"What do you see when you close your eyes?" The Voice asked. It sounded thick and sticky like tar, tasting each word it spoke, enjoying the torment it was inflicting.
Howl closed his eyes. "I see love... burning through all of space and time. Mechanical minds... waiting to die." Fear crept inside him, and the greater the fear grew, the more it consumed him.
"When you humans dream of falling, do you not realise what is truly beneath?!" The Voice roared. It was becoming vengeful and disoriented, pacing around and knocking over objects, sending them crashing and cracking musically around Howl's head.
"Just leave me alone!" Howl screamed, now no longer able to open his eyes.
Howl knew all hope was fleeting. His insides began to sway, his head swarmed and danced to the lull of dreaded sleep. He was falling...
The Voice suddenly stopped and breathed deeply, expelling toxic air as it did. Howl choked and spluttered, but remained still, lying flat on the ground with arms crossed over his chest. Then, he fell into a dark sleep.
12 Hours Earlier
The library was only a short distance from Lily's home. She had left abruptly following an argument with her father. He howled insistently about how she should never trust people, almost disappointed in her naivety, and to always do as he asked. He was the Mayor after all, except she was not his employee, she was his daughter.
Her father had lost faith in people when her mother died. She had suffocated to death in front of their very eyes. Lily can still recall the strained look upon her mother's face, the light slowly fading from her moon-lit eyes. The way she turned a strange colour and screamed silently before turning lifeless and cold. Lily shuddered at the memory.
This raised an incredible sense of abhorrence in her father, and ever since that day Lily felt a deep foreboding. Her father was a powerful man, especially in this remote town which relied heavily on his wealth. Still, the population had dwindled to only a couple of hundred people. Perhaps even less now.
Lily walked on through the night in deep contemplation. She largely ignored the glowering full moon and barely noticed as it turned red and then merged with a blueish glow, casting a strange aura over Haysbrook.
She stopped outside the library located in the centre of town and an eerie feeling overcame her.
Talen suddenly ran towards her and stopped only inches from her face.
"You're not… I mean, you're actually awake?" Talen panted, sweat dripping down his forehead like rain.
"What the hell?" Lily blurted, moving a few paces back to regain some personal space.
"The town, the people, they're all... unconscious. Maybe it's something in the air or water supply. Cover your mouth." Talen said, placing his own shirt over his mouth in a panic.
Just then Howl started calling from down the street and they turned and looked at him.
"Something weird is going on!" Howl yelled and jogged towards them.
Talen nodded at Lily as if to make his point, but she just stared at him blankly and then turned to face the sound of roaring motorcycle from behind. It was Zaé. He skidded to a halt as Howl joined them.
The four stood in a circle, observing around their dead town in confusion.
"It's about 5am," Talen spoke after a few minutes.
"It doesn't look like it," Lily replied gesturing to the dark night and moon above.
"I began manually tallying the minutes when I noticed my watch had stopped. By my calculations it should be the early hours of the morning by now. But, time seems to have stopped. And everyone in town appears to be comatose. It's like they've fallen asleep and... and can't wake up." Talen said looking strangely at Howl as though he might know something this.
"I haven't seen anyone," Howl replied, thinking about the strange creature he had seen earlier. Whatever it was, it wasn't human.
"I saw some guy asleep in his car," Zaé added hurriedly. "I thought he was drunk or something. He wouldn't wake up. It's not my fault." He then turned away and lit a cigarette, puffing on it nervously.
"Let's go check all the houses. Talen and Zaé you go check that side and Howl and I will try this side. Somebody's bound to be awake. I mean, we are, aren't we?" Lily asked a little unsure.
They all nodded, grateful someone was taking charge of the situation.
Twenty minutes later they all met up outside the library again.
"Nothing," Zaé panted, shaking his head. "It's like they're all dead or something."
"Don't say that!" Lily shivered, moving closer to Howl and holding onto his arm.
"The phones are all dead too and there's no signal. It's like something is interfering with it. Maybe this strange eclipse," Talen said studying the moon thoughtfully.
"We couldn't wake anyone, not even the pets. It's like they've all been put under a spell." Howl mumbled and bowed his head. It didn't make any sense. If anyone should be in this state it should be him. It was like the whole world had flipped and all that he had feared was now everybody else's reality.
Talen rubbed his temples and closed his eyes. "I'm not going to pretend I'm not shit scared, because I am. But there's nothing we can do standing here. Let's go in the library, try to use the radio and contact someone. There has to be others out there."
Lily started crying, thick tears rolling down soft cheeks. Her face was like that of a lost child stranded in a dark plain, unable to ever return home.
"Don't worry Lily," Howl said, comforting her with a shoulder squeeze. "We'll find a way to bring them back."