Around 3 pm a plague of locusts hit the town, just as newsreaders had predicted. The insects covered every bit of vegetation. Flowers in window boxes and parks, vegetable stalls at the market, wreaths at the cemetery, all fell victim. Even the artificial box hedge outside the town hall was stripped of its synthetic foliage. People locked windows and doors. Traffic slowed to a halt as the swarm became so dense no one could see where they were going. The stench was terrible.
After a few hours the insects moved on, leaving behind a trail of devastation. Street-cleaning vehicles began to remove the bodies of dead locusts, fairy lights were strung in the trees to hide the bare branches, and multi-coloured plastic windmills were handed out for people to put in their gardens.
That evening the news featured reports of an outbreak of lice infestation in a couple of western districts, and another story described an area to the south where people were being kept awake at night by the croaking of unusually large numbers of frogs. Miriam called her brother Aaron. ‘Well, it could have been worse,’ he said. ‘It could have been a plague of boils.’