Cannon was lost, totally lost in the East Oregon prairie and it was twilight. To make matters worse, a storm appeared to be brewing in the west. An innocent run to Silver City, Idaho was turning into a disaster. He cut his engine and got out of the rental car, staring at the huge oak tree hovering over the strange building, a small farmhouse, more likely a remote school.Suddenly a young woman came around the corner of the building, which Cannon had thought was abandoned. She walked quickly and approached him: slender, long brown hair,with vivid green eyes, wearing a modest long dress. Cannon was taken aback by her beauty, reminding him of someone from his past.
"Are you lost?" She inquired in a pleasant voice.
Cannon explained he had been visiting Silver City, decided to run over to Jordan Valley, then taken the byways and back roads towards Boise where he was staying for business. He admitted he was now lost.
The young lady, perhaps in her mid-twenties introduced herself as Mary Jane Taylor. She told him to go back to the gravel road, take a right, at the junction and he would see a sign to Boise. A left on the gravel road would take him back to Jordan Valley.
Cannon paused, enjoying the young woman's company, her strange allure. Then something happened to him; it was as if someone was tugging at his head, forcing him to turn his head and look toward the school, which he did. Cannon gazed at the school building's windows. There in the small glass panes were a sea of tiny faces staring out at him, each face perhaps an inch in diameter. Incredibly small children, tiny dolls, gawking and pointing at him.
Cannon's mouth was agape as he turned back to Mary Jane, who muttered: "naughty children." Then she rotated her right hand in a half circle and Cannon's body went dead. Mary Jane looked at him and shook her head. "If only you had not stopped, or not looked back at the school. A storm is coming and you should have had more sense than to get lost like this. Oh well, now you are ours."
He was rooted to the spot. Mary Jane took Cannon's hand and gently led him around to the front door. Cannon lumbered, each step an effort. He was like the walking dead, incapable of any fast or forceful motion.They entered the building which was a school, set with desks, perhaps at one time grades six through nine. Cannon could turn his head as Mary Jane led him into the school house and he saw the little children at the back, now away from the windows. They were all staring at him, pointing and whispering. There were hundreds of them.They seem to range from 6 to 12 inches tall. The tallest, about eighteen inches tall, was a lovely black haired girl. She came forward and helped guide Cannon to the front where he clumsily sat in a desk chair.The little girl sat on the floor beside Cannon, holding his fingers.
Cannon had a feeling of panic. His first reaction was just a nightmare and soon he would wake up in his bed at the Boise Hampton Inn.
" It is not a dream, Cannon." Mary Jane said.
Cannon raised his eyebrows, and Mary Jane explained she could read his thoughts. Since Cannon could not talk, thoughts would have to do.
"We have what you call an Action Plan. Unlike you, we creatures exist in place, not time. We are timeless. This is the first phase of our Action Plan; we are conducting our education, then comes our training, and then finally the engagement. Regrettably, you will find engagement unpleasant.
Cannon could not move his limbs quickly; there was no way he could jump up and confront Mary Jane, but he did have feeling. There was the strangest sensation with his left hand fingers. He slowly turned his head and looked down and to his horror saw that the pretty girl was gnawing at his fingers. His blood was dripping to the school floor. She looked up and her mouth and cheeks were covered in his blood.
"Radika!" Mary Jane called. And Radika dropped Cannon's gnawed fingers.
"That is engagement." Mary Jane said.
Cannon looked back at Mary Jane and his thoughts raced. What were his options? Mary Jane shook her head."I see what you are thinking. You have no options.We are just the advance, coming here to your place. We will stay here until all of you are gone. Then we will have to move again. Find a new place."
Maybe someone will pass by, Cannon thought desperately. See his rental car. Mary Jane shook her head. "No one comes here, only the lost."
She stood with her hands on her hips and explained she would lock Cannon in the school's storm cellar. Let the children feed. Later his bones would be scattered across the prairie. Cannon's suddenly felt hopeless, soon to be fodder for the ravenous tiny kids, with Radika in the lead. He looked forlornly out the side windows, realizing that the sky was quickly blackening, the sudden, late-summer storm was beginning to sweep across the prairie. There was a flash of lightning, then a roll of thunder.
Mary Jane turned and walked to the windows and looked at the approaching storm. As she moved away from Cannon he felt his mobility begin to return. Yet he kept still. Radika went back to gnawing on his fingers.
The storm was now coming swiftly down through the prairie valley and suddenly Cannon saw a funnel cloud dip down, swirling dust and scattering sage.
"Oh my." Mary Jane said. "Children, we have to get to the storm cellar. Radika, gather your group while I open the storm cellar."
Radika dropped Cannon's hand and raced back to her tiny charges, shepherding them toward the door.
As Mary Jane went out the door, Cannon felt his mobility return. Mary Jane looked back at him and he stayed rigid, then when she went through the door, he jumped up, ran and crashed though a front window. He tumbled in the sage brush, then raced to his car, having left the keys in the ignition. He started the car, whipped it around, and roared back to the dirt road.
He heard Mary Jane calling and felt himself once again going numb, but he floored the accelerator and the car shot forward. He hit the gravel road and thought about turning to the Sheriff's station in Jordan Valley, but his instinct said no and he took a right, raced down the gravel road, found the Boise sign and soon was barreling down I-84 into Boise.
Cannon only relaxed as he parked the car and entered the hotel lobby. He headed for the elevator. Suddenly, the desk clerk called his name. Cannon paused and went to the front desk.
" Mr Raspberry, Cannon Raspberry?"
"Our system is down. You had a message and I was writing you a note. A young woman just called and said to tell you,
- Until we meet again. Fondly, Mary Jane Taylor.