It was that hum that first keyed most people into the fact that something was deeply wrong.

Oh, there had been signs before. Flocks of birds flying south in June, for one. Massive deaths among the ones that stayed, like the flock that beat itself to death against the front windows of the IGA. Lots of people lost their dogs, and lots more found them cowering under couches and in crawlspaces.

But that hum, that ominous pitch-defying hum that seemed like the music of the spheres one moment and a dire portent the next…that ever-uneasy tone that seemed straight out of the sound design for a horror movie.

We knew where it was coming from: cicadas. 17-year cicadas, emerging from their split shells to sing from the treetops. It shouldn’t have been anything to worry about, just an annoyance. But seeing the creatures was what made most people sit up and take notice.

It had only been five years since they’d last come up. The 17-year cicadas were 12 years early for the first time in human history, and nobody had any idea why.

We found out soon enough.

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“Oh my God!” buzzed Harold. “Cindy is dead!”

“No! Oh, no!” Her sister Katie rushed over to where Cindy lay on the sidewalk. “It’s not fair! She was only seventeen years old…she’d just come out of her shell…she’d only had sex once…and now she’s gone!”

The others raised their voices in a mournful wail.

“Then again, we’re all going to die by tomorrow,” Katie said. “If we’re not eaten by birds first.”

Buzzing in agreement, the assembled cicadas–none of whom had functioning mouthparts as an adult–dispersed to try and do their business in the 8-12 hours of life remaining to them.

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