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SPORANGELA

MY NAME IS FARLEY SHAWN. I'M WRITING THIS IN BLUE TERRACE, IDAHO. TONIGHT I'M SITTING IN THE APARTMENT I'VE LIVED IN FOR SEVEN YEARS, WRITING BY CANDLELIGHT, BUT TOMORROW I'LL FINALLY MOVE ON. ALMOST EVERYONE HERE IS DEAD. IF I WERE TO WALK OUTSIDE MY APARTMENT BUILDING RIGHT NOW AND GO OUT INTO THE STREET, I WOULD STILL BE ABLE TO SEE STAINS ON THE PAVEMENT WHERE PEOPLE BLED OUT OVER THE PAST SIX WEEKS. THERE'S NO ONE TO CLEAN UP THE BLOOD ANYMORE.

BLUE TERRACE IS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN. THIS CAN BE PROVED BY LOOKING THROUGH THE NEWS ARTICLES FROM TWO YEARS AGO. BLUE TERRACE WAS WHERE THE MOLD WAS FIRST SEEN. FOR ALL I KNOW, I WAS THE FIRST HUMAN ON EARTH TO SEE IT. WHEN I WALKED OUT ONTO MY BALCONY ONE DAY IN JULY TO CHECK ON THE TOMATO PLANT MY MOTHER HAD GIVEN ME, I NOTICED THE MOLD GROWING ON THE SIDE OF THE POT. IT WAS A STRANGE COLOR, A BROWNISH GREEN. IT WOULD FIRST REGISTER IN YOUR MIND AS BROWN, BUT WHEN YOU LOOKED AT IT LONG ENOUGH, THERE WAS THE GREEN. I MENTIONED IT TO MY ROOMMATE, BUT HE DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT GARDENING. I PUT MY FINGER INTO THE MOLD. IT FELT GRITTY, GRITTER THAN DIRT THAT'S COMPLETELY DRY. IT HAD NO MOISTURE TO IT AT ALL. IT CLUNG TO THE SIDE OF THE POT AND IT COVERED FIVE SQUARE INCHES OR SO. THEN I NOTICED A LITTLE OF IT ON THE BALCONY ITSELF, NEAR THE VERY EDGE OF IT, GROWING RIGHT THERE ON THE CEMENT. I THOUGHT OF IT AS MOLD, BUT EVEN THEN I HAD DOUBTS. A DAY AFTER OBSERVING IT ON THE TOMATO PLANT I SAW SOME OF IT ON ONE OF THE HANDLEBARS ON MY RACING BIKE. I TRIED TO BRUSH IT AWAY BUT IT HELD FAST. I HAD TO CHIP AWAY AT IT WITH THE BOTTOM OF A COMB TILL IT FLAKED AWAY ALMOST ENTIRELY. THAT WAS ANOTHER STRANGE THING ABOUT THE SUBSTANCE. IT LEFT NO TRACE OF ITSELF BEHIND LIKE MOLD WOULD. IF YOU COULD MANAGE TO CHIP IT AWAY, IT WOULD ALL BE GONE, EVERY BIT OF IT.

I READ ABOUT THE SUBSTANCE IN THE NEWSPAPER A WEEK LATER. SOME READER WROTE IN TO THE EXPERT WHO WROTE FOR THE GARDENING SECTION AND MENTIONED IT GROWING ON CORN STALKS. THE EXPERT REFERRED TO IT BY SOME NAME BUT I NEW RIGHT AWAY HE HAD GOTTEN IT WRONG. A WEEK AFTER THAT, THERE WAS AN ARTICLE IN THE METRO SECTION CALLED 'WHAT COULD IT BE?' THE SUBSTANCE HAD BEEN FOUND GROWING SLOWLY ON ALL SORTS OF SURFACES IN BLUE TERRACE, ESPECIALLY INSIDE BUILDINGS, ON WALLS. INSIDE THE HOSPITAL, THE HIGH SCHOOL, THE LUTHERAN CHURCH RIGHT DOWN THE BLOCK FROM ME. IT WAS QUICKLY CHIPPED AWAY AND PEOPLE JUST FOUND IT TO BE AN IRRITANT, BUT NO ONE COULD CLAIM TO REALLY UNDERSTAND ITS NATURE. WHEN IT WAS ANALYZED, IT WAS FOUND TO BE A LOT LIKE MOSS, BUT ABLE TO GROW WITH ONLY A MINIMAL AMOUNT OF MOISTURE IN THE AIR. IT WAS LIVING PLANT LIFE, AN UNUSUAL FORM OF IT, BUT NOTHING ALARMING. WHAT WAS STRANGE WAS THAT IT COULD GROW ON ANYTHING. YOU COULD SEE IT SOMETIMES ON THE RIM OF SOMEONE'S COFFEE CUP OR EVEN A PIECE OF PAPER. GLOBAL WARMING WAS BLAMED, SOME COMPLICATED PROCESS THAT ONLY VAGUELY MADE SENSE. BUT NO ONE REALLY KNEW WHY IT GREW INDOORS AND OUTDOORS, REGARDLESS OF TEMPERATURE OR HUMIDITY OR CLEANLINESS OR THE TYPE OF SURFACE. IT WAS STUDIED ENTHUSIASTICALLY BY BOTANISTS. THEY WOULD NEED MUCH MORE TIME TO FIGURE IT OUT.

THE SUBSTANCE WAS FOUND IN THREE MORE CITIES IN THE REGION. IT TOOK ON A NAME: SPORANGELA. WHEN THE PHENOMENON REALLY GOT OUT OF HAND, PEOPLE GOT A LITTLE WORRIED, BUT ABOUT WHAT THEY DIDN'T KNOW. THERE WAS A PICTURE IN THE BOISE PAPER THAT AUGUST OF THE SUBSTANCE MAKING A PRETTY PATTERN ON THE SIDE OF THE CONVENTION CENTER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY, STARTING EIGHT FEET OFF THE SIDEWALK AND SPREADING AROUND THE CORNER, A PATCH TEN FEET WIDE AND FIVE FEET LONG THAT GREW OVER THE COURSE OF A WEEKEND. IT GOT SO THAT IF YOU LIVED IN MY REGION OF IDAHO, YOU COULDN'T GO A WHOLE DAY WITHOUT SEEING IT GROWING SOMEWHERE. IT COULD BE IN THE BUILDING WHERE YOU WORKED OR ON THE BACK OF A STOP SIGN OR INSIDE THE BUS, ON YOUR SEAT. ONCE YOU CHIPPED IT AWAY, IT WAS GONE. BUT IT JUST GREW SOMEWHERE ELSE. IT HAD SPREAD ARTIFICIALLY SOMEHOW TO THE PLACES OTHER THAN BLUE TERRACE, SKIPPING GEOGRAPHIC AREAS MILES WIDE, IN DIRECT DEFIANCE OF NATURAL LOGIC.

THE PHENOMENON WENT ON FOR ABOUT THREE MONTHS. IT MORE OR LESS DISAPPEARED WITH THE ONSET OF COLDER WEATHER. ONE SERIOUS COLD SNAP IN BLUE TERRACE SEEMED TO WIPE IT OUT. ON THE NIGHT OF OCTOBER 19, 2004, IT FELL TO THIRTY DEGREES IN THE SUBURBS. THAT WAS THE NIGHT I SAW THE THING WHICH SCARED ME SO BADLY, WHICH I NEVER TOLD ANYONE ABOUT. THE SPORANGELA WAS GONE VERY QUICKLY AFTER THAT.

I WAS CAMPING. THERE'S A PLACE NEAR CROWN CREEK, A LITTLE CAMPGROUND THAT NO ONE MUCH PAYS ATTENTION TO, AND I WENT THERE THAT WEEKEND BEFORE THE PLACE SHUT DOWN FOR THE SEASON. THERE WASN'T MUCH TO DO EXCEPT KAYAK IN THE CREEK AND DO SOME MILD HIKING THROUGH THE THIN WOODS, AND ON SATURDAY NIGHT I WAS IN MY TENT READING BY PENLIGHT WHEN I THOUGHT I'D GO FOR A LONG WALK IN THE MOONLIGHT. I GOT OUT OF THE TENT AND WALKED THROUGH THE CAMPGROUND, WHICH WAS MOSTLY EMPTY, AND I STARTED TO HIKE ALONG THE SOUTHERNMOST STRETCH OF CROWN CREEK. IT LED THROUGH THE WOODS FOR A HALF MILE OR SO AND THEN THE LAND OPENED UP. I LOOKED UP AT THE STARS AS I WALKED. THE LAND WAS OWNED BY THE STATE AND BECAME NOTHING BUT ROLLING HILLS THAT WENT ON FOR MILES. IT WAS VERY PEACEFUL. I WAS COMPLETELY ALONE.

AFTER TWENTY MINUTES OF WALKING I CAME UP ON A VAGUE HUMP IN THE DARKNESS, JUST A FEW FEET AWAY FROM THE BANK OF THE CREEK. AS I GOT CLOSER I SAW IT WAS AN ELECTRICAL TRANSFORMER, POSITIONED OUT THERE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. I STOPPED TO REST WHEN I SAW IT, AND TURNED AND TOOK IN A VIEW OF THE CREEK AND THE LAND BEYOND IT, AND I SAT WHERE I WAS AND LOOKED AT THE STARS. I STAYED LIKE THAT FOR ABOUT TEN MINUTES WHEN I HEARD SOMETHING OFF TO MY RIGHT, NEAR THE TRANSFORMER. I LOOKED OVER THERE BUT COULDN'T SEE MUCH. IT SOUNDED LIKE SOMETHING WAS MOVING THROUGH THE GRASS, AN ANIMAL I THOUGHT, BUT MOVING VERY LOW AND SMOOTHLY.

I STOOD UP AND SQUINTED INTO THE DARK. THEN I SAW IT. THERE WAS SOMETHING IN THE GRASS, IT WAS TRUE, SOMETHING MOVING. IT WAS BIG. IT CLUNG TO THE GROUND. IT WAS SNAKELIKE, WORMLIKE, BUT GIGANTIC, AS BIG AS A PERSON. THE THING WAS BRIGHTLY COLORED; MAYBE IT WAS TOTALLY WHITE. IT WAS MOVING PAST THE TRANSFORMER.

AS I WATCHED, THE THING SLITHERED THROUGH THE GRASS, HAVING COME FROM THE CREEK, I THINK. ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT FOR ABOUT FIVE SECONDS I GOT AN EXCELLENT VIEW OF IT. MY NIGHT VISION HAD ADJUSTED WELL. I WOULD SAY THE CREATURE WAS SIX FEET LONG, THICK AS A SLIGHTLY BUILT MAN. WHEN THE MOONLIGHT FELL ON IT JUST SO, I COULD SEE THAT ITS FLESH WAS SLICK, AND THAT AS IT MOVED, IT WAS TURNING, TWISTING LIKE A SCREW. MY EYES WENT TO WHERE I FIGURED ITS HEAD WOULD BE. I HAD STOPPED BREATHING, I THINK. I SAW THAT THE CREATURE HAD A NECK, A HUMANLIKE NECK, AND THEN I SAW A FACE. I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY EYES THERE WERE, MAYBE NONE AT ALL. I SAW SOME MARKS BUT ALL I COULD SEE FOR CERTAIN WAS THAT THERE WAS A LONG DARK MOUTH, LIKE A THICK SLASH. THE ONLY OTHER DETAIL I COULD SEE OF THE THING WAS THAT IT WAS HALF-COVERED IN WHAT LOOKED LIKE SPORANGELA.

THE CREATURE MOVED ON, TWISTING THROUGH THE GRASS, AND IT WAS GONE FAST. I WAS IN SHOCK BUT I FOLLOWED IT. I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO.

I COULDN'T HEAR IT ANYMORE. I JOGGED A FEW STEPS AND THEN THE SOUND CAME AGAIN, THE SOUND OF IT MOVING. I SAW ANOTHER SHAPE IN THE DARK. NEAR THE TRANSFORMER WAS A GOLF CART. MAYBE IT BELONGED TO SOMEONE WORKING FOR THE ELECTRIC COMPANY, OR MAYBE TO SOMEONE WORKING FOR THE CAMPGROUND. IT WAS SITTING ALONE NEAR THE CREEK, IN THE SHORT GRASS. I STOPPED AND WATCHED THE CREATURE SNAKE ITS WAY TOWARD THE CART. ONLY THEN DID I REMEMBER THE PENLIGHT IN MY POCKET. I DUG FOR IT AND CAME OUT WITH IT, AND TURNED IT ON. I POINTED IT AT WHERE THE SOUND WAS COMING FROM AND SAW A LITTLE SEGMENT OF THE CREATURE. INSTANTLY I COULD SEE THE BROWNISH GREEN OF SPORANGELA CLINGING TO ITS SIDE, AND THEN THE PATTERN OF IT DISAPPEARED AS THE THING TWISTED.

I SHIFTED THE TINY RAY OF THE PENLIGHT, WHICH WASN'T ANY MORE POWERFUL THAN A DIM, UNFOCUSED YELLOW CIRCLE. THE CREATURE MOVED RIGHT THROUGH IT. I SAW ITS HEAD BETTER. ITS NECK STRETCHED A LITTLE. I SAW A PATCH OF SPORANGELA GROWING ON THE SIDE OF THE GOLF CART. THE CREATURE SLID UP THE WHEEL WELL, ITS BODY CLINGING SOMEHOW TO THE CART, AND MOVED OVER THE PATCH OF SPORANGELA, AND WHEN THE FULL LENGTH OF THE THING MOVED PAST IT, THE PATCH HAD BEEN SCRAPED AWAY IN ONE FLUID MOTION, AND THERE WAS A CLEAN PATH OF WHITE PAINT EXPOSED. AS THE THING TWISTED I SAW THAT THE SUBSTANCE HAD ATTACHED ITSELF TO IT.

IT SLITHERED BACK INTO THE GRASS. I SHUT OFF THE PENLIGHT. I STOOD WHERE I WAS. IN SECONDS THE SLITHERING SOUND MOVED AWAY. THIS TIME I DIDN'T FOLLOW. I WAITED TILL I THOUGHT THE THING WAS ENTIRELY GONE, AND THEN I CREPT UP TO THE GOLF CART. I TURNED THE LIGHT ON AGAIN AND TOUCHED THE PATCH OF SPORANGELA.THE CREATURE HAD LEFT SOME OF THE SUBSTANCE BEHIND BUT HAD TAKEN MOST OF IT. IT WOULD HAVE TAKEN A PERSON FIVE OR TEN MINUTES TO CHIP THAT AMOUNT AWAY, AND IT WOULD HAVE COME OFF LITTLE BY LITTLE, LEAVING SPECKS BEHIND UNLESS YOU WERE VERY THOROUGH, BUT THE CREATURE HAD MADE IT VANISH IN SECONDS. I TOUCHED THE PAINT. THERE WAS NO MOISTURE THERE, NO SENSE OF ANYTHING HAVING MOVED OVER IT.

I WALKED BACK TO THE CAMPGROUND. I REMEMBER AT ONE POINT I FELT SO ALONE AND EXPOSED THERE BY THE CREEK THAT I WANTED TO SHOUT FOR HELP, OR BREAK INTO A RUN. I DIDN'T LET MYSELF DO IT, THOUGH. FINALLY I REACHED MY TENT AND GOT INSIDE. I LAID AWAKE FOR THREE HOURS, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT I'D JUST SEEN. I COULDN'T MAKE ANY SENSE OF IT. IN THE DAYS THAT CAME AFTER, I BECAME MORE AND MORE CONVINCED THAT WHAT I HAD SEEN WAS SOME KIND OF HARVESTING. BUT THE CREATURE HAD NOT BEEN LIKE ANYTHING I COULD EVEN FIND IN BOOKS WHEN I TRIED TO RESEARCH IT. THAT SIZE AND MANNER OF MOVEMENT MADE IT AN IMPOSSIBILITY.

I DIDN'T TELL ANYONE WHAT I HAD SEEN. I WAS GOING TO TRY TO WAIT UNTIL ONE OF THE CREATURES HAD BEEN SPOTTED BY OTHERS. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED. IN WINTER, WHEN THE SPORANGELA PHENOMENON STOPPED, I FINALLY TOLD MY ROOMMATE ONE NIGHT WHAT I HAD SEEN. HE LISTENED ATTENTIVELY BUT I COULD TELL HE THOUGHT I MUST HAVE BEEN DRUNK. HE MENTIONED THAT NOTHING I SAID SURPRISED HIM, GIVEN THE HIGH AMOUNTS OF UFO ACTIVITY IN THE STATE AROUND THAT TIME. I ASKED HIM IF HE WAS JOKING AND HE SAID YES, HE WAS, BUT I COULD LOOK IT UP AND I WOULD FIND THAT WHAT HE SAID WAS AT LEAST PARTIALLY TRUE.

I'VE NEVER BEEN SOMEONE WHO BELIEVED IN UFOs BUT I DID LOOK IT UP. I SEARCHED ONLINE AND FOUND A NEWSPAPER STORY WRITTEN ABOUT THE AREA OF IDAHO I LIVED IN, PUBLISHED IN AUGUST. IT WAS ABOUT THE UNUSUALLY HIGH NUMBER OF REPORTS TO FREDERICTS AIR FORCE BASE ABOUT STRANGE CRAFT IN THE AREA. THE MILITARY HAD TO DEAL WITH THESE REPORTS ALL THE TIME, BUT THEY SEEMED MORE THAN WILLING TO DISCUSS THE STRANGE NATURE OF MANY OF THE RECENT REPORTS, BECAUSE THEY WEREN'T TAKING THEM VERY SERIOUSLY. ALONG WITH THE USUAL ONCE-MONTHLY ACCOUNTS OF CIGAR-SHAPED CRAFTS AND BRIGHT LIGHTS IN THE SKY WERE THREE OR FOUR MORE UNUSUAL ONES. THE POCATELLO NEWSPAPER HAD TALKED TO THE PEOPLE WHO'D CALLED IN THE CLAIMS TO GET MORE DETAILS. THERE WAS A UNIQUE PATTERN TO THEIR SIGHTINGS OF STRANGE THINGS. NONE OF THE PEOPLE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT LIGHTS OR CRAFTS IN THE CLOUDS. INSTEAD THE COMMON THREAD SEEMED TO BE LARGE OBJECTS, THE SIZE OF SMALL CARS MAYBE, FLITTING QUICKLY FROM ONE BUILDING TO ANOTHER IN SHORT, COMPLETELY SILENT JUMPS, ALWAYS BEFORE DAWN WHEN THE WORLD WAS AT ITS DARKEST. THE OBJECTS WOULD MAKE THEIR WAY FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER, ATTACHING THEMSELVES TO LARGE SURFACES. REMAINING UTTERLY STILL FOR A MINUTE OR SO, AND THEN MOVING ON. THE OBJECTS DID NOT BEND OR WOBBLE OR CHANGE SHAPE IN ANY WAY. THEIR COLORING WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE OUT. ONE PERSON ON A BLOG I FOUND DESCRIBED ONE OF THE OBJECTS LIFTING OFF THE TOP OF A GROCERY STORE VERY SUDDENLY AND DISAPPEARING UPWARDS INTO THE SKY AT SUCH A SPEED THAT IT WAS GONE IN LESS THAN TWO SECONDS, AGAIN WITH NO SOUND.

THEN THERE WAS A VIDEO THAT SOMEONE HAD TAKEN. I FOUND IT ON BURIED IN SOME PUBLIC VIDEO SHARING SITE. THE FOOTAGE WAS GRAINY AND SHAKY, AND TO A DISINTERESTED EYE IT COULD ALMOST HAVE BEEN ANYTHING, OR MORE LIKELY FAKED. IT LASTED FOR JUST FIFTEEN SECONDS. IT SHOWED A LARGE VAGUE HUMP AGAINST A DARK SKY. THE PERSON WHO HELD THE VIDEO CAMERA KEPT CHANGING SETTINGS TO TRY TO ALLOW MORE LIGHT INTO THE LENS, BUT IT DIDN'T DO MUCH. ALL THAT YOU COULD REALLY SEE WAS THAT THE HUMP WAS ATTACHED SOMEHOW TO THE SIDE OF WHAT LOOKED LIKE A SCHOOL BUILDING. THERE WAS PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT FAR IN THE BACKGROUND. THE CAMERA WAS A HUNDRED YARDS AWAY OR SO AND MOVING CLOSER TO THE HUMP WHEN IT SHOT OUT OF FRAME TO THE RIGHT. NOTHING SEEMED TO PUSH IT. IT MERELY LEAPT AWAY. THE CAMERA PANNED WILDLY TO THE RIGHT TO TRY TO FOLLOW IT, BUT THERE WAS NOTHING THERE. THERE WAS CONFUSION FOR A FEW SECONDS, AND THEN THE PERSON HOLDING THE CAMERA TRIED TO ZOOM IN AS BEST HE COULD TO SOMETHING MUCH FURTHER OFF IN THE DISTANCE, A LIGHT TOWER OFF IN AN EMPTY FIELD. FOR A SPLIT SECOND YOU COULD SEE A DARK HUMP CLINGING TO IT NEAR THE VERY TOP, A HUNDRED FEET OFF THE GROUND OR SO, BUT THEN, AFTER A LITTLE MORE SHAKINESS, THE THING WAS SIMPLY GONE FOR GOOD. THE VIDEO WAS TITLED "UFO IN FLIGHT".

I TOLD ONE MORE PERSON ABOUT WHAT I HAD SEEN. IT WAS MY FATHER. HE'D ALWAYS HAD AN OPEN MIND. BUT EVEN HE DIDN'T FULLY UNDERSTAND WHAT I'D EXPERIENCED. I DID MORE RESEARCH INTO THE UFO TREND AROUND THE STATE BUT FOUND THAT IT ENDED RIGHT AROUND THE TIME SPORANGELA DISAPPEARED.

FOR TWO YEARS I WAS OCCASIONALLY HAUNTED AT NIGHT BY THE MEMORY OF WHAT I HAD SEEN, AND UNNATURALLY DISTURBED BY THE IMAGE OF DARK HUMPS ON BUILDINGS LEAPING ACROSS THE SKY WITH NO SOUND. BUT AS THESE THINGS DO, THEY BEGAN TO FADE FROM MY CONSCIOUSNESS SLOWLY BUT SURELY. I BEGAN TO BE ABLE TO CONVINCE MYSELF THAT WHAT I HAD SEEN ON MY HIKE COULD BE EXPLAINED BY FATIGUE, A PRANK, ANYTHING.

THREE MONTHS AGO, IN AUGUST OF 2006, PEOPLE BEGAN TO SEE ODD MOLD-LIKE FORMATIONS GROWING ON THE SIDES OF BUILDINGS, ON WALLS WHERE THEY WORKED, ON HIGHWAY SIGNS AND TREES AND SIDEWALKS. THIS TIME THE SUBSTANCE WAS OF A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT COLOR, DARKER, MORE BLACK THAN BROWN OR GREEN. AND THIS TIME THE STUFF WAS ALMOST EVERYWHERE, IN DOZENS OF CITIES ACROSS THIS COUNTRY AND OTHERS. NEWS OF IT POPPED UP QUICKLY. AT FIRST, OF COURSE, IT WAS TIED DIRECTLY TO SPORANGELA, AND WHEN THE WORLD LEARNED OF ITS FIRST HARMLESS MANIFESTATION IN IDAHO TWO YEARS PREVIOUS, NO ONE WAS TOO UPSET. AGAIN, IT WAS JUST A STRANGE EYESORE. THERE DIDN'T SEEM TO BE ANY HEALTH RISKS.

WHEN SPORANGELA RETURNED, I WAS IMMEDIATELY TERRIFIED. I TOLD NO ONE HOW I FELT. MY TERROR GREW WHEN PEOPLE REALIZED THAT THE SUBSTANCE WAS SPREADING RAPIDLY AND GROWING EVERYWHERE. IT CAKED ON PLANTS AND CARS AND DOG COLLARS AND DOLLAR BILLS, AND SOME SAID IT COULD EVEN FORM ON HUMAN SKIN. A PHOTO IN NEWSWEEK SHOWED IT COVERING THE WINGS OF A SMALL AIRPLANE. PEOPLE CHIPPED IT AWAY AS BEST THEY COULD BUT IT JUST GREW SOMEWHERE ELSE. NOW THE STUFF WAS STUDIED MUCH MORE CLOSELY, BY MANY MORE SCIENTISTS, BUT OF COURSE SOME HAD NEVER STOPPED THEIR STUDIES OF IT THE FIRST TIME.

IT COULDN'T HAVE BEEN MORE THAN A WEEK AFTER THE SECOND WAVE BEGAN WHEN A RESEARCHER IN FRANCE RELEASED A REPORT THAT WAS AT FIRST DISCREDITED, THEN ACCEPTED PIECEMEAL, AND THEN RECOGNIZED AS THE TOTAL TRUTH. THIS RESEARCHER HAD BEEN CONTACTED BY TWO BOTANISTS WHO NOTED HOW STRANGELY SPORANGELA BEHAVED, AND WHO THOUGHT THERE WAS SOMETHING ELSE TO BE FOUND IN IT OTHER THAN THE MOSSY VEGETABLE MATERIAL THEY HAD DISCOVERED. THEY WANTED TO LOOK AT IT WITH MORE POWERFUL EQUIPMENT THAN ANYONE HAD THOUGHT WAS NECESSARY. SO THEY CONTACTED A NANOTECHNOLOGIST IN ARIZONA WHO IN TURN REFERRED THEM TO THE FRENCH RESEARCHER. HE PROCESSED SPORANGELA SAMPLES THROUGH A NANOMETRIC DEVICE AND WAS BAFFLED TO FIND THAT IN ADDITION TO DISPLAYING THE STUFF'S ORGANIC COMPONENTS, HIS COMPUTER WANTED TO SHOW HIM DATA STREAMS IT HAD UNCOVERED IN THE SAMPLES. IT SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE, BUT WHEN THE RESEARCHER KEPT BREAKING THE DATA DOWN OVER THE COURSE OF SEVERAL MONTHS, HIS FINDINGS WERE CONSISTENT. HE CAME TO BELIEVE THAT THERE WAS COMPUTER-GENERATED DATA IN THE SPORANGELA. HE WAS ABLE TO PROVE IT BY FEEDING THE DATA INTO A SUPERCOMPUTER. HIDING WITHIN THE CELLS OF THE SPORANGELA WERE INFINITELY TINY STREAMS OF VIDEO INFORMATION THAT NO HUMAN COMPUTER COULD PROPERLY UNDERSTAND. THE COMPUTERS DID THEIR BEST TO TRY TO SIMULATE WHAT THE VIDEO CONSISTED OF. AFTER ANOTHER YEAR OF STUDY, CRUDE IMAGES WERE SIMULATED. THEY SUGGESTED THAT SPORANGELA SAMPLES TAKEN FROM THE SIDE OF ANY GIVEN BUILDING WERE FILLED WITH MILLIONS OF IMAGES OF THE AREA SURROUNDING THAT BUILDING. SAMPLES FROM A SIDEWALK CONTAINED CRUDE 'SNAPSHOTS' OF PEOPLE WALKING BY, IMAGES STOLEN BY THE CELLS AT A RATE OF FIFTY PER SECOND. THERE WAS A MIND-BOGGLING AMOUNT OF VIDEO DATA IN EACH HANDFUL OF SPORANGELA.

THE RESEARCHER'S RESULTS WERE ARGUED ABOUT, RE-TESTED, DEBATED, DISMISSED AND EMBRACED. THE LIMITATIONS OF OUR COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY COST US VALUABLE TIME. IT WAS TOO LATE TO SAVE US BY THE TIME THERE WAS AGREEMENT THAT THE SPORANGELA HAD BEEN OBSERVING US SOMEHOW, COLLECTING IMAGES OF THE HUMAN RACE AND ITS BEHAVIOR AND ENVIRONS. THE SECOND WAVE OF THE NEW, DIFFERENT SUBSTANCE HAD ALREADY COME.

PEOPLE STARTED GETTING SICK. SMALL SPECKS OF THIS SPORANGELA WERE LOOSED EASILY BY THE SLIGHTEST WIND. PEOPLE SAID IT WAS LIKE SWALLOWING AN OCCASIONAL BIT OF SAND, NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. BUT THE ILLNESS THAT STRUCK THE HUMAN RACE WAS SO GHASTLY THAT PANIC TOOK HOLD QUICKLY, AND THE SPORANGELA WAS THE SOURCE OF ALL OUR FEARS.

WITHIN A DAY OR SO OF INHALING THE SLIGHTEST BIT OF THE STUFF, A PERSON'S BLOOD VESSELS BECAME GRAVELY IRRITATED. THEIR EYES BECAME HIDEOUSLY REDDENED. ANOTHER DAY MIGHT PASS BEFORE THE FATAL ATTACK CAME. A PERSON COULD BE IN AN AMBULANCE ON THEIR WAY TO ONE OF THE THOUSANDS OF OVERFILLED HOSPITALS WHEN THEY WENT INTO CARDIAC ARREST AND THEIR VESSELS BEGAN TO BURST. THEIR PORES OPENED AND BLOOD FLOWED THROUGH. BLOOD CAME OUT OF THEIR EYES, THEIR NOSE, THEIR EARS. THEIR SKIN WENT A DARK PURPLISH COLOR AND WOUNDS ACTUALLY FORMED FROM WITHIN, RELEASING BLOOD FROM THE BODY THROUGH THE FLESH. PEOPLE BLED OUT WITHIN MINUTES, EVEN SECONDS. THEIR BODIES BECAME A SOAKED MASS, DEAD WEIGHT. IT COULD HAPPEN ON THE STREET. THERE WAS ALMOST NO WARNING. ONCE YOUR EYES BECAME RED, IT WAS TOO LATE. YOU WERE DEATH. IT WAS ONLY A QUESTION OF HOW MANY DAYS YOU HAD TO LIVE.

IT TOOK ALL OF TWO WEEKS TO CREATE A STATE OF EMERGENCY ALL OVER AMERICA AND THE WORLD. THE SPORANGELA WAS BURNED AND COVERED WITH FOAM AND A STICKY SUBSTANCE CALLED EXOCLAST WHICH SPRAYED FROM FIREMEN'S HOSES, MILLIONS OF GALLONS LAYERED ON SURFACES EVERYWHERE YOU WENT. IT WAS MUCH TOO LATE. PARTICLES OF THIS SPORANGELA WERE EVERYWHERE IN THE AIR. PEOPLE SHUT THEMSELVES IN THEIR HOMES ONLY TO INHALE THE STUFF THROUGH THE VENTS, COMPLETELY UNAWARE OF IT.

THE NEWSPAPERS HAVE SHUT DOWN EVERYWHERE BUT YOU CAN STILL GET THE EMERGENCY BROADCAST SYSTEM IN SEVERAL PLACES, AND SOMETIMES LIVE PEOPLE COME ON, AND SOMETIMES THEY'LL TALK ABOUT THE FIRST WAVE OF SPORANGELA AND HOW MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, SOME RACE OF BEINGS FROM A PLACE IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM WE'LL NEVER KNOW ABOUT CULTIVATED IT IN A CLUSTER OF SMALL MIDWESTERN CITIES NO ONE FUSSED MUCH OVER IN ORDER TO DOCUMENT OUR SPECIES AND DETECT OUR BIOLOGICAL WEAKNESSES. AFTER THAT, IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF HARVESTING THE DATA, RETURNING IT TO SPACE, AND CREATING A VIRAL DISEASE, BORNE ON A DIFFERENT SORT OF SPORANGELA, WHICH WOULD DESTROY US ALL IN A MATTER OF MONTHS. AND THEN IT WOULD BE TIME TO ARRIVE ON EARTH EN MASSE.

I WONDER WHY I'M NOT DEAD YET. I SUPPOSE I HAVE ONLY MY OWN TERROR TO THANK. I WAS ONE OF THE FIRST TO BARRICADE HIMSELF INDOORS WITH BOTTLED WATER AND CANNED FOOD, AND HERE I SIT. IT'S ONE A.M., NOVEMBER 9, 2006. I KNOW I CAN'T SURVIVE. MY TIME WILL BE OVER SOON. SO TOMORROW I'M GOING TO SET OUT WALKING, NOT IN THE HOPES OF BEING SAVED, BUT BECAUSE I'D RATHER DIE OUT THERE IN THE SUNLIGHT THAN IN THIS CRAMPED, FORGOTTEN APARTMENT. I BOUGHT A GUN TEN DAYS AGO. IF MY EYES BECOME RED WITH SICKNESS, I'LL TAKE MYSELF OUT BY THE LAKE.

I HOPE THE END COMES BEFORE I SEE ANOTHER ONE OF THE WORMS, THOSE WORMS WHICH I'VE NEVER SEEN MENTION OF IN ANY NEWSPAPER, ON ANY WEB SITE. THE HARVESTER WORMS WHICH TOOK THEIR SAMPLES AWAY IN FLITTING, SILENT CRAFTS. I KNOW WHAT I SAW. THE BLACKISH SPORANGELA IS VISIBLE GROWING ON THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING ACROSS FROM MINE, AND IT FILLS ME WITH DREAD, BUT TO SEE THE LIVING THINGS WHICH WILL SOMEDAY COME TO COLLECT IT OR DISPOSE OF IT WOULD DRIVE ME INSANE. THAT MOTION, THAT TWISTING, SNAKELIKE MOTION, AND THE SOUND THE GRASS MADE BEING SMOOTHED BENEATH IT, WOULD SNAP MY MIND IN SECONDS. THE SIGHT OF AN OLD WOMAN BLEEDING OUT AS SHE EMERGED FROM A LIGHT RAIL STATION TWO DAYS AGO DIDN'T DO IT. THE IMAGE OF A WORM'S MOUTH WOULD. ITS AWFUL MOUTH WORKING FURIOUSLY TO GATHER AND RETAIN.

GOODBYE.