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Authors: Graham Masterton

Tags: #Speculative Fiction

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Table of Contents

Recent Titles by Graham Masterton available from Severn House

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Epilogue

Recent Titles by Graham Masterton available from Severn House

The Sissy Sawyer Series

TOUCHY AND FEELY

THE PAINTED MAN

THE RED HOTEL

The Jim Rook Series

ROOK

THE TERROR

TOOTH AND CLAW

SNOWMAN

SWIMMER

DARKROOM

DEMON'S DOOR

GARDEN OF EVIL

Anthologies

FACES OF FEAR

FEELINGS OF FEAR

FORTNIGHT OF FEAR

FLIGHTS OF FEAR

FESTIVAL OF FEAR

Novels

BASILISK

BLIND PANIC

CHAOS THEORY

COMMUNITY

DESCENDANT

DOORKEEPERS

EDGEWISE

FIRE SPIRIT

GENIUS

GHOST MUSIC

THE HIDDEN WORLD

HOLY TERROR

HOUSE OF BONES

MANITOU BLOOD

THE NINTH NIGHTMARE

PETRIFIED

UNSPEAKABLE

COMMUNITY
Graham Masterton

 

 

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

    

    

First published in Great Britain and the USA 2013 by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9 – 15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital

an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited.

Copyright © 2013 by Graham Masterton.

The right of Graham Masterton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Masterton, Graham.

Community.

1. California–Fiction. 2. Horror tales.

I. Title

823.9'2-dc23

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8310-0 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-484-4 (trade paper)

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-436-2 (epub)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

ONE

T
he pick-up first appeared in Michael's rear-view mirror about twelve miles north of Weed.

It kept its distance at least a half-mile behind them, too far away for Michael to make out what kind of pick-up it was, but its halogen headlights were fixed on high beam, and so even at that distance they were irritatingly bright.

‘Inconsiderate schmuck,' said Michael, but only to himself, under his breath, because Tasha was sleeping. He flipped his mirror to anti-glare, but even that didn't stop him from being dazzled.

About eight miles north of Weed, it started to snow. Not thickly, just light whirly stuff that flew into the windshield and skipped diagonally across the highway. The sky was slate-gray, but as they came around the next curve, the pine trees thinned out, and Mount Shasta appeared, its snowy peaks shining orange in the very last light of the day.

‘Hey,' said Michael, giving Tasha a nudge. ‘Mount Shasta.'

She opened her eyes and blinked at him. ‘What did you say?'

‘Mount Shasta. Right there.'

‘Oh my God, it's
amazing
. It doesn't even look real.'

‘Fifth highest peak in the Cascade Range,' he told her.

‘You
would
know that.'

‘I also happen to know that it's four thousand three hundred twenty-two meters high, with an estimated volume of eight hundred fifty cubic kilometers.'

Tasha punched his arm. ‘Why do you always have to reduce
everything
to numbers? Look at it, it's so spiritual.'

‘Excuse me, I can do spiritual. The Modocs believe that the sky spirit Skell came down to live on top of Mount Shasta. Not only that, a race of aliens called Lemurians are supposed to have made their home inside it, in a network of tunnels. And those New Age people are convinced that it's one of America's principal hubs of psychic energy.'

‘I just think it's beautiful. It's so serene.'

Now and then, the mountain disappeared behind the trees, and each time when it reappeared its orange glow had faded a little more, until the sun went down and all they could see was its upper slopes, chilly and white in the gathering darkness. Mount Shasta was as lonely as God, somebody had once written about it, and as white as the winter moon.

Michael hadn't intended to drive through Siskiyou County after nightfall, especially if it was snowing, or windy, but they had blown a tire just outside Yreka and they were running over an hour behind schedule. He had booked a room for them at the Comfort Inn in Weed for six pm, and it was already a quarter after seven.

Tasha stretched herself. ‘You shouldn't let me go to sleep like that,' she complained. ‘I won't be able to sleep tonight now.'

‘Who said anything about sleeping?'

She punched his arm again and said, ‘Who do you think you're kidding? I know you. Ten-thirty precisely and you close your eyes and not even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir could wake you.'

Michael checked his rear-view mirror again. The pick-up was still behind them, still with its headlights on high. If he hadn't been so anxious to make up time he would have slowed down and let it pass.

He didn't argue with Tasha because he knew that she was right – he did zonk off as soon as his head hit the pillow. To be fair to him, though, he had been driving nearly three hundred miles every day, all the way up coastal highway 101 as far as Renton, near Seattle, to visit Tasha's sister Rody and her boring husband David. Now they were heading back home to San Francisco the quicker way, on Interstate 5. This trip was what they jokingly called their ‘jumping-the-gun-eymoon'. They had decided to move in together two weeks ago, but they weren't planning to get married until April at the earliest.

‘I'm so hungry,' said Tasha. ‘I don't know why. That cheeseburger we had at the Black Bear Diner – that was just
enormous.
'

‘I don't know where the hell you put it,' said Michael. ‘You're so darned skinny, when you eat something that size I'm amazed you don't look pregnant.'

‘I have an incredibly efficient metabolism, that's why. Everything I eat turns into pure energy.'

Michael couldn't disagree with that, either. Tasha was tireless. She ran her own craft store on Mission Street, Tickle Your Fancy, selling scented candles and handmade greetings cards and hand-knitted baby clothes. She was small and pretty in a sharp, Slavic way, with straight blonde hair and blue-gray eyes and a little snub nose, and Michael had fallen for her on the very first evening that they had been introduced, even though they couldn't have been more different.

Michael liked sitting in silence and thinking and analyzing stuff. Tasha liked running and Zumba and making things with her hands. And singing. She was always singing. Usually high, wistful songs like ‘I Can't Make You Love Me'.

The halogen headlights flashed in Michael's mirror and he lifted his hand to shield his eyes. ‘Dumb ass has been following me for miles with his lights full on.'

Tasha twisted around in her seat. ‘He probably doesn't realize. Why don't you let him pass?'

‘Because I'd have to slow down and we're late already.'

‘What does it matter? It's not like we're meeting anybody. Anyhow, it looks like he's gaining on us.'

Michael checked his mirror again, his eyes narrowed against the glare. ‘You're right. And it's about time, too.'

Not only was the pick-up gaining on them, it was gaining on them fast. Now it was only twenty-five feet behind them and the whole interior of Michael's Torrent was filled with blinding white light.

Michael moved as far over to the right-hand side of the highway as he could, so that the pick-up would have plenty of room to pass. But it continued to tailgate them, and now it was so close that it was almost touching the Torrent.

‘What's he doing?' Michael protested. ‘Guy's some kind of a lunatic!'

He jammed his foot down harder on the gas, and they began to pull away, but within seconds the pick-up had closed the distance again. He swerved left, and then right, and then left again, so that the Torrent's tires howled in a high-pitched chorus, but the pick-up kept after them like an attack dog.

‘Oh my God!' Tasha cried out. ‘He's going to kill us!'

Michael touched the brakes, but when he did so the pick-up bumped into them, with a deep, hollow thud. For a split-second he lost control, and the Torrent snaked from side to side.

‘Michael!' screamed Tasha, gripping the door handle tightly with one hand and pressing the other hand flat against the glove box.

The pick-up bumped into them again, harder this time. The Torrent slewed sideways across the blacktop, with Michael frantically spinning the steering wheel. All he could see was revolving headlights and flying snow. He stood on the brake pedal, trying to slow them both down, but the pick-up rammed into the passenger-side door and forced them right off the blacktop and on to the median strip, which was all rough grass and rocks.

A deafening bang was followed by a series of jolts and groans and screeching noises. Michael and Tasha were thrown violently from side to side, and then the Torrent rolled over and over and over, three times, with its roof buckling and its doors caving in and its windows bursting.

Michael saw Tasha's arms and legs flailing. He felt as if they were being flung around in a giant tumble-dryer, and the tumbling seemed to go on and on as if it would never stop. Their shoulders collided, their heads knocked together, and then he saw Tasha's head hitting the roof.

The Torrent rolled right over on to the northbound side of the highway, where it tilted on its side and then rocked to a standstill, upside-down.

It was almost completely dark. Michael, hanging twisted in his seat-belt, could see only Tasha's left side, with one thin arm in its pale blue sleeve caught crookedly between the armrests. He levered himself upward with his knees, trying to reach his seat-belt catch. As he did so he glimpsed the back of her head. Her blonde hair was glistening with blood, and he thought that he could see a triangular fragment of white bone sticking out.

‘Tasha?' he said hoarsely. His seat-belt was pressing across his throat and he could hardly breathe. ‘Tasha, can you hear me?'

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