November 18, 2017

The Red Weed gushed and wriggled in the weak current like seaweed in all my childhood lakes. I sank to a little above my ankles into the rank, purplish water, but I’d been covered in Red Weed for days. My skin, my clothes, my hair… it didn’t matter now.

Manhattan was so big. I knew how big it was, and I’d traveled so much farther, but it wasn’t big like the countryside. It was clustered. Maybe big isn’t the right word. Maybe it’s much. Manhattan was so much.

The Martians had only contributed to that so much while they’d stomped around, plowing down buildings and leaving the pavement cracked and thrown around. Even the most wrecked of the buildings didn’t feel torn down, they felt scattered, and it just added to that sense of so much.

I can’t tell you how many bodies I saw. It must have been in the thousands. They smelled only of the Red Weed that pooled around them, choking their scent with its own turgid death.

Above me, peering from motionless eyes, were the Martian fighting machines. One of them had fallen and smashed an already-wrecked building. Its slimy pilot was splayed out on the broken pavement in two foaming pieces, that smile still stamped on its distorted face. Instead of the deep red Penny had described to me when she’d dissected the creatures, its blood was a reddish-yellowish mix, with lumps of foaming white interspersed. It reeked of pus and illness, a huge popped pimple frothing in the ruined street.

I saw their spires, too, their replacements for our skyscrapers. They seemed to sway in the light wind. Creaking like titanic floorboards under foot, their wretched cargo melted like yellowed wax in the sun’s growing light, relieved of their suffering at last.

At first, there was a sort of silence. Only animals dared to make noise now - somewhere a cricket chirped, a rat squealed - only animals and the Martian structures, their builders snuffed out. A gust blew particularly strong and I heard an enormous creak as a spire - woven through the twisted remains what was once the centerpiece advertisement of Times Square - caved under the weight of its sagging, bloated death and bent, slowly and gently like wire, until its distant top was dragged from the clouds and into the city. It touched down on the partially-intact roof of an apartment building with a wet thud. For a time it was just me and these noises, me wandering the corpse of Manhattan, trying to pick out which streets were which without any signs to go by.

And then people began to emerge. Slowly at first, a straggler here or there from an advertising firm’s basement or the shelled-out remains of a high rise. We made a sort of connection, those of us who came out first, locking eyes and sharing a cathartic terror dulled by more than a week under their fist. Then they started pouring out as the news spread. Huge crowds from the subway tunnels - they’d formed a sort of network trying to branch out and connect the city’s survivors, I later learned - flooded the streets, and I was swept along with the crowds toward the city’s heart.

Lafayette Campus was bustling with survivors. I ran to the edge, almost tripping into a gutter, and gazed over the enormous wreck. Almost every building had been turned to rubble, streaked in that black chemical dust.

I was just about to shout out for her, and then I saw her.

We circled each other for a moment, almost unable to believe what we were seeing. I must have looked like hell to these people who had spent the last week underground, able to bathe in at least some capacity. Penny looked pristine, if a little sweaty.

It wasn’t like in the movies. There was no running into each others’ arms, no tearful reunion. I think we felt too much to cry. We just… walked up to each other. And then we hugged, and we didn’t let go for a long time.

November 13, 2017

I’m so glad I know Anton is safe. It sounds like he’s been through a lot. I hope he’s getting to rest tonight and maybe heal a little bit. There’s more to his story, and I’m sure he’ll tell me soon enough, but I don’t want to rush him. It sounds like he’s in a tight spot and what he went through sounds pretty awful. I wouldn’t try to process it all at once either.

Is it possible that the Martians are making pacts with people? At the very least, some kind of mutual arrangement? Is this the world we’re about to live in - one where people are scrambling to give each other up to our conquerors, just for the vague hope of relative safety? A system that will benefit the worst people, if it benefits anyone at all?

And is that any better than the lawlessness we might end up facing if we don’t find a way to drive the invaders out? Every day it looks more and more grim. I wish I could say I think we’re going to be able to fight them, but I don’t know. They’re vicious, they don’t care about us, they’ve got more technology than we do… I mean, nothing they’re doing makes any sense to me, or even Penny really, but there’s got to be a logic to it, right? They have to be planning something larger. That or they’re just mindless killing machines, and I don’t believe that’s true. Not all the way true.

Today has been uneventful for me. Just a lot of driving. Sometimes we hear the MAGUH of the tripod horns blazing in the distance, and the endless traffic jam speeds up a little bit. It’s always behind us. We’re always just outrunning them a little bit. Barely a step ahead.

Are they trying to chase us? What the hell are they doing? If they’re going to kill us, why don’t they just do it already? I know they can. I’ve seen the pictures of New York and Chicago and London and Moscow and Beijing and Dubai and God knows where else. Are they only concerned with the cities? Can they not be bothered with a perpetual traffic jam fleeing through the catskills? And why haven’t they taken down the internet yet? They’re not even trying to understand us. I don’t even know if they hate us. I don’t know what they’re thinking, and it makes me more mad than anything.

The Red Weed is everywhere now. It grows so quickly that if we stop for too long, it starts to grow on our tires, and we can hear it ripping away when we start back up again. I’ve almost gotten used to the smell, that mild aroma of burnt almonds. It’s almost sweet to me now. We try and keep it out of the car but we have to roll our windows down sometimes. It’s so hot, too hot for an Upstate November. Everyone seems to agree that’s the Red Weed’s fault too.

It’s turned from a light purplish-red frost into huge thick glops, like a bunch of fat red slugs clustered together. I’ve seen it creep over surfaces in minutes, moving imperceptibly but definitely moving, like the hands of a clock. Expanding and contracting, expanding just a little more each time, extending its reach. It reminds me of this one video Penny showed me of an organism called a slime mold. She was all interested in how it managed to map out an accurate representation of a subway, or something.

I love watching Penny talk about stuff like that, even if I don’t absorb very much of it. To her credit, she listens to me rant about Dali too, and I doubt she takes much of that in. Except where Penny’s eyes shine when she talks about her passion, I’m probably just annoying about it. I know I can be kind of snobby, like Anton. It’s all our dad’s fault, really. He passed some of that lawyer arrogance onto us.

Max has started praying before he goes to sleep now. I wish I could believe in God while all this was going on. Not like I could before, but it’s even harder now.

Maybe we have a god, and so do they, and their god beat the shit out of ours or something. That’s a neat idea for a painting actually. I’ll remember to make that if I ever see the inside of a studio again.

Keep going. That’s all I can think right now. Get to New Jersey and get to New York. Find Penny. Board a ferry. That’s as far as it goes and that’s as far as I need to do.

I’m getting tired. A nap would be nice. Just another half hour.

November 11 (12?), 2017

I forgot to write this up earlier but I still owe it to Penny.

Max and I went digging through a wrecked Shur-Fine to try and find something resembling food. This one had already been looted - that or most of it was destroyed when the Martians swept through. The building itself wasn’t wrecked, just the inside, which is why I think it was probably looting, but nothing the Martians do makes sense to me. Not in the cornfield and not today.

We found some bread, peanut butter, and a crushed bag of fun-size oreos. Almost everything else was either too big to carry safely to the car or unusable. Once I had combed the whole store, I turned the corner to double-check the aisle we’d found the bread in and found myself staring at the back end of a Martian.

The thing took up almost the entire aisle. It glistened in the low light as the mottled folds of its back heaved with the scratchy whistle of a labored breath. I noticed that the floor behind it, in front of me, glistened just the same. I stepped back instinctively and my shoe squeaked in its slime trail. I fell backwards and caught myself noisily on a newspaper stand. The Martian shuddered and, abruptly, stopped oozing forward. I scrambled to my feet and ran for my life.

Max knew immediately when he saw me that something was up. I put a finger to my lips and urged him toward an overturned shelf. It was just barely big enough for both of us to hide under.

I watched from one of the little holes in the shelf where an inventory hanger might go as the Martian crept out from the aisle and turned the corner to glance back at where I had been. It had that stupid grin the first one we’d encountered had, the kind of incidental grin some animals wear whether they’re happy or not. Now I could see one of its whiskers was coiled around a sort of chunky black box. A second whisker stroked the surface of the box and, with a noise like a silenced pistol, a jet of black smoke burst out toward where I’d been standing. It spread out into a cloud and then settled as a thick black dust on the same newspaper stand I’d leaned up against just a moment ago. Newspapers, one by one, crumbled as the dust touched them, shrinking and shriveling like flies in the winter, and I swear I saw the plastic of the stand start to run. With that, the Martian made its retreat - straight to the front of the store.

It knew we were there. It was waiting at the door for us, probably amusing itself with the idea of exterminating us with that black smoke, like some kind of fumigation. Max must have had the same thought at the same time, because he started shaking, and I had to put my hand over his mouth to stop him from whimpering.

“Listen,” I hissed. I think the fact that I had to protect Max emboldened me, forced me to push past fear. That and, of course, Penny, waiting for me in New York. “There’s a back way. There’s always a back way. Let’s crawl over to the right and see if we can’t find it.”

Max and I spent about two whole minutes just trying to move the shelf off us without making too much noise. We did, almost silently, and then made our way toward the other end of the store on our knees and elbows. We found a little room, separated from the supermarket floor by a tacky bead curtain, with an ATM and an exit. I snapped to my feet and prayed the door was unlocked. It was. We bolted to the car and drove the hell out of there.

And now I find myself in another traffic jam, taking every southeast exit I can manage, taking the side roads my GPS tells me to (when it works) or the shortcuts the people at the military camps suggest (when we find them, granted that they’re not in tatters or covered in ashes).

Everything is fucked up. I don’t know how to end this. At least we got enough food for tomorrow, and hopefully the day after.



This is a really rough sketch of what I remember the Martian looking like. There wasn’t a lot of light and I didn’t get a great look but this is what I saw.

There are a few blurry photos of the invaders floating around, but none of them prepared me for the reality of them. They are so much larger than you would think. Their eyes are tiny unblinking beads set into a large, crinkly sort of shiny oval depression. On its back (?) I saw a bunch of flabby folded stuff, kind of like a brain.

November 10, 2017

I’m pulled over at what used to be a rest stop, what is now functioning as a sort of refugee camp. At least a thousand people set up here, determined to outlast this. They haven’t seen any of the tripods - that’s what the remaining news outlets dutifully reporting on this are calling them - in this area yet, so they’re camping out in this building. As if a building will stop them. I hope for their sake the Martians overlook this area.

We don’t know what their motivations are in coming here, much less what attitude they have toward exterminating us. Are they going to do this thoroughly, or are we just a nuisance in their quest toward a larger goal? I’ve been asking Penny what she thinks, but she insists she doesn’t know enough to even begin to speculate. She should have more faith in herself - she’s had some important insights so far, like with the cylinders being giant printers.

Those cylinders have become like huge factories, endlessly churning out armies of tripods. One of the news crews in Atlanta managed to get a picture of one of the invaders climbing into a freshly-manufactured tripod. It’s blurry, but that could tell us a lot. Does that mean there are limited armies hiding inside those cylinders? Are they printing aliens too? Is that even possible? I really wish Penny would try and figure it out. If anyone solves this it’s going to be people like her, not people like me. I just want her to be safe.

Earlier today I picked up Max, who is still asleep. He says he’s sixteen, but he looks almost too small to even be that old. Scrawny Asian kid with braces and a band shirt. He smells like he hasn’t taken a shower in a few days, but his snoring is worse. Then again I probably don’t smell too great either. The last two days have just been a bunch of rushing around and sweating and then sitting still.

Those rest stop camps might actually have the right idea. They have running water still, or so that’s what people say. Every time traffic jams up everyone rolls down their windows despite the cold and we all exchange what information we know. I was next to an old white couple for the past ten miles or so, kind of clueless but really nice. They got off this last exit though, headed to some rich prepper’s setup in Auburn. I hope it works out for them.

I find myself hoping Max wakes up soon. Might be nice to have someone to talk to. But for now, I’m glad he’s asleep. Kid clearly needs it.

November 9, 2017

I guess this is my first post on here. If anyone’s listening, hello. Hope you’re safe.

Spent all day driving, trying to get to my girlfriend in NYC. She’s holed up with a bunch of other students from her school. She’s been trapped there since all this went down. I’m going to go be with her.

My parents aren’t answering when I try to call them. I can only hope they’ve gotten to a shelter or a bunker. Somewhere safe. There are a lot of safe places underground, but who knows what tricks these things have up their sleeves?

Apparently they came from Mars, packed into cylinders that they launched at our planet. They disguised themselves somehow, slipped into our orbit as the meteor shower was happening this week, and then dropped down from there. Penny and her professor know more about this stuff than I do, but I think I get it. They want something from us. Or maybe they just want to hurt us.

I tried to ask my friend Emily about what she knows - she’s got a lot of contacts at the Douglass military base, which has expressed interest in her weapons innovations before - but ever since the cylinders showed up, she’s been offline and unavailable. Emily Ballard, if you’re somehow reading this, please text me. I want to make sure you’re okay.

I never thought this would happen, even though I guess we all knew it might be possible. Not in my lifetime.

The traffic here (everywhere?) is awful. We move maybe three miles every hour. Some people have given up. Abandoned their cars or driven off the road. I keep hearing fights break out, but I haven’t heard gunfire or anything serious like that yet.

I live in fear that I will hear one of those three-legged tanks. Back in Douglass I listened to a recording someone took from the top of a building, right up near them. Someone who’s dead now. They make the most awful noise, like a foghorn trying to make words. People are calling it the “Wahgah” or “Mahgah” horn. Not that it matters. They don’t seem like the kind to try and talk. Whatever it means, it’s not meant for us.

I’m still inching along, but it looks like traffic might be clearing up ahead. There are mutterings that the army is opening up alternate routes and creating emergency paths. It’s hard to get a steady flow of news, the internet is so slow. Probably from all the signals. I have one bar most of the time and barely anything will load. Hell, I’m not sure this will even post, but I have to try.

Penny, I am going to get to you. No matter what I have to deal with, I am going to join you in New York. And then maybe we can find some way to continue from there. I don’t know if we’ll ever be safe again, or we might find a way to get rid of these things by tomorrow. But I won’t be able to sleep until we’re together again.