It would have been funny if it weren’t so tragic. The city spent billions of Rands on the stadium alone. I don’t even want to think about all the extra money that went into advertising, improving transport, and so on. But the alien invasion put a real spanner in the works. The world watched as we hung our heads in shame and admitted that the 2010 World Cup could not be held in South Africa. That Cairo would have to be Soccer City.
At first it seemed like the imported trees were just growing a bit faster, flowering a bit more than usual. So we just laid on extra landscaping staff; we’re always looking for job creation opportunities that don’t just mean another few hastily trained security guards. We joked that even the shrubs had caught Football Fever. We stopped joking after we lost the first highway. Cutting back the branches only gave a few hours grace. Crews would work through the night, hacking back enough to clear the whole road by rush hour the next morning. By noon the roads would be covered again. Thick, hard, branches with dark, sticky, fruit blocking the way. And always a few trapped bakkies: a few idiots thinking they could get through.
So then we called in the Volunteer Wildfire crews. They helped us plan and execute a controlled burn. That looked like it was going to work, for a day or two. Then the branches came back, thicker and stronger than before. Like they had learned something from the Fynbos about how to deal with fire.
Then, the stadium. We could probably have put up scaffolding or thrown new concrete slabs to fix the walls that were cracking and crumbling from the expanding vines, but there wasn’t a lot we could do about the tree growing in the centre of the pitch. It only took a week to cover the whole field. The botanist from UCT said that it should have taken hundreds of years to get that big.
She lowers her heavy backpack onto the ground outside the window, swift but silent. Her ears prick up at the sound of footsteps coming down the hallway. She pours herself out the window and eases it closed again. It clicks into place as the front door clicks open. She allows herself a brief smile before hoisting the pack up onto her back and heading off at speed down the alley.
He peers in through the window, the wool of his mask pressing against the glass. The lights are off; the house is empty. He clicks open the window, tosses his backpack in, then jumps in after it. He scouts around the house to make sure: he is first. He smiles. He drags his bag with him towards the bedroom. He will prepare a surprise for her. He hopes she will like it. He dips a gloved hand into the pack.
She pulls off her mask and gloves as she rounds the corner, pushes them into her pockets. She grunts, readjusting the straps again. A good haul in quantity if not quality. She wonders if he fared any better. The bag squirms on her back. She picks up her pace.
He smells her coming and he bounds towards the door to greet her. She opens the door and chops him hard on the nose. She was not expecting anyone to be standing there, with the lights off, in a mask and gloves. She apologises and helps him up off the floor. He assures her that he thinks the nose is not broken, despite the amount of blood. He takes off his soaked mask, she turns on a light. He is smiling like a loon, she is frowning.
Keeping one hand on his nose, he uses the other to pull her down the corridor to the bedroom. She sees the surprise he has prepared for her. A fresh kitten. She thanks him, but says she is confused by the money. He says he saw it in a movie once. She removes her pack, kneels down, shows him her night’s work. A puppy. A fancy rat. A box of frogs. They pull them out and toss them on the bed. He says it is a magnificent feast. They close their eyes, concentrate, and the constraining human shells drop to the floor. They dine.
“Our hero is a shy, mild-mannered, kid. Matt Millward. Thick glasses, nerdy. Works on the school paper. Official photographer. Uses the badge to take snap shots of the girl he’s sweet on. Sara May Halford. Redhead. His neighbour. Know each other since they were kids. She’s gorgeous. He’s quiet. Unrequited love. You get the idea.
“School trip. The zoo. Class is walking around the insect room. Door to the lab is ajar. Cut to inside of lab. One of the White Coats is panicking, shouting. A Suit is trying to calm him down, find out what the big deal is. Pan across and tighten focus to show container with shattered glass, radiation warnings, hole in the corner. Sounds of fluttering from behind. Fast zoom back and flip to show moth fluttering away, down the corridor. Camera tracks moth through door, up into high ceiling, looking down onto school trip. Look down to at hero, nose against a spider display. Look back up at moth; it divebombs down into the crowd.
“Moth lands on Matt’s hand. He looks at it, chuckles. It bites him. Zoom in on hand, microscopic level. Rushing of blood, pounding of heart. Zoom out, Matt yelping, swipes at moth, misses. Sara May rushes over, grabs Matt’s hand, glowing red.”
“We’re going to have to stop you there,” one of the panel says, holding a flat hand up.
“What?” he wipes the sweat from his brow. His cheap suit shows large dark patches under his arms and on his back. “But this is just the origin part of the story. This is just the first part.” He grabs at his notes, sending paper flying in all directions. “Wait, this next bit. This is good. Let me just…”
“Son, it’s okay. The job’s yours.” He stands up and offers his hand. “Welcome to Amazing Comics. Cigarette?”
He’s sitting at the table nibbling on a juicy snack when he spots it: the big cloud of dust.
“Shit.” He stands up, the wooden chair screeching on the tiled floor. “Shit.” He grabs the binoculars from the hook on the wall. He focuses as far down the road as he can, straining his eyes to try and see through the cloud. “Shitting… shit.” A dust cloud normally means they’re coming, and in large numbers.
There! He spots a shadowy outline of a shape moving through the dust, a few hundred metres down. He throws the binoculars back on the hook and takes off down the hall, knocking his plate and cup flying.
A head pops out from a doorway, groggy, annoyed at the noise.
“Jesus, keep it down, will you…” she says, yawning. “Some of us were on night watch, you know.”
“Dust cloud,” he shouts, clipping her elbow on his way past.
“Shit.” She grabs her shotgun and her boots from behind the door and runs down the hall after him.
She catches up to him in the turret, prepping the guns.
“Why can’t they just leave us alone?” he says, shaking his head.
She jumps into a gunner seat.
“Hey.” She grabs his arm. “Focus. We take them down. We survive. It’s us or them.” She loads the first magazine. “We’re just… infected. We’re still human.” She peers down the sights at the oncoming wave and squeezes off a round.
I was spotted in the crowd by someone I knew from years ago. We’d played together in the shelters when we were kids. She signalled one of the soldiers to pull me aside, and they did. The crowd didn’t want to let me go. I still have scars from when the soldier dragged me through the barricade. I didn’t see my saviour again after that. I’m sorry to say that I don’t even remember her name.
When I first arrived, I spent a full year working just on animals before I started with people. It might have been interesting if it hadn’t been so grotesque and pathetic. It started simple: they were testing me. Seeing what I would do. The requests came into the lab and we did the experiments.
We made pigs with cornered torsos. We made cows with udders covering their lower halves. We made hybrids of chickens and ducks, of goats and donkeys.
Now I’m working in Pairing. One human, one animal. Seeing what traits we can steal from animals without dragging along some unwanted ones too. The animals seem somehow stronger than us. As if their will to live is stronger than ours. I’m not sure that they realise they’re inside a Dome; I can hardly think about anything else.
I injected myself with Africanis this morning. I do not expect to be able to record another journal entry tomorrow morning.