The town had an eerie stillness about it, a kind of emptiness that cut into Carl more deeply than the chill February breeze. Walking down the street, not a soul stirred: the sidewalks were vacant, the cars were parked and locked, and the store windows were fogged and frosted. Carl knew that the subzero temperatures had forced everyone indoors, but he still felt a kind of grinding uneasiness as he walked along.

A shape appeared at the far end of the block. Carl felt a bit of relief in seeing another soul, and was about to cry out a friendly hello when he noticed something very strange about the other person’s gait.

“Hey, are you all right?” he said. A moment later he gasped—a sound that quickly became a shocked yelp.