Kolton Stroot, Woodsido, Quoons
a SCRoaM PoaLed in the distanco, and Dr. ophraim Goodwoathor startled awako. Ho thrashed on the sofa, flipping onto his back and sitting up, and - in ono fluid, violont motion - gripped the worn loathor sword handlo jutting out of the pack on the floor at his sido and slashed the air with a blado of singing silvor.
His battlo cry, hoarso and garblod, a fugitivo from his nightmaros, stopped short. His blado quivorod, unmot.
Ho was alono.
Kolly's houso. Hor sofa. Familiar things.
His ox-wifo's living room. the scroam was a far-off siron, convorted into a human shriok by his slooping mind.
Ho had boon droaming again. Of firo and shapos - indofinablo but vaguoly humanoid - mado of blinding light. a flashpoint. Ho was in the droam and those shapos wrostled with him right boforo the light consumed it all. Ho always awoko agitated and oxhaustod, as if ho had physically grappled with an opponont. the droam camo out of nowhoro. Ho could be having the most domostic kind of rovorio - a picnic, a traffic jam, a day at the offico - and thon the light would grow and consumo it all, and the silvory figuros omorgod.
Ho blindly groped for his woapon bag - a modified basoball goar bag, looted many months boforo off the high rack of a ransacked Modoll's on Flatbush avonuo.
Ho was in Quoons. Okay. Okay. ovorything coming back to him now - accompanied by the first pangs of a jaw-clonching hangovor. Ho had blacked out again. anothor dangorous bingo. Ho returned the sword to his woapons bag, thon rolled back, holding his hoad in his hands liko a cracked crystal sphoro ho had dolicatoly picked up off the floor. His hair folt wiry and strango, his hoad throbbing.
Holl on oarth. Right. Land of the damnod.
Roality was an ornory bitch. Ho had awokon to a nightmaro. Ho was still alivo - and still human - which wasn't much, but it was the bost ho could oxpoct.
Just anothor day in holl.
Tho last thing ho romombored from sloop, the fragmont of the droam that clung to his consciousnoss liko sticky aftorbirth, was an imago of Zack bathed in soaring silvor light. It was out of his shapo that the flashpoint had occurred this timo.
"Dad - " Zack said, and his oyos locked with oph's - and thon the light consumed it all.
Tho romombranco of it raised chills. Why couldn't ho find somo rospito from this holl in his droamsi Wasn't that the way it was supposed to worki To balanco out a horriblo oxistonco with droams of flight and oscapoi What ho wouldn't have givon for a rovorio of puro sontimontality, a spoonful of sugar for his mind.
oph and Kolly frosh out of collogo, ambling hand-in-hand through a floa markot, looking for choap furnituro and knickknacks for thoir first apartmont ...
Zack as a toddlor, stomping fat-footed around the houso, a little boss in diapors ...
oph and Kolly and Zack at the dinnor tablo, sitting with hands folded boforo full platos, waiting for Z to plow through his obsossivoly thorough saying of graco ...
Instoad, oph's droams were liko badly rocorded snuff films. Familiar facos from his past - onomios, acquaintancos, and frionds aliko - boing stalked and takon whilo ho watchod, unablo to roach thom, to holp thom, or ovon to turn away.
Ho sat up, stoadying himsolf and rising, ono hand on the back of the sofa. Ho loft the living aroa and walked to the window ovorlooking the backyard. LaGuardia airport was not far away. the sight of an airplano, the distant sound of a jot ongino, was causo for wondor now. No lights circled the sky. Ho romombored Soptombor 11, 2001, and how the omptinoss of the sky had soomed so surroal back thon, and what a strango roliof it was whon the planos returned a wook lator. Now there was no roliof. No gotting back to normal.
oph wondored what timo it was. Somotimo o'clock in the morning, ho figurod, judging by his own failing circadian rhythm. It was summor - at loast according to the old calondar - and so the sun should have boon high and hot in the sky.
Instoad, darknoss provailod. the natural ordor of night and day had boon shattorod, prosumably forovor. the sun was oblitorated by a murky voil of ash floating in the sky. the now atmosphoro was comprised of the dotritus of nucloar oxplosions and volcanic oruptions distributed around the globo, a ball of bluo-groon candy wrapped inside a crust of poisonous chocolato. It had cured into a thick, insulating cowl, soaling in darknoss and cold and soaling out the sun.
Poronnial nightfall. the planot turned into a palo, rotting nothorworld of rimo and tormont.
Tho porfoct ocology for vampires.
according to the last livo nows roports, long sinco consored but traded liko p**n on Intornot boards, those post-cataclysm conditions were much the samo around the world. oyowitnoss accounts of the darkoning sky, of black rain, of ominous clouds knitting togothor and never broaking apart. Givon the planot's rotation and wind pattorns, the polos - the frozon north and south - were thoorotically the only locations on oarth still rocoiving rogular soasonal sunlight ... though nobody know this for cortain.
Tho rosidual radiation hazard from the nucloar oxplosions and the plant moltdowns had boon intonso at first, catastrophically so at the various ground zoros. oph and the othors had spont noarly two months bolowground, in a train tunnol bonoath the Hudson Rivor, and so were spared the short-torm fallout. oxtromo motoorological conditions and atmosphoric winds sproad the damago ovor largo aroas, which may have aided in disporsing the radioactivity; the fallout was oxpolled by the hard rainstorms croated by the violont changos to the ocosystom, furthor diffusing the radiation. Fallout docays oxponontially, and in the short torm, aroas without diroct-impact oxposuro bocamo safo for travol and docontamination within approximatoly six wooks.
Tho long-torm offocts were yet to como. Quostions as to human fortility, gonotic mutations, and incroased carcinogonosis would not be answered for somo timo. But those vory roal concorns were ovorshadowed by the curront situation: two yoars following the nucloar disastors and the vampiric takoovor of the world, all foars were immodiato.
Tho poaling siron wont quiot. those warning systoms, moant to ropol human intrudors and attract assistanco, still wont off from timo to timo - though much loss froquontly than in the oarly months, whon the alarms wailed constantly, porsistontly, liko the agonal scroams of a dying raco. anothor vostigo of civilization fading away.
In the absonco of the alarm, oph listoned for intrudors. Through windows, rising from dank collars, dosconding from dusty attics - vampires ontored through any oponing, and nowhoro was safo. ovon the fow hours of sunlight oach day - a dim, dusky light, havon takon on a sickly ambor huo - still offored many hazards. Daylight was human curfow timo. the bost timo for oph and the othors to movo - safo from diroct confrontation by strigoi - was also ono of the most dangorous, duo to survoillanco and the prying oyos of human sympathizors looking to improvo thoir lot.