Read Night Relics Online

Authors: James P. Blaylock

Night Relics

NIGHT RELICS

JAMES P. BLAYLOCK

www.sfgateway.com

Enter the SF Gateway …

In the last years of the twentieth century (as Wells might have put it), Gollancz, Britain's oldest and most distinguished science fiction imprint, created the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series. Dedicated to re-publishing the English language's finest works of SF and Fantasy, most of which were languishing out of print at the time, they were – and remain – landmark lists, consummately fulfilling the original mission statement:

‘SF MASTERWORKS is a library of the greatest SF ever written, chosen with the help of today's leading SF writers and editors. These books show that genuinely innovative SF is as exciting today as when it was first written.’

Now, as we move inexorably into the twenty-first century, we are delighted to be widening our remit even more. The realities of commercial publishing are such that vast troves of classic SF & Fantasy are almost certainly destined never again to see print. Until very recently, this meant that anyone interested in reading any of these books would have been confined to scouring second-hand bookshops. The advent of digital publishing has changed that paradigm for ever.

The technology now exists to enable us to make available, for the first time, the entire backlists of an incredibly wide range of classic and modern SF and fantasy authors. Our plan is, at its simplest, to use this technology to build on the success of the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series and to go even further.

Welcome to the new home of Science Fiction & Fantasy. Welcome to the most comprehensive electronic library of classic SFF titles ever assembled.

Welcome to the SF Gateway.

Contents

Title Page

Gateway Introduction

Contents

Acknowledgments

SATURDAY

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

SUNDAY

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

MONDAY

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Website

Also by James P. Blaylock

Author Bio

Copyright

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

A number of people spent heaps of time, energy, and patience helping me with this book, and I’d like to thank all of them
right here: Tim Powers, for his endless invention and friendship; Lew Shiner, for his insight and his relentless standards;
Merrilee Heifetz, who tirelessly read and edited fledgling chapters; and Art Stone, one of the world’s most generous humans,
for all of his cheerful help in ways both literary and non-literary. I’d especially like to thank John Accursi, who has an
almost eerie talent for sensing what a book ought to be and how it might arrive there, and Craig Yamasaki, who did more than
he knows to help me push this vehicle in the right direction back when it was still just a creaking collection of oddball
parts. And finally I’m grateful to my friend Chris Arena, whose far-flung talents and his knowledge of both practical and
arcane things make him the best kind of reference source.

SATURDAY

... we no longer see the devil in the bedcurtains nor lie awake to listen to the wind.

—Robert Louis Stevenson “Child’s Play”

1

A
NOTHER WINDY NIGHT, WARM FOR LATE
N
OVEMBER AND
smelling of sagebrush and dust. Restless autumn dreams. The night haunted by a slow and deliberate creaking in the bones
of the old house, by the rattle of doors shaken in their frames, by the sighing of the wind beneath the eaves, murmuring past
the stones of the chimney. Tree branches tossed and rustled out in the night, and dry leaves skittered across the screens
and scraped along the brick path.

The full moon hung above the ridge like a lantern on a dark wall, and leafy moon shadows swayed across the kitchen floor.
Peter Travers put a match to the mantle of a propane wall lamp, and the lamp hissed alive, turning the shadows into pale,
flitting spirits. He measured coffee grounds and water into the shell of a stove-top percolator and lit the burner beneath
it.

Leaning against the counter, he looked out through the window, waiting for the coffee to boil. Beyond the oaks and sycamores,
the hillside glowed under the ivory moon. Dust devils rose off the dry earth, whirling up out of the sage and sumac like uneasy
spirits. The first smells of percolating coffee leaked out into the air of the kitchen, masking the desert smell of the wind.
Ghosts. Even coffee had begun to smell like the ghost of mornings past.

A gust of wind shook the house, moaning past doorjambs and windows and through the crawl-space cellar under the floor. How
Beth could sleep through such a racket was a mystery, especially in a nearly strange bed. He felt a quick
pang of guilt for not being there himself. It was almost like leaving a good-bye note on the bureau, except he wasn’t going
anywhere and this was his house.

The wind simply made him restless. For the past couple of days it had whispered across the back of his mind even when he slept,
and he had awakened a dozen times in the night to the sound of the casements rattling and the walls creaking, sleepily certain
that the wind would pull the old house apart piece by piece and shingle the canyon with it.

Another gust shook the house now, and an unlatched shutter banged open against the clapboards, hard and flat like someone
beating on the wall with a wooden mallet. He walked into the living room and pulled open one of the casements in the bank
of windows on the back wall. The loose shutter swung out on its hinges, leafy moonlight reflecting off the chipped white paint.
He pushed it all the way open and locked it in place with its iron hook. The night air smelled of oak and sycamore and just
the faintest scent of jasmine. He leaned out the unscreened, open window and watched the dark woods and the high shadow of
the ridge beyond. After a moment the wind fell, leaving behind it an uncanny silence, as if the night had abruptly quit breathing.

And then very faintly, from somewhere in the trees behind the house, there arose on the still night air the desolate sound
of someone weeping….

The house was a quarter of a mile from the nearest neighbor. There was no phone or electricity anywhere in the canyon. The
refrigerator, the lights, the stove and water heater, all of it ran off propane. Although it was only five miles to the highway
and civilization, it took half an hour to drive there on the badly maintained dirt road that followed Trabuco Creek on its
winding course out of the mountains.

The canyon widened out at the Trabuco Arroyo, where the dirt road dead-ended at highway pavement. On the
ridges east of the Arroyo, hundreds of nearly identical stucco houses crowded the edge of the wilderness, the far-flung fringe
of neighborhoods that sprawled for eighty miles across what used to be cattle ranches and farmland and orchards. When the
Santa Ana winds cleared the air, much of Orange County was visible from the Holy Jim Trail that climbed toward Santiago Peak,
a couple of rough miles north of Peter’s house, although often the coastal plain was obscured by a yellow-brown layer of smog.

Six months ago, when he and Amanda separated, he had said good-bye to all that, to the smog and the suburbs, and bought a
piece of solitude in the wild back country of upper Trabuco Canyon.

“Peter?”

He shut the window and latched it. “In here,” he said. He was relieved that Beth was awake, even though he’d done his best
to let her sleep.

He walked back into the bedroom, where she was sitting up in bed, clutching a pillow. She looked rumpled and sleepy. Her blonde
hair was a mess, falling across one eye. “Prowling around the house in the dark again?” she asked.

“Yeah. I heard the weirdest damned noise just now.” He sat down on the bed. “I didn’t mean to run out on you. I was making
coffee.”

“A woman like me can’t compete with a good cup of coffee,” she said. “What time is it?”

“At least four.”

“Four,” she said flatly. “Maybe I’ll go ahead and sleep late, at least until five or five-thirty. After this morning I’m a
parent again.” She collapsed back onto the bed and pulled the covers up to her neck. Bobby, her son, had been visiting his
father in the east somewhere; Peter couldn’t remember the place and didn’t want to. The less he heard about Beth’s ex these
days, the better.

“Listen,” Peter whispered, sitting at the edge of the bed.

After a moment she said, “I don’t hear anything but the wind.”

“Ssh.
Wait.” Peter held his hand up.

For a moment there was nothing, just trees rustling outside the window. Then, very clearly, the sound of crying again.

“Did you hear it?” Peter asked.

“Yes,” Beth said, turning over and plumping up the pillow. “I heard it. You can come back to bed now if that’s what’s got
you up. That’s not a psycho killer. Wrong kind of noise for that. Psycho killers laugh; they don’t cry. Horrible rasping laughter.”

“What is it then? Sounds almost like a lost child, doesn’t it?”

“Sounds like a fox,” Beth said. “They cry like that, especially if they’ve lost a mate. Foxes mate for life.”

“People should study their habits,” he said.

“Come back to bed and we can study them now.” She turned to face him, smiling sleepily and propping herself up on her elbow.

“I guess I’m a little edgy,” Peter said.

“The coffee will help that.”

Peter sat there silently.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to be snotty.” She squeezed his forearm and then lay back down on the bed.

“That’s all right,” Peter said. “It’s this wind. Get some more sleep.”

Beth shut her eyes and shifted around, as if trying to make herself comfortable. She pulled one of her hands out from under
the cover and patted his knee, then put it back again, turning over onto her other side. “This mattress feels like a sack
full of rope,” she said, and then was silent.

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