Saturday, 31 August 2013


I stopped for the night and made camp. I could hear my follower, and I'm certain it's Melanie. She was breathing quickly; occasionally, she'd mutter to herself. I tried walking slowly toward the sound. She was never where I thought she was, always out of sight in one direction or another. The third time I walked away from my small fire, though, I saw a silhouette for a few seconds. It was the right size for Melanie. I stopped looking after that.

I feel cramped and claustrophobic, though I'm in the middle of a vast wasteland. There's nothing but space out here. Despite that, I feel like the oxygen is running out. I take deep breaths, but they don't satisfy me, and there's a burn in my chest that won't go away. I stare up at the stars, and the night sky starts to look like a cloth held inches from my face. I feel like the world ends yards away, like there's nothing left except the narrow stage underneath me and the cardboard sets around me.

I've tried sleeping once already tonight. I was so tired after setting up the camp, I thought I'd be out in minutes. But I was just lying there, fighting with the atmosphere to pull in enough oxygen. In the end I gave up. I feel better when I'm not lying down. I feel less trapped.

Friday, 30 August 2013


I slept deeply last night, without dreams. I set off early in the morning, convinced that I would get out of this grey, dusty part of the journey, and back to some different terrain. I didn't.

Around midday, I spotted something in the distance. As I got closer, I saw that it was a bag of supplies. It looked like the bag I left behind me days ago. I searched through it, and everything in it confirmed what I thought: it was the same bag. Somehow, my follower managed to track back, get the bag, then get far enough ahead of me to plant it in front. I don't see how Melanie, or whoever it is, can possibly do that, but it's the best explanation. Unless something much worse is happening.

I know which direction I'm headed in. I know the position of the Sun at different times of the day, and I know which side of me the furrow is on. There's no way I've gotten turned around. No way. So it must have been the bag that moved.

I picked the bag up, and as I rode, I used a marker pen to sign my name on everything in it. Then I signed my name all over the bag itself. Then I destroyed the pen, and all the other markers I had. It's possible that someone could replicate what I did on another bag, but I don't think they could do it quickly or very accurately. I think I'd know if it wasn't the original.

It was almost dusk when I set the bag down. I left it on top of a natural rock formation that looks like three squares piled on top of one another. It's distinctive, and the only one of its kind that I've seen along the furrow. If the bag moves again, I'll know what's happening.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


All day, as I sat on my mule, drifting in and out of sleep, I dreamt. Though the dreams were broken up by moments awake, I knew it was only one dream, the same dream. I saw Bob, sat on grey soil beneath a leafless bush. He pointed into the distance, and I turned in time to see someone disappear over the horizon. I knew I had to follow them. I walked through the featureless landscape. Sometimes, I saw the person I was following. Always, I found Bob. And whenever I did, he pointed, and I saw, and I walked.

The never-ending dream was more tiring than being awake. I began to lose track of where I was. Whenever I was awake, I was aware of Melanie following me. I could hear her steps. At dusk, I almost fell from the saddle, and I realised that I couldn't carry on. I stopped, and set up camp. I'll sleep now.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.  

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


I've found a bag of supplies. It's one of ours. I left one behind when Francois went missing, and one for Melanie. There's no way this is either of those. Unless somebody moved it. I looked through the bag; it could be either of them.

The bag I left for Francois was back in the area with the red soil, and the bag I left for Melanie is days of travel behind me. There was nothing in the bag that shouldn't have been there. No message, no sign. My best guess is that my follower got in front of me and left the bag there for me to find. I have no idea why; I guess it makes it slightly more likely that I'm being followed by Melanie, though. Maybe if I can lead her away from here, the effects of the mal will be lessened. She might recover.

I haven't stopped. I've left the bag where I found it. If Melanie, or whoever, wants it, they can have it. If they're trying to send me a message, I don't get it. I want to be away from here.


I can't sleep. Whatever, or whoever, is following me keeps me awake. It's nothing definite, but I can hear something moving, creeping around the edge of the camp. I went out and looked a couple of times in the night, but I didn't find anything. Whatever it is, it's keeping its distance, at least when I'm mobile.

I can't wait for the scenery to change. I'm utterly sick of this grey, dusty landscape. Even the red soil would be preferable to more of the grey. I'm moving a lot more quickly than we did when we travelled in, and I've decided that I might as well make use of the night, too. If my follower won't let me sleep, I'll doze in the saddle and get back twice as fast.

I need to get back. Back to the safety of the facility, and away from here. I don't know how much more I can take. Day after day of identical scenery and night after night without sleep. It's going to drive me crazy.

Monday, 26 August 2013


Something is following me. I think it's Melanie. I hope it's Melanie.

I fell into a fitful sleep last night; I was woken by the sound of quiet laughter. I don't know what time it happened, but it was still dark. I sat up and crawled from my tent. I was disoriented, and it was hard for me to tell which direction the sound was coming from. I stood and turned around, but I couldn't pinpoint it.

The laughter was close, and had a hysterical quality, as though the person making it had just been told some hideous truth, and their mind was in the process of cracking. I stood there listening as the laughter faded away.

When I set off in the morning, I found footprints around the camp. In the quiet, as I travelled, I kept hearing faint sounds: rustling leaves, crackling sticks, and once, a soft giggling that chilled me.

I stopped as it was getting dark, and doubled back on myself a small distance.

More prints.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


I'm making good progress. I want to get away from the grey soil and scrub. It stretches as far as I can see; soon, though, I should start to see some of the other terrain we passed on the way in. I don't feel bad about turning around. We should have left with the others when they got sick. I've got no idea how long it will take me to get back to the facility. I've lost track of times and distances; I don't know if it's something to do with the mal, or just the relentless monotony of travel.

As I sit here in the dark, I can't help but think about where I am. I feel like I've been out here for a lifetime. I can't really picture the facility, and I can't imagine my life before I came here. Everything is just a blur of grey soil and dying plants.

Saturday, 24 August 2013


I spent the day traveling back along the furrow. I've left a pack and supplies in case Melanie returns to the place we were camped. I'm done. I've had enough of this pointless exploration, this doomed, death-filled quest.

I'll be travelling for weeks to get back to the facility. If I survive, I'm going to ask to be taken out of the field team. I'd much rather stay in and do my research. I dread to think how this exposure to the mal will affect me in the long term.

The grey soil and scrubby, leafless bushes stretch away in every direction. If it wasn't for the furrow, I'd have no idea where I was going. I'm looking forward to a change in scenery.

Friday, 23 August 2013


When I woke up, Melanie was gone. She'd left everything behind. The only trace of her I could see were footprints in the soft soil by the furrow. She'd gone deeper.

I seriously considered leaving her, just packing up the camp and taking the animals away, leaving and going back to the facility. But I thought that was too cruel. She's having a bad response to the mal, and I needed to at least try and find her. With that in mind, I packed up and followed her tracks.

The footprints weren't always visible, but there were enough of them that I was confident we were still heading in the same direction. By the time it got dark, I still hadn't caught up with her, and I began to wonder what time she'd left our camp. I can't carry on following her forever. I'm leaving tomorrow and heading back the way I came.

I made another drawing of the stars. I have a thick stack of them now. Nothing's changed, but I'd be interested to see if my drawings are getting any better. I'll look at them when I'm not in such dire straits.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


I managed to sleep last night. I dreamt about Bob. This dream was clearer than the last, though what I saw made little sense. I could only see Bob's face. Everywhere else I looked was white. Bob told me the balance had shifted again. Congratulated me for winning the last challenge. Told me I had to win both that remained or all was lost. He said that if I win the next challenge, the final challenge will be the hardest of all. I asked him what it would be. What any of them had been. He told me that I thought time and causality were linked, that effect followed cause followed effect followed cause. Because of that, he said, I couldn't understand, couldn't grasp, the nature of the interaction that was taking place. He said that the dreams, the challenges, even my own actions were merely my primitive brain struggling to process input it had no capacity to understand.

I woke up. Melanie was lying on her side, her left arm pinned to the ground by her body, her right hand clutching a stick and using it to draw patterns in the dirt. She was muttering to herself quietly, pulling faces as she spoke. I decided we wouldn't go on. I didn't have the energy to rouse her and drag her anywhere. My head felt clearer than it had in days, though.

Tomorrow, I'll force Melanie to get up, and we'll go back. And if she won't come, I'll leave her.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


I'm beginning to think the furrow will never end. Because of our losses, we've got more than enough supplies for a long stay; hunger and thirst aren't what we need to worry about.

Melanie is almost catatonic. She can sit and walk, but that's about it. Her right hand is constantly clamped on her left wrist, and she mutters to herself continuously. I can't make out the words.

I haven't slept since Ivana woke me. If I could only gather my wits and concentrate, I'd be able to turn us around. As it is, all I do is clump steadily onward. I feel like I'm in a trance, stuck in a pattern from which there's no escape.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013


I was woken by a scream.

I jumped up and ran out of my tent. Ivana had slept in the open last night. I found her lying on her front, sobbing quietly. The lump on the back of her neck had burst, leaving a sagging flap of skin and a pus-filled wound. Inch-long milky-white slugs crawled in and out of the hole in her neck. They were repulsive, slimy and semi-translucent.

I staggered away and vomited. It wasn't the wound, or the disgusting slugs that had nauseated me. It had been her neck. The rest of Ivana's body had been covered; only her head and neck were exposed. Where her neck was intact, I'd seen shapes under the skin. Inch-long shapes, crawling under the surface. Her body was infested, and she was still alive.

When I'd recovered, I stumbled back. There were slugs all over her and on the ground near her. I watched the slugs crawling in and out of her wounded neck, saw individuals go under her skin, saw others crawl out. I'd lose sight of the slugs when they crawled down from her neck into her body.

Ivana's sobs were unbearable. I went and got the heaviest spade I could.

When the job was done, the slugs crawled out of her body en masse. There were more of them than I thought possible, and they left a huge trail of milky slime behind them.

I buried Ivana by the side of the furrow. I don't think Melanie even noticed. I couldn't stay here, so we carried on in the direction we'd been heading.

Monday, 19 August 2013


We trudged alongside the furrow all day. Ivana's neck is bright red, and the back bulges out. The lump isn't hard: it ripples as she moves and bounces with each step. The skin is stretched so tightly it shines. It's repulsive. I don't know how she can bear it. Melanie spent the day muttering to herself and staring at her hand. I don't know what's wrong with her.

We lost another mule today. It just fell to its knees and wouldn't carry on. I left the supplies it was carrying there, along with food and water.

This can't go on. We have to go back. Tomorrow morning I'll talk to them.

Still no change in the stars.

Sunday, 18 August 2013


I dreamt about Bob. It was a confused, hurried dream. Normally when I dream about Bob, the dreams are clear and vivid, almost like real life. This one was like an old black and white TV that couldn't stay tuned. Bob would waver in and out, his dream broken up by other dreams, normal dreams.

During one clear patch, Bob told me I'd failed another challenge. Two out of five lost. Before he disappeared, he said the balance had shifted further. I tried to ask him what the challenge was, how I'd failed. He was gone, and I was on a wide, yellow beach facing a wave that towered over me.

Bob flashed back into my dream later. I couldn't tell if a second had passed or three hours. He said I mustn't fail the next challenge, or everything was lost. I tried to ask him what it was. I couldn't; he was gone, and I was standing on a narrow rope bridge above a dark, fathomless crevasse.

No one's speaking. We're just trudging along, following the furrow, with no meaning or purpose.

Saturday, 17 August 2013


I couldn't stay awake all night. I drifted off sitting in a chair in the middle of the camp. I don't remember dreaming; when I woke up, I was somewhere else. I walked back to the furrow, trying to clear my head. I looked down in the direction I thought the camp should be, but I couldn't see it. I wondered whether I'd walked far enough in the night that I'd lost the camp. I didn't recognise the scenery, and guessed that I'd gone deeper into The Sick Land. I knew which way to go from the position of the sun, and headed back that way to find the others.

I walked for half an hour before I found them. They'd already packed up the camp. They were walking toward me. They didn't acknowledge me. I changed direction and joined the group; we were going deeper into The Sick Land. There was no vote, but since the two of them had apparently decided to follow the furrow, I knew I'd lost.

Friday, 16 August 2013


Something killed Saul.

Ivana found his body when she got up. He'd been eviscerated. I don't know how it happened without waking us. I jumped out of bed when I heard Ivana screaming. When I saw Saul's remains, I thought I was going to vomit, but I've gotten used to that feeling in The Sick Land, and managed to hold off. Melanie was still in her tent; somehow, she hadn't heard Ivana. Either that or she hadn't responded. I swallowed and braced myself to look. She was just sitting there, her eyes glazed over as she stared at her left hand.

We buried Saul away from the camp. Ivana disappeared into her tent, and Melanie never came out. I'm in no mood to start ordering people around, but we have to get away from this place. It's madness to stay here after what happened. I'm going to keep watch over the camp tonight. Tomorrow we're leaving, even if I have to drag the other two with me.

Thursday, 15 August 2013


The vote was tied. We're staying here another day.

Saul and Ivana voted to go back. Melanie and I voted to go on. Saul nodded when he heard our votes, and said we should discuss it. To be honest, I was ready to be persuaded. I'm going to sleep on it, but tomorrow, I think I'll change my vote and we'll go back. There's no point being out here, after all. We're not doing any research; we're just risking death every day to follow a furrow that shows no sign of coming to an end.

I don't think Melanie was persuaded. She barely interacted, just sat there staring at her hand. It was resting in her lap, clenching and relaxing. It doesn't matter if she votes to go on. The majority has it. We'll vote again tomorrow; all else being equal, we'll leave.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Saul refuses to go on.

We started packing up the camp in silence. Saul wasn't moving. He just stayed where he was, lying on the ground staring up at the sky. We stopped working one by one and looked at him. He didn't seem to see us, and I started to think something might be wrong. Then he spoke. He said it was crazy for us to go on, that the mal was affecting us, and that we'd all die if we stayed. He said he wouldn't go any farther. The three of us looked at one another. Saul, still staring at the sky, said we should stop here today and vote tomorrow. Majority has it. I cleared my throat and asked him what happened if it was two each. He said we stayed here and voted again the next day. We put the camp back together.

I'll be voting to go on. I don't think it'll be enough, though. The others are bound to want to go back. In some ways, it'll be a relief.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


About mid-morning, we found a thick, purple tube lying across the furrow. It was about the width of a man's thumb, shiny and moist. It was pulsating. We followed the tube in both directions; it disappeared into the ground on either side of the furrow. A few weeks ago, we'd have taken samples and been discussing the fame and fortune that was coming from our new discovery. Now, we just stepped over it.

I was at the back, as usual, and my mule was the last one to cross the tube. As it stepped over, the tube split underneath it. I turned back just in time to see what looked like a circular mouth filled with teeth latch onto the mule. I staggered back as the mule fell. Both halves of the tube were attached to its body. I watched as the two halves of the tube sucked the insides of the mule away, until the mule was nothing more than a skeleton covered in baggy skin. The skin began to tear in places, and I couldn't look anymore. I'd seen through the rib cage that the two halves of the tube were united once again. The tube pulsed as it carried away the remains of my mule. I left the trailer the mule had been pulling. We'll collect it on the way back, when we've used up some more of our other supplies. Either that or we won't come back. Then it won't matter at all.

Monday, 12 August 2013


The spot on Ivana's neck is bigger and redder. I started out toward the front of the group, but had to move back to where I could see it. I had to move because I could hear her scratching, and I knew that if I had to keep hearing that sound without seeing the spot, I'd go crazy.

The spot is huge now, half the width of her neck, and bright red from all the scratching. She hasn't broken the skin yet, but it can only be a matter of time. It's pretty much flat, like a circular rash, rather than a spot. It makes me sick to look at it.

My mule vomited again today. I don't blame it. I feel nauseated all the time, and I've heard at least one of the others being sick. Melanie has developed a twitch in her left hand that she's either unaware of, or can't control. It seems like we're falling apart, but there's never any suggestion that we'd turn back. The furrow goes on and so do we.

Sunday, 11 August 2013


There are more and more plants around. I think we may have passed into an area of The Sick Land that can consistently support a form of life. No signs of any animals yet, but the plants are bigger and more numerous, and I think it's only a matter of time.

I walked at the back today, and spent the whole journey staring at the red spot on Ivana's neck. It looks like she's been bitten by an insect and had a bad reaction, but of course there aren't any insects here. She doesn't seem to be aware of it, but she scratches her neck at least ten times an hour. I'd speak to her about it, but we don't seem to do that anymore.

My mule was sick when I fed it. I thought again that we ought to head back, but I can't face the trip. At least going forward, we're aiming for something. To turn back would be to admit the futility of the previous days, and the waste of Francois's life.

The white fungus is coming back. We're steering as clear of it as we can, but it's getting more and more difficult to find clear patches of ground. Stars the same.

Saturday, 10 August 2013


The red dirt has given way to a scrubby grey landscape. We didn't speak at all today. My head and back are aching. At some point, we're going to have to turn around and go back, or we're all going to die here. But not yet.

I dreamt about Bob. He was sitting cross-legged by a spiny bush. He shook his head when he saw me. He told me I'd failed. Said that we'd lost one of the challenges. There were four more. I asked him how many I had to win. He said the more the better. He told me the balance had already shifted after the first challenge. I asked him what it was, how I'd failed. He shrugged and said that was part of the problem. He put his hand through the ground, as if it was water. He said the ground held the answer. Then he sank.

I woke up standing under the stars in front of a bush. It wasn't the bush from my dream. It was smaller and a different shape. In a half trance, I dropped to my knees and began to claw at the dirt. There was nothing there. I don't know why I wanted the answer when I don't even understand the question.

Friday, 9 August 2013


Francois is dead. Francois is dead, and I found him.

I had another bad night. No dreams I can remember, just fragments and snatched images: a swirl of blue smoke against amber glass, a shiny red stone on a field of clover, a patch of darkness crossing the moon. The last image I remember was a bright blue river passing through a mountainous red landscape. I slowly became aware that I was standing and swaying. As the final vestiges of my dream disappeared, my eyes focused on what was in front of me. I'd sleepwalked again. This time, I'd walked all the way to one of the tall mounds of dirt. Sticking out of the mound was an arm.

When I realised what I was seeing, I fell back, and scrabbled away. I ran to the camp, woke the others, and led them to the mound. I was almost relieved that the arm was still there; I've been in The Sick Land long enough to distrust my senses. Ivana, pale, said it was Francois's arm.

We dug him out. His arm was intact, but that was all. Most of his flesh had been eaten away, leaving only occasional grey lumps hanging from his bones. We dragged the body back to the camp and buried it, as far away from those awful mounds as we could.

We didn't talk about whether we should carry on. We just packed up the camp and continued.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


The four of us got up this morning, packed up the camp in silence, set off, travelled until dusk, set up the camp, and went to bed.

The only things to see are the flat red ground, the huge, grey sky, and the dirt piles. I'm exhausted, and there's always grit in my eyes. I don't know why we're even bothering to follow the furrow. I should have gone back with the others. They wouldn't have let me go with them, though. They think I'm bad luck. No one says anything, but I can tell that's what they think.

I sleepwalked again last night. I don't remember dreaming, but I woke up outside the tent, covered in red dirt. I'd obviously been out in it for a while; I felt like I was choking on the dust.

No change in the stars.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


Francois left while we were asleep.

Saul said Francois had been up all night, pacing and muttering to himself. Saul had asked him what was wrong, and been told he was working on some grand unified theory of the mal. When we got up, Francois was gone.

There was no sign of a struggle, and nobody heard anything; he didn't take any equipment or supplies, either. No one mentioned it, but I've assumed he took the long walk. I wouldn't be surprised if Francois cracked up out here: my conversation with Saul this morning was the only time I've spoken in the past two days.

We're carrying on, but leaving a bag of supplies where we camped. If Francois comes back, he'll be able to find us.

I'm getting sick of the flat red landscape, and those stupid mounds of dirt.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


I have no doubt that we're fully in the Yellow Zone. I'm suffering from bad stomach cramps; a couple of the others look pained, but no one talks about it. We're passing through a bare region of red-brown earth. There's no plant life, apart from the occasional patch of white fungi, and even that seems to be struggling. I haven't heard or seen any trace of an animal.

The only features of any interest are the tall piles of dirt dotting the plain. We haven't been near one, but I'd guess they're around six feet tall by three feet wide. I have no idea what they are, how they were formed, or how they stand up. The soil here is dry and grainy, almost like sand. I'd ask one of the others, but none of us are speaking.

We didn't speak all day; no one even made eye contact with me. I guess we're all trying to cope with the effects of the mal this far into The Sick Land.

No change in the stars again. I'm beginning to feel like I might be wasting my time; for now, I'll keep doing a drawing a night and stuffing it into my bag. If the stars do change, at least I'll have plenty of copies.

Monday, 5 August 2013


I dreamt I was speaking to Bob. He looked good, better than I remembered; he was leaning back against the white surface again, and this time I knew it for what it was. Fungus. He kept reaching back with his left arm, into a hole from which he'd pull handfuls of the fibrous white matter. As we talked, he'd stuff it into his mouth, swallowing without chewing. At first, I stared at the stuff he was eating in fascination. But then I started to see things in it, and my stomach turned, and I couldn't look any more.

We talked. Bob talked; I couldn't reply. He said the storm that'd been building was almost here. He said I'd face five challenges, and the outcome would decide the future. He said to have faith, and stay the course, that he'd help me.

A huge, dark shadow passed over us, as if something gigantic had blotted out the sun. I couldn't look up; Bob glanced up, unmoved. Told me not to worry. The storm would pass.

I drifted slowly out of sleep. I was standing, facing a small patch of fungi half a mile from the camp. My bare feet were muddy, and I was shivering. The walk back to the camp took twenty minutes. No one had noticed I was gone.

No change in the stars.

Sunday, 4 August 2013


We found a trail of rubble in the furrow. It started out as dust, then a few larger stones, then bricks, and finally whole chunks of concrete. It looks like a building has been dragged along, breaking apart as it goes. Some of the bigger pieces have metal girders in them.

We started finding the rubble mid-afternoon, and finally made camp next to the largest deposit. The amount of rubble decreases as the furrow continues; the furrow also begins narrowing, as if whatever made it has broken apart. One obvious conclusion is that the rubble made the furrow, in some way I don't understand.

The furrow gets smaller, but it still stretches off into the distance as far as I can see. The other researchers are ignoring the rubble. They don't even want to think about it, or what it might mean. I've chipped off a few pieces and put them in a specimen tube.

No change in the stars tonight, but I've drawn their positions anyway.

Saturday, 3 August 2013


Today was spent trudging miserably back to where we camped before. The equipment we'd left there hadn't been disturbed, but the tents on the side nearest the fungi were stained purple with spores. We'll leave them there.

I've gotten to know the four researchers that are left. Francois and Saul are remnants of the original field team, the group that went to the cavern and climbed the hill with me. Melanie and Ivana are veterans drafted in to replace the people we lost in the cavern. All four of them are much more experienced than I am. I'd find it comforting, if I thought experience made any sort of a difference out here.

I've started drawing the positions of the brightest stars. I'm not sure, but I think they're changing. Which is ridiculous. Whatever it is the mal does to things, it can't possibly reach into space. Can it? The obvious answer is that my senses are unreliable. Hence the drawing. I'm going to keep track of the constellations as we follow the furrow deeper into The Sick Land, and see if I can make any sense of what I draw.

Friday, 2 August 2013


I dreamt about the spores. I saw myself in my tent, sleeping fitfully. I floated up and away, through the tent to a point above the camp. The fungi were undisturbed, and everyone else slept peacefully, despite the lightning striking down into the sea that surrounded them. A dark shape emerged from the sea and scuttled toward the camp. I couldn't make out what the shape was; my eyes wouldn't focus on it. The shape approached the fungi, and I thought it moved warily. It slinked onward, until it was in the centre of the field.

The fungi surrounding the shape burst, showering it with purple spores. The shape retreated, fleeing into the sea. The storm cleared. The cloud of spores drifted toward the sleeping researchers, and I tried to scream at them to wake up, but I couldn't make a sound.

The other researchers have begun the long trek back to the facility. Five of us remain to finish this expedition. We're going to follow the furrow to the end.

Thursday, 1 August 2013


Half of the researchers are sick. In the middle of the night, a patch of fungi erupted and sprayed spores into the air. I was woken by the sound of coughing. A thick, purple cloud was illuminated by torchlight. It was blowing away from my tent, in line with the furrow, and the researchers camped near the field each got a lungful.

We're dragging them back to the Jeeps on makeshift stretchers. They won't stop coughing; it sounds like they're tearing their own lungs out. They're hallucinating, too. All they do is cough, and stare into the sky with wide eyes, feebly moving their hands as if they're trying to ward something off.

Five of us are going to stay and continue the expedition; the rest will take the sick researchers back to the facility. I think we're going to lose some of them. It'll take days to get them back to the facility, and if they don't start showing signs of improvement soon, I don't think any of them will survive the journey.

My time with the field team has been tragic. All I can hope for is that we find something of interest at the end of the furrow. It's my fault we're here, and my fault they're dead.