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.