“The church bells were ringing for evensong, and a squad of Salvation Army lassies came singing down Waterloo Road. On the bridge a number of loafers were watching a curious brown scum that came drifting down the stream in patches.”
Of all things, a man’s home is his castle and such was our affrontery at being attacked by distant alien intelligences in our own homes. That they had travelled millions of miles in order to exterminate our way of life was taken by some to be a sign of extreme malevolence. I, on the other hand, presume their opinion of us to be quite different. Indifferent to our plight they came to destroy and plunder, treading roughly on the ant-hills of our civilisation.
In hearing the scope and magnitude of their plan, we must recognise they have come to disrupt everything – planning all but the most meticulous details and it is in those details that we eventually found our salvation. The plans they saw through to fruition go far beyond jets of black smoke, the unstoppable heat ray and the red weed which still stymies our agriculture.
If reports are to be believed, it was in Shepperton where the first of the Red Men appeared. He attacked two women who were walking along the canal and could only be subdued by two men from a passing barge who claimed his skin was dark and oily and he took “a lot of hammering” to break his grip on the women. When the civil defence militia arrived, there was a large crowd around what seemed to be a heavily waterlogged and extremely rotten corpse. Though there was much damage to the head, the body was identified as one Albert Hargreaves, a part-time labourer in the village who often operated Shepperton Lock when the Lock-keeper wasn’t about.
The body was shipped to London and reports were few and far between but one alleged witness reported that “even though old Bertie was dead, you could see things wriggling under his skin”.
Advanced examinations brought forth a dread warning for everyone to steer clear of any sign of brown scum upon the water and report it immediately. The scum was the spore clump of a fungal fruiting body which had infected poor Bertie. With their alien hyphae forcing themselves through his flesh and interfering with his mind, Bertie must have been driven insane. Weeks later, when the women who were attacked came forth with their story, one was adamant that the thng which had once been Bertie Hargreaves was pleading with them to help him and not attacking them as previously thought. One can only imagine his horror as his attempts to find help were met with violence, swift and deadly.
Shepperton spent weeks under quarantine but no other cases were reported there. What is known is that the Brown Fungus invades the human body and spreads quickly, attaching hyphae threads to nerves and through muscles. This process is extremely painful as the hyphae eat the protective myelin from the nerve sheaths causing jerking, threatening-looking spasms. Eventually the threads reach the torso where they start to build their fruiting body for spore production and the threads then travel north to the brain and drive the victim to water, for this is where the terrible spores will break free. The hyphal elongation of limbs is common, dissolving bone and leaving a flesh-wrapped fungal tentacle and as the fruiting body grows, the torse swells to enormous proportions, as does the skin surrounding the skull.
What I do know is that the Ministry of Science and War have samples of the fungus and they have been testing them on animals and humans to see what remedy can be found. The spores could be anywhere, or indeed everywhere by now.