Dunworth, Kansas is a funny place. Most people only know about it because they drive past it on the way to Wichita and most of those folks ignore it altogether.
00:12 - No one in Dunworth would fault you for ignoring us - it’s a small town filled with third and fourth generation corn and soybean farmers.
00:21 - The only real reason to stop in town is to fill up at the gas station along the interstate or to pick up crops that need to be hauled out.
00:30 - Most kids dream of leaving and some do. The way the drain is trending, in twenty years, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dunworth isn’t even a town anymore.
00:40 - Yet, I was drawn there all the same. Make no mistake, it was never a dream of mine to settle down in the middle of the country.
00:49 - Growing up in Chicago, I had no inclination to chase the quiet life.
00:54 - I loved the city - I needed the noise and the bustle and the fast pace.
00:58 - Being a lawyer for a major firm (I can’t say who, but if you follow the story, it becomes clearer).
01:05 - I worked until I was exhausted and drank until I blacked out.
01:09 - I didn’t just burn the candle at both ends, I torched the fucking thing.
01:14 - Stress was a daily problem but, ten years into my position, I knew how to handle it.
01:19 - Or so I thought. The firm had been looking into purchasing plots of land in the middle of the country for a client that cannot be named - even now.
01:29 - Maybe especially now. Rest assured that this client was a big player and the project was hush hush.
01:38 - Getting named to the team was a major coup for me and I relished it.
01:42 - I saw the word “PARTNER” in my brain over and over and over.
01:46 - I couldn’t fuck this up. My normal crazy schedule was shifted into hyper-drive.
01:52 - I basically lived out of my office - venturing out only for a drink, a “date” or a meal.
01:59 - All of my mental energy was put into the project.
02:02 - I had been placed in charge of finding the plots of land, checking who owned it, researching the history and setting up the sale.
02:10 - I started slow but I picked up steam and was soon getting notices from the higher ups.
02:16 - I got a reputation as a “go-getter” and I ate it up.
02:21 - Most sales went smoothly - some of the folks were so happy to hear from me, they nearly undercut my own price.
02:28 - But one man, Jeff M— would not budge. His property had been deemed “Critical” by our client and they black flagged it on my paperwork.
02:38 - A black flag was no joke - it meant that there was no set limit to the amount of money I could offer Jeff M— for his land.
02:47 - Even still, he played hardball. I begin to hate this man - a farmer in his mid fifties that I had never meet.
02:55 - The more he declined, the more agitated I got.
02:59 - I needed this land and I was going to get it one way or another.
03:03 - If I stalled now, that dream of making partner would drop faster than a lead balloon.
03:09 - I needed to take drastic action. There is no direct flight, so I decided to rent a car and make the ten hour drive.
03:18 - I left Friday morning and planned on being back by Sunday night with deed in hand.
03:24 - I figured I would show up, dazzle this hayseed with an in-person offer, and be on my way home.
03:31 - I passed time on the drive by imagining how excited the client would be when I handed over the deed.
03:37 - Maybe there would be applause? I had just crossed into the Kansas border when a hard rain started falling.
03:44 - It was one of those middle of the country storms that seem to come out of a horror movie and scare the bejeezus out of everyone.
03:51 - It was coming down hard and night was falling, so I pulled off for a bite to eat and to wait out the torrent.
03:59 - There was a diner on the off ramp that catered to mostly truckers but I was starving and went in anyway.
04:05 - It was quiet - save for the rain pounding on the metal roof and soft classic rock playing from an old jukebox.
04:12 - I took a seat in the corner and ordered a cheeseburger.
04:15 - It was clear to my waitress, Clarice, that I was an outsider.
04:20 - “From Chicago?” “How’d you know?” “Been doing this for twenty years.
04:25 - You get a sixth sense about this kind of stuff.
04:27 - Where you headed?” “Dunworth, Kansas. ” Looking back now, that seemed to chill her, but I didn’t notice then.
04:36 - I was probably texting. “Why you going there?” “Gotta see a man about his property. ” “Huh,” she huffed.
04:45 - “What?” “You don’t look like a farmer. ” “Twenty years experience strikes again,” I said with a wink.
04:55 - “I work for a firm trying to buy his land for a secret project. ” “Another one?” That caught me.
05:04 - “Excuse me?” She shook her head, maybe realizing she had said too much, “Oh nothing.
05:12 - Just babbling. “ “No, no, no. Please, tell me.
05:16 - If some other company is trying to buy up land, it might be why the man isn’t selling. “ “Who’s the man?” “You from Dunworth?” “I know a few folks that pass through here on the regular. ” “Jeff M—. ” She laughed, “Oh hell,” she said handing me the bill, “He’s never gonna sell.
05:38 - That land is worth more than his life. “ Frustrated and noticing the rain had let up, I dropped a hundred on the table and nodded.
05:47 - “We’ll see. ” The rest of the drive was quiet.
05:52 - When the storm cleared, you could see the stars.
05:55 - Like, all of the stars. Living in the city, I never really noticed them but when you’re in near perfect darkness with nothing to obstruct your view, it’s like you can see God himself up there.
06:07 - It was late when I past Wichita and I decided to stop for the night.
06:12 - There wasn’t any major hotel chains where I was, but there was a solid looking motel that had vacant rooms and they had four walls and a bed.
06:20 - I was sold. The front desk was manned by Debbie, a lady who I imagined was pushing ninety but spry as a spring chicken.
06:29 - Debbie, like Clarice, deduced that I was an outsider.
06:33 - “Come for the lights?” “Just here for the night. ” “That’s when they show up, mostly. ” Again, hindsight being 20⁄20, I wished I had followed up.
06:46 - But I was tired and just assumed it was some local thing.
06:50 - “How far is Dunworth from here?” “Two miles as a crow flies,” Debbie said, “You a purchasing agent?” “Land, not soybeans. ” “Lots of folks movin’ on from farming these days. ” “Land is worth more than the product in it. ” “Land ain’t the only value out there. ” I nodded, not really caring what she was talking about, and went to my room.
07:18 - It seemed I was the only person at the motel that night - it was so quiet.
07:23 - I looked out into the darkness - my room faced the highway but beyond the asphalt all I could see was the corn gently swaying in the breeze.
07:33 - I jimmied opened the lock and plopped down on the bed.
07:37 - As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out.
07:42 - It was about midnight when I heard the rumbling.
07:47 - It was in the distance but I could tell it was coming closer.
07:51 - It sounded like an 18-wheeler blowing down the highway.
07:56 - As soon as the noise hit it’s apex, bright white lights shone into my room - it was clear he had the high beams on.
08:04 - I mumbled to myself, covered my head with the pillow and went back to sleep.
08:10 - I woke up early and went to the office to check out.
08:13 - Debbie’s shift ended and she had been replaced by a surly character with a cigarette jammed in his mouth and went by the name Carl.
08:21 - Carl was not as talkative as Debbie. I handed over my keys and mentioned the lights of the semi-truck.
08:28 - “Lemme guess,” he croaked out, “happened around midnight?” “Yeah, about. ” He shrugged, “Common in these parts.
08:40 - It’s a busy time of night. “ “Who knew I needed to leave Chicago to have such an active nightlife. ” Carl just turned away and kept watching his black and white TV.
08:52 - Within an hour, I was standing outside of Jeff M—’s place.
08:57 - In the warm glow of the morning light, I would dare to call the land beautiful.
09:02 - I could see why he would walk away from a six figure offer.
09:05 - But would he walk away from seven? I knocked and as quickly as can be, the door swung open.
09:13 - Jeff M— was standing there in old overalls ready to greet the day.
09:18 - He didn’t seem to surprised to see me. “How do,” he said with a nod.
09:24 - “Jeff M—,” I asked. “Yessir. Who might you be?” I told him my name and who I was with and he knew right away.
09:34 - He invited me in and pointed to a stack of letters from me - most unopened - on the table near his door.
09:41 - He almost seemed proud. “Have you not seen the most recent offer?” “Suppose not.
09:48 - I just pile them up here when they come. “ “You aren’t even looking at them? Why?” “Because what’s here is worth more to me than your money. ” “Corn?” “Clarity,” he said and then pushed the door wide.
10:06 - “Come on in, take a look around and maybe you’ll understand. ” Right away, something seemed off about the house.
10:17 - It was in fine shape and the decor was definitely middle american farmer, but the vibe was wrong.
10:24 - There was a smell too - not overpowering - but it was there.
10:28 - It smelled like ozone. Like a storm was coming but it was inside the house.
10:36 - Even though the morning light streamed in, there were so many dark corners.
10:42 - I keep these thoughts to myself as I followed Jeff M— around.
10:46 - “Your client has been buying up a lot of land around here,” he said.
10:51 - “They have been. Up to something big. ” “Something big is already happening here. ” He nodded out to the back door and I followed him.
11:04 - In front of us were acres of corn. He gestured to it and with a smile on his face, he nodded.
11:12 - I missed what the point of pride was. “Looks nice but is there really a big future in corn?” “You can’t see it, can you?” I scanned the horizon and everything came up blank.
11:29 - Just corn. “Is it that cloud that looks like a peanut,” I offered.
11:37 - “They can see you. ” I was a bit taken aback but, at the time, I assumed he was crazy.
11:45 - It was probably why he wasn’t budging. “Who are they?” “They’ve seen you coming for a long time,” he said shaking his head, “or at least that’s what they told me. ” “Jeff, what are you talking about?” Just then, from behind us, the back door slammed shut.
12:07 - I snapped around expecting to see some old pottering wife but there wasn’t anything there.
12:13 - “Wind must’ve got the door,” I offered. Jeff just smirked.
12:18 - I could smell the ozone again. I craned my neck skyward and looked for coming clouds but there wasn’t one in the sky.
12:27 - “You smell it, huh? That’s the first step.
12:30 - Maybe there is hope for you yet. “ I motioned to Jeff and suggested we go inside to talk about the latest offer - it was amazing.
12:40 - He didn’t respond but he walked back inside.
12:44 - I followed and, for some reason, before I walked in, I glanced back at the corn field.
12:50 - I don’t know what I was expecting to see but I sighed when I saw nothing.
12:56 - Back inside, Jeff and I sat at his table and had breakfast.
13:00 - I had pulled out the offer sheets and was fifteen minutes into my hard sell when he shushed me.
13:07 - He pointed up to the ceiling. I glanced up but just saw an overhead lamp.
13:13 - I was about to continue when I suddenly heard the familiar creak of someone walking on hardwood floors.
13:22 - Jeff leaned in close, “They normally only come out at night.
13:28 - Something seems to have them riled up. “ “You have friends or family over?” “You can say that,” Jeff said, “They are very close to me. ” “Should we talk to them about the offer?” “They aren’t one for conversation, at least not with strangers.
13:50 - And, right now, you’re still a stranger. “ I stood up, exhausted already from this nonsense, “Jeff, this is a million dollars.
14:02 - Now, I don’t know what games you want to play but… . “ That’s when something in the corner of my eye caught my attention.
14:10 - I turned to the stairs and thought I saw a person standing there but when I looked they were gone.
14:18 - But that ozone smell lingered. Jeff was all smiles.
14:24 - “You saw it, huh?” “Who else is in this house?” “Mister, you’re asking all the wrong questions.
14:32 - Does it really matter who’s in this house? Or does it matter that something is trying to contact you and you’re shut off from it?” That was it for me.
14:43 - I started packing up my files. “Look, at least consider the offer, okay? You and all your boogieman here can move into the nicest house in Kansas with that kind of cash.
14:54 - Haunt until your heart’s content. “ As I stood up to leave, Jeff M— stood and grabbed my arm, “Why is your client so interested in buying this land?” “I don’t know and, honestly, I don’t think I want to know.
15:12 - If the rumors are true, they have gotten into some odd situations in the past. “ “They want to capture them, ya know.
15:20 - Steal them. I can’t allow that,” Jeff said shaking his head, “And at some point, you’ll realize that too. ” “Sure,” I said pulling away.
15:34 - I started for the door but Jeff ran after me.
15:38 - “Midnight Dawn. ” I stopped. “What?” “The other night at the motel.
15:47 - Midnight Dawn. That was them. They were watching. “ “I don’t know what… . ” He cut me off, “You thought it was a semi but it wasn’t. ” The hair on my neck stood up.
16:02 - I hadn’t felt threatened up to this point but now I was looking for anything I could use as a weapon.
16:08 - “What the fuck is your problem, man?” Jeff calmed down, “I don’t have one.
16:14 - I just need someone else to see what I see.
16:18 - To get the clarity I have. They told me it’s you.
16:26 - I’m just relaying the message. “ There was the ozone smell again and I felt as if someone was watching me.
16:34 - I wanted to run but social graces said otherwise.
16:38 - I knew something was off the minute I came in the house and now my gut feeling was being proven right.
16:45 - I was about to speak when the light bulb above me popped and shattered onto the ground.
16:52 - “Listen,” Jeff said, “Don’t run but really listen. ” We stood there, ears perked looking for a frequency I was sure wasn’t there.
17:07 - After a few, Jeff turned to me again, “They have an offer for you.
17:13 - It’s the same one they promised me. “ He leaned in close and whispered, “You can get the clarity if you do what they ask.
17:25 - Give them protection so they can finish their task and you can get the clarity too. “ Somewhere else in the house, there was another pop and the shattering of glass.
17:38 - I had enough. I was about to leave when I looked out the back window and saw something dart into the cornfield.
17:46 - Instead of heading to my car, I pushed past Jeff and ran into the backyard.
17:52 - Without hesitating, I dashed into the corn at the same spot and looked for anything.
17:59 - There wasn’t a goddamn thing there. Jeff came out the back and saw me walk at the cornfield.
18:06 - He rushed over and looked past me. “You can’t do that,” he yelled, “They won’t give it to you if you scare them.
18:16 - They need to know you’ll protect them. “ “Who the fuck are they?” Jeff sighed and looked around.
18:26 - After a beat, he whispered, “Aliens. ” I laughed long and hard.
18:33 - The country mouse had pulled one over on the city mouse.
18:37 - I shook my head and made my way to the car.
18:40 - I didn’t say a word to Jeff, I just left him standing alone in the driveway.
18:45 - I cranked up the radio and tried to forget what the hell just happened.
18:50 - I was about fifteen minutes out of town when I heard the unmistakable pop of a tire shredding.
18:56 - I pulled over and discovered that both of my passenger side tires were gone.
19:04 - I let out a scream that I’m sure Jeff and his “aliens” heard.
19:08 - An hour later, a tow truck took me back into town.
19:12 - I was going to stay an extra night it seemed.
19:15 - I called my bosses and told them what was going on before booking the same room at the motel again.
19:22 - Debbie was back and seemed none to surprised to see me.
19:26 - “Come to love the farming life?” “Blown tires on a rental car.
19:31 - Shop in town only has one and has to order other from Wichita. “ “Shame.
19:37 - Want the same room?” “Why not? I could use a little consistency right now,” I looked at the pack of smokes she had and without even speaking, she offered me one.
19:49 - I took it. “I haven’t smoked in years. ” “Sometimes you fall back into bad habits I suppose. ” I lit the cigarette and took a drag.
20:00 - “Anyone else in the motel?” “It’s our slow time. ” “How can you tell the difference?” “You’ll know it when you see it. ” I nodded and headed out into the evening.
20:15 - The sun was setting and you could see the glow of fireflies start up.
20:19 - It was beautiful and, for a moment, I imagined what life might be like here.
20:25 - I pushed that thought away as soon as I thought about wanting some sushi and realizing that I wouldn’t be able to find any here.
20:32 - I went to my room. I basically just sprawled out on my bed and watched TV and killed time.
20:39 - As the hours crept by, I could feel my eyelids starting to droop.
20:44 - As I closed my eyes, I suddenly smelled ozone.
20:48 - I opened my eyes just in time to see a shadow move outside my room.
20:54 - I snapped up and flipped on the light. I ran to the window and threw open the curtains.
21:00 - There wasn’t anything there. Regardless, I knew whatever was there wasn’t gone.
21:06 - I opened the door and walked out of the room.
21:10 - There wasn’t a soul near me. But I smelled the ozone again.
21:14 - I walked past a few of the rooms looking for something and nothing all at once.
21:20 - Just then, from behind me, a light bulb popped.
21:23 - The another. Then another. All of the overhead lights popped in a row and send shards of glass falling to the floor.
21:34 - It was completely dark now, save for the stars and the fireflies.
21:40 - I looked back towards the office and saw something move in the shadows.
21:45 - I wasn’t going to back down. I rushed towards it until I saw a single point of red light.
21:52 - As I ran up, ready to raise hell, I realized it was just Debbie out for a smoke.
21:59 - She was startled but not to the point you’d expect from an old lady.
22:03 - “You okay?” “Did you see anyone out here?” “There isn’t another person but you here, dear. ” “I know I saw someone looking into my room. ” “It’s near midnight and I promise it’s just us.
22:18 - But your timing is good. “ “Why’s that?” “Midnight Dawn is about to happen. ” I was stunned but before I could ask, on the horizon beyond the woods, there was a bright light starting to emanate.
22:35 - It started small but grew quickly with each rotation.
22:39 - I was transfixed. Suddenly, the light started to lift in the air.
22:44 - It grew brighter and brighter. I smelled ozone.
22:50 - My eyes couldn’t move from the floating light.
22:53 - Looking back, I realized it was coming from Dunworth.
22:57 - “Is this real, Debbie?” “Is any of this real,” she said with a laugh.
23:05 - I looked over and noticed that Debbie wasn’t there anymore.
23:10 - In fact, the whole motel was gone. I was standing in pitch black with only the flying light visible.
23:18 - I was terrified and didn’t know what to do.
23:21 - Suddenly, from all around me, I heard the faintest whispers of “clarity, clarity, clarity”.
23:30 - The light grew nearer and nearer. I was coming right for me.
23:33 - In a blink, it was a mere ten feet from me.
23:38 - The white pulsating light whirling past my eyes.
23:42 - I tried to shield them as best I could to make out anything in front of me but my results were limited.
23:49 - The whispering got more intense. I didn’t know where it was coming from.
23:54 - I was lost a sea of noise and then it all came to a halt.
23:59 - The pulsating stopped and the intensity of the white light dimmed.
24:05 - The whispers went away. That’s when I saw them - slight figures with almond eyes.
24:12 - They moved towards me and I blacked out. The next thing I remember, I was driving north on the interstate the following day.
24:24 - It was like someone had flipped on a switch and I was “awake” again.
24:28 - I didn’t remember anything at first but as time as gone on, I remember a little more each day.
24:35 - It’s never good and it often keeps me up at night.
24:40 - When I got back to work, I told my bosses that we’d never be able to buy the land from Jeff M—.
24:46 - He was a die hard and wouldn’t sell. They all looked at me like I was crazy.
24:52 - My boss handed me a letter and, inside, was a signed deed to the land - only it was made out to me and not my firm.
25:03 - With it was a small note that read: “They’re always watching you.
25:10 - You’ll never outrun them. I’ve moved on into the Midnight Dawn.
25:17 - It’s your turn now. Jeff M—. “ That’s when my brain popped and I collapsed.
25:26 - I dunno how to describe it - it was like a wave washing over me.
25:31 - One minute, I’m getting a kudos from my boss and the next I’m being wheeled out of the building on a gurney.
25:38 - When I recovered, my firm asked when I could sign over the deed - for a large fee of course - but for some reason, I just couldn’t do it.
25:49 - I resigned from my post, sold all my things and moved into the little farm house in Dunworth.
25:57 - I’ve been here for three years now. I smell the ozone constantly and can hear them clearer when they speak in hushed tones.
26:07 - Sometimes, I get a good look at them when they walk from the house into the cornfield.
26:15 - My thoughts seem to be… clearing up as of late.
26:20 - Things are starting to make sense in ways I never imagined before.
26:25 - It’s hard to explain but I tell folks like you it’s as if I suddenly figured out a crossword puzzle.
26:33 - The pieces just FIT. I think I might be ready to join Jeff M—.
26:42 - The Man in the suit just stared at me from my doorway.
26:45 - He didn’t seem amused. He had driven all this way from Chicago with a black flag offer.
26:53 - “You used to be in my position,” he said with a smile, “and this is a great deal for both of us. ” That’s when his nose caught the unmistakable whiff of ozone.
27:09 - I grinned. “Smelling it is the first sign.
27:15 - There might be hope for you yet. “.