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Authors: Whitley Strieber

Tags: #Horror, #General, #Thrillers, #Fiction, #Occult & Supernatural, #Espionage

The Hunger

BOOK: The Hunger
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C
RITICAL ACCLAIM FOR THE
 W
HITLEY
 S
TRIEBER HORROR CLASSIC THAT STARTED IT ALL
THE HUNGER

“Vivid, skillfully written.”

— The Washington Post

“Fast paced . . . intriguing.”

— Publishers Weekly

“Read this one with all the lights on.”

— Hudson Sun (MA)

And for the long-awaited follow-up
THE LAST VAMPIRE

“Whitley Strieber has done more than recapture the magic that made him a modern master of horror literature — he has surpassed himself. This is a wonderfully imaginative book, one that defies the reader to put it down.”

— Peter Straub

“With a sensual ascent to an erotic crescendo, this vigorous sequel restores the vampire’s power and mystique. Strieber’s luxuriously soulless realm of the undead is disturbingly plausible.”

— Katherine Ramsland

Also by Whitley Strieber

Fiction

The Forbidden Zone
Unholy Fire
Billy
Majestic
Catmagic
The Wild
Nature’s End
Warday
Wolf of Shadows
The Night Church
Black Magic
The Hunger
The Wolfen

Short Stories (Private Publication)

Evenings With Demons: Stories From Thirty Years

Nonfiction

Confirmation
The Secret School
Breakthrough
The Communion Letters
Transformation
Communion
The Coming Global Superstorm

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Visit us on the World Wide Web:
www.SimonSays.com

Copyright © 1981 by Whitley Strieber

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

ISBN: 0-7434-3644-X

POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

 

For M.A.

 

Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,

And after many a summer dies the swan.

Me only cruel immortality

Consumes . . .

Tithonus
, A
LFRED
, L
ORD
T
ENNYSON

There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:

We knew her woof, her texture; she is given

In the dull catalogue of common things.

Lamia
, J
OHN
K
EATS

 

PROLOGUE

JOHN BLAYLOCK CHECKED his watch again. It was exactly three A.M. — time to move. The small Long Island town was so quiet he could hear the light change at the end of the tree-lined street. John put his watch back in his pocket and stepped softly from his place of concealment in the shrubs. He paused a moment in the cool, private air of the empty street.

His target lived in the middle of the block. John’s well-trained senses fixed on the black bulk of the house, testing for any flicker of life. As far as the Wagners were concerned, Kaye would just disappear. Within a month she would become another statistic, one of thousands of teenagers who walk out on their families every year. Kaye had good reason to run away. She was being expelled from Emerson High, and she and her boyfriend, Tommy, were facing a cocaine charge in JD court in a few days.

Both would disappear tonight. Miriam was taking care of the boyfriend.

As he walked, silent and invisible in his black jogging outfit, he thought briefly about his partner. He wanted her as he always did at moments of tension. Theirs was an old love, familiar and comfortable.

At two minutes past three the moon set. Now, only the single street light at the end of the block provided illumination. That was as planned. John broke into a trot, passing the target house and pausing at the far end of the grounds. No light appeared from any angle. He went up the driveway.

To John, houses had an ambience, almost an emotional smell. As he drew closer to its looming silence he decided that he didn’t much like this house. For all its carefully tended rose bushes, its beds of dahlias and pansies, it was an angry place.

This confirmation of the Wagners’ misery strengthened his resolve. His mind focused with even greater clarity on the task at hand. Each phase had been timed to the last second. At this level of concentration he could hear the breathing of Mr. and Mrs. Wagner in their second-floor bedroom. He paused, focusing his attention with fierce effort. Now he could hear the rustle of sheets as a sleeper’s arm stirred, the faint scratching of a roach moving up the wall of the bedroom. It was difficult for him to maintain such intense concentration for long. In this he and Miriam were very different. She lived often at such a level, John almost never.

He satisfied himself that the household was asleep, then began his penetration. Despite the dark, he quickly located the basement door. It led into a furnace room. Beyond it was a finished playroom and Kaye’s bedroom. He withdrew a length of piano wire from a pouch concealed under his sweat shirt and picked the lock, then worked back the spring catch with the edge of a credit card.

A rush of warm, musty air came out when the door was opened. The night was only slightly chilly, and the furnace was running on low, its fire casting faint orange light. John crossed the room and went into the hallway beyond.

He froze. Ahead he heard rattling breath, not human. His mind analyzed the sound and concluded that a dog of about sixty pounds was sleeping at the end of the hall, approximately seven feet away.

Nothing could be done about it now. He was forced to use his chloroform. He removed a plastic bag from the pouch and took out a cloth. It was cold in his hand, dripping with the liquid. He was not as quick as Miriam, he needed chloroform to subdue his victims. The thought of the danger he would now face made his throat tighten.

His friend the darkness began to work against him; he stepped forward, calculating his distance as best he could. One step. The dog’s breathing changed. Two steps. There was a shuffling sound, the beginning of a growl. Three steps. Like an explosion, the dog barked.

Then he had it, his fingers twining in the fur, his chloroformed rag going over the muzzle.

There was a furious struggle, not quite silent.

“Barney?”

Kaye’s voice was bell-clear and edged with fear. John was aware of how much his odds were worsening. The girl was wide awake. He could sense her staring into the darkness. Normally, he would have retreated at this point but tonight he could not. Miriam was an absolutely intractable killer; she would not miss the boyfriend. The essence of the deception was that they would disappear together. Both gone and the police would figure it for a runaway and file the case somewhere below lost kittens. Only one gone and there would be much more suspicion.

As soon as the dog stopped struggling, John moved ahead. There would be perhaps ten safe minutes while the dog was unconscious. There must be no further delays; maximum efficiency was essential.

Kaye’s bedroom was suddenly flooded with light. She was beautiful, sitting on her bed in a nightshirt, her hand still touching the frilly lamp.

John felt the light like fire. He leaped on her, lunging to stifle the scream he knew was rising. Then his hand was over her lips, his arm pushing her onto the bed.

Kaye smelled faintly of cologne and cigarettes. John fought her, his body shaking above the dismal fury of her struggle. The intensity of her resistance conjured up anger in him. Both his hands covered her mouth and nose, his knees pinned her elbows.

The room was absolutely still, the only sound that of Kaye’s legs thudding against the mattress. John looked at the pleading, terrified eyes, trying to gauge how much longer they would remain alive. He felt the girl’s tongue darting against the palm of his hand. Careful, don’t let her bite.

The five minutes it took to suffocate her stretched on and on. John fought to keep his attention on his work. If she got away from him . . . but he wouldn’t allow that. He had, after all, years of practice. Just don’t let the mind wander, the grip loosen — not for an instant. He was watching for the hemorrhage in the whites of the eyes that would be the sign of death. Kaye responded typically. She pleaded with her expression, looking desperately into his face.

Finally, her eyes screwed closed with the failure of consciousness. There came a series of frantic convulsions — the unconscious trying to escape what the conscious could not. After a moment of motionlessness the eyes opened again. The whites were the correct shade of pink now. The eyes slowly drifted to the right, as if trying to see the way. A deeper stillness fell.

At once John released his grip and leaned across to her chest, pressing his ear between the warm softness of her breasts, listening for the last thutter of the heart.

Perfection. She was just right, hanging at the edge of death.

All obstacles were removed. Steel discipline could give way now to his real feelings, to the raw truth of his hunger. He lunged at her, unhearing of his own excited cry. She exploded instantly into new life within him. His mind clarified as if he had plunged into deliciously cold water on a stuffy day. The achiness that had been threatening swept from his muscles. His hearing, his eyesight flooded him with impressions of almost supernatural intensity.

He soared from height to height. As always at such a moment, a vivid image of Miriam appeared in his mind’s eye. He could taste her lips, feel her laughter in his heart. He longed for her cool flesh, the love within him growing rich with desire.

Then it was finished. He barely glanced at the remains of Kaye Wagner, a dark lumpy thing almost lost in the bedclothes. Time had to be addressed. He forced himself back to sordid necessity, slipping the frail husk of the girl into a black plastic bag. Briskly, he consulted his watch again. In exactly two minutes he must be at the pickup point.

BOOK: The Hunger
8.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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