On that last day the sky had been laid out so sweet and soft with autumn cloud that even the flickers of a distant lightning storm could not disturb their happiness. They had gathered apples and cleaned the presses, pulling water from the lake and swaddling themselves in routine. Even the old men spoke lightly, laughing that something as grand as war would not waste its time visiting their little village.
But their words were built on quicksand and even as they sang merrily to their beds, a strange, picture show light came raking over the ground of their rhetoric. And with it came a dark regiment of scarecrow shadows, sliding their long fingers through keyholes, under doors, feeling out the gaps and measuring up the spaces of entry. The silence of their coming was concealed beneath a golden footfall of leaves and lost in the gentle the stirrings of night, and so they moved among the sleepers unnoticed, curling lines of black powder around their half formed dreams, laying out the first strips of paper, striking the first match. Building a pyre to stoke the bonfire of future memory.
There were no birds to herald the misplaced dawn. It burst upon the village unannounced, dragging the people from their slumber, hurdling them confused and drunk with fear under an absent moon. They saw for the first time how light came dripping from the sky and how the earth rose to meet it in a horizon of fire. And they knew then that everything that had gone before was lost.
There was no sun to mark the coming of that first day, and the people of that small village that war would not waste its time with, were the last to know.