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Authors: John Skipp,Craig Spector

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The Light at the End

BOOK: The Light at the End
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THE
LIGHT
AT
THE
END

 

John Skipp/Craig Spector

 

DOWN IN THE TUNNELS THE NIGHT LASTS FOREVER

 

He is waiting for you, in the subway darkness. Waiting for the moon to above the New York City skyline. When night falls, and the shadows reign, he is free to roam the streets.

Looking for you.
Born of an ancient, incredible evil.
Abandoned on the doorstep of Hell.
Left to discover for himself the infinite,
terrible ways of darkness: a monstrous
babe in the woods, rapidly coming
of age. He can see into your dreams.
He can step inside your mind.
He can drain you of your spirit,
seduce you with his glowing eyes.
And take you on a journey to a place
far worse than death, where the lust
and the hunger never end.
You are his slave.
You are his food.
You are his army.
He can’t wait to meet you.

“In retaliation to the clones and clichés that have stagnated the horror genre in recent years, Skipp and Spector have created a novel that’s like a roller coaster ride with a lapful of razor blades and no safety bar. Hang on as best you can. Time to worry about the scars later.”
—Karl Edward Wagner

 

“Slam-bang no-holds-barred horror for with stout hearts and strong stomachs.”
— T. E. D. Klein, author of
The Ceremonies

 

Unique, funky, masterful, and unbearably suspenseful, THE LIGHT AT THE END is the stuff of nightmares. It’s a guitar riff fingered by Satan, bizarre graffiti splashed in blood, blinding light where light has never shone before. Come, step below the streets of Manhattan for a ride you will never forget.

THE LIGHT AT THE END

Ten murders on the New York subway — all horrible, all inexplicable, no two alike. The city’s tabloids blare forth headlines about a “Subway Psycho.” The cops comb the island, looking for a vicious hoodlum or on escaped lunatic. Both are wrong — for both are assuming that the killer is human…

 

Only a handful of people know the truth about the demonic force that has taken over Manhattan’s cavernous underground.

 

The terrible way Rudy died one night in the echoing depths of an isolated subway tunnel.

The creature he has now become — a cunning creature boasting ancient and unlimited evil.

Worst of all, they know the dreadful fate he has in store for millions of innocent people…

THE LIGHT AT THE END

 

“COME HAVE A SEAT, STEPHEN,” RUDY SAID. “BE MY GUEST.”

 

Rudy spread his hands to indicate free seats on either side of him. A chill ran through Stephen, paralyzingly cold, and it said
nobody wants to get too close to him. Everybody else is afraid of him too.

There was something strangely compelling about Rudy’s eyes: a fire not previously there, a force behind them that seemed to draw Stephen forward despite himself.

Slowly, he obeyed.

“It’s good to see you,” Rudy said, grinning. “How’ve ya been?”

Stephen shrugged. It was as if somebody had him hooked to invisible strings; had it been left to him, he wouldn’t have been able to move at all.

“I suppose that you’ve been wondering where I’ve been.” Rudy laughed out loud. “I’ve been traveling. A trip and a half.” He wrung his bone-white hands. “A great and mysterious journey.”

“I’ve gone all the way in.” Rudy’s voice was hypnotizing, like the hiss of a cobra over cold slit eyes. “I’ve gone all the way into the darkness. And do you know what I found there?”


The other side
.” Rudy’s face, as he said it, was a terrible thing to behold. “The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, my friend: a place beyond your wildest dreams.”

“I think I’d like to take you there…”

THE
LIGHT
AT
THE
END

 

John Skipp/Craig Spector

 

BANTAM BOOKS
TORONTO · NEW YORK · LONDON · SYDNEY · AUCKLAND

 

THE LIGHT AT THE END
A Bantam Book / February 1986
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1986 by John Skipp and Craig Spector.
Caricature of Craig Spector and John Skipp
by Leslie Sternbergh.
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission.
For information address: Bantam Books, Inc.

 

ISBN 0-553-25451-0

 

Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada.

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, Inc. it’s trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is registered in U. S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, Inc., 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10103.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

O 0987654321

 

To Marianne and Lori, with whom we are in love,
and
to the Creator, who gives us the Light by which we more clearly see the Darkness.

Acknowledgments

 

The authors would like to thank the following for loving, supporting, and/or putting up with us during the writing of this novel:

 

Lou Aronica, our editor, who tampers with nothing and makes only the best suggestions; Adele Leone and Richard Monaco, our agents
>
who push for us like crazy; T. E. D. Klein, late of
Twilight Zone
, who gave us our break and encourages us still; Educated and Dedicated messenger service, who provided the background for this novel and got us through the lean years; our parents, who kept the faith; Dennis Etchison, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, Gardner Dozois, and Karl Edward Wagner, who took a little time out for kind words and advice; and the city of New York, where anything can happen and probably will, for showing us the bottom line.

 

We’d also like, with a minimum of redundance, to give special thanks to Shirley, Charley, Gram, Dave, Tappan, Beth, Joel, Bob, Richard, Amy and Alan, Leslie and Adam, Matt, Krafty Polekat, Kim, Pete, Gail, Rick, Mindy, Shelley, Allison, Roy and Lauren, Mark, the rock mafia, Cubby, Glen, Tony, Max, Curtis, Cuz, Tommy and Cathy, Steve, Steve, Steve, Steve, and the city of York, Pa.

 

There are roughly fifteen billion other wonderful people we’d like to thank, but we only get one page. You know who you are. Thank you.

Prologue
On the Dark Train, Passing Through

 

When all the lights went out, Peggy Lewin was alone in the third car. She had been trying to immerse herself in
Love’s Deadly Stranger
, trying to drive away thoughts of that bastard Luis and their miserable “night on the town,” vainly fighting back tears. Now the paperback sat limp and forgotten in her hand, and all she could think about was how frightened she had suddenly become.

“Oh, Christ,” she moaned softly into the darkness. Slowly, she set down the book and reached into her purse, groping for a moment. Her fingers closed around the Mace and remained there while her eyes cast blindly from corner to corner and a voice in her head whined
it’s too late to be taking the subway alone, that cheap bastard, wouldn’t even pay for a cab, goddamn it!

Peggy squeezed the Mace for reassurance, tried to control herself. Light from the tunnel strobed in through the windows, playing across billboards for El Pico coffee and Preparation H. A nervous giggle escaped her. It was buried under the roar of the train.

Should I get up?
she wondered.
Find some people, some light?
She stood, shaky, in the center of the aisle, and looked in either direction. Darkness. A sigh escaped her, and she moved to the security of the metal holding post on her right: a pretty girl, slightly overweight and modestly trendy, willing slave of Manhattan’s you-gotta-look-good prerogative, wishing suddenly that she’d played down her curves. Who knew what kinds of creeps rode at this time of night?

The dark train pushed forward, racing toward the southern tip of Manhattan Island. It struck her that they would be rolling into 42
nd
Street any minute now, and that even though Times Square wasn’t the greatest place in the world at 3: 30 in the morning, it had to be better than this. There’d be a cop or something, anyway. There’d be light.

There’d be hope.

“Hurry up,” she almost prayed. “Oh, hurry up and let me out of here.”

As if in answer, light flooded the car from either side. Gratefully, she moved toward the center doors, watching the pillars whip past, the regular hodgepodge of derelicts assembled, the long
TIMES SQUARE 42
nd
ST.
sign, more pillars, an officer, more pillars, more pillars, more…

…and she realized that the train wasn’t going to stop, and she pounded against the glass with her fists, a mute sob welling in her throat as the station whizzed by…

…and in the last moment of concentrated light, before darkness engulfed her once again and completely, she saw the man standing in the space between cars, staring in through the door.

Staring in at her.

And she saw the door slowly open.

 

“It ain’t stoppin’, Jerry! Check it out!”

“Yeah, I see it, man,” he answered, but Jerry wasn’t watching that at all. His eyes were on the big black cop, smiling coldly, while his mind worked. “Yeah, officer. Why doncha go find out what’s wrong with ol’ Pinhead, the conductor? Lights go out, train don’t stop… Looks like a job for the
police
, ya know it?”

The cop frowned, nervous and torn. On the one hand, something was definitely wrong. On the other hand, skinheaded punks like these guys formed their own category of bad news. Sure, one of ‘em couldn’t even sit up right now, might start pukin’ any minute; and the one with his nose against the glass looked too stupid to worry about.

But he’ll be right there if this Jerry creep starts anything
, he noted, unconsciously fondling the butt of his gun.
And Jerry-creep probably will
.

There were two other people in the car: two little middle-class hippie throwbacks, probably never been so glad to see a cop in their lives. They were huddled together in the corner by the door, eyes full of mute appeal. Jerry had been giving ‘em grief before the lights went out; their up-raised voices had drawn Officer Vance in from the last car, where he’d wearily been trying to rouse a crashed-out derelict.

If I leave now
, Vance knew for a fact,
these boys are dead meat. Not that it makes that much difference to me. But, dammit, then I will have to book Jerry and his bozo friends, chase ‘em halfway to Hell and back on this friggin’ blacked-out train. Oh, Jesus.
Thoughts of switchblades in the darkness made him very, very nervous.

He had pretty well decided to stay when Peggy Lewin’s scream ripped into their ears from five cars ahead. The two hippies jumped a foot a piece and came down hugging each other like pansies in a high wind. Something in Vance’s chest tightened up and froze; that was not a natural scream. He quickly glanced at Jerry’s face and saw that the fucker was smiling.

“Sic ‘em, baby!” Jerry yelled. “Woof woof woof! It’s Police Dog!” His dimwit buddyboy guffawed, steaming up the window. Vance felt like knocking their heads together.

Then Peggy Lewin screamed again. This time it was worse. Much worse. It wailed out and out, as though her soul had been soaked in gasoline and lit, sent howling out of her mouth to shrivel and die in midair. Even Jerry shut up for a second.

Even Jerry had never heard such terror.


Damn
,” Vance hissed. He had no choice. Peggy Lewin had made up his mind for him. Choking down fear, he drew his revolver and started running toward the front of the train. When Jerry refused to get out of the way, Vance knocked him on his ass and kept going, just as the tunnel swallowed them again.

“I HOPE IT GETS YOU, TOO, YOU BLACK BASTARD!” Jerry bellowed in the fresh darkness. Vance bit back a response, by now scared half out of his mind. The screaming had stopped, but somehow that was not reassuring.

I hope it gets you, too
. The voice rang in his ears. Like the scream. Like the roar of the train.
You black bastard!
It hurt to be hated so automatically, so completely, on the basis of so very little: uniforms, pigments in skin. The fact that he did the exact same thing did nothing to dampen his rage.

I’d love to blow you away, white boy
, Vance thought bitterly as he came to the door.
Blow you right the hell off this world
. But the girl, if that was what it was, might still be alive. He was compelled to check it out.

The door slid open, and he stepped into the space between cars. The wind blasted into him, and the metal platform pitched and buckled beneath his feet. Carefully, he reached over and opened the door to the next car, moved from blackness to blackness to blackness, pausing nervously on the other side.

The car was empty. Silent, but for the ever-present thunder. No,
more
than silent and empty.
Dead
. Suddenly, Vance was overwhelmed by the feeling that he was riding in a dead thing, already beginning to rot, kept in motion by a power not It’s own.

Vance knocked on the conductor’s door. No answer. He rattled the lock. “
Sid?
” he called. “
You in there?
” No answer. Something damp and chilling uncoiled in his gut.

What the hell is wrong with this train?
he wondered, and then forced himself to keep moving.

 

A man named Donald Baldwin was slumped in the driver’s seat, one hand dutifully on the throttle, staring straight ahead. The lights from his instruments were the only working lights on the train; they cast bright reds and yellows on all the shiny spots and streaks in his clothing.

The door to the engineer’s booth was locked from the inside. Any driver with half a brain kept it locked on night runs, because you were a sitting duck in there, and only lunatics rode at night anyway. If you were crazy enough to be there in the first place, you could at least minimize your risks.

Tonight, Don Baldwin had been grateful for his half a brain. Right after leaving 51
st
Street, something started to rattle at the door. Not just the train shaking around; something was trying to get in. Don didn’t know why he thought some
thing
instead of some
one
, but he did, and it scared the bejesus out of him.

He had tried to raise Sid, his conductor, who sat in a similar cab toward the middle of the train. No answer. He couldn’t even be sure if the intercom was working.
Goddamn train is falling apart
, he silently groused.
Whole goddamn transit system
. He got a sudden vivid flash of Sid and Vance, just hanging out, the exact kind of lazy-ass spear-chucking bastards that were dragging the subways to ruin.
And me with a nutcase at the door
, he moaned.
God damn it
.

Don lit a cigarette, his twenty-third of the night. He always smoked a lot on night runs; it killed time, and what else could you do? Even with his side window open, it filled up with smoke pretty fast in there.

He never saw the mist drift in, under the door.

He never even knew what hit him.

 

By the time Officer Vance reached the car where Peggy Lewin lived and died, the back of the train was already filling up with rats. They were gray, squat, bloated little bastards with red, gleaming eyes, and they came up through the floor like maggots out of pork. As though they’d been there the whole time. Just waiting.

The derelict that Vance failed to rouse was still sleeping, decked out on the cool curved plastic of the seats, thick in his own smells. The rats had found him.

Just as Vance had been found by the dark shape in the doorway. The shape that motioned toward the dead thing at its feet, and impaled him with its luminous eyes.

 

“Cigarette?” Jerry was kneeling in front of the two wimps, grinning unpleasantly. They shook their heads, blubbering. He smacked the taller one across the face, eliciting a yelp. “I didn’t ask if you
wanted
one! I ast if you
got
one!”

The taller wimp, William Deere by name, shook his head more emphatically and whimpered a little. First time he’d ever wished for cigarettes, too. Big night for firsts. Fortunately, his friend Robert had one; the little longhair pulled a Tareyton out with shaky fingers and handed it to Jerry.

“What the hell is this?” Jerry took it, inspected it in the light from the tunnel. “Tareyton. These any good?”

“I like ‘em,” Robert said, risking a chummy grin. His NO NUKES T-shirt was plastered to his back and armpits. He was remembering a movie he saw on TV once, with Tony Musante and Martin Sheen playing badass teen psychos who terrorized sixteen people on a subway car. It was called
The Incident
, and it had made him swear that
he’d
never be intimidated like that.
He’d
never simper and squirm and let some tough guy take him apart piece by piece.

He had fooled himself about that for a long time. No more. If Jerry wanted to take Robert apart, Jerry could go right ahead. Robert wasn’t going to do shit. Robert was going to risk a chummy grin.

“Great,” Jerry said, grinning back. “You got anything else I might like, baby boy?” Roberts smile dried up, and he reached into his pockets.

“You, too, doll,” said Jerry’s stupid friend, coming over to join in the fun. William Deere nodded now, exercising his neck far more than his spine. He echoed his friend’s gesture, coming up with eighty dollars in crisp twenties.

“Hot damn! Moses, you done good by us.” Jerry punched William in the shoulder affectionately. “Yer buddy didn’t do so hot, though. Wassa mattah, little Jesus? Nobody givin’ at church?” He grabbed Robert by the collar and started to hoist him out of his seat.

Then the door at the front of the car slammed open, and Vance reappeared, still holding the gun. There was something stiff about his movement as he came toward them. And his eyes gleamed red, like a rat’s.

They hit 34
th
Street just as the first shot went off, striking Jerry’s asshole friend in the forehead and spinning him backward. Light flooded the train, illuminating the brains and blood that spattered the back wall. Jerry jumped back, freaking. William and Robert squealed like pigs.

Jerry’s remaining friend, the drunk and sickly one, looked up in time to see a nightmare appear in the door behind Vance. He groaned, assumed he was delirious, and lost it all over the floor. Vance pumped two bullets into him, rolling him off into his own vomit, face first and forever still.


Jesus!
” Jerry screamed. He pulled a very nasty blade from his back pocket and flicked it open, brought it to rest against William Deere’s throat. The gangly hippie came up with ease, back pressed against Jerry’s pounding chest. “One more step, man, this boy gets his throat sl…”

Vance’s next shot smashed William Deere’s nose on its way out the other side. The body jerked once and then sagged in Jerry’s arms. He pushed it away with a tiny animal sound and ran screaming toward the cop.

To his credit, Jerry was every bit as tough as he liked to act. He took one in the belly and one in the right lung, crawled ten feet on his knees and buried the blade in Vance’s thigh before drowning in his own blood. Vance watched, blank-faced, not even seeming to feel the pain.


Take it out, please
,” said a voice from behind Vance. A voice of unspeakable calm and remorselessness. A chill, serpentine hiss. A whisper of graveyard breeze.

Vance dropped the gun, gripped the handle of Jerry’s switch with both hands, and pulled it wetly out of his leg. He straightened. The knife hung poised in front of his stomach.


Now in
,” said the voice, and Vance plunged the point into his navel.


Now out
.” The blade slid away with a puckering sound.


Now in
.”

Officer Vance was slopping viscera all over his boots by the time Robert finally lost his mind. The young man bolted from his seat and attacked the end door, pissed himself and didn’t even know it. The door slid open almost by itself, and he staggered out into the space between, wind and thunder pounding at him as he screamed, “HELP ME! HELP ME! OMIGOD, YOU GOTTA…”

BOOK: The Light at the End
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