~TWILIGHT~ BY EVENING, WHEN THE WINDS ROSE yet again, the power began to stutter at half-strength, and the sirens to fail. From those streetlights whose bulbs hadn't been stoned, a tea-colored dusk settled in uncertain tides. It fell on the dirty militias of pack dogs, all bullying and foaming against one another, and on the palm fronds twitching in the storm gutter, and on the abandoned cars, and everything everything was flattened, equalized in the gloom of half-light. Like the subjects in a browning photograph in some antique photo album, only these times weren't antique. They were now. The air seemed both oily and dry. If you rubbed your fingers together, a miser imagining a coin, your fingers stuck slightly. A fug of smoke lay on the slopes above the deserted freeway. It might have reminded neighbors of campfire hours, but there were few neighbors around to notice. Most of them had gotten out while they still could. Dinah could feel that everything was different, without knowing how or why. She wasn't old enough to add up this column of facts: - power cuts - the smell of wet earth: mudslide surgically opening the hills - winds like Joshua's army battering the walls of Jericho - massed clouds with poisonous yellow edges - the evacuation of the downslope neighbors, and the silence and come up with a grown-up summary, like one or more of the following: - the collapse of local government and services - the collapse of public confidence, too - state of emergency - end of the world - business as usual, just a variety of usual not usually seen. After all, Dinah was only ten. Ten, and in some ways, a youngish ten, because her family lived remotely. For one thing, they kept themselves apart literally. The Ormsbys sequestered themselves in a scrappy bungalow perched at the uphill end of the canyon, where the unpaved county road petered out into ridge rubble and scrub pine. The Ormsbys weren't rural castaways nor survivalists nothing like that. They were trying the experiment of living by gospel standards, and they hoped to be surer of their faith tomorrow than they'd been yesterday. A decent task and, around here, a lonely one. The Ormsby family made its home a citadel against the alluring nearby world of the Internet, the malls, the cable networks, and other such temptations. The Ormsby parents called these attractions slick. They sighed and worried: dangerous. They feared cunning snares and delusions. Dinah Ormsby wished she could study such matters close-up and decide for herself. Dinah and her big brother, Zeke, were homeschooled. This, they were frequently reminded, kept them safe, made them strong, and preserved their goodness. Since most of the time they felt safe, strong, and good, they assumed the strategy was working. But all kids possess a nervy ability to dismay their parents, and the kids of the Ormsby family were no exception. Dinah saw life as a series of miracles with a fervor that even her devout parents considered unseemly. "No, Santa Claus has no website staffed by underground Nordic trolls. No, there is no flight school for the training of apprentice reindeer. No to Santa Claus, period," her mother always said. "Dinah, honey, don't let your imagination run away with you." Exasperatedly: "Govern yourself!" "Think things through," said her dad, ever the peacemaker. "Big heart, big faith: great. But make sure you have a big mind, too. Use the brain God gave you." Dinah took no offense, and she did try to think things through. From the Ormsby's bunker, high above the threat of contamination by modern life, she could still love the world. In a hundred ways, a new way every day. Even a crisis could prove tMaguire, Gregory is the author of 'What-the-dickens The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy', published 2007 under ISBN 9780763629618 and ISBN 0763629618.