve brought a real flashlight since that app on my phone drains batteries pretty damn fast. I didn’t think it would be so dark out here.

Later: So finally the trees have thinned out. My phone says it’s only 5pm. Walking all day. The tracking app says I have a couple more miles to where the meteor hit, but I’m bitterly aware now that is just an estimate. Those programmers are getting a bad review from me when I’m back in the civilized world.

I brought a tiny survival pup-tent—basically just a long nylon bag with a zipper at one end—and I’m going to string that between two trees. It seems way too dark for just after 5 in early summer. I’ll build a little fire, eat one of the sandwiches I brought and save the other for my return trip tomorrow. I wish I had more bottles of water. Not too worried about finding my way back, though. I’ve been tracking my coordinates by GPS the whole time.

June 6th

Rough night sleeping on hard ground, but at least the sun is up. A handful of trail mix and a swallow of water is all I get for breakfast. Would love a coffee to get me going. So tired and stiff from yesterday, and I kept waking up all night.

Hiked for about an hour toward the (estimated) impact site. The trees here are odd. I mean, there are still normal trees like all day yesterday, but there’s also these new ones. Skinny saplings with dark red bark. They don’t have leaves, more like pine needles that all lay down flat along the branches. The needles are dark blue at the base fading to green at the tip, and most of the limbs are growing almost straight up. And boy do they reek!

It feels like I’ve been walking in a new forest inside the older one. The air is beginning to stink in here. Like something huge died years ago and has been rotting. There’s also something like ozone under that smell. I’m getting to where I can ignore it, but I keep having to stop and sit. I get out of breath and a bit lightheaded.

I’ve gone through half my spare batteries recharging my phone; still not terribly worried. I think I’ll reach the impact site by noon. I’ll get pictures when I get there. With any luck, I’ll be able to catch some shots of guys in white clean suits and military vehicles around the crater. I remember saying there’s a Navy base south of here. Maybe I can catch them in the act and get the scoop. And all of you will be the first to read it!

Later: This is crazy. I should be there by now! My phone says I passed it a mile ago, but the compass app keeps losing north. I’m not sure about the GPS being so accurate anymore.

These weird trees are getting thicker and taller the deeper I go into this new forest. Now there is some kind of wispy moss hanging from the tallest of them. The webby strands are a dark blue. I’ve taken some samples in my empty sandwich bags.

I’m running out of food. I should have prepared better, but I didn’t think it would take this long. With the GPS misbehaving, I’m a little concerned about getting back out, but I’ve intentionally left a clear trail behind me. It’s harder and harder to keep moving at the same pace. The air seems thin, like when I hiked Macchu Picchu. It’s misty and the reek of the trees is heavier. If I wasn’t out in the wilderness I’d almost say it’s smoggy.

Later: What the hell?! I found something I really can’t explain. It’s dark now, and I’m writing inside the pup tent. I’m huddling for warmth and keeping my phone screen as dim as it can go to save power. Forgive my shorthand. Unseasonably cold for June. Batteries only have a few charges left. Now out of food and belly growls every few minutes.

Before dark, circling through trees trying to find my way and spotted something red and raw on a fallen log. Investigated, saw it was—had been—a large gray squirrel, common enough in this region. Thought it dead, as much of the small body was oozing blood and overall had the appearance of having been—for lack of words—melted. Lower quarters and hairless tail, now rat-like, appeared flayed. I know that flesh and bone doesn’t actually melt except under great heat, but there was no visible charring on the animal. Except the hairless skin had that flowing appearance of melted wax – except where it was split open and bleeding. One foreleg completely melted off, one side of the tiny head obscured under ridges of flesh. Not sure if the photos I have attached will post with this entry.

I was close up and using my phone to take photos and examine under magnification when the little bastard twitched a few times then leapt to its three remaining limbs! It attacked me—or rather my phone—and bit viciously down on the corner of the device. I can see a hairline fracture in the glass of the screen where it bit, which no normal rodent should have been able to inflict!

I flung the thing off and it scampered up a blue tree remarkably well for being crippled. That was when it dawned on me that this was the first animal life I’d seen all day. No birds, no deer, not even insects. Not during the day at least. Great clouds of mosquitoes have been buzzing since the sun went down. I’ve sealed the door to my tent to keep them at bay until sunrise.

My phone says it’s only 8pm, yet dark as midnight out there. If I look straight up into the night sky past the trees, I see no stars—only a dim blue glow punctuated by occasional small clouds. Except… I’m not sure they are clouds. When they pass I can almost see stars through them.

Later: Wakened by something striking the tent! Flapping sounds fill the night outside. Owls? Bats? There it is again, something striking the nylon wall of the tent, shaking it violently!

Lying here listening to the night for several long minutes. I feel it must be bats, drawn to the clouds of mosquitoes that emerged at sundown. There is also a whistling noise that accompanies the fliers. Must be their echolocation. I’ve switched to a dictation app on the phone so that I might also capture some of the sounds—and I’ll be able to leave my screen dark so as to not spook them and save power. The sound is… strangely beautiful but chilling. Reminds me think of electronic moog sounds like in old horror films, except higher pitched and sped up like a 33 record played at 45 rpm.

They must be very large bats. One just hit the tent again and slid down the wall to the forest floor. The brief silhouette against the nylon was telling. Clearly bat wings, but the wingspan was easily two feet! The body of the animal seemed … oddly deformed. Some kind of growths underneath. Made me think of the squirrel earlier.

I think I’ve mentioned previously that web searches in town turned up a military base not many miles from Arkham. I’m beginning to believe that this is all from some kind of testing of chemical warfare reagents. Nothing else I can think of would deform or mutate animals and plants the way I’ve seen today.

It’s now almost midnight. I’m going to try and get some more sleep if I can drown out the unearthly whistling and ignore the itching on my back. A few of the mosquitoes must have slipped in and bit me earlier. Itches like the devil!

June 7th

Miserably thin dawn light this morning. My back is on fire from the bites which are lumpy and swollen under my shirt and jacket. The tent is ruined! When I crawled out, there were bat droppings everywhere, covering the little glade I camped in. I say ‘droppings’ but it’s more like a lime-green slime poured over everything. And God it stinks worse than the trees! Equal parts ammonia and bleach mixed.

I feel absolutely asthmatic this morning. I can’t take a deep breath without coughing. Not that I want to. I’m abandoning the tent and giving up now, heading back toward the cabin. Very hungry and so thirsty. I can still make out my path from yesterday when I set up for the night, just barely.

Say, I just realized something odd: there are fallen pale tree trunks all around me, lying at the feet of these skinny blue trees and hidden under the webby moss. All the trunks pretty much line up. I wonder if there was an almost identical meteor impact decades ago that knocked all these trees down? I’m going to follow the path they lay out for me since it’s along the route back to civilization and a warm bed.

Later: I can barely follow my original path now. Everything appears thicker and more lush even than yesterday. Wasn’t sure I was on the same path at first. I stop every 15 minutes to check GPS and make sure I’m going the right direction. After two hours of slogging through the mossy undergrowth, I noticed the old trunks angling slightly off to my right. Another hour and they were at almost right angles. I am tempted to adjust my route and follow them. The GPS seems to be holding steady today, says I’m less than ten miles from my starting coordinates at the cabin. I think I can safely make a short sidetrack and still get back to a hot bathtub and bottle of whiskey by dark.

The blue trees are much, much taller now. Subtly different. Their limbs no longer bunched so tightly together into a skinny pole, but opening up like the fronds of some ancient flora from the time of dinosaurs. Many seem to have a sort of large fruit hanging a few dozen yards up. From below it almost looks like some sort of melon… vaguely acorn-shaped and brightly colored, almost a foot in diameter. Is the military dabbling in genetic engineering, or is this all fallout from chemical and biological warfare trials? How long has this area been exposed to their tests?

I’ve been pushing through the heavier growth, following now the radial arms of the old tree trunks. Could really use a machete. When I stopped to rest and catch my breath, my hand came away from the log I sat upon sticky with sap. The old trunk had been split right in half by whatever impacted the area. Somehow the tree seems to have survived and still has living sap flowing through it years later. I don’t understand how that even happens.

I just stumbled quite literally across the corpse of a deer. She wasn’t very large, and looks to have suffered the same fate as my squirrel attacker of yesterday. Except in addition to the melting of her flesh she has been… torn apart. Quartered. Pieces lying everywhere in the clearing I’ve reached. When I look to my left and right, I can see the slight visible variation in the angle of the fallen trees. I must be very close now!

My back is driving me crazy. I know not to scratch at it for fear of infection, but I must press a hand against my jacket to rub and relieve the sensation. It feels as though a walnut is embedded under the skin! There are three bites that I can count, but my back burns and itches everywhere.

I can’t shake the feeling that something is moving in the trees just at the edge of my vision. The bats again? That seems unlikely in the middle of the day, but I swear to you I can hear the far off whistling that surrounded my tent last night. The fruits grow lower here, and I’m almost hungry enough now to see if they are safe for me to eat. My best guess is I’m probably only a few hundred yards from the older impact site…

I don’t … understand. I’m at a… total loss… to explain… what I’ve just seen. My heart is still pounding, my brain in turmoil. I’m hiding now under a fallen tree, in the deep hollow dug in the soil by the limbs when it came down. The earth still smells fresh, and I can’t avoid what I’ve been suspecting these past hours.

I’m only a few moments  away from what I believe is where the meteor struck. What I believed… what I hoped… was a previous impact from decades ago. There was no rational way to explain the lushness of this strange forest of blue-green trees and darker moss.

I was pushing through a thick patch of blackish-blue moss hanging from the horizontal lower limbs of these frankly alien trees. The stuff sticks to me, but only on my warm skin. It slithers dryly over my nylon jacket and jeans, and ignores my backpack. I use the word ignore very intentionally. I’ve taken now to wearing the hood of my jacket pulled tightly drawn around my face.

As I was pushing through, I noticed from the close vantage that the tiny cilia of the moss were clearly moving where my breath fell on the plant. By that I do not mean my breath was logically pushing the tiny hairs away but rather the plant was visibly straining to reach toward the source of my breath!

At that precise moment of shock, my phone chirruped in my pocket. I hadn’t been checking it often as I was lightheaded and distracted by the goal of my journey being so close to hand! But the device reminded me then of its presence. I stooped to rest on a log and check the notification.

I had left the GPS running, but this wasn’t a warning of my battery giving out. It was the original tracking app that I had recorded the coordinates of the meteor impact to estimate my trip. The phone was chirping to tell me that I had reached my original destination!

I sat there, stunned for unknown minutes. My oxygen-starved brain unable to correlate what the phone was saying with my surroundings. I stared at the tall, sprawling growth of this alien forest I find myself lost in. The dense, looping tendrils of obdurate blackish-blue moss draped across the limbs of primordial evergreens. Moss which impossibly reaches under its own power for the open mouths of breathing animals. Bright orangey-red fruits with barbed spines hanging now only a few feet above my upstretched hands.

Again the phone chirped, this time to advise to plug it in for the battery was almost dead. And that’s when I saw one of the fruits move!  It twitched and shimmied under its own volition. I quickly muffled the phone and found the hidden bower in which I now crouch and dictate this message as it recharges.

Watching from my secreted location—barely breathing—I saw the rind of the fruit unpeel itself. Unfurling into orangish-pink bat wings. Wiggling beneath was… something else. Definitively not a bat! The body squirmed and uncoiled from where it perched during the daylight hours. Long arthropodic legs clung to the spiny limb of the tree. The plated tail of the thing twitched, stretching from slumber. The body resembled nothing so much as that of a lobster, with chitinous plates of red swirled with purple and touches of the same vivid green droppings covering my tent and the glade at dawn. The tip of its tail lacked the fanning fins of the aquatic crustacean, however, instead sporting the hooked and barbed pincers of an immense earwig.

Again the thing shook itself, growing alert and perhaps wondering why it had been wakened with the sun still high. Turning itself around clockwise on its perch, the head of the thing came into my sight and I had to stifle a scream. The head was nothing at all like a lobster—nor any earthly animal I’ve ever seen! It resembled a pulsating, softly thudding heart, a fungal growth covered with writhing, squirming rhizomes like the clear tentacles of a jellyfish. They twitched in a random-seeming pattern, tasting the air like a snake—or however these creatures sense their surroundings.

I hid here panting in the hollow of this fallen tree. Green leaves still moist underneath, and after some time I felt oxygen reach my brain and clear away the fog of the last few days. I watched the thing in the tree for what felt hours but I’m certain were only minutes. Finally it circled and found a comfortable spot, reversing the process I’d watched as it came awake, finally folding its long wings around itself and settling in to nap away the rest of the daylight hours. Alongside the rest of the hideous, fearsome “fruit” hanging above. Hundreds… thousands… maybe more throughout this forest.

I feel now like I can safely emerge from my hiding place and continue. My phone has charged and I have mercifully silenced it. I’m only a short ways from the impact. I’ve come so far, and I must see it.

I’m dictating this final entry from the banks of a wide stream, wide enough that I cannot cross without getting soaked. I drank my fill from its cool flow. I know I may get sick, but I don’t think that will matter much. I’m already in much, much worse shape than simple dysentery.

Earlier I quietly plodded through the dark, otherworldly forest. Judging by the angle of the fallen trees, I could see I didn’t have far to go. I reached the edge of a wide crater, the alien trees growing right to the lip of the hole; from the edge of that crater is more accurate. Crawling beneath, I came where I could see across the whole of it.

Below was the sprawling, industrial epicenter of this … incursion. In the center and thirty or forty feet down the incline was a massive purple-black stone, vaguely oblong like a potato. Covering the surface crawled and wiggled the hideous winged creatures! Most were much larger than the one I saw in the tree, a few as long as a man is tall. They slipped in and out from the numerous holes in the stone, reminding me of a beehive or the paper nests of wasps. I watched one pressed its nauseating fungal head against the stone and dissolve a hole into the very rock, burrowing inside.

A few fluttered clumsily from the stone to the slope of the crater, crawling in an ungainly fashion up the loose soil to reach the tree line. Once there they climbed the trunks, flying more easily among the trees. Above the crater was open sky, but the air was obscured by a gray haze like that of Los Angeles on the worst of days. Again I smelled the acrid tang of ozone.

In that moment, full understanding dawned and I carefully crawled back out and slipped away. I hiked directly away from the stone—the source of this plague—following the crowns of the fallen trees instead of roots. Carefully eyeing the things perched sleeping in the trees above me. I stumbled down the slopes until I came to this stream and collapsed for a time.

The sky is getting dark already. Not even 5 and though summer, the air here is heavy. Obscuring the sun. I dug down to the Otterbox at the bottom of my bag. When I’m done dictating this, I will float my smartphone down this stream in the waterproof box. I’ve charged the phone now with the last of my batteries and set my messages to automatically update the blog as soon as the device floats back into range of a tower. I fear this is my very last entry, brave soldiers.

The nodules on my back are huge. They don’t itch—they sear like acid. Each is the size of my fist. When I pressed one to alleviate the sensation, I felt it wiggle inside. Whatever bit me last night was not a mosquito. Perhaps it’s the larval form of these things. I believe it’s their reproductive phase.

My final message is this: keep fighting! I need each of you to spread the word. I hope you get the embedded pictures. People will laugh. People will doubt. You will likely doubt all I’ve told you.

This isn’t a government conspiracy. It is not our military testing bioweapons. THIS IS AN INVASION!!

Ω

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