Basil had never seen anything like it.  Just a few minutes before, he had been minding his own business, which was no business at all, when the sky had erupted into a massive purple bruise. Where before there had been only darkness; now the field in which he stood was enveloped in a violet glow that seemed to ooze out of the starless heavens.  It drifted down like a mist to swirl about him.  Startling at first, it made itself beautiful as it caressed him.  He felt it seeping through his clothes to lap warmly at his flesh, flesh it soon permeated, filling him with its heat.  For an instant he felt as though his body had ceased to be material, and it seemed the wind would scatter his atoms across the field like so much dander.   Then it was over.  His body suddenly full of lead, he dropped to the ground, a senseless mass of flesh, beneath the starless sky.

It was dawn when he awoke.  As he opened his eyes, he wondered how he had ever endured such brilliance.  The harsh sunlight seared the field, draining the color from it.  He blinked and rubbed his eyes, but the world continued to look like an overexposed black and white movie.  And the noise!  The chirping, hissing and rustling around him was a symphony of discordant notes, a scratched record playing over and over.  He felt disoriented, not drunk, but hung over.

As he walked across the field toward his home, he was aware of his every step.  He cringed as his feet collided with the earth, and the grain felt like razors as it brushed against his pant legs.  Even his clothes were odious to him.  His shirt hung on his shoulders, pressing down on him, and his smothered feet suddenly felt as though they would burst.

He encountered his sister at the gate that opened into the front yard of his parent’s house.  She was bouncing a red ball upon the walkway.  Thud!  Thud!  The sound of the ball against the cement sickened him, as did the red blur that moved between her hand and the ground.  He heard a sound he dimly realized came from him, and the girl looked up at him.  How horrible she was!  Her head was a globe that swayed upon a slender stalk atop a shapeless jumble of colors.  As she moved, the rustling of her dress seemed an undulating mass of serpents and the yellow hair that wreathed her head nauseated him.  As she looked at him, the globe split into a red gash full of white bone.  Saliva glistened in the gash as she gurgled and grunted.  Her arms were veins that waved and pulsated as she ran at him.  He vomited and fell to his knees.

“How much did you take?  Where did you get it?  You are in big trouble, mister,” said the bloated, pulpy thing.  Like the smaller creature, its head was covered in yellow tendrils and its body was a shapeless mass of swirls.

“Mom,” he said, recognizing the creature, yet not really understanding her relationship to him, “I feel weird.”

“Are you on drugs?  Please tell me what you took.”

He understood, yet did not understand.  There were two of him, and the one who understood was buried within the one who did not.  Suddenly realizing this, the inner being tried to speak the same language.  Confusion mingled with impotence to produce fear, and the snippets of thought one being could relate to the other only increased the terror.  Sensations were filtered through one to the other where sinister associations were applied.

“Help me!  You’re all monsters!  Why aren’t you what you should be?”, he screamed as the light faded and he was left with the sound of his own, suddenly alien voice echoing in the darkness.

The doctors could not explain Basil’s condition.  He had, before the morning of his alteration, exhibited  no signs of abnormality.  Indeed, he had not been regarded as exceptional in any regard.  Unambitious and unimaginative, no one would have anticipated extreme behavior of any kind from him.

Eventually, Basil returned to a semblance of his former laconic self and it was assumed the medication the doctors prescribed was effective.  Soon, he was as invisible to the community as he had been before.  Sometimes he would be spotted, wandering about the woods or the cornfields, and people would talk, but for the most part he was forgotten.

Though he learned to conceal it, the world continued to be a source of horror and fascination for Basil.  As his memory processed that which he encountered, the confusion of the other being corrupted the process, causing his memories to be tainted with strange associations.

Being excused from the normal expectations associated with adulthood due to the possibility of a relapse, he was allowed to wander about his parent’s farm, being required to perform only minor chores, until he was well into his thirties.  His father grew old and tired, but Basil’s sister had married a strong man, ambitious within the scope of his limited desires and experience, so Basil could afford to play the role of an invalid.

On clear nights, Basil would wander out into the night to stare at the heavens.  Regardless of the temperature, he would stand for hours out in the fields, clad in whatever he had worn to bed that night, most often a pair of sweat pants and a tee shirt.  On some nights, when the moon was unusually large, and the fields were awash in silver, Basil seemed to glow.  On such nights, and for days after, the fields were silent and empty, undisturbed by the chirping and groaning of rural bestiary.


Paul was drunk and in a hurry to get his prize, a pretty young girl named Amy sitting next to him on the front seat of his father’s car, to the secluded alcove in the woods just beyond the corn fields.  Paul had been pursuing the girl for months, and had finally persuaded her to forget her parents and to sneak a few sips from the bottle he had bribed his older brother to procure.  That bottle had cost him nearly a whole week’s wages, but it had been worth every penny.  His companion, never having tasted anything more lethal than a cream soda, had succumbed to the poison in the bottle after but a few gulps, leaving Paul with enough of the whiskey for the anticipated victory celebration.  Half conscious, she would be as pliable and generous as he desired.

As they rounded a bend in the road Paul felt in his pocket for the condom he had carried around for the past six months.  It had come to symbolize his frustration, and he smiled as he considered the destruction he had planned for it.  Then he saw the moon, and the motionless wraith who stared up at it.  Startled by the apparition, he lost sight of the road.  A second later, the front of the car was embedded in a ditch, the hood bowed up to meet the cracked windshield.  Paul’s first reaction was to beat upon the wheel, attempting to silence the horn that nevertheless continued to bellow.  Images of his father, enraged by the damage to the family’s only means of transport, of unsympathetic policemen eager to deprive him of his license and perhaps his liberty, closed in upon him.  He was about to cry when, remembering the girl, he looked over to see a red smear on the cracked windshield.  Amy sat slumped forward.  She was not moving.  With a shaking hand, Paul reached over and pushed her back against the seat.  Her head swayed, then fell against her right shoulder before rolling back down to meet her chest.  Paul covered his face with his hands and wept.

Suddenly, Paul became aware of something happening in the seat next to him.  Looking over, he saw Basil reaching in through the open passenger side window.  A purple glow oozed from Basil’s hand, seeping down over the girl until she was enveloped in a luminous cocoon.  The girl trembled and inhaled the light.

When Paul awoke, he was on a stretcher.  As he was being loaded into the ambulance, he saw a young girl approach.  He tried to remember why this was wrong, why this particular girl should not have been standing there, looking down at him with blank violet eyes.  Then he heard someone saying something about a cracked windshield.

“Dead,” Paul repeated as a needle punctured the skin of his forearm.  He sat up to see Amy looking in at him.  She grinned before the doors of the ambulance closed, and he fell back down, unconscious.


The woman sat upon the edge of the sofa, hugging herself as she rocked back and forth.  Her husband paced franticly between her and the detective who sat at the kitchen table.

“Is this a recent photo of your daughter Mrs. Williams?”

“Yes.  It was taken at her homecoming dance just a few nights before.”

The woman started to cry.

“I don’t understand it, Mr. Doverman,” said Mr. Williams, sitting down to put his arm around his wife.  “Amy wouldn’t just run off.  She was a good girl.”

“I’m sure she still is,” said Doverman.  “Had you noticed any unusual behavior before she disappeared?”

“Our daughter was a normal, healthy girl,” said Mr. Williams.  “There was nothing unusual about her.”

“She never seemed secretive or unusually moody?”

“Not that I noticed.”

“How were her grades?”

“They were the same as always, not great but not bad.”

“Did she have any boyfriends?”

“She had a crush on an older boy named Paul Boyd, but we didn’t approve, and wouldn’t let her see him.  She isn’t with him if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“How can you be you so sure?”

“He’s dead.  He died in a car wreck the same night Amy disappeared.”

“Was Amy very upset by his death?”

“We didn’t see her to ask.  She was gone when we woke up that next morning.”

The detective put his notebook, the pages still blank, back into his coat pocket and stood up.  For a few seconds he imitated Mr. Williams’s pacing before the couple on the couch, then he stopped, shook his head, and sighed.

“This isn’t much to go on, but I can’t imagine your daughter should be too difficult to trace.  I’m going to go down town to talk to the sheriff. Maybe he can give me some more information.”

“I don’t know what he can do for you,” said Mr. Williams.  “If he had any idea of how to find our daughter, we wouldn’t have needed to contact you.”

The detective looked down at the big man with his arm around the frail, weeping woman.  He thought of a case he had handled in which the father had beaten his child to death, then called him in to find her hoping to avert suspicion.  Mr. Williams certainly seemed like he could have a temper, and he looked strong enough to hurt someone before he realized he had done it.  There was a chance the sheriff was trying harder to find the girl than the Williams’ thought, but was keeping them in the dark because he suspected they might be involved.

“Just the same, I think I’ll have a word with him.  If nothing else, I might find something in his files that he may have missed.”

The detective shook Mr. Williams’s hand, trying to be casual while he gauged the big man’s grip.           

It was a strong grip, one that might have made a man weaker than Doverman wince.


The sheriff’s grip was just as strong as Williams’.  Doverman had been expecting an incompetent hayseed, but what he found was an intelligent man trying to make the most of his limited resources.  A former military man, Sheriff Cranston was methodical and efficient. His shoes were as polished as his star shaped badge.  He had noted certain anomalies in the case of the missing girl, which he linked to the accident involving the dead boy, but there was nothing in his experience to help him explain them.  Doverman expressed his suspicions regarding the girl’s father, but Cranston quickly dismissed the notion.

“No, this has something to do with Paul Boyd.”

“Why are you so sure,” asked Doverman, watching the sheriff rummage through the files in the office’s single file cabinet.

“Look here,” said the sheriff, pulling a photo out of one of the files.  Doverman looked at the picture of the car with the cracked windshield.

“Mr. Boyd assures me this crack was not there before the accident.”

“So the windshield was cracked in the crash.  I don’t see where this is going.”

“Maybe this will give you a clue,” said the sheriff, handing Doverman a photo of the interior of the car.

“There’s blood on the dashboard.  You are suggesting Paul wasn’t driving, that he was in the passenger seat?”

“Paul was driving.  That’s not his blood, and it wasn’t his hair or brains we found splattered all over the car either.”

“That means the passenger couldn’t have walked away.”

“Right, but Paul Boyd was the only person in that car.  He was in the driver’s seat, and his brains were still in his head.  In fact, he was a little bruised up, but otherwise he was fine when he was taken to the hospital.” 

“He couldn’t have been in very good shape, considering how he ended up,” said Doverman, a little more sarcastically than he intended.

“There’s another mystery.  They don’t know what killed him.  At first it was assumed he had died of internal damage, but an autopsy revealed no such thing.  He just died.”


Basil’s thoughts were clearer.  It was as though the part of him that had been so confused had been diminished, freeing more of the rest of him.  The world still didn’t make sense to him all of the time, but he was no longer as frightened by it as he had been before the night of the accident.  Sometimes, though, he could feel the presence of something off in the distance, and he would be filled with an intense longing.

For several days it had been moving closer, and his need for it had grown stronger.  Once it had ventured as close as the edge of the field while Basil stood in his usual spot, looking up at the sky.  He had moved toward it then, but had drawn back when its thoughts flooded his mind, contaminating him with its hatred.

It was not right.  Whatever had joined with him, and had found him incapable of explaining its new surroundings to him, had reached out, perhaps spurred by his own compassion, to infect another, and that other had, in turn, infected it. Some part that had split off from him longed to escape, to be reunited with him, but it was tainted now.  The part of his mind that was Basil, the human part that had spent much of his youth in Bible class, saw it as sin incarnate and recoiled from it.  It had already killed the boy, Basil knew that much, and it wanted to kill again.  If it rejoined with him, he might find himself the instrument of its violence.

Basil stopped going outside.


Graham Williams could not make his wife hear him.  He had been on the couch, watching the late news broadcast, when he heard his wife scream.  Rushing upstairs to their bed room, he found her in bed, staring at the open window.  He shouted at her, but she did not hear him.  He shook her, but she did not move.  No matter what he did, her gaze remained fixed on the window.  There was no wind to stir the curtains, and the only sound to be heard was the faint drone of the television downstairs.  What was it that had so frightened his wife?  Afraid, without understanding why, he crept to the window and parted the curtains.  The yard was empty.  Relieved, he turned back toward his wife. 

“There’s nothing out there.  There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said, walking toward the bed with outstretched arms, but the closer he got to the woman on the bed, the more agitated she became.  Looking past her husband, she shook her head from side to side, and her lips trembled.  At last, just as he was about to reach her, she managed to whisper something that sounded like “No.”  Mr. Williams stopped, suddenly aware there was something in the room behind him.

“Why?  Why didn’t you protect me,” asked the intruder with a little girl’s voice.

“Amy?  Is that you?”

“Turn around Daddy.  Look at me!”

Graham Williams did not move.  His wife was still shaking her head and whispering, “No. No. No.…”

“Look at me!”

Slowly, Graham Williams turned to face his child.  The girl before him was his daughter, but as she had looked when she was a young child.

“Amy?  How?”

“Why’d you let it happen Daddy?  Why’d you let him kill me?”

“Who, Baby?  Who did this?” Mr. Williams asked, dropping to his knees.

“You,” said the girl, and as the word echoed through the room, she began to bleed.  Blood oozed down over her face, and her throat split, spilling more blood down the front of her dress.  Her father remembered that dress.  She had worn it the night of her First Communion.

“My Baby!  My poor baby,” he said, crying, unsure what he should do.  She moved toward him.


“No. No. No,” said Mrs. Williams.


“Looks like you’re out of work,” said the voice of the sheriff.  Doverman, still half asleep, said nothing.

“Doverman?  Are you there?  I said we just found your clients dead in their house.  Somebody fried them from the inside out.  Doverman?”

“I heard you,” said Doverman, dragging the phone toward the bathroom until the cord stopped him several feet shy of his goal.  “Let me call you back in a few minutes.”

Without waiting for an answer, Doverman hung up and then stumbled into the bathroom.  A few minutes later he was dressed.  He dumped the contents of his briefcase on the bed, lit a cigarette, then stood there looking down at the pile of papers.  Puffing furiously on the cigarette, he shuffled the papers about until he found a folder marked “Boyd, Paul,” and read until he came to the description of the boy’s brain.  The word “cooked” was there nestled in the midst of incomprehensible medical jargon.  Doverman tossed the file back onto the bed, and picked up the phone.

Less than half an hour later, Cranston lifted a sheet to expose what was left of Graham Williams. Doverman had seen a lot of dead men, but none quite like the one stretched out on the table before him. It reminded him more of a lobster he had eaten once than it did the body of a dead man. The skin was cracked and orange. The shrunken eyes floated in the black sockets like a pair of cocktail onions stuck in a jack o’ lantern.

“The wife looks about the same,” said Cranston, dropping the sheet. “The guys who are supposed to know about these kinds of things say they were boiled.”

“Boiled in what,” Doverman asked, peeking under the sheet covering what had once been Mrs. Williams.

“Their own blood,” Cranston responded.


Basil didn’t want to look, but he knew she was there, standing in the field outside of his window. He knew if he parted the curtains he would see her, staring up at the sky as he had so often done on moonless nights, scanning the heavens for one particular star. He too felt the tug. Somewhere out there in the vast sea of stars was home. His head throbbed. She, or rather whatever was inside of her, was calling to him. The siren call lured him closer to the window, but the undercurrent of hate simultaneously repulsed him. It was tearing him apart. As he teetered between desire and revulsion, he became aware someone was speaking to him.

“I said, have you seen the dog?” asked the woman in the doorway.

Basil gawked at her as though she had come from Mars. What was she talking about? Not sure how to respond, he shook his head from side to side until his sister went away. Only after she had gone did it register with him who she was and what she had been saying, and only when he heard the front door slam shut did he realize his sister was in danger.

“The dog isn’t out there,” he shouted as he raced toward the door. “Come back in!”

He flung open the door to see his sister walking out into the field with outstretched arms, summoning a dog that wasn’t there. Basil screamed, for while his sister saw the family pet loping toward her, Basil saw the girl, her eyes glowing with rage and hunger. Pushing his bewildered sister to the side, Basil threw himself in the girl’s path.


Doverman and Cranston were in the parking lot of Judy’s Diner when the sky exploded. There had been no sound, just a violent burst of purple flame that burst up from Culp’s Hill, and spread to consume the sun that had only just begun to peer over the horizon. There was no smoke, yet the air seemed to thicken, making movement cumbersome. Both men had the sensation of drowning, and instinctively held their breath. Then, suddenly it was over. Doverman and Cranston stood staring at each other, dumbfounded. Both men felt as though they had just awakened from a nightmare. Finally, Doverman broke the silence.

“What’s up there in those hills?”

“I guess I need to go find out,” responded the sheriff. “You might as well ride along. This seems right up your alley.”

Their ascent up into the hills was uneventful until they reached the apex, could see the fields on the other side spread out before them, and knew their destination. Nestled between vast swaths of green was a farmhouse surrounded by dull gray. For about half a mile in all directions, desolation radiated out from the house, the fields devoid of all vegetation.

The car kicked up clouds of gray dust as it pulled up in front of the house, and the men’s feet sunk into a carpet of ash as they exited the vehicle. As the dust settled a bit, they could see the gray was punctuated on all sides by innumerable black spots. Kicking at one, Doverman discovered they were crows. They all looked as though they had been cooked. The dog they found curled up on the porch of the house was in a similar condition.

“We shouldn’t be here until we know what happened,” said Cranston. “This whole area could be toxic.”

Doverman nodded. This was a matter for government men in Hazmat suits. He was about to suggest they head back when he noticed Cranston had his hand on his gun. He followed Cranston’s gaze to see Basil, standing between them and the car. His clothes were tattered, and his bruised skin had a purple sheen. Wild eyes glared beneath his matted bangs. He opened his mouth as if to scream, and for a moment he was Amy, her hair grizzled with blood and brains, and her eyes full of rage. The force of her shriek blew clouds of ash in the faces of the shocked men confronting her.

“I can’t hold her back,” she shouted in Basil’s voice. Suddenly it was Basil, on his knees and pounding his fists into the dirt, who knelt before them. He looked up at Cranston and Doverman imploringly, bloody tears streaming from his eyes.

“How can we help you?” asked Cranston, holstering his gun. “Tell us what happened to you.”

“You can’t help,” wailed Basil. “I can’t stop it now!”

Cranston took a few tentative steps forward while Doverman monitored the situation, his hand on the butt of his revolver. As he watched Cranston creep up on the thing that stood between them and their vehicle, Doverman thought of the dead dog, and the crows.  He remembered poached eyes of Gram Williams staring up at him from his slab in the morgue. He wondered if his bullets would even affect this monster.

“Let me get you some help,” said Cranston, who was now standing over the still kneeling Basil. Basil slowly lifted his head to stare up at Cranston. For several moments neither man moved or said a word, then, without warning, Basil’s face split open. Before Doverman could get off a shot, tendrils of purple vapor had enveloped Cranston, obscuring Doverman’s view. All Doverman could do was watch in horror as the vapor swelled into a pulsating cloud that heaved and coughed lightning before contracting into a blob of bloody flesh. It gurgled there on the spot where Cranston and Basil had faced each other only moments before. Its glistening surface was steaming like a hunk of meat just pulled from the oven, the blob elongated, stretching upward before crashing back down with a thud. It did this several times, as though it were trying to reshape itself, but couldn’t remember what it was supposed to be. Then it was gone. Doverman had blinked, and the blob had vanished.

Cranston stood there, gazing up at the sky. “It just needed someone to tell it what to do,” he said to no one in particular. “It just needed someone to explain to it that it didn’t belong here.”

Doverman put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it. He had already guessed what was going to happen. Cranston was in charge now, and he wasn’t about to let whatever it was that he had become a part of continue to exist.

“I wish I could send it home,” Cranston said. “That’s all it ever wanted, to go back up there among the stars.” Doverman watched as Cranston, or whatever was wearing Cranston’s face, turned gray and crumbled into dust.

Cranston had taken the keys with him, and Doverman wasn’t about to hotwire the Sheriff’s car. He already had enough to explain. As he started off down the road, he spotted something glimmering in the dust. Cranston’s sheriff star had survived.