If this doesn’t give you chills, you have no soul.

This just in, to paraphrase excerpts of the Oct.30, 1938, broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.

PHILLIPS (radio interviewer): Then you’re quite convinced that a barely visible microbe could not invade the earth?

PIERSON (scientist): I’d say the chances against it are a thousand to one.

PHILLIPS: By the way, Professor, for the benefit of our listeners, how many people inhabit the earth?

PIERSON: Approximately 7,577,130,400 people,

PHILLIPS: Well, that seems large enough to survive.

Now, comes a special announcement. It is reported that thousands of people have tested positive for an unknown malady that seems to be sweeping the world.

PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I could convey the atmosphere. There is an eerie quiet at Times Square in New York. The normally busy city of Paris is silent with only a few dogs seen wandering in front of the famous Eiffel Tower. The same scene seems to be repeated all over the world, from Milan, Italy to Beijing. There are no planes overhead and all is quiet.

PIERSON: I don’t know what to think. The virus almost seems extraterrestrial. . . not found on this earth. It’s not something I have ever seen before.

PHILLIPS: Good heavens, we’re getting a close look at it for the first time. It looks like a ball with sticks coming out of it. It’s very small, unlikely to be of any danger but there are so many of them.

SMITH (government spokesman) : I have been requested by the governor of New Jersey to place counties around New Jersey, from the Delaware River to the Hudson River, under martial law.

ANNOUNCER: I’m speaking from the roof of the Broadcasting Building, New York City. The bells you hear are ringing to warn the people to evacuate the city as the virus approaches. Estimated in last two hours three million people have moved out along the roads to the north, Hutchison River Parkway still kept open for motor traffic. Avoid bridges to Long Island . . .hopelessly jammed. All communication with Jersey shore closed ten minutes ago. No more defenses. This may be the last broadcast. We’ll stay here to the end . . . People are holding service below us . . . in the cathedral.


Now I look down the harbor. All manner of boats, overloaded with fleeing population, pulling out from docks.

All that happened before the arrival of this monstrous virus in the world now seems part of another life. . . a life that has no continuity with the present, furtive existence.

I believe they’re learning how to spread.

Now instead of our rushing around blind we’ve got to fix ourselves up — fix ourselves up according to the way things are NOW. Cities, nations, civilization, progress. . . done.

PIERSON: But if that’s so, what is there to live for?

STRANGER: Well, there won’t be any more concerts for a million years or so, and no nice little dinners at restaurants. If it’s amusement you’re after, I guess the game’s up.

PIERSON: From over the top of the General Motors Building, I watched a flock of black birds circling in the sky. I hurried on. Suddenly I caught sight of signs of the virus. I rushed recklessly across Columbus Circle and into the Park. I climbed a small hill above the pond at Sixtieth Street. From there I could see, signs of the decimated virus.

Suddenly, my eyes were attracted to the immense flock of black birds that hovered directly below me. They circled to the ground, and there before my eyes, stark and silent, were the signs of the virus, with the hungry birds pecking. It was found later that the virus was killed by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared. . .slain, after all man’s defenses had failed, by the humblest thing that God in His wisdom put upon this earth.

It may be that the destruction of the virus is only a reprieve. To them, and not to us, is the future ordained perhaps.

Strange it now seems to sit in my peaceful study at Princeton writing down this last chapter of the record. Strange to see from my window the university spires dim and blue through an April haze. Strange to watch children playing in the streets. Strange to see young people strolling on the green, where the new spring grass heals the last black scars of a bruised earth.”

In the H.G. Wells story, the microbes save the day and destroy the Martians. In my version, the viral microbes destroy the humans which have been hell bent on destroying the earth. In the end, the virus is in turn eliminated by an unforeseen foe, giving the earth another and possibly final chance to make the world right.

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer