Wednesday, 31 July 2013


I hadn't realised how big the field was until I saw it up close. I'd estimate that it covers at least a square mile, maybe more, and I'm pretty sure I can see another two fields in the distance. Each fungus is the mirror image of the specimen Bob brought back; I wonder if he got it from this field.

The researchers have been busy picking and dissecting the fungi. I sat and watched as they did the dissections. The fourteenth fungus had an eyeball in it. After that, they boxed the rest of the specimens. I told the guy who'd found the eyeball about the teeth in Bob's specimen, but it didn't comfort him at all. He's going back to the Jeeps tomorrow.

I haven't touched any of the fungi, and I've pitched my tent as far away from the field as possible. I don't think I'll sleep tonight.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


We're approaching a huge field of white fungus. We're too far away for anyone to make it out clearly, but I know what it is: I've seen it before. We'll get there tomorrow.

The Jeeps are becoming unreliable. When everyone was together at the end of the day, we discussed it, and decided to leave them here. From now on, we travel as a single group with the animals. It's slower going than riding in a Jeep, but we don't have a choice. I've got no idea how much longer I'll be able to carry on updating. I've had intermittent problems with the laptop, but it's designed to function in this environment, so it might be okay.

I'm worried about tomorrow. I feel like my problems started when Bob bought that specimen back to the old station. The fungus is wrong.

Monday, 29 July 2013


We followed the furrow all day. We haven't made it as far as I've been before, and we haven't encountered anything unusual. The field team has fragmented into small groups, pairs and threes. Everywhere I look, I see sallow skin and red eyes. I can tell that they blame me. They try to hide it, but I can feel their eyes on my back. There's a palpable sense of doom pressing down on the expedition; we all know that there'll be more deaths before we make it back. If we ever do.

I've just reread the last paragraph. I sound crazy. I think the problem is the mal. I don't know for sure, and none of the right equipment is working, but we're either in the Yellow or very close. No one on the team seems to get sick, but we can all feel it burrowing away into our brains.

I'm sleeping in the Jeep tonight.

Sunday, 28 July 2013


The storm raged all night. I left the tent this morning to a commotion. The researchers stood around the crater, talking animatedly. The water is gone. The crater looks exactly as it did when I saw it before. There's no evidence of any water, any underground sea. That wasn't the worst, though. There was a body at the bottom of the crater. There was a body at the bottom, and it wasn't one of us.

A couple of the researchers climbed down into the crater. It looks nothing like what we saw on the camera. The body is one of the researchers we lost in the cavern days ago and miles away. She was bone dry, and looks like she died yesterday.

I had to leave the group; I needed some time on my own. I ran the footage from the submersible camera. It's gone. All that's on the tape now is static. Something happened here, but I don't know what.

We aren't staying. Two of the team are taking the body back to the facility. The rest of us are going to follow the furrow.

Saturday, 27 July 2013


We lowered the submersible camera into the water. There's sea life down there. Fish, mainly. The camera came with a 50-metre cable, which wasn't nearly long enough. It looks like the crater widens as it goes down, and the camera quickly lost sight of the edges.  The crater didn't look like this the last time I saw it. Before, it was a pretty much a tube; now, it looks like the entrance to an underground ocean. We've requested a specialist in geology: we need to make sure this whole area isn't going to collapse. It's funny to think that the old station was there for all that time without anyone realising that the ground underneath was slowly eroding.

We started rigging up a longer cable for the camera, and a stronger light source. There was even talk of getting some kind of bathysphere. It'll have to wait until tomorrow, though. Currently, the worst storm I've ever seen in this region is raging above our tents. Everyone is huddled together, and you can barely see six inches ahead if you venture out. I hope it lets up. It'll be hard to sleep in this maelstrom.

Friday, 26 July 2013


There was a dead fish floating on the water this morning.

Just a normal fish. I don't know what kind. It didn't look prehistoric, or altered by the mal, or anything like that. Just a normal, inexplicable fish.

We talked about a nearby sea that might be hidden, but I know this area pretty well, and I think I'd be aware of a body of salt water big enough to support fish. I told them about the armoured fish we found in the Yellow Zone, and they became excited; I guess we'll probably explore that region in the future. They've contacted the base for a submersible camera, and there's one being driven here. They sent for it as soon as we found the water, and it should be with us tomorrow, if everything goes according to plan.

The fish has been dissected, and the water has been tested. Normal fish, normal sea water.

The other researchers aren't used to this kind of thing. Even though they've been out in the field for much longer than I have, they don't seem to have encountered anywhere near as many strange events in The Sick Land. I think they've been conservative in their exploration, sticking close to home and running experiments, rather than exploring the depths of this strange part of the world. Either that, or there's something about me. Some luck, or bad luck, or something, that puts me in these situations. Maybe I'm a lightning rod.

Thursday, 25 July 2013


The crater isn't there anymore.

That isn't to say that the station is there. It's gone, and the furrow is clearly visible, trailing off into the distance. The crater itself is now a lake.

We could see the weak sun glinting off of the water as we pulled up to start making camp. I couldn't tell what I was looking at. As we closed in, I realised it was water. The other researchers questioned me about how the station used to be, what the crater looked like. They didn't believe that such a large space could fill with water so quickly. We walked up to the edge and stared in. The water is dark, and the drop precipitous; you can't see the bottom, or even much of the side of the crater. The researcher next to me started sniffing, then knelt down and took a big lungful of air right over the surface of the water. Before anyone could stop him, he dipped his finger in, pulled it out, and tasted it. Salt. Somehow, the crater is full of salt water.

We're staying here for a few days while we run some experiments, then we'll start to follow the furrow. I watched them set up their weird device for measuring the mal. It didn't work, and they didn't know why. I think I know. The residual mal here is too strong. It's like trying to put up a weather vane during a tornado.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


Horrible dream.

I was hovering above the facility, looking down on the grey concrete roof and the plumes emerging from the smoke stack. I sank down, passing sleeping researchers and cages full of doomed animals. I floated through my own room as I dropped, and I saw myself asleep on my bed, and even in the dream, I knew it was wrong, and I wasn't there.

I fell deeper, through the thick floor and into a basement. Inside the basement were men, trapped in squalid cages. Some of them were screaming, the sounds tearing out of their throats as bloody mist. All of them were wrong, insane and afflicted. I saw men warped by the mal and kept alive with pipes and machines.

Outside the cages, men I recognised, men in white coats with clean glasses, checked boxes on clipboards.

I didn't bother trying to get back to sleep.

Today should be the last day before we get to the crater.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


We're back in territory I recognise, which means we're getting close to the old station. I say I recognise the territory; I recognise the type of terrain in this area. There are more scrubby bushes and trees than there are in the area around the facility.

I got talking with one of the researchers. She'd twisted her ankle and was riding along in my Jeep. She told me about the experiments she'd been doing before she'd been brought back into the field team. She'd been working on quantifying how the mal affects aggressiveness in mice. Apparently, it's well known that The Sick Land can make animals more aggressive. I asked her if there was a particular reason she studied that. She laughed, and told me they want to bottle it and give it to soldiers. I laughed too, but it did make me think. I don't really know what the relationship is between the military and the facility. There seems to be some connection. There's nothing wrong with doing science for the military, but you do wonder what use they'll put it to. I'll ask someone.

Monday, 22 July 2013

No sleep

Another bad dream.

I dreamt I was underground. There was no light source, but I could still see. At the edges of my vision, I caught glimpses of people. I'd spin one way, and find only darkness, but as I turned, I'd see a dirty limb with an open sore, or a foot with exposed bone. I felt myself float along through the cave, knowing I was surrounded by broken people. A gigantic voice sounded. I couldn't understand the words, but the sheer volume vibrated my insides and nauseated me.

I woke up before light and couldn't get back to sleep. I managed to drive my Jeep without crashing into anything, and none of the tents I put up fell down, so I'm counting today as a success.

I need to sleep.

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Today was my last day on rotation with the animals; tomorrow, I'll be riding in a Jeep and helping out with the camp. I'm utterly exhausted. I've got no idea where we are relative to our destination; I just hope we get there soon. I'm sick of looking at cracked, barren ground. I gave up trying to read on the first day. All I do now is stare out at the grey sky and the grey earth.

I didn't dream last night, but I didn't sleep well, either. I felt like the air was pushing down on my chest. I really hope I'm not coming down with something. We're so far out now, there wouldn't be anything we could do about it.

I just need to sleep.

Saturday, 20 July 2013


It seems I'm back to dreaming again. I thought I might have adapted to whatever it is in The Sick Land that gives me these dreams, but obviously not. Assuming they are related to The Sick Land. They could just be dreams, I suppose.

I dreamt I was talking with Bob. He was restored. If anything, he looked healthier than he ever did when he was alive. He was leaning against a vast, white surface, his arms folded. He told me he'd been trying to reach me, but I'd been too far away. Now, I was closer. He said I should prepare myself, that I needed to be ready. I asked him what was coming, but he just shook his head. He told me the battle that was to come was fought, the place undetermined, and the victor vanquished. I must have stared at him in bafflement, as he barked a laugh. He told me he can't think anymore. At least, not in any way that seems like thinking. He said he couldn't even predict his memories.

When I woke up, I ached all over. I felt like I hadn't slept at all. I trudged through another day with the animals. I'm going to bed now. I hope I can sleep.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Out again

We've started our new expedition. The mood is sombre. The new researchers who've come in to replace the others are all field team veterans, so we haven't lost much expertise.

The journey to the old station is going to take days. We've split the group into two, with one group taking the Jeeps and finding the fastest route, then setting up the camp at an appropriate place, and the other group following behind with the animals. It's more efficient. I went with the animals, and I'm exhausted. Obviously, I'll adapt, but right now, I just want to sleep.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

New expedition

Tomorrow, we're going on a long expedition to explore the crater where the old station used to be. Once we've examined the crater, we'll follow the furrow and see where it leads.

The first question I asked was whether my blog had any impact on their decision. The project manager nodded, and said they'd wanted to send out an expedition to examine what had happened ever since they read about it. I mentioned, with some embarrassment, my recent dream. He said it would be great if the furrow did end at a body of water, but they didn't usually consider dreams to be viable scientific evidence. The other researchers had the good grace not to laugh.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


The field team was debriefed today. The higher-ups are regarding the mission as a partial success: we recovered a lot of interesting artefacts from the cavern. The personnel losses are tragic, but not unusual in this business. The search for Victoria was speculative anyway, so it's no big loss that we didn't find it.

Everything we recovered from the cavern has been handed over to various other departments for examination, and the field team has been bolstered by a new influx of researchers from elsewhere in the facility. It looks like we'll be going straight back out. I don't know if this is standard practice, or just a way to take our minds off of losing all those colleagues. They're outlining the mission tomorrow; we should be heading out the day after.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


We made it back to the facility today, and immediately tried playing the video from the camp. The picture is really bad, and there's no sound. It shows enough to be deeply unsettling, though.

In the video, you can see the researchers going in and out of the cavern, and setting up various experiments. When they aren't working, you can see them eating, or standing and talking. At 15:06, according to the time stamp, the researchers all stop what they're doing and turn toward the cavern. They stand still for a heartbeat, and then all run inside. The last researcher has disappeared before the time stamp reaches 15:07. The researchers do not come back out of the cavern, nor is any movement visible.  We arrive hours later, and the video shows us entering the cavern to look for them.

It's possible that the researchers exited the cavern during one of the frequent periods when the picture was obscured by static. I don't think so, though. I don't think they came out.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Still out

I had a weird dream last night. I feel a bit funny writing this, knowing my employers will read it before it's posted, but I'll try not to let that affect what I put.

I dreamt I was flying down the furrow that leads from where the old station used to be. I went farther than I ever did in reality, passing vast fields of white fungus. The furrow ended at a huge body of dark water. Ended isn't quite the right word. The furrow carried on into the wet, sandy ground at the edge of the water, and disappeared into the depths.

This is the first unusual dream I've had in a while. I think it was probably brought on by the stress of recent events. We weren't able to make it back today, so we're camping out again tonight. We'll get to the facility in the morning.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


There was no sign of them anywhere, so we packed up the camp and spent today travelling toward the facility. We might make it back by tomorrow evening. There's a real sense of dejection. I suggested that we wait to see if they come back, but apparently the policy is to return to the facility if you get separated. I asked how common this kind of thing was, but nobody would give me a straight answer.

A camera was set up in the middle of the camp, and it might be able to shed some light on what happened. It was on a tripod, facing into the cavern. If it was working when they disappeared, it should show us which direction they went, or maybe give us some idea what happened to them. We'll check it when we get back to the facility.

Saturday, 13 July 2013


They're gone. They're all gone. We came back down the hill and saw the camp. But we didn't see any people. All the equipment, vehicles, and animals were still there; only the researchers were gone.

I panicked a bit when I saw there was no one there, but then I realised they were probably all in the cavern. It was still light, and conceivably they were still in there. We left our equipment and headed in. There was nobody in the main cave, though they'd clearly been there: everything was tagged and bagged and ready to go back to the facility. The rear of the cave looked like it extended for miles, and I wondered whether we'd ever find them. We exchanged glances, and went deeper into the cave.

After about twenty yards, the cave turned to the left and ended abruptly. It doesn't head for miles underground. It just stops. So where are they?

Friday, 12 July 2013


We made it to the top of the hill today, to a point where we could see over to the other side. There's no crater. Just more of the same terrain. I can't say I'm surprised: I was expecting this. The rest of the team didn't seem too disappointed, either. They must have suspected that we hadn't stumbled over something people have been searching for for the last hundred years. Anyway, we still get to explore the cavern, assuming the rest of them haven't already done everything by the time we get back.

We're some of the way down the hill already, and we know the route now. We should be at the base camp by tomorrow afternoon. It'll be good to get back.

Thursday, 11 July 2013


We took the mules and headed up the hill. It was pretty rough going; the mules seemed okay, but I found some of the steeper climbs problematic. There doesn't seem to be any plant life on the hill at all, and when we lost sight of the camp, we might as well have been on the moon.

We've made it about halfway up. Progress is slow because we can only follow certain routes, and if they come to a dead end, we have to double back and try a different path. I'm exhausted, and I don't know if I'll sleep. It's one thing to sleep out in The Sick Land with everyone else at the camp, but quite another to be up here on the hill. It's very easy to feel like you're alone in an alien world.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


We made it to the cavern by mid-morning, and set up camp just outside. The researchers ran in as soon as we pulled up. I walked in behind them, and they cheered and clapped me on the back, telling me it was the find of the year. Some of them had to be physically dragged out of the cavern to help make camp.

Once the camp was set up, we discussed the expedition to find Victoria. The researchers drew straws to see who would go. I'm leading the expedition, accompanied by five researchers and six mules. We're going to follow a path to the top of one of the hills. From there, we should be able to see if there are any giant craters on the other side. I'm nervous, but there are some experienced field researchers in the team, so everything should be fine.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


We made camp within sight of the cavern. We'll press on and investigate it tomorrow. We stopped here because it's right in the middle of an area of fluctuation, where the edge of the Green interacts with the edge of the Yellow.

I've noticed that the researchers from the facility are blase about the mal. None of them seem to be worried about persistent exposure; if they're not worried, I don't see why I should be. They showed me a cool trick using Lego cars. They wire up a motor to a Lego car and set it off in the direction of the Yellow. By releasing fifty or so, and seeing where they break down, you get a pretty clear picture of how the mal fluctuates. A woman called Francesca started to explain about her statistical model for the strength of the mal, but I wasn't able to follow what she was saying.

I hope the cavern interests them. I'm certainly very excited about exploring it. Who knows, maybe it will lead to Victoria after all.

Monday, 8 July 2013


We packed up the camp and set off in the morning, travelling for eight hours before setting up a new camp. I got involved with a fun experiment testing how the mal affects breathing. Three of us were hooked up with old-fashioned pressure gauges attached to masks, and we had to run a mile with the gauge recording our breathing. Ross, the guy in charge of the experiment, said he's hoping to produce a complete list of the effects The Sick Land has on human physiology, and compare it with the effects on other animals. He showed me a cage full of white mice that he's been using as subjects.

I estimate that, travelling at this speed, we're about another eight to ten hours away from the cavern. We should be there tomorrow, or the day after at the latest. I've started looking through the equipment to see if any experiments spring to mind. I love being part of an active research community.

Sunday, 7 July 2013


I'm writing this in the field on my new laptop. I hope the message manages to arrive back at the facility and appear on the blog. I drove for about three hours before finding the camp. There are ten field agents in three Jeeps. Each Jeep tows a trailer full of supplies and esoteric gear, and there are mules following along. It's quicker travelling by Jeep, but more reliable to take the animals, for obvious reasons.

The first thing I saw when I arrived was the device in the middle of the camp. The device looks sort of like a church organ, but with a spinning disk on the top that moves with the wind, and a number of metal cylinders rotating in place where the pipes should be. I asked the first researcher I came to, a woman called Louise, what the device did. She told me it recorded fluctuations in the mal, and could be used to detect local areas of high activity. I opened my mouth to ask how it worked, but then shut it without saying anything. I need to get my head in a text book before I speak to these guys about technical matters. I'm pretty far behind them, and it's courteous to learn the basics before you ask. We're staying here to monitor the mal until tomorrow morning, then I'm leading the team to where Victoria might be. At the very least, I'll be able to show them the cavern. Whether Victoria is there, or even exists, is another matter.

Saturday, 6 July 2013


I was supposed to be going out with the field team today, but Morrison, the man who came to see me at the military base, requested that I stay and speak with him. He said he'd been reading this blog, and that he wants me to continue with it. I was quite surprised. He said he thought it was important that a record be maintained of what was happening out here. I asked him about secrecy; he told me that would be taken care of, excused himself, and left the room.

When he came back, he was carrying a small laptop. He passed it to me, and said that as long as I agreed to do all the updates through this laptop, I could keep the blog going. I asked what was special about it, and he smiled. He told me it was satellite-linked to the base, and would work intermittently most places in The Sick Land. The signal was very patchy, but the posts could be transmitted in bits to the servers in the facility. After that, the team here would read them, extract any classified information, and post them online. I thanked him and took the laptop, and we carried on the briefing. I'll take a Jeep out tomorrow to meet with the field team, and from there we'll continue to the cavern.

Friday, 5 July 2013


The setup here is extraordinary. As well as recently made, well-maintained vehicles, they have animals. Actual horses and mules so that they can explore deeper into The Sick Land than we ever could with our Jeeps. Apparently, the animals come from local stock, so are more resistant to the mal than one might think. The field team has better equipment than we had too.

I was shown highly sophisticated scientific equipment that clearly breaks the second you take it into the field, and weird, steampunk-looking devices that can be used long after any electronics have stopped working. I'm not sure what sort of thing you measure with an analogue dial attached to a set of bellows, but I'm sure I'll find out. They were loading the equipment into trailers for tomorrow's expedition.

I'll be going with them; they're quite eager for me to show them where I think Victoria is. I'll be happy to. The dangers are lessened with a bigger party, and we won't have to worry about the animals suddenly breaking down. I just hope we find something worthwhile. I feel like they might have hired me specifically for this, and I don't want to let anyone down.

Thursday, 4 July 2013


Sergei used to work here.

I found out when I was being shown around the facility. When Sergei left the station, he didn't go to a university, he came here. He was here until he was called back when we needed another researcher. It's started me wondering whether his knowledge, and his superior attitude, came from research he'd been exposed to in this facility. From what they've shown me, they're ahead of the academic program. It's not clear to me yet how far ahead they are, but my training places me with each group, so I should get a good overview of the state of the research. I wonder, though, why Sergei lied about where he'd been. My best guess is that this place is actively kept secret, probably to protect their findings. I can't imagine what commercially viable research might come out of The Sick Land.

The first group I've been assigned to is the field team. I guess they thought it would be good for me to do something similar to what I've already been doing. I'm joining them tomorrow; it'll be nice to start work. Life's been pretty weird.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


I had my briefing. I'm now one of thirty scientists working at the Omega One research facility. The scientists aren't funded by any public body; rather, funds come directly from the operators of the facility, and the research findings are proprietary. I asked about publications, and they told me to think of myself as a company man. I'm an employee of Omega One, and all the research I do belongs to them. I don't feel great about this, but I suppose it's worth it to stay out here.

I asked why I'd never heard of the facility before. They told me that Omega One had fallen out of favour with the research community years ago, and now the two groups ignored each other. I'd have thought I would have at least heard that there was another group doing research, but I didn't press them on it. I'm sure I'll be able to find out better information from the other scientists than I'd ever get in the briefing.

I've got a tour of the facility tomorrow, and I'll get to meet the other staff. I spent the rest of today reading and signing a huge pile of documents. One of them said that the internet usage is monitored. I'm not going to worry about whether anyone else can see this. After all, it's not as if I'm giving away any secrets.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

New facility

I'm writing this from a room at the new research facility. I was picked up this morning by Jeep, and we drove for hours. I lost track of where we were. My guess is that the facility is miles away from anywhere I've been before, somewhere on the edge of the Green.

I've been told I'll be briefed tomorrow; when we arrived, I was assigned a room by the man who'd driven me here. I haven't seen anyone else. The whole thing seems very cloak-and-dagger.

On that subject, I'm going to keep updating this blog. I have no idea whether the posts actually make it to the outside world; maybe not, if this is a clandestine operation. Perhaps I'll find out tomorrow.

Monday, 1 July 2013

I met with a man called Morrison. He spoke to me like he was a fellow scientist, but it was pretty clear he was a soldier: he was in uniform, and I saw him saluting. In essence, he offered me a job.

He told me I couldn't return to the station, but I could be posted to another research facility. I was surprised, because I wasn't aware there were any other research facilities. I'd only ever heard about the one research team, and when I was briefed at the beginning of my stay, they emphasised that we were the sole group of researchers. I asked him about it, and he said it wasn't common knowledge that there were other facilities. I knew this wasn't a complete answer, but I didn't press him. I said I'd like to be posted to the other facility. He nodded, and said he'd put the wheels in motion. We shook hands; he'll be back to collect me tomorrow.