Dying Light

by R.A.Love © 2002

It's a memorial now. It sits up on the bluff, alone on its bicycle, bony face turned toward the west to watch the dying light every afternoon. Those who don't remember, or want to remember, think it grotesque. Macabre. Inappropriate. They're wrong.

I remember that night. I can't forget. The night they came. The night everything was plunged into chaos. Nobody knew, until it was too late, what they were.

That night was, up until that point, an ordinary fall evening. Crisp and cool, and full of the sounds of revelry as the citizens of my small town celebrated the first of the autumn holidays, Halloween. People danced and partied, costumes of all sorts abounded and children ran happily in the streets yelling "trick or treat!"

Few people looked up and saw the star falling, and those who did, thought nothing of it. Until people began dying. Horribly.

When the first body was found, it was thought to be the work of Satanists, celebrating the holiday in their own twisted way. But even Satanists generally shied away from using human victims in quite that manner. And there were no satanic symbols to be found, anywhere.

The second body was found that same night, killed in the same manner as the first. More bodies began to turn up, and panic began to spread. But as fast as the fear flew, the cause of the deaths flew even more quickly.

If anyone had suggested that the cause might not be from this planet, they would, even then, not have believed it, for no evidence of any kind had been left.

They would not have known what it was even if they had come face to face with it.

I didn't.

I was at a party when it attacked, whatever it was. One minute, I'm dancing and enjoying the band that was playing on stage, the next, a buzzing noise grabs my attention. It seemed to press in on my skull, but it was somehow under the music, rather than drowning it out by sheer volume. I put my hands over my ears but the noise still grated upon me, like nails raked down a blackboard. Then... it happened.

I stood frozen in horror as the lead singer of the band had his skin and flesh pulled off of his body in a split second. In the blink of an eye, there was nothing but bones left, still standing and holding the microphone before they collapsed.

Silence. Then the screams began. I looked for it, but I saw nothing. Nothing. It was as though the very air itself was devouring its victims alive. And still, the buzzing continued, driving all of us, me included, quite mad.

All I remember doing was running, searching for shelter, and seeing people die around me as some invisible revenant tore the flesh off of them. Why it didn't catch me, I don't know, for it seemed to be everywhere.

Finally, my strength was fading, my lungs burning, and I knew that I could run no more. I would die like the rest of them, I was certain.

I raced to my home, hoping against hope that anyone was left alive, and when I opened the door, the sheer normality of the scene made me feel like I'd just stepped into the Twilight Zone. My mom was sitting on the couch, watching TV with my dad, golden light giving the living room a warm glow. My dog lay near the couch, and she thumped her tail in greeting before leaping up and coming to me, tail wagging.

Then it came again. The buzzing. Horror suffused me and I felt a scream building in my throat, but I held it back by sheer force of will. I searched about frantically for something, anything to use as a weapon, and my parents looked up with concern, no doubt wondering if I were on drugs. The buzzing grew louder and in my panic, I seized the first thing close to hand, a flyswatter.

Suddenly, my dog's canine grin stretched backwards in a horrible parody of her friendly expression, and I saw the fear in her eyes as her skin began to tear away from her. Something was literally pulling her hide off of her, and I watched with a sick feeling, as my dog died screaming, her fur and hide devoured by whatever it was.

Then I saw it. I was torn between laughing and screaming at how tiny it was. How hideous. Then I realized that that was its strength, for no one would be looking for an enemy no larger than a bumblebee. I wondered how many of them there were, how much damage had been done, how many people had been killed.

Buzzing loudly, it leaped at me, and I flinched, instinctively batting at it with my flyswatter. I felt my weapon connect with something deceptively heavy, given its size, and it was knocked to the ground, fluttering dazedly. I quickly followed up my advantage and smashed down upon it. Once, twice, a dozen times, stamping down and dancing upon it until it was nothing but a smear on the floor. I was pretty sure it was dead by then.

I looked up to see my parents staring at me with wide eyes, taking in my dog's skinless, bloody carcass and my wild expression. "What on earth was that honey?" my mother asked, appalled. My dad simply stared in shock.

Swallowing a few times to ease my dry throat, I managed, "A... a bug."

"We'd better call an exterminator. It looks like we've got a really nasty infestation starting." My father pronounced. I stared at him in disbelief, then I began to laugh. If they only knew.

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