This was my Short Story for my English class last year. This is the second draft.
“I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel ... the fear and empire of man had passed away.” H.G. Wells, The War Of the Worlds
In my time, nearly fifty years at the time of my submission here, I’ve dissected our study of the Arcturans and their invasion . Though nearly complete in the areas of their biology, anatomy, technology, and military strategy, we’ve completely overlooked the most crucial study of their culture. During the invasion, I was fortunate enough to be in a position of relative calm, giving me the opportunity to understand their culture and observe their encampment.
The office room of my rather small apartment was bland, I had little money, so it was furnished with Ikea furniture. From a young age, I had an interest in science, namely physics and astronomy. Although I chose to study linguistics, at the time of the invasion I was a linguistics major and was going for a masters in translating language for the first time.
Even with my small budget, simply my income plus whatever my parents could spare in their retirement, I always copped out on the atmospheric elements for my office. I had candles and good tea. I read a morning newspaper.
Asteroid cloud spotted from the Stars has crossed the Kuiper belt, and is within the orbit of Pluto. Expected to arrive within the orbit of Mars by Wednesday. Scientists prepared for study by Thursday. I still remember the exact feel of the crinkly paper, the ink fragrant even in comparison to the candles, so much so you could nearly taste it.
Calm moments such as these are all but etched into my memory, a few blinks of calm just a week before a sea of fear and stress. Nonetheless, my day continued as it did every week, every month. I went to work for a shift, waiting tables, grovelling for tips from patrons. At noon I attended a lecture on translating languages otherwise completely new to yourself, while skipping the pidgin and creole steps.
On Wednesday I gathered with a few friends and we went to the observatory at SFU. They were hosting a free night for any students interested in seeing the asteroids. I still remember the image of the comet-esk asteroid, a tail of debris following it, nearly blocking any view of the other nine asteroids. They were in a perfectly straight line, evenly spaced out, and metallic. Had this telescope not been at a huge zoom, they would only be specs in the sky, with an invisible length of thirty six metres.An astronomy student, sat next to the telescope to ensure it’s proper use, stated his theory;
“I believe that these asteroids were once a single entity, until they were broken apart by some force, likely a mix of centrifugal force and a CMB. They probably broke in the vicinity of Arcturus. Judging from the velocity and trajectory of the asteroids.” I found myself, for a moment, sucked into the beauty of these asteroids. Although the Arcturans did terrible things, they undoubtedly had an extremely advanced material culture. All the while preserving barbaric institutions and systems.
The asteroids, unexpectedly, had managed to veer into the earth. A few pieces were caught in the gravity of the moon, which pushed them very slightly to different landing points on the earth surface. One was fully ensnared by our pale companion, landing in the sea of tranquillity. They were to land in British Columbia, just north of the border, in Alouette Provincial Park, on Sunday.
None of these asteroids were going to kill the planet, or cause any serious damage to the earth, only being nif metres long, and a width of thirsy metres, exactly half that of its length. I, along with three friends, who I will not name for their privacy, and so will be referred to by their professions.
The landing would be tomorrow night, Saturday the thirty first of March. My friends, at least those who decided to come with me, a Waiter, who I had met one night out on the town, a soon to be Journalist, who was an old classmate of mine, and a Medical Student whom I had known since my early teenage years. We had been able to book a half of a double-site, since the demand spiked after the announcement that the cylinders would land here, giving the campers the ability to see a real meteor.
The camper next to us, a retired Politician, came and introduced himself soon after we set up our tent, offering a hand in setting up our campsite. He was easily twenty to twenty five years my senior.
Our other neighbour, a young firefighter, came to introduce herself around nightfall, she brought guinness and firewood. We spoke through the night, the last real night of calm before the storm that would ravage the world in the coming days. I still have the image of their faces, lit dimly by the fire, burned into my mind;
The journalist had a mask covering the bottom half of his head, he never really stopped after the pandemic, that was just part of his wardrobe. The politician's clean shaven face would’ve shined had it not been covered in wrinkles. The firefighter had this unmissable burn-scar on the side of her face, it was a rosy red, could’ve been mistaken for a blush. My friend, the waiter, had the obvious signs of his attempts to grow a beard, but when it failed, and he tried to shave it, he cut a huge gash in his neck, just below the chin, barely viable in the dark. And finally, my childhood friend, the medical student, was seated across from me, in such a way so that his goatee was just above the rising flames from my perspective, more than once I thought it would catch ablaze.
In the morning we ate a nice meal in our double site, pancakes, bacon, eggs, everything. We then lit our fire, and simply relaxed. It was nice, the morning air filled our lungs, and the sunlight lit our skin. I read a book, Heretics of Dune in particular, I loved the other books in the series. The journalist elected to read war of the worlds, and the others read books I can’t recall. That night we went to the field.
Soldiers had been rushing about all day, digging kilometres worth of trenches. About a quarter of which were available for the public to sit in and watch the meteors, those areas were packed. It arrived, a ball of fire lit up the sky as if it was day, a loud crash left us all def for a few minutes. Once we regained our hearing we glared at the cylinder. It had already lost its glow. We, as with a myriad of others who had gathered to watch the meteor, began to approach it.
We just sat there and stared in awe, in an instant, the cylinder lost its glow. Heat still radiated out of it like an oven, but the halo of hellfire that had formerly surrounded the cylinder disappeared. In a minute, someone threw a rock directly at the cylinder. A loud clunk could be heard. Then a stick, it landed and stood there, atop the cylinder, it did not light.
A flurry of children, no more than eight or nine came from the crowd, scrambling to stand atop the cylinder. Families got pictures, and then were ushered off the cylinder by adults such as myself and my friends, who swished to stand on that cylinder.
Once I got my turn, and stepped onto the cylinder. Once I planted both feet on that thing from space, I swore I could feel vibrations, they rocked my core. After a second or two of shock, I pressed my ear to the still war surface of the cylinder.
“Something’s inside!” a grand drilling sound emanated from the side of the cylinder. In an instant countless others were pressing their ears on the side of the cylinder. My turn passed, so my compatriots and I brought our chairs to the field, and a cooler.
A few times I went back to our site, to grab books and the like, we played Catan. There was always at least one of us on the cylinder. After an hour or three there bean a subtle spinning of the top of the cylinder, easily noted by a skid mark that crossed the seam of the ‘lid’ and the ‘container’.
It took another few hours for the notion that it was aliens to really set in. We denied, we bargained, but the fact was, aliens. The firefighter was on the cylinder when the second sound stated. She claimed that the sound of the cylinder was identical to that of a welder. It abruptly stopped after a few minutes.
She fell from the lid like a rock thrown into a pool. The lid fell with her. Heads turned, anxiously waiting to see our first extraterrestrial comrades. A beam of radiation, manifesting in supremely bright white light accompanied by a horrid heat at the target, stemming from a metallic tentacle, immerged.
We flung ourselves to the ground, lucky to be near the cylinder. The Heat Ray, if you will, had been aimed at the middle and back of a nearby crowd, vapourizing them, we were in the front. My hair singed. I am still shocked that I didn’t vomit.
After a minute or so, the heat ray began to focus on the other side of the cylinder. Me and my friends scattered, and hid behind a smattering of trees.
The sight of a living Arcturan is something I shudder to this day. I first saw a handful of their legs. They had eight, an odd mix of a cephalopod like set of joints, with the rest being akin to crabs. Their bodies appeared. A six eyed maw caught my immediate attention, two of those being humongous, easily the size of my head. Two massive claws protruded from next to their ‘head’, eight legs on either side felt their way around its surrounding environment. A few whisker-like tentacles expanded from various points along the body’s hard exoskeleton. It was no more than two metres across. Although, I doubt anyone in our modern world has not seen the famous photos.
From behind the bush I heard muffled screams of pain from who I can only assume to be the firefighter. A few puffs of green smoke rose from the pit surrounding the cylinder. I could see my friends, huddling in the trees and shrubs surrounding the field. We sat, a few minutes passed, nothing arose from the cylinders.
They were by far the most terrifying moments of my life. Every breath I took, carefully calculated as to cause the least noticeable sound. The Politician, undoubtedly more careful than me, had landed on dry dirt, I was stuck in mud. It worked its way down my sweat pants. I had, unbeknownst to myself, dived into a prickly bush, nex to an elastic branch, whose connection to the trunk was right in front of me. The other side, caught on my leg, was slowly, but surely ungrappling itself from my pants.
If it hit my face, I would inevitably shout, alerting the Arcturans of my presence, leading to my death, and very likely, the death of the Politician. I estimated that I have a minute or so until the thorn embeds itself into my eye. I must move, but to where, to the left of me was the Politician, to the right was an empty stretch until the next shrub, in front of me, would just be stupid. That left one option. I had the choice of fight or flight, flight was the answer.
I dashed back, sprinting faster than I even have in my life, the prickles fell from my leg. The street was dark, on account of the shadows of the myriad trees. I ran to my site. Quickly packed up a few things, my friends had the same idea as me, and trickled into our site. Oddly, not the Politician. We were out of there.
We entered my apartment on the third floor of a small building in burnaby. We assumed that this would be far enough from alouette, and sorta relaxed, still on edge. Only at the last minute remembering that my brother still lived in Maple Ridge, never having left the city we grew up in. I called him. He ran, trying to get to the ferry terminal with his family. To me he was overreacting, it was probably just their fear at a whole ton of little creatures swarming on their spacecraft.
He said that there were some military units barricading the streets and preparing for some sort of war. They must've been green, unprepared for a protracted war, assuming that they, the Arcturians, would retreat at the first sign of hostility. They didn’t prepare anything in the forests.
When I awoke the next morning, I found myself in an odd sense of calm. My friends decided to stay the night, since our camping trip had been cut short. I drank my morning cup of tea, and read the paper.
“Nestle Banned from Waters in Africa and the Third World” Read the frontpage headline. It had been somewhat known for a few days. After that was the news of the Arcturans. I even made a pancake breakfast, with eggs, bacon, and all the accoutrements. I scarfed it. Enjoying every bite, as much as they were only a handful of milliseconds apart. The pancakes were the perfect vessel for maple syrup. I then opened my blinds. In the distance, hanging over the buildings like a second sun, came the deathly blaring sound of the second cylinder.
I sprinted down the hallway of my apartment block, my friends scrambling as soon as they saw me. A few neighbours awoke to the sound of us banging on their doors as we left. We fled by the brutally efficient stairs of the fire escape, and out into an alley. We scattered, I thought for a second of where to hide, I didn’t want to end up def for any period of time while deadly aliens scoured the planet, murdering people. I flew into the cellar of a nearby building, and waited.
The crash still sounded loud, it rang in my ears, but at least I could still hear. I waited a minute, until I heard the wielding sound again. I burst from the cellar, and sprinted. As fast as I could. I, at the time, would have sworn I ran for eight hours, in all likelihood, it was only two or three hours. By the time I hit a forest, unbeknownst to me, Alouette, I began stolling, beacazue of my exhaustion. I made it deep into the forest by the night. Finding a trench-like ditch in the earth and settling there for the night.
My brother’s account of his flight is layed out thusly;
Soon after receiving my call, he began to pack. His wife too, packed. Their original plan was to immediately reach the ferry terminal, they packed minimal bags; a few blankets, some snacks, a few toys for the kids, and all of their money. They were going straight to Victoria. After that, hopefully to Seattle or Portland, if worse came to worst, they would go to LA or, in the darkest timeline possible, Tijuana.
They would later find out their logic was flawed. They figured that the United States would never allow the Acrturans to enter its territory. And never to penetrate all the way to Portland or LA. Within three weeks, LA burnt, but Victoria stayed. We have since learnt they were poor swimmers.
They drove to the terminal. Cars had been blocked from entering the ferry, foot traffic only. So it was a one and a half kilometre walk from the makeshift parking to the ferry terminal. It was mostly full, the biggest ferries had been chosen for this task. A man walking next to him turned around, hoping to get one final look at his home before potentially never seeing it again. His scream curdled the blood over everyone on their way to the farry;
“CRAB!” And sure as day, my brother said, the crab-esk silhouette of an Acturan Octopod-walker, looming over the skyline of Vancouver like a monster in old horror films.
A stampede immediately began. He and his wife, their kids on their shoulders, were totally swept up. They were near the front of the line. An elderly woman was in front of them, moving at a rather slow pace. By the time they made it to the checkpoint, the guards had abandoned it, saving themselves. The ship began leaving. The old lady in front of them, turnt her head, the entrance to the ship had not yet been closed. She let them pass. It was a steep jump, about a metre, but they made it.
Turning their heads once fully in the ship, they saw the Octopod, barely forward from where it had been, a few new ones had joined it in its looming terror. One passed a balck cylinder to the first there. It unpacked itself. A great big air cannon, covered in valves and dials, with a button placed on the handle, appeared before the Octopod, pointed at the road leading to the terminal.
Another ferry was trying to dock with the terminal, people were still on the road. From the cannon spewed forth a shell, not bigger than a desk, its all black colour broken by a symbol, it had a sort of fungal look to it, my brother said of the cylinder. We have since then learnt that it was a fast acting fungaloid bacteria, designed to block the orifices in the victim's body.
You could see the corpses, whose last act was simply to fling themselves into the sea, as a desperate attempt to leave the gas. At this they covered their children’s eyes. My brother felt a wave of uneasy calm as he watched the Acturans. He sat, stared at his wife, then back at the shore. An octopod was entering the water.
Suddenly a realisation in my brother's psyche emerged, the oxygen of this farry, while filtered, was not self contained. If the gas is fired on top of a ferry, it would certainly lead to their deaths. All he could do was hope that they would survive.
The first shot fired. An acting whistle sound rose, and fell. The deadly desk sized object deployed wings, gliding in the air like a terrible bomber. A few metres short of the ship. A fiery substance exploded from the shell, it even burnt on the water. A drop or to touched the ship, luckily close to the waterline, the metal glowed a bright red for a second. Immediately quenched by the salty sea water.
The next shot rang in his ears. It landed a few hundred metres north of the ship. The fungaloid bacteria came out of this one. The ship swerved around the gas cloud, which had risen a dozen metres. The third shot was fired, landing straight on the upper deck of the vessel. Anyone steering the ship was immediately roasted. The final shot fired, the bacteria landed on the bridge, but rose smothering any flame, and leaving a terrible growth on the ship’s bridge
My brother and his wife sat in the small booth,expecting their lives to come to an end. They hugged their kids. But that end never came. Nearly everyone was shocked. The gas, as we both found out later, on part of a miscalculation of the Acrturans, was lighter than air.
Awakening in the park, I, forgetting the dash of yesterday, went onto town. As an idiot I thought that our camping trip had gone awry, and that I had somehow blacked out and ran into the woods. A few buildings had collapsed, but, in my pre tea thoughtlessness, I paid no attention to it. Instead, going into the cellar of an apartment block. There I found tea and a kettle. My guess was that some insane doomsday prepper had stacked up on tea and water in case of the apocalypse. There was food there too.
I had some breakfast, tea, and an egg sandwich. Only as I turnt to leave the cellar, in the light of day, did I see the Acturan camp they had made across the street, where a building had once been. I, for only a second, contemplated making a dash for the outside world, but, seeing as the camp was swarming with these beings, I decided to bunker down and stay. This area was well enough off to live in for a while. It did have an odd doorway, which lead directly t the sewer system.
Nothing much happened the first day, only my construction of a discrete viewing device pieced together from a periscope I found in the cellar, along with binoculars, and duct tape. Using it I observed the Arcturans; Their comings and goings. Their entertainments, and their meals. They ate some odd species, it looked vaguely like a humanoid, they boiled off the bones to make some sort of broth, using the meat for a jerky-like substance, they ate their bone-marrow straight from the femur. The organs were used in a sort of slurry, topped with a little of that marrow. Some of the slurry seemed to have an alien additive added to it, then it was packed away in the basement of the neighbouring lot. I vomited out into the cellar after this sight, but it was a train wreck I couldn’t look away from.
On the second day I got extremely lucky. It seems that a footsoldier in their army had brought a myriad of their literature in the form of books. An Officer had seen this and got annoyed, so he confiscated these books and stole his tablet. Dropping them both down into sewers. As soon as they closed the manhole cover, I dashed into the sewer and grasped the volumes. As if possessed, I glared into the screen of the tablet.
On the third day I did not glare into my paracrope, but into the tablet. I had a few dozen notebooks and writing materials. I spent hours just pouring over basic nouns and verbs. By the end of day three of my stay, I had a functioning proto dictionary, and a grasp of their writing system. From then I began translating the full dictionary of the Arcturans.
On the fourth through tenth day, I sat, translating the rest of their language into; first a latinized version, though Cyrillic or Greek would have been better, then into English. It was a lengthy process, but as I had access to their internet, it streamlined the process by leaps and bounds.
By the night of the tenth day, I accidentally flared up my lamp by a trillion fold, to what daylight would have been, I was blinded temporarily. I turnt down the lamp. But I decided to look through the periscope.
The Arcturans demolished every building in sight, they did not get the foundations. They rebuilt barracks over most buildings, but over mine was a command tent. They were asleep. A human sprinted to the doors of my cellar. Finding it locked, and a crowbar within reach, he pried the manhole and jumped into the sewer, closing it behind him. He found the door to the cellar, and opened it. I had not locked that one, since the arcturans coud’n’t possibly fit within the sewers..
It was my friend the Journalist, I remember this conversation well.
“How’s the weather out there?” I said in a joking manner.
“Enh, It’s okay, not the best. A little rainy, they don’t really seem to get the rain. Nor do they seem to like it.” He replied. There was a long pause after that.
“How’s it out there?”
“Pretty terrible, all things considered. We can’t really seem to kill their armoured vehicles with anything but a hydrogen bomb.” His eyes faded, “The military of both here and the states have evacuated the nearby states. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and all the prairie provinces and states have been evacuated. At least the cities. The Yankee military has fallen back to California in the south and Mississippi in the east, with the exception of Texas, or course.”
“All the way to London.”
“What about the Island?”
“They don’t seem to be able to traverse deep water just yet, and they haven't taken to the skies yet.” We then had tea and ate a good meal.
He found shelter in a cellar not far from mine.
On the eleventh day, I began to translate the first work of theirs I had received. My friend the journalist, pacing in my cellar, began to devise a way to receive information from the outside world. Their book appeared to be Sci-Fi, similar to an invasion book, with great big Squids invading their land, on their great septopod walkers. Little notes written in the margins displayed the utter terror of the previous owner about this. In the time I spent doing this, my friend had drawn up some blueprints.
By the dozenth day of my sojourn, I decided to take a break. Had a friend here now. We found ourselves some electrical wire, various bits and scraps of metal and wood, two great sheets of copper, a magnet, a radio dish, and, best of all, a small portable radio. For the first while, we assembled these ingredients, hoping to make electricity to power the dish and the radio. Exploring for a place to put these loud spinning wheels. There was a small crevasse in the sewer, just enough to fit the water wheel and makeshift generator. We placed the dish by the exit pipe fo the sewer, to get as many signals as possible, and connected it both to the radio and the generator.
I translated two more workes of theirs. One was a critique of their political system. It was called Kapikitalle, it then outlined a different system that would work better. I found myself agreeing with this book. Although it’s cover was taped over with a different book. The other was lauffable, it was their attempt at dissecting human religion. It’s title was Iromanki Shrissenchki Dallonr, they had the belif that all religious figures of humanity were actially the most wealthy people of all time, and that we praised them because we praised the dollar.
I peered through the periscope on the twenty second day without sunlight. There were a myriad of small rodents living in the camp of the Acrturans. A blue vine grew from the walls of the Arcturan barracks, but the vine looked sickly, and dried, dead vines sat on the ground outside the barracks.
I, ever curious, wanting to see the rest of the camp, turned the periscope. I found the leg of a hiking Arcturan machine. I had seen these some time ago, they welded and built the barracks. Although when I saw them, they had been deactivated. One of its legs disappeared from view, replaced by one big eyeball-like camera. It peered into my very soul, and glowed a reddish hue.
I stood in shock. Is this how my life would end?
I was paralysed with fear. It passed along the walls of the place, it flew two centimetres above my head. Then the ceiling, nothing there. Finally the floor. I stood upon the tea. Hoping that they would not try to get the top of any objects. It grasped the floor. Even touching one of the dictionaries I had composed, the bescherelle. It stopped on it for a second or two, then proceeded.
A small amount of loose tea had fallen on the ground. Touching that, the machine immediately jerked back, and the tentacle left the Cellar. On it’s way back it broke the cord for our radio. After that I decided never again to look out the scope during the daytime. I blew out my lamp, and slept the rest of the day behind the tea boxes.
I later told my friend the journalist of this encounter. He had seen it from the other side of the road. His assumption was that, due to a large swarm gathering overtop may cellar. He had bolted his doors shut, and hoped for the best.
My phone, in a brief moment of reception, as I had gotten many times before, shouted out texts from my brother. He sent me maps of the front. The Arcturans had expanded into all of but the Appalachian mountains, Alaska, and southern California. He also asked if I had survived. I replied to his text saying I was in fact alive. Then the reception went out.
The cellar had only been prepped for the eventuality of one person, for a maximum of one hundred days. We ran out of human food. I have vague recollections of hunger and eating dog food. Tea was the only luxury tasty food.
I emerged from the cellar, deciding that death by heat ray or gas was better than the slow embrace of starvation. The journalist followed me. The sunlight stabbed my skeltal body like a dagger. In my left hand I carried a sack containing, among other things, the address of the cellar, since I had left my dictionaries there.
To my surprise, I saw no sign of life, no rat, nor red vine, no moss, nor machine. I walked up the hill, towards my former apartment. Scattered ruins of buildings levelled by the Arcturans blocked my path like police barricades. A lead pipe there, a machine there. I picked up a steel pipe I found on the ground. It would be handy in case of combat or just as a walking stick.
The red vine, now a deathly white, must’ve crumbled and fallen, it blanketed the ground, little bits still peaking out onto the buildings. I moved along the streets, down Commercial, up East Hastings, all of which were completely disfigured and unrecognisable. I only know what streets I was on because of scattered poles still standing tall, beacons of human perseverance in the place of hardship.
I wandered. Picked up some old beans I found on the side of the road. They were cold, but were the first good thing other than tea I had in a month. I reached the waterline, continuing what I, at the time, assumed to be west, my assumption was right. At some point, I saw my first fully recognizable thing, an old grocery store, the first floor mostly intact. I took note of this, if I were to need shelter above ground, that would be a good place. It stood alone in a field of rubble. The journalist decided to hide there, and told me to return after my exploration, he was going to make some food.
I kept forward, determined to, at some point, discover what happened to the Arcturans. Could they have moved on? Did we all just die? Nukes? Eventually, I made it to the Seawall surrounding Stanley Park. The green of the park was unmissable, somehow unbroken by the Arcturan invasion. I walked toward it, deciding if anything, the Acreatians may be at the park. I was found right.
Sitting in the park, by the sea. I saw one Arcturan. Crouched beside a few holes in the ground, about two and a half by one and a half metres by three metres in size. The standing Arcturan, seemingly noticing me, moved a few of its whiskers to my body. It looked sickly, so I continued my approach.
“Ya sam v minulý muzhchina” It said, most certainly not expecting a response.
“Zašto?” I asked, using my best understanding of his language. We were more similar than we were different. As different as we were. Both forced into this situation.
“Zabaják mulých bytuhstí” It said. It was slowly slurring its words, some vowels fell flat. Its claws began to jitter, as if it had just had twelve cups of coffee. Its legs stamped an uneven pattern of holes in the ground.
Its last words were broken, “pohřbít juh” It then collapsed. This last Arcturan on Earth died not from human intervention, but from a common bacterial disease, as the scientists later found out after exhuming its body. In its last moments, it sat with me. So I buried it, as it told me to, with the lone Arcturan sitting in the hole. I piled dirt atop them, and filled the holes.
I left on my way home. Eventually settling back into the grocery store. After a pitstop at the cellar to pick up my dictionaries. The next morning I would embark on my journey to my brother. For tonight, I sleep, with no fear in my heart.
Bright and early the next morning, I packed my dictionaries and headed down to the coast. Hoping to find a boat heading to Victoria. I did. I ate something good that morning on the ferry, the first one to Victoria for months. An egg sandwich, in other times, I would’ve called it crappy, but this morning, I ate seventeen of them.
I soon found out the reason for the war. Surfing on the Arcturan version of the internet, I found that Nestle had secretly been selling water to the Arcturans, and had been acquired by an Arcturan Water company, as they needed water for their industry to run. It was their oil.
Some weeks later, once my brother, who had money on his person, and his family, returned from their vacation to LA we met in a rather nice establishment. By now, I have become accustomed to real food again. Although, to this day I still cannot eat Haricot beans, or stand the smell of dog or cat food.
And there is the context to the following paper that details the method to make my dictionary…