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E. Lillith McDermott writes dark fiction for young adults and adults who still believe they are young. She collects apothecary bottles, spellbooks, and the tears of her enemies. Her work can be found at elillithmcdermott.com and geekmom.com.

"Have you noticed that dogs don't howl anymore?" She paused the movie, a sub-par remake of War of the Worlds, walked to the window. He slid off the bed, followed. On the street below, another firetruck and a police car slow-rolled their way through the four-way stop. The red and blues flashed across her face. He leaned against the wall and watched the emergency strobes turn her into an alien goddess--skin reflecting purple, eyes sparking red.
"I guess I never thought about it."
She stared into space. "I remember, when I was a kid, how the neighborhood dogs would howl. They'd start with the sirens, but they'd go on forever. Off and on all night. I used to lie in bed and pretend it was a symphony--or a movie soundtrack."
He stepped up to the window, followed her gaze down to the neighbor's dog. The Rottweiler sat, head cocked, watching the disappearing vehicles through the fence slats. "Maybe we've bred howling out of them." Turning away from the animal, he studied the way the fading colors made the yards look foreign, like a Martian landscape.
Her eyes stayed fixed on the dog, watched it walk across the yard, stop and stare into nothingness. "I don't see how, in a couple of generations, they got rid of thousands of years of behavior. And don't you think we'd have heard about it? You know, the way every poodle mix is called hypoallergenic."
The sirens fading, he listened to the normal background rumbles of the city--a silent night by modern standards. "Maybe it's just too noisy--maybe the dogs can't really hear the sirens anymore."
The emergency vehicles with their multi-color strobes gone, her face returned to human. Nothing but the mundane security lights reflected through the window. She turned. "Oh, they can hear. I see them--they listen to the sirens. They just don't answer. Or maybe it's that they don't join in."
The silence carried its own sense of oppression, he walked back to the bed. Tom Cruise waited to dodge alien capture. "Then what do you think it is?"
She ran a hand through her hair. He loved the new blue dye--like making love to a character from Star Trek. "I don't know. Sometimes I think it's some sort of warning. You know, a canary in a coalmine sort of thing. Like that National Geographic special we saw about frogs disappearing in the Amazon."
"It's probably something simple. The sirens might not sound the same anymore. Like they use different technology or something. You know, improvements."
"Or maybe the dogs are just too busy listening to something else." She leaned against the window.
He started the movie. She wouldn't care, she was always saying these stories were nothing but human hubris--when has the weaker species ever fought off more advanced invaders? "Like what?"
Across the room, she shrugged--her gaze a million miles away.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Author Comments

I remember dogs howling when I was little. But now? Take a listen, I dare you.

- E. Lillith McDermott
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