I cannot work out what I'm seeing. In the middle of town is the crater, a neat scoop taken from the rows of houses and roads and shops. All around the buildings are collapsed or burnt, the roads buckled, grey rubble filling the streets. That much I can see, but it's what's in the crater that puzzles me.
From this distance I can just about make out the Creatures that stand sentinel around the edge of the pit. Their bone-white armour shows up well, and I can see that there are an unusual number of them, maybe thirty or more spaced all the way around the circumference. Almost as if they're guarding the thing that now sits within.
The thing. It's white just like the Creatures and the Worms that I've seen before. But it's also huge, filling almost all the crater. The body is rounded, like a big balloon, but I can see armoured ridges passing over the immense back. Thick, tapering things that might be legs extrude from around the base of it, digging into the earth. Other than these, there are no features that I can make out from this far off.
It's like a giant tick, I think, feeding off the earth.
I don't know what to do. Looking down towards the settlement I can pick out what I'm sure is the small supermarket me and Lisa discovered as we passed through two months ago. It was practically fully stocked then, and I'm sure I'll be able to find what I need there now. But it's not more than a quarter mile from the crater and that bizarre and unsettling thing within it. It's too dangerous, too unknown. But I can't go back empty-handed.
I shrug off the harness, grab the map book from the trailer and settle down at the side of the road. The light's still good enough for me to find where I am, but it'll be fading soon, and I would guess that I don't have much longer than two hours to find a safe place to sleep.
I trace a finger back up the road which I've come down. Two miles back a side road leads off towards a tiny village of at most a hundred houses. It's not ideal, but it's better than nothing.
As I'm pulling on the harness for the trailer, I take one last look back at the town and the crater. The thing still squats there in its pit, enormous and alien and ugly. I shiver and turn my back on it and set off back up the road. As I walk, there's a thought I can't seem to shake from my head.
They're evolving, I think, over and over again. God help us, they're evolving.