Read Darkness Online

Authors: John Saul

Tags: #Horror

Darkness (55 page)

Perhaps the other students who were in the classroom might forget the agony they’d heard and seen that day.

The boy never would.

John Saul is “a writer with the touch for raising goose-flesh,” says the
Detroit News
, and bestseller after bestseller have proved again and again his mastery for storytelling and his genius at creating heart-stopping suspense. Enter his chilling world, and prepare to realize your own hidden fears:




The God Project



Second Child


The Unloved

The Unwanted


a cognizant original v5 release november 24 2010

Available from Bantam Books

and now, turn the page for a special preview of John Saul’s novel

They call it The Academy.

Housed in a secluded, cliff-top mansion overlooking the rugged and picturesque Pacific coast, it is a school for special children. Children gifted—or cursed—with extraordinary minds. Children soon to come under the influence of an intelligence even more brilliant than their own—and unspeakably evil. For within this mind a dark, ingenious plan is taking form. A hellish experiment meant to probe the ultimate limits of the human brain.

A novel of unrelenting, nerve-jangling suspense,
is John Saul’s most terrifying tale to date … now, here is a chilling glimpse of what awaits you in the …



Timmy Evans woke up in shadows.

Shadows so deep he saw nothing.

Shadows that surrounded Timmy, wrapping him in a blackness so dense that he wondered if the vague memory of light that hovered on the edges of his memory was perhaps only a dream.

Yet Timmy was certain that it was not merely a dream, that there was such a thing as light; that somewhere, far beyond the shadows in which he found himself, there was another world.

A world, he was suddenly certain, of which he was no longer a part.

He had no idea what time it was, nor what day, nor even what year.

Was it day, or night?

He had no way of knowing.

Tentatively, the first tendrils of panic already beginning to curl themselves around him, Timmy began exploring the blackness of his shadowed world, tried to reach out into the darkness.

He could feel nothing.

It was almost as if his fingers themselves were gone.

He put his hands together.

Instead of the expected warmth of one palm pressed firmly against the other, there was nothing.

No feeling at all.

The tendrils of panic grew stronger, twisting around Timmy Evans like the tentacles of a giant octopus.

His mind recoiled from the panic, pulling back, trying to hide from the darkness.

What had happened?

Where was he?

How had he gotten there?

Instinctively, he began counting.





The numbers marched through his head, growing ever larger as he listened to the voice in his mind that silently intoned the words that meant the most to him in all the world.

The same voice he remembered from the suddenly-dim past, when there had been light, and sounds other than the voice that whispered the numbers to him in the silence of his mind.

Even then, before he had awakened in the shadows, only the numbers had truly meant anything to him.

It had always been that way, ever since he was very small, and had lain on his back, staring at an object suspended above his crib.

The numbers on the blocks hanging from the mobile had meant something to Timmy Evans.

Though he had been too young to have a word for the mobile itself, the memory of it was clear.

“One, two, three, four.”

The object, brightly colored and suspended from the ceiling on a string, turned slowly above him, the voice in his head speaking each numeral as his eyes fastened on it.

“One, two, three, four.”

Later, he’d seen another object, on the wall high above his crib.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.”

Timmy Evans had learned to count the numbers as the hands on the clock pointed to them, though he had no idea what the clock was, nor what purpose it served. But he would lie in his crib all day, his eyes fixed on the clock, saying each number as the hand came to it.

When he’d learned to walk, he’d begun counting his steps, saying each number out loud.

Counting the steps that led down from the front porch of his parents’ house.

Counting the cracks in the broken sidewalk that separated his yard from the street.

Counting the panes in the stained glass windows when his parents took him to church, the pillars that supported the church’s high ceiling.

Counting the slats in the Venetian blinds that covered the window of his room at home, and the neat rows of vegetables in the little garden his mother planted in the backyard.

Counting everything, endless numbers streaming through his mind.

Numbers that meant something.

Numbers that meant order.

Numbers that defined his world.

The numbers filled his mind, consumed him.

They were his friends, his toys.

He put them together, and took them apart, examining them in his own mind until he understood exactly how they worked.

Multiplying them, dividing them, squaring them and factoring them.

Even as he’d grown up, and begun to talk of other things, the numbers were always there, streaming through his mind.

Now, in the terrifying darkness into which he’d awakened, he began to play with the numbers once more.

Timmy began with a million.

He’d always liked that number.

A one, with six zeros after it.

He multiplied it by nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine.

Then multiplied the total by nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight.

He kept going, the numbers in his head growing ever larger, occupying more and more of his mind.

And yet the shadows were still there, and though he tried to concentrate only on the numbers, never losing track of the total, the shadows and the silence still closed around him.

He moved the numbers into the space in the back of his mind where he could keep them going with half his mind, and used the rest to try once more to figure out where he was, and how he’d gotten into the shadows.


He’d been at school before he woke in the shadows.

A nice school. A school he liked, where the other kids were almost as good at numbers as he was.

A pretty school, with a big house set on a broad lawn, shaded by the biggest trees Timmy had ever seen.

Redwood trees.

He’d never seen trees that big before his parents had brought him to the school.

Nor had he ever had friends before.

Friends like himself, who could do things with their brains that other children couldn’t.

But now something had happened to him.


He tried to remember.

He’d been in his room.

His room on the third floor.

He’d been asleep.

And before that, he’d been crying.

Crying, because he’d felt homesick, missing his mother and father, and even his little brother, who he didn’t even really like.

He’d cried himself to sleep, wondering if everyone was going to tease him the next morning, because he’d burst into tears in the dining-room, and run out, and up the stairs, slamming his door and not letting anyone in all evening.

Then, sometime in the night, he’d awakened, and heard something.

Heard what?

Timmy couldn’t remember.

He concentrated harder, and a memory—so fleeting it was barely there at all—stirred.

A rattling sound, like the old elevator that went from the first floor all the way up to the fourth floor.


Until he’d awakened in the shadows.

Awakened, to find that there was still nothing.

Once more, he tried to reach out, but his body refused to respond, refused, even, to acknowledge the commands his mind issued.


His entire body was paralyzed!

Now the panic which had been entangling him in its grasp gripped him with an irresistible force, and he screamed out.

Screamed out—silently.

He tried to scream again, when out of the shadows, lights began to shine. Brilliant lights, in a spectrum of colors he’d never beheld before in his life.

Sounds, too, burst forth out of the silence that had surrounded him from the moment of his awakening, a cacophony of achromatic chords, layered over with the screeches and cries of the damned souls of Hell.

The sound built, along with the blazing lights, until Timmy Evans was certain that if it didn’t stop, his eyes would burn away, and his eardrums would burst.

Crying out once more, he tried to turn his mind away from the sights and sounds that assaulted him, to turn inward, and bury himself among the numbers that still streamed through the far reaches of his consciousness.

But it was too late.

He couldn’t find the numbers, couldn’t make sense of the gibberish he found where only a few short seconds ago the order of mathematics had been.

Then, as the sensory attack built to a crescendo, Timmy Evans knew what was happening to him.

Just as he realized what was happening, the last moment came.

The lights struck once more, with an intensity that tore through his brain, and the howling cacophony shattered his weakening mind.

In a blaze of light, accompanied by the roaring symphony of a thousand freight trains, Timmy Evans died.

Died, without ever remembering exactly what had happened to him.

Died, without understanding how, or why.

Died, when he was only eleven years old.

Died, in a manner so horrible no one would ever be told about it.…

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