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Authors: Michael Talbot

Tags: #Fiction.Dark Fantasy/Supernatural, #Fiction.Horror

Night Things: A Novel of Supernatural Terror

BOOK: Night Things: A Novel of Supernatural Terror
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Table of Contents

This one’s for Mitzi and Pam, with love

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,
but against principalities, against powers,
against the rulers of the darkness....

 

—The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians

PROLOGUE

New York City, 1870

When the woman awoke she knew immediately that something was wrong. She did not know what had alerted her to the fact. She had not heard anything. She knew only that one moment she was sleeping soundly and the next moment she was completely awake and alert. Clutching instinctively at the top button of her nightgown, she sat up in bed and stared into the darkness.

In the moonlight streaming in through the windows the room was ghostly and still. Anxiously she surveyed the shadows, half expecting to see some intruder lurking there. Beside her her husband slept, and in the distance she could hear the ticking of the hallway clock. Nothing seemed amiss, yet she knew that something was terribly wrong. There was an ominous edge to the darkness, a palpable air of danger.

Quickly she put her slippers on and padded over to the window. The lawns surrounding the great house appeared dreamlike in the bluish glow of the moonlight. In the distance, in the light of the gaslights on Fifth Avenue, she could see the huge wrought-iron fence that surrounded the estate. Her heart pounded.

She fumbled at her dressing table until she had managed to light a candle and then went into the hall. She knew somehow that if she did not hurry a life would be lost. But whose life? Who was in danger? And then she realized. It was her daughter.

As she raced toward the nursery she wondered how she could have been so stupid. Who was the most vulnerable member of the family? Whom had she struggled for the past eight years to nurture, to protect, even from her husband? She reached the nursery and flung the door open, hoping against hope it was not true. But she found what she had feared and already known. The sheets had been clumsily cast aside and the bed was empty. Frantically she searched the room, under the bed, in the closet, but the little girl was nowhere to be found. Gasping and already crying, she raced back to the hall and called for help.

Slowly the household awoke. On the floor above, the light of a gas jet coming on shone like a beacon down the servants’ stairs, and at the far end of the hall her husband stumbled grouchily into the hall wrestling with his robe. His immense mustache, usually so carefully waxed and shaped, jutted out at strange angles, giving him a comical look which belied the anger in his expression.

“What is it?” he demanded. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Sarah again,” the woman gasped. “She’s gone.” She gestured toward the empty bedroom and then looked back desperately at her husband.

“This cannot go on,” he said, shaking his head. “I told you something had to be done.”

“I will not have my daughter put in one of those places.”

“But she’s sick. She needs to be under the care of doctors.”

“She is not sick!”

“Then what is wrong?” he challenged, and her gaze drifted to the floor. She did not know what was wrong with her daughter. At times the little girl appeared completely normal, running and playing as any eight-year-old might. But then there were the other times when she went into strange trances that would last for hours, or had seizures followed by animated descriptions of where she claimed she had been and what she alleged she had seen. And there were other such alarming incidents.

Something stirred within her, giving her the courage to look back at her husband. He could be selfish. Cold. Concerned only with the intricacies of his business and the power he wielded. She would not let him force her to stop caring, force her to give up her daughter. She met his fiery glare head-on, and something in the erectness of her bearing told him he had better back down.

He looked at the circle of servants gathered around them. “She’s disappeared again,” he said wearily. “Search the house.”

The servants dutifully dispersed.

Taking the hem of her nightgown in hand, the woman rushed toward the staircase to join in the search. When she reached the banister she paused and looked back at her husband. Reluctantly he grunted and followed.

They searched everywhere, in the cellar, in the attic, even in the laundry and the coalbin of the huge and stately house. Periodically they called out to each other to see if anyone had found any clues, but it was to no avail. It was as if the little girl had vanished. Finally, after exhausting all other possibilities, they returned to the nursery. It was there that the woman discovered what at first only piqued her curiosity, but then quickly filled her with horror as she realized its implications. The latch on the window of the room was unlocked.

Letting out a cry, she rushed to the window and flung it open. Her heart pounded as she madly surveyed the moonlit grass several stories below and imagined the twisted and inanimate form of her daughter lying on the carefully manicured lawn. But she was not there. Unable to bear it any longer, the woman buried her face in her hands and started to sob.

She felt the pressure of her husband’s hand upon her shoulder. She sensed the insistence of his grip, even the terror.

“There,” he said in a hush.

She looked at him wonderingly and was taken by the stillness of his gaze as he looked out the window.


There,
” he repeated with even more emphasis and nodding his head.

Slowly she followed the line of his vision until she too saw what he was looking at, and when she did, her heart stopped. For there, some twenty feet off and standing at the very edge of the roof, was their daughter. She stood as motionless as a statue, gazing raptly off into space.

“No—!” the woman cried, lunging forward, but her husband pulled her back.

She looked at him imploringly. “What are we going to do?”

He looked back at their daughter, and his faced filled with dread over the task before him. Beads of sweat formed on his brow. He pushed his hysterical wife into the arms of one of the maids, and he took off his slippers. Looking one last time at the ground far below, he rolled up his sleeves and crawled out the window.

The little girl became aware of the commotion taking place around her. She even heard the sound of her parents’ voices and realized that they were upset about something, but she paid them no mind. She was too entranced by the swirling shapes before her. It was the first time they had come so clearly. Faces that drifted in and out like the glistening veils of the aurora borealis. She had been visited by the faces before, but never so many as this. Even their voices were clearer, the voices which had first come to her in her dreams, and which had once been little more than a chorus of mumbling. Now they spoke plainly, and although they occasionally sibilated in unison, they told her many amazing things.

What was strange was that although she knew the voices were saying something important, she was not really sure what they were telling her. It was as if her consciousness were not really present, only some deeper portion of herself, like the person she was in a half-remembered dream. Suddenly the murmuring of the voices intensified as if informed by some unknown urgency. The luminous cloud of being became turbulent as the voices crescendoed, and a flood of images suddenly swirled and tumbled before her. All at once, in a scintillant burst of energy, the vision vanished as the viselike grip of a hand closed around her arm.

She turned, and to her astonishment she saw it was her father. Confused, she took a step forward. He cried out, yanking her brusquely toward him. For a moment she thought her arm had been wrenched from her body, and it was only after he had gathered her up in his arms that she understood where she was.

She began to cry, but instead of comforting her her father only cursed under his breath as he slowly made his way back across the eaves of the house. How had she gotten here? she wondered. What had she been doing on the roof? And then she remembered... the voices... and the swirling light.

But as her daze evaporated and she drifted slowly back into the stifling logic of reality, she realized two things. First, and quite unexpectedly, she realized she was special, chosen. She had perceived an order of things invisible to most human beings, and to her great surprise she had been allowed to glimpse her role in that order. Second, and most astounding of all, she had been shown a shape. Here her vague understanding of what had happened to her ended. For although the vision still shimmered in her mind, she knew only that she had seen something both possible and impossible: a form never before fathomed by mortal minds.

I

And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths....

 

—Shakespeare,
Macbeth

“Are we almost there?” Lauren asked excitedly as the Porsche shifted gears to negotiate the increasing steepness of the mountain road. The highway they were on was one of the old two-laners, and together with dazzling mountain scenery and the verdant walls of tamaracks and pines that surrounded them, it seemed like a scene right out of a picture postcard.

“Almost,” Stephen said, grinning from ear to ear and still refusing to tell her anything about the house he had rented for them in the Adirondacks for the summer. He reached out and squeezed her hand lovingly.

A warm tingle enveloped her as she returned the squeeze and smiled. She still could not believe that she, Lauren Montgomery, had married Stephen Ransom, famous recording star, king of the pop charts for the past three years. Only four short months before he had been merely a celebrity to her, the pop superstar of such megahit albums as
Ransom of the Heart
and
Ransomed for Love.
But one afternoon Annie had called her in to say she was giving her the writing assignment of a lifetime: the opportunity to spend an entire week with Ransom, to follow him around and do what Annie called a real meat-and-potatoes piece on the guy.

What a week that had been, she remembered. When she had first entered Stephen Ransom’s suite of rooms at the Plaza she had been nervous as a schoolgirl. But there was such an instant rapport between them, such a feeling of closeness and uncanny familiarity, that within a half hour’s conversation it was as though they’d known each other for years. To her enormous surprise—for such behavior violated all of her personal and professional standards— they made love their very first evening together. Indeed, from that day on they spent every available moment together, and scarcely two months later, on the morning that her article about him came out in
People Beat
, he called her up and told her he wanted to marry her. When she giddily asked him why, he said it was because he liked the way she described him in the article as having “impish, boy-next-door good looks with just a hint of something dangerous in his eyes.” They went down to city hall that same day.

BOOK: Night Things: A Novel of Supernatural Terror
6.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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