A Small Town Science Fiction Mystery
Night comes and I drive here again, as I did that first evening when it all began. Pale birches lean low over the road, silver in the moonlight. The radio plays softly. No other cars, only the steady hum of my own in motion across the hills that lie before me in puritan shapes. The dark woods crowd, shut out the sky. At last I turn off and follow the road that leads around the lake to home.
I put off this ritual as long as I can and pretend I have other things to do, but it doesn’t help. The old hall clock strikes eleven and I get up and take my jacket off the hook behind the door and pull out the keys to the car.
On the back roads my headlights catch the grasses that rise in wild profusion from the fields. I hear the river at times, the whitewater coursing, and even though I am afraid, I stop and get out and stand on the bank, listening. Stars cover the blackness. Light from an eon ago. The sound of the river soothes me a little. I go back to the road and follow the winding path again. A futile, meaningless act, born out of compulsion, as if by retracing the route over and over I can erase it.
I pass the lake only once, circling slowly. The surface is placid, black water a little lighter than the land, but it is a natural light, the diffusion of the air. From the shore comes the cry of a loon, and after a pause, an answer in the hoarse voice of an owl. Nothing else. The familiar sounds seem deceivers, a mask for something that waits out there. But it is all my own imagining. I drive on, satisfied. I can sleep, now.
I’ll leave this place soon. Events reached their end some time ago yet I’ve lingered on. Some of the residents act as if nothing ever happened, or perhaps have come to believe none of it ever did. I thought that might change, at one point, only I didn’t count on how quickly routine could re-establish itself, how it can assert the values that hold people together, or keep them apart.
The thing is, though, nothing is the same, and I can’t deny that, and in the end, I know that what we were shown, what happened to us, mattered. We were meant to understand that it did.
Night comes to Whitton Falls, and for Cate Somers, paleontologist and researcher, the university town she thought of as a safe harbor has an insidious element at work. Cate gradually becomes aware that there is a hidden presence, alien and cold and impossible to stop. Whoever or whatever is attacking local residents has an agenda that is accelerating.
Cate is called on to help in the investigation, along with the sheriff’s nephew, Wyatt, a homicide detective from New York. But everything she assumes about what is going on is altered when her biologist friend Emma analyzes metal objects found at the killing sites. The series of murders has left a trail of evidence that has its origins in a peculiar chemistry. Each one contains the attributes of anaerobic bacteria, the sort that NASA and ExoMars would expect to show up on other planets.
The rules of what is “real” no longer apply.