The Change

Submitted for Contest #45 in response to: Write a story about change.... view prompt

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It happened near the end of summer, which is when I guess a lot of changes take place. The three of us, Mickey, George, and I were out at Mickey’s family camp on the lake, swimming and doing our best to forget that we only had two more days before we went off to start our first year at college.


The sun was hot and white that day, but the lake was dark and cool. Mickey and George were swimming close to the dock, splashing water at each other, but I was far away from them, almost in the middle of the lake, feeling the cool water caress my skin and change my brown hair from dry hay to seaweed.

I heard the others call to me from the dock: Hey, come on, Steve, we better be leaving, it’s getting kinda late. Okay, I called, I’ll be back in a minute. I lay on my back and let the waters gently rock me back and forth while I looked up at the clouds. It all seemed so peaceful that I felt like closing my eyes, so I did…

But when I opened my eyes a few seconds later, I suddenly saw that the sky was dark. Maybe it’s a dark cloud, I thought at first, but I soon realized that no cloud could make the sky that black.


It was night. The stars were all out, but there was no moon, and I began to become afraid.

"Hey, Mickey! George! Where are you? "I called out across the dark water, but there wasn’t any answer, and I saw no one ahead of me, just the blackness of the night over the ebony lake.

I swam to the dock as fast as I could and called again, but there was no answer, no sound at all except for the chirping of crickets.

I climbed up the ladder of the dock and walked through the darkness of the dressing room a few feet away. According to my luminous watch, it was nine-thirty. I changed into my clothes and then tried to get into the lake home, but found it locked.

There was no car. We’d come out to the lake in Mickey’s but now it was gone, so I knew I would have to walk down the dirt road leading from the lake home until I reached a telephone.

I began walking down the dark road, shivering because I was slightly wet and there was a soft night wind. As I walked I tried to reason out what had happened to me and why it had happened. Had I fallen asleep? No — that was impossible. But what could it be? And why had Mickey and George abandoned me?

To my left was the dark lake, lit only by the stars and a sparse sprinkling of yellow lights from the opposite shore; to my right was a forest that extended almost indefinitely to the west.

After walking over a mile without passing a single person or house, I noticed a blazing fire up ahead on the right side of the road, with about a dozen men sitting around it on logs. The men looked like hobos; they were laughing and seemed very happy. I walked up to them, feeling the fire’s warm glow pat my cheek as I approached. Say, I asked one of the men, "Have you seen a black and white convertible go by this road anytime within the last few hours?"

The man thought before answering. He was old, as most of the men were, and had a full head of crisp white hair. No, he finally said. "Can’t say as I have. But we wouldn’t see a car going by if one did. What seems to be the trouble?"

I briefly told them what had happened to me, and as soon as I finished, the men broke into loud laughter. It wasn’t unkind laughter, but it frightened and annoyed me. Then the man that I had questioned turned to me, and said, "Look, boy, don’t you know yet what happened this afternoon? Haven’t you found out yet?"

"No, "I said, gazing anxiously into the fire." What happened?"

"It’s the end of the world," the man said, and he turned to the other men and gave a rusty sort of cackle, and the other men fell into laughter again.

"What do you mean?" I asked the man.

"Oh, nothing at all, boy, nothing at all. That’s just a joke of ours. Nothing’s really changed for us — just for you. And even for you, it’s not the end….Why not sit down and have a hot dog with us? Or maybe some coffee –"

"No thanks, " I said. I felt uneasy hearing the men laugh and seeing the strange look in their eyes. No thanks, I better be going.

"Well, boy," the man said, "you’re always welcome here — anytime, remember that. We always have a lot of good stories to tell about the old days, and there’s plenty of food to pass around. New folks are always welcome."

"Do you come here often?" I asked.

The man gave me a quick stare." Boy, "he said," don’t you know? We’re always here — we never go anywhere else".

"But what do you do in the daytime?"

"Daytime?" he said. "What daytime? Don’t you know it’s always night now — it’s the end of the world, remember?"

At this, the men started to roar with laughter, and I walked slowly away until their voices were distant whispers in the night, and the fire behind me was a faint and faraway glow.

Finally, I came to another lake home. There were no lights, but I decided to try the house anyway; the next lake home was probably a long-distance away. I stepped up on the old wooden porch, hearing the boards beneath me creak and whine under my weight, and I began to knock when I heard a voice come to me from the far right end of the porch. It was the voice of an old woman:

"What do you want, young man?"

I turned around to see the source of the voice. It was an old whitehaired woman in a rocking chair. I could hardly see her in the darkness, but I could tell her eyes were unfriendly." Could I please use your phone?" I asked.

"I got no phone," the old woman said. "Get away now and let me be."

"Well do you know of a place nearby," I asked," a place nearby with a phone I could use?"

"I don’t know," the old woman said." Now git — I can’t be bothered none with your problems. Who do you think I am, your mother?"

I looked into her eyes and they seemed to be saying the same thing: Get away, they seemed to say, you’re telling me something that I don’t want to know, don’t want to think of. Get away. Get away. Get away. I walked off the porch and onto the dirt road and then walked on, further and further, hour after hour, without seeing a sign of a house or person.

Finally, the road led away from the lake and connected to the highway. I passed a closed filling station, and then a dark supermarket that looked like a huge phantom in the night. All the houses were shrouded in black. I decided to wait until I reached downtown, and then phone my parents from an all-night drug store

– but when, hours later, I reached the drug store, it was dark and the door was locked. So I walked home from there, thinking; Surely Mom and Dad must be at home.

But when I reached home and rushed inside to Mom and Dad’s room, no one was there. I checked in my brother’s room. The house was empty.

Days went by, weeks, and it never got light again. I stayed in the house, waiting for something to happen, cooking my own meals.

But one day, when the supply of food at home ran out, I decided to leave. I got into the car and drove through the dark town, out onto the state highway, to other towns. I visited other states. Everywhere it was the same. Every once in awhile I would meet a person, but none was any more friendly than the old woman.

Day by day I grew more lonely, but at the same time, I grew more independent. As I drove through many towns, I would stop at filling stations to fill my gas tank, and at nights I would sleep in empty hotels.

But gradually things began to change. People became more friendly, although none of them would explain to me what had happened. One day I asked a man I met in a hotel; why is it always dark? Where is everybody? When is it going to be day again?

"Day? "the man said. "What does that word mean? And what do you mean, ‘Where is everybody?' No one’s gone away. Maybe you haven’t been looking in the right places."

The words of the man at the hotel stayed with me for some time. By now I was completely self-sufficient, and no longer felt the need to find my family: I would have liked to have seen them again, but I was no longer dependent on them. From this, I gained certain self-respect that I had never had before. But the words of the man started me thinking: he had said I hadn’t been looking in the right places. What did he mean?

Then I remembered the old man at the fire. Would they still be there? It would be worth finding out.

I got into my car and drove through the many towns without stopping, and in twelve hours I was back in my home town. Then I turned onto the highway leading to the lake and finally onto the dirt road. I passed by the house of the old woman, thinking, I don’t need her help anymore. I saw the faint glow of the old men’s fire ahead.

I drove on, faster. At last, I was there.

I pulled up on the side of the road. I got out and saw the men seated around the fire, and heard their voices while I approached. Only now it appeared different; there seemed to be more people there now than before. There were dozens of all ages and both sexes.

Suddenly I saw Mickey and George in the group. I ran up to them.

"Hey, Steve, how’re you doing? "Mickey said when he saw me. You know we’ve been waiting for you here for a long time. Where have you been?"

"Everywhere," I said. "I was here once before, but you and George weren’t here then. I’m sure glad I found you — Say, are Mom and Dad here?"

"Sure," George said. "So’s your brother. They were always here, but when you came through here the first time you weren’t close enough to the fire to see them. I guess that was it. Maybe you were in such a rush you just didn’t notice them.

I turned towards the fire and saw one of the old hoboes." Hello, boy," he said. Or should I be calling you boy now? Anyway, come and have a hot dog with us. Sit down and I’ll tell you a story of the good old days –"

I sat down by the glaring fire and looked around into the familiar faces. I realized then that I was home. Shadows were dancing wildly against the surrounding trees from the flickering of the fire, and when I looked around at all of my friends who were there, I wondered why I hadn’t seen them before. Had I been too preoccupied with other things, or had they been too far away from the fire? Well, now it was unimportant.

A soft wind stirred the fire, and a few sparks shot far up into the air and seemed to become part of the starry sky. I moved closer to the fire and listened closely while the old hobo started into his tale.




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51 comments

Hi Batool, I think this was a good first story to start with! Welcome to Reedsy! I noticed a few grammatical errors...I hope you don't mind feedback... You didn't really use speech marks when you made the characters talk, this was a little complex as it didn't differentiate much, however, this story really captivated me and I believe that's one of the main rules a writer should include! Well done on a first story!

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Batool Hussain
13:07 Jun 14, 2020

Thanks for the feedback! I would definitely keep these things in mind for sure:)

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You're welcome, just a minor bump that's all.

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18:45 Jun 14, 2020

The picture was a great added touch! Make sure to add quotation marks! Sincerely, A.

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Batool Hussain
11:10 Jun 15, 2020

Thanks, Anna, for your feedback! I'll be grateful if you give your views on my future pieces too:)

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14:32 Jun 15, 2020

You got it! Sincerely, A.

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Elliott Laurence
15:46 Jun 14, 2020

You use description well, Batool. Your writing paints a picture throughout the story that immerses the reader. I felt as if I was visiting these places and meeting the characters the same as the narrator. And, with the desire to find out what happened that the end of the world occurred and there is no more day...Suspenseful.

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Batool Hussain
17:33 Jun 14, 2020

Thank you Elliott for your response! Truly overwhelmed:)

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Elsa jude Gazzea
10:20 Jun 14, 2020

Good, I liked it. It was so fantastical, as though it were pulled from someone's dream. It kept me glued!!! I would love it if you could check out my stories too!!! XElsa

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Batool Hussain
13:10 Jun 14, 2020

Yayyy, I loved the fact that it kept you 'glued' :) I'll definitely check your stories out

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D. Holmes
02:43 Jun 14, 2020

This was a cool take on the prompt! I like how you left it up to the reader's interpretation why the narrator wasn't "looking in the right places" and initially couldn't see the others by the fire. (The part about the people by the fire reminded me a bit of Fahrenheit 451, when Montag meets the drifters.)

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Batool Hussain
05:00 Jun 14, 2020

Thanks, Holmes! I love your feedback :)

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Roshna Rusiniya
11:24 Jun 13, 2020

Very well-written. Warm and light-hearted. The picture was interesting!

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Batool Hussain
11:26 Jun 13, 2020

Thank you! Glad that u liked it.

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Marccc O.
06:15 Jun 16, 2020

The picture was a great addition to the beautiful story! Really like the way you described everything:)

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Batool Hussain
09:05 Jun 16, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Samantha Chills
05:44 Jun 16, 2020

An amazing story and the pictures were a great new idea! Keep it up:)

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Batool Hussain
09:05 Jun 16, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Rhondalise Mitza
04:25 Jun 14, 2020

Wow, love the pictures! That’s a new idea for sure but it goes well with your story! I read in your bio you were sixteen, which is super cool, but I recommend not putting that in your bio because there are online creeps even on Reedsy 😢 I’m fifteen and there are a few others who are younger and I’ve told them all to take the ages off, but to keep writing, of course! Check out my stories too if you have time. 💕🌸

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Batool Hussain
04:57 Jun 14, 2020

Thanks, Rhondalise for the appreciation and for warning me out of the creeps:) I love to read out different pieces on Reedsy especially when all the people here are so talented! Will definitely check yours out:)

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Gee Here
14:46 Jun 15, 2020

The description is all so amazing! A Brilliant piece:)

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Batool Hussain
14:52 Jun 15, 2020

Thanks for the compliment:)

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Gee Here
14:56 Jun 15, 2020

You're welcome!

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Mara C
12:42 Jun 16, 2020

Wow! I really like this - you use your descriptions so well! Well done! <3

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Batool Hussain
12:50 Jun 16, 2020

Thank you so much for your kind comment, Mara! :)

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Mara C
12:54 Jun 16, 2020

No problem!

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Kelly Vavala
15:48 Jun 16, 2020

Very well done! Descriptive writing at its best! Would you read mine as well! Ashen Tears

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Batool Hussain
17:33 Jun 16, 2020

Thank you so much for a positive feedback, Kelly:) I'll gladly check your story out...

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Urooj Asim
14:35 Jun 17, 2020

Beautifully written!!

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Batool Hussain
14:38 Jun 17, 2020

Glad that you liked it! :D

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Zunairah Tariq
16:50 Jun 18, 2020

The story is amazing it felt like i was steve !!! Also the pictures made it more interesting.

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Batool Hussain
16:53 Jun 18, 2020

Thank you so much. Glad that you liked it:)

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Zunairah Tariq
16:58 Jun 18, 2020

You’re welcome! Keep up the good work :)

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Batool Hussain
17:04 Jun 18, 2020

:D

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Tim Law
21:49 Jun 23, 2020

Wow Batool. Such a great story. Well deserving of so many likes.

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Batool Hussain
06:06 Jun 24, 2020

Thank you so much, Tim:)

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Sophia Rose
23:02 Jun 21, 2020

Lovely insight with the pictures. Well written and the creativity is exceptional . If you ever get any free time i would really appreciate if you could read my book 'Silver Crown'

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Batool Hussain
04:54 Jun 22, 2020

Thank you so much, Sophie! I'll check your stories in a while:)

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Z. H.
19:34 Jun 21, 2020

I think this is an exquisite story! A very creative take on the prompt! If you have the time, can you give me feedback on my stories? Thanks.

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Batool Hussain
04:53 Jun 22, 2020

Thanks:) And, of course!

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Anthony Neal
10:22 Jun 19, 2020

I found your use of photographs to be very effective, I didn't know we could do that on here! We get a good sense of place from your descriptions - we are always rooted in the setting with the protagonist, which makes the narrative easy to follow. My main piece of advice would be try and use verbs in your descriptions instead of adjectives - verbs imply action and movement, whereas adjectives alone paint a still image. Great work and welcome to Reedsy!

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Batool Hussain
11:47 Jun 19, 2020

Aww, that is such a sweet comment. The best one I've received so far; made me smile the entire time I was reading it! Thank you so very much for your piece of advice and the welcome, Anthony *_*

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Ken Coomes
18:36 Jun 29, 2020

Batool, you've done it again (or since this was an earlier story, you started doing it.) Captured your readers, made us keep reading, and wanting more. Raising questions, and making characters come to life. What more can I say?

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Batool Hussain
17:37 Jun 30, 2020

Thank you so much, Ken! I was going through this story's comments and saw yours. I don't really know how I missed it. Anyway, thanks:) So glad that you liked it!

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16:47 Jun 26, 2020

Just read this - excellent! A couple of questions that I would like to see answered if you revisit this story to expand it (and I would love to see you do that). First, it's a bit unclear whether or not "Steve" fell asleep -I don't swim and it's a minor point, but I would think he would have sunk and drowned. Maybe he was on a float? Second, and again a minor point, but if the lights were off, how did he cook his food? Wood stove, propane? And what would cause the spotty power outages. What caused the grid to go down? If an EMP, the cars li...

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Batool Hussain
18:32 Jun 26, 2020

Thanks for taking out time and reading😊 I appreciate such an elaborate feedback.Hopefully, your questions will be answered when I get time to go through it again. For now, I'm working on my next story. And, it would mean the world to me if you promise to check it out🙃🌈 Thanks.

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12:33 Jun 29, 2020

Of course!

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