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Five years and six months ago, the world had Changed.  Whether it was for better or for worse hadn’t been decided yet.

No-one was entirely clear on what had happened.  The facts of the case were pretty obvious, but they left so many gaps that people couldn’t help but speculate.

Early on a sunny, crisp November morning five years and six months ago, six black speedboats were spotted running up the river toward the university, flying at full tilt.  Eyewitnesses, mostly students on their way to class, reported seeing four men dressed in black leap out of each boat at about 9:05 AM and race silently across the street, up the middle of the practice field through some very confused soccer players, and disappear into the intramural sports building behind it.  Reports differed, but the men were visibly armed, and most accounts described the weapons as AK-47s.

Dozens of calls were phoned to 911.  A dozen police cars arrived rapidly and surrounded the building.  The campus was locked down.  Attempts to call people inside the sports building yielded no responses.

Ten minutes after the police arrived, the building exploded.

The bang came from the southeast corner, either on the ground floor or in the basement, and most of the police later described it as having probably been a few pounds of explosive being set off.  The fire department was called as flames started to lick at the old building’s ivy-coated walls.

A burst of shots was fired from somewhere inside the building.  The police leapt into action and trained their rifles on every window.  A second burst was fired.

Another smaller explosion was heard, and it sounded to the witnesses less like a bomb and more like a water pipe bursting.

The fire department arrived at 9:43 AM, and at nearly the same time, so did members of the National Guard and FBI.  This was starting to look like a terrorist incident, and the scene had to be controlled.

Many people later speculated that if the FBI’s men had spent less time arguing with the fire department officials and police about jurisdiction, the “incident” might never have happened.  The fire department might have been able to put out the fire.  The police might have been able to — well, that was all history now.  Argue or not, it was what it was.

On a crisp Tuesday morning in November one hundred thirty miles away, Caitlyn Camberley was walking between classes when she heard students shouting and saw them run toward the commons.  She followed them inside and pressed her way through the throng that had surrounded the large-screen TVs.

“...at this time whether this was a terrorist attack or merely an accident, but the flames are growing rapidly.  DHS has issued a security alert for the city of Philadelphia.  If you’re just joining us, you’re looking at live footage of the university — ”

Caitlyn didn’t hear the rest of the sentence as an elbow struck her head.  Its owner, a bulky lacrosse player, apologized, and moved out of the way so she could get closer.

“ — have attempted to contact whoever’s inside, and, oh, God, look at that, oh, man, the north end of the building just collapsed, apparently the fire’s weakening the building pretty badly.  We’re getting word that on a typical day there are two or three hundred people in there, and there’s no telling how many people are in there right now.

“We’re switching to our helicopter feed now, Jerry, do you have that?  People have suddenly started swarming from the building, they’re coming out every door everywhere except the north end, and holy hell, what the f — what was that!?  Jerry?  Jerry?  Are you alright?”

The picture would stick in Caitlyn’s mind for the rest of her life.  It had been replayed on television a thousand times, of course, but she didn’t need to see it a thousand times to be able to see it a thousand times.

At 9:56 AM, a sudden shock-wave burst out from the building, knocking to the ground the escaping throngs, police officers, firefighters, FBI officials, and slack-jawed gawkers alike.  Seconds later, the building seemed to suddenly shrink and darken for a moment, and then a huge wash of rolling blue-tinged light burst from it.  The helicopter stuttered at the first shock-wave, and then lost control as the blue light swept over it.  Swirling, swirling, round and round, the camera and helicopter plummeted into the burning building, and then the picture showed white static.

The director quickly cut to the news man, who looked visibly pale.  “We...  we’ve lost our signal with our chopper at the scene...  we’re going to try to reestablish our link with another camera on-scene, if you’ll give us just a moment — ”

The picture cut to another helicopter flying out over New Jersey.  The city lay in the foreground.  There was a blue bubble surrounding the university in the background, and as they watched, the bubble expanded, more and more rapidly, until it had consumed the entire city.  Another camera went to static.

Caitlyn swallowed hard.  Another girl in the audience started crying.

The television had switched to the news man, who had begun reiterating the story for “those who are just joining us.”

Caitlyn shook her head.  Had Philadelphia just been nuked?

Without warning, the entire room darkened a moment and then was dimly lit in an eerie bluish glow.  All at once, the commons building shook as it was struck by a wave of brilliant blue light, and most of the students fell over.

Caitlyn sat up slowly and looked at her hand.  There was glowing, a shimmering blue light that seemed to dance on her fingertips as she moved her hand this way and that, a ghostly blue that seemed to have a life of its own.  But it wasn’t just her hand; her whole body was glowing — and then she realized everything around her was too.  The other students stood up, mesmerized by the brilliance in the room, and began wandering about in a daze.  No-one had even noticed that the television man had stopped talking.

An hour later, the blue glow had subsided, and the room had returned to its normal colors.  Students had collected throughout the room in hushed groups, trying to make sense of what had just happened.  Some just sat quietly, waiting for an answer, or waiting for the end of the world.  The television flickered back to life from the static it had been displaying, and a student quickly turned up the volume.

“— you’re seeing us,” said the news man, “that means we’re back on the air after an incident that — well, is beyond description.  Reports are coming in that the strange phenomenon that started in Philadelphia has spread all across the world, so you’ve probably seen the strange blue light yourself.  There is no word yet as to what it is or what caused it, as it does not seem to have caused significant damage outside of the Philly area.  We’re going to switch now to a live camera —”

It was about this point that Caitlyn stopped paying attention.  The blond-haired girl sitting next to her shrieked.  Sticking out from her skirt was a long, reddish-brown, scaley snake tail, and not a hint of the shapely legs that had been there a few minutes before.

The Change had begun, and while the blond-haired girl would be one of the first affected, she would be far from the last.
At last, we finally get to see what happened at the most pivotal event in the history of Caitlyn's world, the event that began the Changes. And yet... somehow, it seems to raise more questions than it answers.

As always, if you like what you're seeing, please comment. Or ask a question. No guarantee I'll answer it, since, after all, it might spoil the plot, but the question at least tells me you're reading. By now you should have plenty of questions. Or at least plenty of theories.

Part 7 is here. Part 9 is here. The introduction and author's notes are here.

Edit, April 30, 2008: In studying the story's timeline in preparation for writing some of the later chapters, I realized that it was five years and six months ago, not five years and three months ago that this happened. The text here has been updated accordingly.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconsquibble9:
squibble9 Featured By Owner May 3, 2013
Which university?
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner May 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
University of Philadelphia.

That said, no real universities were harmed in the writing of this story; there is no such school outside Caity's World.
Reply
:iconcomplete-herpderp:
complete-herpderp Featured By Owner May 1, 2013
AK-47's. why is it always AK-47's? WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE AK-47'S?
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner May 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
They're readily available on the black market. If you're planning on committing nefarious deeds, they're a depressingly good choice of weapon.
Reply
:iconcatgoyle:
Catgoyle Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2010
Good placement of this flashback, or background information. Very nice!
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This kind of stuff has to be said, and a lot of authors make the mistake of putting it up front. If you have to have background information (and many stories do), the right place to put it is in a lull in the plot, when your reader has already grown to like the characters and the story and is ready and willing to learn some of the background. First and foremost when you start a novel, focus on your characters and your story: There'll always be plenty of room later on for anything else you want to add.
Reply
:iconcatgoyle:
Catgoyle Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2010
Well you did a marvelous job with the placement here!
Reply
:iconmadjackaldelta:
MadJackalDelta Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2009  Student Writer
This is utterly fantastic. This chapter literally had me on the edge of my seat.
Reply
:icondahnza:
Dahnza Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Mmm I love the back story style chapter here, keeps it very interesting and makes people yearn for more :P
Reply
:iconcalyptra:
Calyptra Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
WHOA!
Love the background!
I can see this developing into an absolutely fantastic book.
Is it? :)
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, it is, sort of: It's an online novel, and you're reading it.

That said, I don't think that's really what you were asking; you were asking if it's been published on paper, and the answer is no, I haven't attempted it. I have significant skepticism of the publishing industry, and I don't really trust that any print publisher would be willing to pick this up and publish it: It's too "weird" and "different." It's not pretty elves singing in a magical forest; it's not spaceships battling with laser guns; it's not knights battling dragons for the hand of the fair maiden; and it's not the latest vampire romance drivel. It's different, and I don't think publishers really want different: They just want saleable, and that involves publishing solely what you already know.
Reply
:iconcalyptra:
Calyptra Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Actually I think you should give it shot. I think it'll sell very well :D
Reply
:iconcursedarchangels:
CursedArchangels Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009
still reading! :heart:
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:D
Reply
:iconvivostarrr:
VivoStarrr Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009
shit there are 34 party already?? XD cool, i#M gonna read this but some time later XD
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, I spent two years writing it. But there's only those thirty-four and an epilogue; that completes the story, in full, from start to finish, so once it's done, it's done.
Reply
:iconthebarg:
thebarg Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2009
good work
Reply
:iconuncle-ben:
Uncle-Ben Featured By Owner May 11, 2009
Oh man. Oh man. Oh man. -moves on to the next-

Thanks for the tips above. I'll have to remember them.
Reply
:iconscotts13:
scotts13 Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2007
Just stumbled across this story, and wanted to forward some encouragement. I really like your work; I check your main site every week for new content. Didn't know you could write as well...

Keep it up!
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I dunno if I can write --- I'm not really a writer --- I just attempt to write sometimes, and sometimes people like reading the result.
Reply
:iconfluffystenseiga:
FluffysTenseiga Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2007
oooh, y'know you should write sci-fi/fantasy novels. I would die of hapiness if that happened.
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well... I have a novel I've been working on for some years, but it'll be several years more before I consider it even close to finished, much less publishable. That said, I don't relish the prospects of trying to hunt down a publisher either, so I really don't know if you'll ever see it in print. But thanks for the compliment anyway ^_^
Reply
:iconfluffystenseiga:
FluffysTenseiga Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2007
oooh, y'know you should write sci-fi/fantasy novels. I would die of hapiness if that happened.
Reply
:iconcatprog:
Catprog Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2007
My theory

A portal to an alternative reality was blown open(WOC like)
Reply
:iconvashra:
Vashra Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2007
Got my attention and I'm not easily impressed. Hooray for random searches!
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Glad you liked it! Make sure you read parts 1 through 7; part 8 is far from being the beginning of the story (despite the fact that it sort of chronologically is).
Reply
:iconcornishcentaur:
cornishcentaur Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2007
great stuff, stopping on a cliffhanger and carrying on with the background story details. you are a tease!
keep it going.
are you hoping for others to write stories based on this 'world' ?
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Eventually, maybe; it's a big world out there. But initially, I'm concentrating on telling the story, and there's a lot you don't know yet, so I'd recommend you save the side stories for later when you know a bit more.
Reply
:icong3n3t1x:
g3n3t1X Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2007
Very nice...the mystery thickens !
Interesting how you tell how the Change happened.
I'd like to know more !
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You will... but you'll have to wait until next week's installment ;)
Reply
:iconauthornobilis:
AuthorNobilis Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2007
Excellent work.
Reply
:iconrogue7:
Rogue7 Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2007
Nice background flashback, I think the quality of your writing just stepped up a notch :star:
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
But thanks muchly for the compliment ;)
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
*evil grin* It was always this good; you just didn't notice until now :D =P
Reply
:iconbetherfly:
betherfly Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2007  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
*grins* oooh, a jump from the relationship to the change... I like the pace you're setting here! This is really interesting! ^^ You're spoiling us with two parts at once and I love it!!
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, it's partially that I felt that each part by itself wasn't quite enough of the pieces of the story to be able to stop at: Each one tells part of the story of the change, and leaving it at just part 7 would have only just been enough of a taste. As it is, you're gonna be waiting a bit for the main storyline to resume, just because a bit more of the backstory needs to be filled in before we can properly continue.
Reply
:iconbetherfly:
betherfly Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2007  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
That's fine! I think the backstory is just as interesting as Caitlyn is. I love how much thought you're putting into that, and the depth!! I think that makes me love the story so much more than if it had just been "something happened and now Changed people populated the world too".
Reply
:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I've read stories vaguely like that, and they're lame. Severely lame. Frustratingly lame. Even if you want to like the story, you find yourself starting to skim the text before you even get to page two.

Likewise, I've read stories where the opening paragraph of the story is the backstory, and you have to wade through pages upon pages of background before you even meet a character. Who turns out to have dialogue so stilted that he makes William Shatner sound like Winston Churchill. Been there, done that, don't intend to repeat it.

There's a fine line between too much backstory and too little, a fine line between telling people information too early and telling them too late, and hopefully, I'm straddling those lines well enough in this story. Only time will tell.

But in general: Start with your characters, focus on your characters, make your reader like your characters, and let the story build around them. By the time you get to any backstory or flashbacks, everybody will read it just because they want to know how it affects the protagonist, with whom they already sympathize.

Another thing that's worth doing if you want your readers to stay interested is to toss in a lot of "throwaway comments," little asides or even a word here and there that suggests so much more than the reader will ever likely learn about the story. What happened in Boston? Detroit? What's Japan look like now? Whatever happened to the girl beside Caitlyn who was among the first to change? The family of the helicopter pilot? Each of these little short inserts expands the world without exacting much of a toll on the writer, so they're very worthwhile additions: You end up thinking it's a really deep story, and I don't have to come up with much more detail than "this is what happened and oh this other thing and now back to what happened..." If you can pull that off well, it'll double the depth of any story very easily.
Reply
:iconchekm8:
chekm8 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2009
more background please. although i expect that there is more in already released chps
Reply
:iconggcrono:
GGCrono Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2007
Wish I had something more constructive to say, but this is just...I dunno, neat. You write well. Keep it up.
Reply
:icondonsimpson:
DonSimpson Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2007
More, please.
Reply
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