Teenager Gabe Common and his girlfriend, Millie Themmes, have moved back to Chumsville, the place where the magic that changed them started. Although they attempt to move on with their lives, some forces in the world will not let them.
For one, the ambient magic still exists, and this time it has spread across the state of South Dakota. In fear, the president authorizes the military to contain the Changed, those transformed into something other than human.
Additionally, civilian militias are out to kill the Changed. Once again, Gabe has to lead the residents of Chumsville and fight the intolerance around them, even at the cost of his life. It comes down to not only a battle for acceptance, but also one of survival. The only question is whether Gabe and his friends can survive the upcoming conflict.
Early the next morning
Gabe awoke with a start, gasping and flailing around in bed. The dream, it had come again, and although he usually didn’t have nighttime visions, that one had been particularly unsettling.
“A dream,” he murmured. “It was only a dream.”
It was still dark outside, and the air around him was cool. Autumn—actually, a precocious winter—came early in these parts, and a faint chill hung in the air. He’d never experienced winter in that part of the country before, but he’d gone through winters in Toronto, as well as in Minneapolis, and neither of those two cities was known for its December balminess.
His heart still pounded in his chest, and he wiped a burst of sweat from his forehead. After taking in a few deep breaths to calm down, he threw off the covers and glanced at the clock on the night table. The unholy number five greeted him. “This crap is getting to me,” he muttered. If the experts were correct, then sleep deprivation led to nightmares in some cases. The dream he’d just had must have been one of them.
Upsetting didn’t half describe the nature of his nightmare. So vivid, so real… He shook it off. Get ready. His shift at the diner was due to start at six-thirty. From experience, he knew the customers would arrive before seven.
“Move your butt,” he urged his inner self and took off to the shower. Twenty minutes later, freshly showered, shaved, and dressed, he walked out of his simple two-story wooden house, down the gravel street, and over to the diner.
As he walked, he scanned the area, checking for anything out of the ordinary. He then checked his own thoughts, as nothing in the little town could be considered ordinary in any way. The streets leading to the highway were quiet. The fields, formerly ripe with grains of wheat, rye and barley, had already been harvested.
Now they lay empty and bare, sleeping, waiting for the spring of next year to begin their growth cycle anew. When it was time, the inhabitants of Chumsville would be out to help kick-start the process by planting and sowing the land. Then nature would take over and do what it did best—give life to land. .
No traffic had come his way since the authorities had deemed Chumsville to be a source of danger. Signs, posted along the highways leading in, warned those who were brave enough to approach the town that they were in danger of changing. If they didn’t want to end up as a gargoyle or something equally odd, then they needed to keep going.
The idea of someone becoming a gargoyle made Gabe alter his path, and he walked in the direction of a life-size stone statue. It was positioned at the edge of the highway leading to Faulk County. He’d left the statue there as a warning. Come in and you may be transformed, and it might not be into something you wanted.
That was the gargoyle’s name as it was no ordinary statue. It had once been a living being. Ted had been a classmate of Millie’s when she’d attended school in Angels Camp. He’d been turned into an aberration against his will. Then he, , Gabe, Millie, and the rest of the Changed had been arrested by the army. Washington had called the armed forces in to contain the spread of the magic, but to no avail.
Gabe had soon learned that the army had had another goal in mind. They wanted to use the mutated DNA of the Changed to manufacture living weapons.
Not weapons, no, thought Gabe. The army had wanted to create living nightmares, and he couldn’t have allowed it. When Gabe and the group of the Changed had fled the area, Ted had tried to murder an army general, a dreadful man named McKenzie. While the general had most certainly deserved an ass-kicking, and then some, he hadn’t deserved death.
Ted had thought otherwise. He’d raised a rifle, sighted it, and then the magic had wreaked havoc, turning the hapless gargoyle into a permanent perch for birds to roost on. The memory of watching the transformation always triggered regret, as well as remorse, in Gabe.
Ted hadn’t been the nicest person around, but for that to happen to him? No, definitely not fair. But then again, magic never had been and never would be fair. It made the rules and enforced them without mercy. “I’m sorry,” Gabe whispered. “I never meant for this to happen to you.”
Even though neither young teen had ever gotten along with the other, Gabe couldn’t shake off his emotions. Things shouldn’t have turned out this way, but all the same, they had.
Sighing, he turned away and viewed the fields once more. Empty or not, they were beautiful, he decided. And for some reason—magic, it was always magic—the land was most fertile. He almost smelled the seeds germinating, although he knew it was only his imagination working overtime.
As he glanced at the sky, the first fingers of dawn began to poke their way through the darkness to light up the land. The farmers there had their job down to a science. They mapped everything out, rotated their crops for maximum yield, and seemingly knew all the secrets of growing crops.
He guessed their expertise came from experience, but necessity also factored in, for farming was all they had, and they had nowhere else to go. They’d built a crude mill for their grain, done the proper job, but no one would buy from them.