Portents

It began with the sound of the wind chimes. They had been hanging on my porch for years, stirring in even the slightest of breeze, their music a part of my daily life. But there was something different about them this time, an odd cadence that my ear was unaccustomed to.

“An ill wind,” my great-aunt would have called it. She’d grown up in Kansas, her childhood prone to tornados. But we were far away from there, in a place where such things were unheard of. And yet I could not possibly deny that something was in the air.

Not long after that, my son reported seeing hundreds of dead bees along the pathway he took to and from school every day. And he was right, though he’d failed to notice that they were all lying on their backs, evenly spaced six inches apart, their heads pointed in the exact same direction. All 327 of them.

I told myself it was merely a hoax, the act of some cruel person with too much pesticide and too little to occupy himself with constructively. Yet that night I had difficulty sleeping.

Two weeks later my neighbor’s cat birthed a litter of kittens, one of which had been promised to my daughter. There were six of them all told, each born white as milk fresh from the udder, and without a mouth. They died within minutes, their mother hissing and mewling in terror at their corpses until allowed to flee the room.

A cruel twist of genetics, I consoled my daughter. She was young, and would hopefully forget the cruel sight of those mouthless, staring beasts.

Less than a month later my entire family awoke to a tremendous rattling, our entire house shaking to the foundation. We huddled underneath the duration, my children wailing in terror, my wife remembering the earthquakes she’d experienced out west in college. Our region had never known such things.

More incidents followed. Bullfrogs in the community pond belched up live garter snakes; parked cars turned themselves on and then just as quickly shut down again; the river demarcating the eastern county line reversed flow for an hour and a half. All odd and strange, all arguably dismissible as bizarre but explainable phenomena. It does occasionally rain frogs, after all.

And yet one hot summer night I woke, unsettled, hearing the sound of the chimes through an open window. Barefoot and in my pajama pants I went downstairs and out to the front porch. Though the chimes still tinkled, I could feel no breeze on my bare skin.

I was groggy from ill dreams, and perhaps that explains what I saw then. Perhaps not.

It was a cloudless night, the sky full of stars, the few acres of my property illuminated by the soft moonlight. Except their was no moon; or rather, it appeared utterly black, blacker than a person could even imagine, like a perfect hole punched in the deep blue canopy of night.

I saw this floating pool of absolute darkness, and could no longer deny what my instincts had been telling me all along.

Something was coming.

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