The Changed (1988)
The full moon lay low on the horizon. The sky was a deep blue in the east and stars were beginning to appear. The sun had set already, leaving only a patch of orange marking its descent. The birds had settled down for the night, but the forest was far from silent. The fat orange moon gazed down benevolently upon the dark trees as they came alive with chirping crickets. A low breeze rustled among the trees; whistling and moaning softly as it danced among the branches. Despite the wind, the stream remained still, reflecting the moon in perfect detail. A leaf, torn from its branch fell into the calm waters; tearing the moon apart. A meteor streaked across the sky, but the crickets took no notice of the visitor and continued to chirp in their natural syncopated rhythm. The cabin sat among the trees and the wind carried the forest songs in through the open window and the woodsy smells permeated the kitchen.
Though it was still early, the foursome passed yawns around the table. The boys were bruised and battered from a hard day of water-skiing and “king of the dock”. The girls were burned after a long day of lounging under the July sun on the narrow strip of sand adjacent to the lakeshore.
The pressure was on. Bob scrutinized his letters once again, looking for some message of hope, some intricate pattern that could be placed with pride onto the board. His brain was fuzzy; he crossed his eyes. The letters blurred and reformed, but they maintained their silence.
“Will you hurry up?” complained Lisa more in jest than in impatience. He looked up from his letters and gave his girlfriend a playful kick in the shins. She smiled back and soon a game of “killer footsies” erupted underneath the table. Julie winced from a misplaced kick. Their attention returned to the game.
“Damn crickets,” explained Bob to no one in particular. “They make so much noise; it’s hard for me to concentrate.” He placed two tiles on the board, making the word “ORE”; three points. Must be the crickets.
“That’s strange,” yawned Lisa from across the table as she placed “QUERY” down on a triple word score. “They don’t seem to bother me.” Dave groaned and glared at his own uncommunicative letters. Julie emitted a giggle and Dave glanced up at her.
He cooed, “You pull something like that and I’ll break your neck.” Unable to resist, she spelled out “ZITHER”. Her thin grin grew into a broad smile.
“Your turn, Dave,” she cooed back. Lisa smiled and Dave felt his face grow hot. Quickly, he looked down at his letters once again. His mind wasn’t really on the game and it reflected in his score. Something was troubling him. Guilt? He searched his feelings. It was true that he and Bob were up at his parents’ cabin under strained circumstances, but it was nothing to feel guilty about. He looked over at Julie again, her fine, brown hair hung loosely over her shoulders. Her wide brown eyes sparkled. No, that wasn’t it. His eyes rolled up and down the seven wooden letters until they and their respective point values were imprinted in his mind. Under his gaze, they seemed to shiver. It wasn’t until he noticed his pop that he realized it wasn’t just his imagination.
Lisa looked up in annoyance. “What the-” A plate fell off a shelf. A low menacing rumble reverberated in their bones and the crickets stopped their chirping.
“It’s an earthquake!” cried Julie above the noise.
“In Wisconsin? I hardly think-” An intense flash of light lit the room, dazzling Bob’s eyes and interrupting his thoughts. An instant later, a deafening crash sent them all flailing to the floor. The lights surged, faded then recovered. The foursome sat on the floor, too dazed to move.
A minute passed, then two. Outside, a lone cricket let out a hesitant chirp. Another answered slowly. Others followed suite and soon it was if nothing had happened.
“That- that felt like an atomic bomb,” thought Lisa, picking herself up with shaking limbs.
“Or a flying saucer,” commented Dave almost unconsciously. The others looked at him for a moment then laughed. It produced an interesting mental picture thinking about alien invaders landing in Rome, Wisconsin, backwater of the world. They would be in for one hell of a disappointment. Dave chuckled a bit as well, but to himself it seemed a little forced. Why had he said it? The others realized he was serious.
“Come on, Dave, flying saucers?” Bob joked. He turned and looked out the window, but all he could see was darkness. He looked away with confidence.
“It was a meteorite,” he decided, “and with a crash like that, it probably landed nearby.” Dave shivered despite the heat and accepted the notion, desperately. Nothing much ever happened up here; he would rather listen to meteorite stories then another flying saucer tale. He looked outside, just to make sure, but the engulfing darkness made him more insecure than before. Bob was rummaging through their things in the bedroom, looking for a flashlight. After a few minutes of hurried searching, he returned to the kitchen with an old battery lantern. It was cracked at the base and covered with unidentifiable grime, but it still worked. Bob flicked it on, shining the beam into Dave’s face.
“Coming?” he asked. Dave looked at the two girls. He didn’t want to look like a coward in front of them, especially Julie. Things had been coming along so nicely. Why did something like this have to happen? His curiosity pushed him forward; he wanted to know what it was. Then he would feel better, but some nagging thought, almost intangible, held him back. He was afraid of what they would find (might find, he corrected himself). It was an irrational fear, Dave felt ashamed, but it was fear nonetheless.
“No,” he replied, trying to make light of his predicament. “You go. I’ll stay here and protect the girls.” Julie giggled and Dave smiled a bit, proud of the way he had turned it to his advantage. Even Lisa, who was normally a bit too mature to partake in such frivolity, stood a little closer to Dave. A bit of jealousy rose up in Bob, but Lisa quickly walked over and kissed him softly.
“Bring me back a bit of space,” she whispered in his ear, the sound of her voice melting any inhibitions he had. Bob hugged her and only broke off after lengthy internal debate.
“If I’m not back in ten minutes,” he announced, looking at Dave, “you’ll know it got me.” Dave blushed bright red and Bob, again with the situation in his favor, strode out of the cabin. The others flocked around the window to watch his progress. His features were soon lost in the darkness, his form was hidden among the trees and even the light from the lantern was swallowed by the void in a few minutes. It was if he had never existed.
The crickets stopped their songs as another intruder broke through their ranks and stumbled through the woods. The full moon was rising higher in the sky, but it was hidden from the forest floor by the leaves of the trees. With only the lantern’s beam to keep him company, Bob began to question his motives. Still, he couldn’t turn back. He continued his progress, walking slowly. The dry dead leaves crackled under his shoes; an eerie mix with the sighing wind. The beam only penetrated a few yards at best and everything else was left to his imagination. The trees towered over him (as if preparing to strike, he thought). It was silly to be afraid, but still, his heart beat furiously, threatening to burst from his chest. Bob thought of Lisa, her blond mane and gentle smile. Her eyes had lit up with the idea. ‘Bring me back a bit of space.’ That was all she wanted. He would go on.
The crater was surprisingly small considering the blast they had felt. There was a light gray ash covering the trees. Everything seemed to be dead and he could no longer hear the crickets. There was no wind either. It was perfectly silent except for the ringing in his ears. Bob climbed up and peered over the crater rim. When the lantern went out, he thought of Lisa. Would she be disappointed? He decided in a fraction of a second that she would not. He turned to run, but by then, of course, it was too late.
Time seemed to drag on forever. Every few seconds, Dave would peer out the window and attempt to pierce the darkness with will alone. Lisa and Julie were not worried and they relaxed on the couch and talked quietly. Dave tried not to think about the stories he had heard and be as calm as the girls were. After all, he was supposed to be protecting them, not the other way around. He sat back down at the table and picked at his letters, but he could only concentrate on the words of the grizzled old guy who had been living up here forever. His words spun around in Dave’s mind, the actions of his hands, the fear in his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” The voice made him jump. Julie retreated a few steps, but then stood firm and concerned. “Tell me.”
“Well, you know this has happened before,” he began.
“Flying saucers,” Dave explained. “They’ve landed around here before.” He got up and checked the window again. Lisa looked from him thee to Julie.
“Why?” Despite her concern, Julie had to laugh. Dave whirled around and glared at them. The laughter stopped, but Lisa couldn’t hide a sheepish grin.
“Dave,” Julie tried to be tactful, “it just sounds a little strange-” Lisa rolled her eyes.
“We’ve heard about them twice since we bought this cabin,” said Dave. “Once on the lake there was this guy doing some night fishing. He had his dog with him, a big labrador retriever-” Dave’s eyes grew round and fixed on a point behind the girls’ heads. Even Lisa felt a little nervous. Dave went on.
“There was a flash of light that- well, they found the dog later and pieces of the boat and… well, they never found him.” There was an awkward silence. Lisa rolled her eyes again, Julie tried to believe, but couldn’t and Dave… Dave stared out into space, his face shaken and pale as if reliving the events.
“That’s awfully hard to believe,” Lisa decided. Dave looked at Julie and saw in her eyes she wanted to believe. He longed to tell her the whole story. He knew it was the truth, he had found the pieces of the boat and the dog. The dog. The nightmares had lasted six months.
The sound of the door made them all jump. Bob let himself in without a word. Dave exhaled the breath he realized he had been holding and Julie did the same. Lisa got up and hugged him, but he didn’t return or even acknowledge it. She backed away, uncertain.
Dave stood up slowly, trying to keep his voice from cracking. “Are you all right?” Bob slowly panned the room, his eyes thrusting deep into the occupants and leaving them the worse for wear. His eyes rested on Dave. He nodded slowly.
“Did you see anything?” asked Lisa hesitantly. He shook his head, his reaction a bit faster this time. Bob shuffled to his seat and rested his arms on the table. The silence was deafening. The three looked at each other, pleading for someone to speak. At last Dave swallowed and broke the silence.
“Well, let’s finish the game.” They all sat down at their places, still watching Bob. Suddenly he broke into a smile.
“BOO!” he shouted. They all jumped and Bob laughed. “Had you all fooled!” Dave couldn’t believe it. He was never so relieved to be wrong before in his life. Lisa recovered and hugged him again. This time he returned it.
“Don’t ever do that again!” she cried. “You really scared me,” and with a wilting look at Dave, “and after Dave’s story about the flying saucer-”
“What story?” Bob asked menacingly. Dave’s blood froze in his veins as Bob looked over at him, a smile still on his face, but something else in his eyes. Lisa didn’t appear to notice the change.
“About this UFO that landed near here and grabbed a guy off his boat… it wasn’t scary or anything like that, but when you came in, acting like that…” Bob looked at them all.
“Just the figments of a warped imagination!” Julie and Lisa laughed and Dave just sat in silence. Something seemed wrong again and he was apprehensive. Luckily, no one noticed the tremble in his hand as he placed his word on the board.
“Your turn. Bob.” He looked at his pieces for a moment and placed the letters in one corner. Lisa looked at it, stopped, then looked again, confused.
“What’s that supposed to spell?” demanded Julie trying to sound it out. “X – R – T – L – L -”
“I forgot,” said Bob quickly with a nervous smile while taking the letters off the board. “No foreign words allowed.” He chuckled a bit.
“What language was that from?” asked Lisa.
“Mixtec,” replied Bob without hesitation. Dave didn’t believe him.
The game deteriorated and finally disintegrated completely; becoming so boring that no one wanted to play anymore. Julie packed away the game and the others walked into the rustic living room. Lisa sat on the couch and Bob sat next to her. Dave sat on a chair as far away from Bob as he could get, so he could study Bob from a discreet distance. What was wrong? Bob seemed different, changed, but Dave couldn’t put his finger on any visible difference. He sat fiddling his fingers until Julie came in.
“You mean you have television up here?” she asked in mock-surprise. Dave felt a little more like himself and rose in mock-anger.
“Of course we do,” he cried indignantly. He turned a knob and a hum erupted from the antiquated chassis. Dave could feel the heat from the tubes as they warmed up. The hum turned into static from the speaker and snow covered the screen. The scared feeling in his gut blossomed again and he struggled to remember what the local channels were. He flipped from one station to another, but nothing was on the air. He looked at the clock. It was only ten-thirty; something should be on the air. Not completely understanding, Dave turned the set off. The snow turned to a brilliant white dot in the center of the screen then faded away completely. He looked down at his hands. They were shaking again. Mumbling something about it being awfully late, Dave returned to his chair. The others accepted the lie, even Bob, but Dave still wondered and worried. What was going on with the rest of the world?
“Do you have a radio?” asked Lisa, a little louder than the first time she inquired. Dave returned from oblivion and pointed down the hall.
“It should be in the closet. It’s shaped like the word ‘RADIO’. You can’t miss it.” Lisa stood up and looked down the hall. The cabin was still not finished on the inside and there was no light yet. Fumbling her way alone down the dark hallway, she found the closet doorknob by feel and rummaged through the miscellaneous items that resided on the closet’s shelves. She was so intent on finding something that would prove there was a world somewhere out there beyond the trees that she didn’t hear the footsteps come up behind her. The touch on her shoulder made her yelp and she dropped the thing she had in her hand. It fell to the floor with a thud. She whirled around.
“What the hell is wrong with you. Bob?” she screamed at him, still full of adrenalin. “You scared me half to death!” Her heart began to slow down, but she could still feel her pulse in her temples. Bob apologized softly and bent towards her.
“I wanted to tell you. There was something out there. I wanted to keep it our secret.”
Lisa asked eagerly, fright forgotten, “What is it?” Bob shushed her and she added quietly, “Was it a meteorite?”
“Not exactly.” A hint of a smile. Lisa smiled herself. This was it.
“Then were going out for something else?” she innocently inquired.
“Yes.” She kissed him and he drew her close. Lisa ran her fingers through his hair and found a bump, she touched it lightly as not to cause Bob pain, but he didn’t flinch or seem to realize it was there.
“You’ve hurt yourself!” she exclaimed. “Doesn’t it hurt?”
She felt a cut into his scalp just below the hairline. It seemed rather wide.
Bob shook his head. “I got it while I was outside. It’s a long story. Are you ready?” She nodded and took his hand. His skin felt cool and dry. They stood underneath the porch light for a moment and Lisa got a better look at his wound. It wrapped around his head. They stepped off the porch and into the darkness. Lisa stumbled over the uneven ground, but Bob seemed to have no problems. He kept her going, pulling her along.
“You forgot the lantern,” she whispered, thankful for an excuse to go back. This was not what she expected when she had agreed to go outside.
“No I didn’t. I left it to mark the spot.” Bob continued to pull her along with a strength she hadn’t known he had.
“How will we find our way without it?” Bob was acting very strangely and she admitted to herself she was a bit frightened.
The wind began to pick up. Lisa shivered and huddled closer to Bob. He seemed indifferent to the chill and walked on at the same pace; a rhythm she found irresistible. She felt her feet marching, her breathing and finally her heart beating in unison with it.
“I’m scared,” she whimpered softly. All of the veneer of maturity and detachment was gone and Lisa stood even closer to Bob. He was the only familiarity in this bizarre situation. She reached out a hand to comfort herself. She needed to know whether Bob was real or not. Her outstretched fingers found his hair. Lisa sighed loudly with relief and entwined her fingers in his unruly mop. Something gave way. Lisa screamed. The shrill cry echoed away into infinity and the crickets joined in. A solemn dirge directed to the full moon hanging directly overhead in the cloudless sky.
Neither Dave nor Julie saw them leave. Dave sat deep in thought. There was something about the TV that bothered him, but he didn’t know what it was. Julie left him alone and waited for Lisa and Bob to come back. After a few minutes Julie got up to see what was taking them so long, but she wasn’t very surprised by their disappearance.
“I wonder where they went,” muttered Dave, not really thinking about it.
“I think I know,” smiled Julie. Dave peered up at her beaming face, pulled her down in his chair and held her tightly. She relaxed in his grasp at first, but he didn’t let go. Julie began to get a little nervous.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. Dave didn’t answer; he just rubbed her back with his hands. He was tense and worried. The television. The local stations could have been off the air at ten thirty, but the major networks broadcasted twenty-four hours a day. Normally. What was going on? He thought about the TV screen again. Something had flashed in his mind as the set went off; if only he could remember. It might prove to dispel his fears.
Julie shifted her weight and sat more in his lap than in the chair and Dave held her even more tightly. She lay her head in the crook of his arm, not moving except for her delicate breathing. Some of the worry lines worked their way out of his forehead. She smiled and he bent to kiss her. The door opened.
They had returned.
Julie jumped out of his lap and asked, “What happened? Where did you go?”
“Go…” Lisa repeated mindlessly. Bob quickly took a step in front of her and took control of the conversation.
“We went for a walk,” finished Bob. Julie said nothing else. Lisa stood motionless as if in shock. Bob pulled her into the living room and she slowly seemed to become herself again. Dave continued to scrutinize them from his sanctuary. He noticed that Bob was wearing his hair straight down over his forehead. Usually, he parted it in the middle and feathered it on the sides. Why the change? Dave stared at him a little longer. The skin looked rather red and raw underneath. His hair was matted too. Dave caught a glance of Bob’s face staring back at him and turned away quickly.
Julie broke the silence. “Well let’s get the radio.” Lisa looked at her.
“Radio?” Julie nodded.
“Where is it?” asked Lisa.
Julie frowned. “In the closet, remember?” Lisa obviously did not. She sat for a moment then her face cleared. They got up, leaving Dave and Bob alone. Bob continued to stare at Dave and his gaze made Dave extremely uncomfortable. He shifted back and forth in his chair and was extremely grateful when Bob got up to join the girls. The TV came to mind once more. The screen. What was it that made him think about it? He got up and turned the set on again, watching carefully as the pixels formed into random static on the screen. He switched it off and the picture collapsed into a dot- that was it. Dave watched as the dot shrunk to an infinitesimal size and slowly faded away. Was that what had happened? The world taken piece by piece until only they remained? He looked around suddenly, realizing how quiet it was in the cabin. He rose to his feet and ran down the dark hallway. It was empty. The closet door still hung open on its hinges like the mouth of some slain beast. The radio lay on the floor, discarded. He heard the door slam and ran into the kitchen, but he was too late. He couldn’t see anything out the windows except for the impenetrable darkness. He left damp marks on the window sill and walked back into the living room. He was alone now. Truly alone.
Dave sat down on the floor next to the radio. For some reason he thought of the dog again. It was the nightmare, not the way he had really seen it. Actually, they were pretty much the same except the real encounter had lasted perhaps two minutes whereas the dream lasted forever.
The boat had been reduced to bits of driftwood floating in from the lake somewhere. Dave was collecting them as they washed up on the shore. He had followed their trail maybe half a mile. He stepped over a low rise and there was the dog.
Dave knew the missing man. That was one of the reasons he had been so interested in picking up the pieces of his boat. What had happened to him? Nobody knew. Speculations were flying fast and furious out at the bait shop. That morning when he had stopped in while his dad was filling the car with gas, the story being told was that he had been abducted by a flying saucer of all things. Now he knew the truth. Dave knew the dog too. His name was Lucky; a good old pooch, always smiling and tail wagging. Not now.
Dave couldn’t move, not even to turn his head away from the grotesque sight. He could only stare at Lucky, the friendly old labrador retriever, constant companion and man’s best friend. Lucky had been turned inside out.
Part of him wanted to run away screaming, another part sat fascinated by the sight. The dog had been reduced to a shapeless gray mass of veins and muscle tissue. He followed an artery from one of Lucky’ s legs as it grew in size and wrapped around a bone (Dave noted it was red and spongy; not at all like he thought a bone would look like unless it had been turned inside out as well) and made its way to the heart which hung loosely, suspended by a vast network of nerves and blood vessels. The heart was still beating. Lucky was still alive.
Somehow, despite its inverted olfactory system and brain cortex, the dog sensed his presence. It emitted a sound vaguely reminiscent of a whine and tried to move. The muscle fibers tensed, but created no motion. He continued to watch with horrified interest as the limp ball of flesh finally died. Only then was he able to scream and retch when the heart finally stopped.
That instant froze in his mind. Dave knew that he now had control of his body again, but time stopped and still forced him to look at the thing lying still on the brown sand. It stretched into days, months, years. It lasted forever. Longer.
Dave shook himself out of it. He was still on the floor in the cabin with the radio at his side. He picked it up with trembling hands and turned it on even though he knew it would be useless. The optimist in him twisted the knob from one end of the spectrum to the other, scanning for any radio stations that might still be on the air. White noise filled the room, echoing around the exposed rafters in the ceiling. Dave blinked and stopped. Hidden deep in the static was a voice. It was unintelligible; perhaps it was just too far away for him to receive it clearly. He sat motionless for a time, afraid that any movement would lose the signal. Finally, he decided to act. Creeping up carefully as not to disturb it, Dave delicately adjusted the tuning. He reeled the signal in, closer and closer like a fisherman pulling in the prize catch. This was much more important however and much more tedious. For a second, the signal became clear. Dave froze, listening, his mind racing as he tried to identify it. He remembered their sound and enunciation, everything about them. He had heard them before. It brought back another memory.
A few days before they had gone up to the cabin, his dad had finally got the new outboard for their little boat. It was the one he had been promising for a couple of years and Dave couldn’t wait to try it out. Perhaps he was too anxious, but there he was that night, trawling into the lake. The Lucky incident was two months in the past and with the nightmares, Dave preferred to stay awake at nights.
At first, he hugged the shoreline, but then he grew more adventurous. Soon Dave was sailing away from shore into the black nothingness beyond. He grew bolder by the minute. Finally, he positioned himself in the center of the lake. He threw out the small lead anchor and proceeded to fish. The sky was clear and the moon was full that night too, but Dave didn’t notice the ship until it was practically on top of him. It was swift and silent. Only when it provided an artificial eclipse of the moon did Dave look up. He dropped his rod and it slid off the boat and into the water. Again he felt that mind-numbing terror and inability to restart time. After an eternity, he grabbed for the starter. The engine coughed and died. Dave tried again and again with the same results. A hum permeated his very being. He could feel it resonating in his teeth. There was a beam of light then everything blurred.
He was encased in white; drowning in it. The boat was gone and so was everything around him. Dave couldn’t see what was suspending him in the air; he couldn’t seem to look down. He couldn’t move at all, in fact, no matter how hard he tried. The hum was gone and Dave could hear sounds, voices. They were excited, but Dave couldn’t understand what they were saying. Somehow, he knew that he was the subject of their conversation and shivered. Something was coming. Dave knew it was coming for him. The whiteness disappeared and he ran, not daring to look at anything for fear he would be petrified on the spot. Something grabbed at him and he screamed; biting and scratching until it let go. Dave continued to run. One step, two, three, four-
He was in the water. Cramps ripped up his legs and through his arms. Only the life jacket prevented him from drowning. Dave floated in the middle of the lake, crying softly. The spasm left him an empty shell. Slowly, he made his way back to shore, still shaking slightly. It was a long walk back to the cabin. The saucer had disappeared, but nearly an hour had passed before Dave thought to look up. Only the moon remained and he took comfort in its familiar smiling face.
The next morning he woke up in his bed, his clothes were damp with sweat. Dave smiled, thinking it was just a dream. It could have been a dream except for two things. The boat was missing (believed to be stolen). His dad had to call the police and no one could fish during their trip up there. The other remainder was a bruise on his shoulder. It had been made by three strong fingers.
Static mercifully destroyed the flashback. The voices were gone and Dave couldn’t pick them up again. The radio was turned off and he sat and thought about his escape once more. There was very little that he could remember about it. He couldn’t even remember what they looked like; except in dreams which he forgot immediately upon waking up with only the knowledge that he had seen them once again. There were several things that bothered him. The thing’s strength must have been enormous. How could he have gotten away? Dave played it back in his mind as slow as he could. The whiteness, then the darkness, then the fear took over-
Fear. Blind panic had given him his freedom. Dave considered the possibility. Perhaps they couldn’t deal with strong emotions such as fear and panic, when the primitive centers of the brain took control. If that was the answer then perhaps there was a chance. Others must have shown enough fear to survive the invasion. Dave was sure of it. If they could get together, communicate with them-
“Dave?” A hand held his shoulder. Though it had five fingers instead of three, Dave lost control. A warm damp patch formed on his pants. He forced himself to look up. Bob was almost normal; except for the deep incision which circled his head. The top of his head was lopsided. There was no blood.
“There’s something outside that you should see.” Another hand grabbed his other shoulder and pulled him unwillingly to his feet. Lisa was much stronger than before and her skin was very pale and dry. As he watched, large pieces of skin came off like huge flesh colored snowflakes. She brushed them away in annoyance.
“Come with us. It’s very important.” For some reason, it comforted Dave to know that Julie wasn’t a part of this. She was a dead giveaway. Her shirt had been ripped and it hung loosely on her shoulders. The skin on her back had been cut away, but not replaced and the thing inside controlling her movements was decidedly not human. At this point Dave gave in to his fright, but he did not fight this time. That had been forecasted and the primary reason for the abduction of the others. He turned limp and would have fallen lifelessly to the floor if Lisa still hadn’t been holding his shoulder. They carried his body outside; with some part of the original occupants were still inside them. They remembered to shut the lights off and made sure the door was locked behind them. The mission was complete.
The full moon lay low on the horizon. The sky was gray in the west and all the stars had disappeared. In the east, a shock of orange and red signaled the upcoming appearance of the sun. The water was still and the wind had died down leaving the trees as still as corpses. The birds began to sing, glorifying the brightening sky. The crickets stopped; growing dormant and waiting for the night to come once more. With much fanfare, the sun blazed over the horizon, its rays chasing away the last vestiges of night. The sky turned blue slowly as the sun climbed higher. The moon was completely down now and the sun hung alone in the sky over the deserted houses and buildings. They cast long shadows at first, but these gradually shrunk. The morning mists evaporated. The long night was over; a new day had begun.