Read Shadows 7 Online

Authors: Charles L. Grant (Ed.)

Shadows 7

SAY HELLO TO YOUR NIGHTMARES

A nervous type would shun this book of the damned, but not you. You're tough. You've got nerves of steel. You can take it. You're not afraid to risk sanity and soul by stepping into the SHADOWS.

So come on in, the terror's fine. And, oh yes, by the way—sweet dreams.

If you can ever sleep again.

All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

This Berkley book contains the complete text of the original hardcover edition. It has been completely reset in a type face designed for easy reading, and was printed from new film.

SHADOWS 7

A Berkley Book/published by arrangement with Doubleday & Company, Inc.

PRINTING HISTORY

Doubleday edition/published 1984

Berkley edition/February 1987

All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1984 by Charles L. Grant.

Introduction copyright © 1984 by Charles L. Grant.

Mrs. Clendon's Place
copyright © 1984 by Joseph Payne Brennan. By permission of the author and the author's agent, Kirby McCauley Ltd.

Stillwater, 1896
copyright © 1984 by Michael Cassutt. By permission of the author.

The Haunting
copyright © 1984 by Susan Casper. By permission of the author.

Daddy
copyright © 1984 by Earl Godwin. By permission of the author.

Seeing the World
copyright © 1984 by Ramsey Campbell. By permission of the author.

Three Days
copyright © 1984 by Tanith Lee. By permission of the author.

Still Frame
copyright © 1984 by Jack C. Haldeman II. By permission of the author.

Talking in the Dark
copyright © 1984 by Dennis Etchison. By permission of the author.

A Matter of Taste
copyright © 1984 by Parke Godwin. By permission of the author.

Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darlin'
copyright © 1984 by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. By permission of the author.

Decoys
copyright © 1984 by Jere Cunningham. By permission of the author and the author's agent, Writers House Inc.

Rapture
copyright © 1984 by Melissa Mia Hall. By permission of the author.

The Storm
copyright © 1984 by David Morrell. By permission of the author.

I Shall Not Leave England Now
copyright © 1984 by Alan Ryan. By permission of the author.

This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. For information address: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 245 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

ISBN: 0-425-09564-9

A BERKLEY BOOK® TM 757,375 Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016. The name "BERKLEY" and the stylized "B" with design are trademarks belonging to Berkley Publishing Corporation.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Wickerman eBooks

INTRODUCTION
by Charles L. Grant

Nostalgia, by its nature being often sweet, has a way of taking the sting out of how really miserable things used to be. Pain seldom lingers beyond its memory; heartbreak is an emptiness, and a numbness salved by violins and sighs; privation, once overcome, is a badge to wear as a reminder. At the moment of occurrence there is misery, perhaps even despair; yet given enough years, much of the worst of it can be recalled in conversation with only a bit of melancholy and a lot of "you think it's bad now, let me tell you . . ."

Fear is the same way. Nothing, not the most intense therapy or the most vivid nightmare, can ever completely recapture that one time, that one instant when nothing else mattered except that you were afraid. But there are those who try anyway, such as those in the pages of this book, because if nostalgia sometimes robs us of learning through sepia-memory, it also permits us to reexperience the worst times safely. Well, almost safely. Because pain can't really be relived, and heartbreak heals itself, and privation often becomes a technicolor miniseries where makeup takes the place of the real thing.

On the other hand, fear can be relived, and it can be reinduced when it's handled properly, and it can remind us that there are some things that are never overcome just because we will them to go away. When the full moon easts a shadow, turning your back won't make it disappear, which is why, so often, we turn back, just to be sure we saw what we saw.

We did. And when we remember it, later, it has nothing to do with nostalgia and fond memory.

Charles L. Grant

Newton, New Jersey 1983

Being down on your luck is often portrayed in film and story as a somewhat romantic condition. Without ties one can become a wanderer, an observer, a minister without portfolio to what the world is "really" like. What the world is really like, however, is almost always much different than we ever imagined.

Joseph Payne Brennan is, quite simply, one of the masters. He is a poet; the creator of Lucius Leffing; the author of such classics as "Canavan's Back Yard"; and his latest book is a delightful hard-boiled detective novel, Evil Always Ends.

MRS. CLENDON'S PLACE
by Joseph Payne Brennan

It was late November; sleet driven by a north wind slanted down the dingy street. Shivering, I sought the meager protection of a tattered awning left unfurled above the window of an abandoned storefront, and considered my prospects.

I had exactly seven dollars in my worn wallet plus a few loose pennies in my pockets. My topcoat was threadbare and the stiff cardboard covering the holes in my shoes was thoroughly soaked. I had lost my job months before; I had been forced to give up my small but reasonably comfortable room. Luckily, I had managed to accumulate a little nest egg of fifty-odd dollars. By supplementing that with the proceeds of tireless trash-barrel scrounging (mostly nickels and dimes for cans and bottles), I had stayed unsteadily afloat.

But now I was down to seven dollars. The trash barrels were iced over with sleet and my wet socks were literally on the ground. Hunger pangs twisted my gut; my feet were growing numb; night was coming on. It was too late in the year to curl up in an alley or under bushes in a park.

The ripped awning was scarcely even an apology for a roof, but I left it reluctantly. Sleet raked my face like icy needles. After a block or two the numbness in my feet spread toward my knees.

I passed one gaunt, trembling street dog who glanced up with faint momentary appeal, but not a single pedestrian came into sight.

When I came abreast of the three-story brick tenement and saw the window sign reading
Rooms. Five Dollars in Advance,
I stopped. Five from seven left two and I needed food, but I felt that I had no choice.

I went up the ice-covered steps of a small wooden porch and rang the bell.

After I thought I might freeze to death on the porch, the frayed yellow curtain behind the top glass panel in the door was jerked aside. A wrinkled female face stared suspiciously out at me.

I lifted my disreputable canvas hat and forced a smile onto my frigid face. I suppose it came out a grimace, because a quick scowl spread over the wrinkled countenance beyond the yellow curtain. Surprisingly, however, the door inched open. A cold eye stared out at me, a nearly colorless eye, bleak and without pity.

As casually as possible, I said that I would like to look at a room.

The door opened wider. "Five dollars a day in advance. You can stay the night and through t'morra. Leave by six sharp or it's another five dollars. No noise, no trouble, or out you go."

I took an instant dislike to the hard-eyed harridan, but the sleet-laden wind was sweeping down the street with increasing force and my feet had gone entirely numb.

I followed the creature up a dimly lit flight of stairs on which the carpeting had been worn straight through to the wood. The house seemed warm in contrast to the outside, but it was drafty and actually only half-heated. A disagreeable odor filled the stale air. Far off in the house someone coughed steadily; otherwise there was silence.

Limping, the grim-faced landlady led me a short distance along a darkened hallway and opened a door.

The room, like its owner, looked coldly inhospitable: a brass bed, one chair, a battered dresser with one missing drawer. There was a half-drawn shade on the one small curtainless window. Greyish green paint had been plastered over wallpaper which was beginning to crack. One diminutive braided rug, badly raveled, lay in front of the bed. A dusty mirror hung above the dresser; otherwise the walls were bare. A naked low-watt light bulb dangled from the center of the ceiling.

Mechanically, I reached for my worn wallet and handed over my last five-dollar bill.

A quick, bony hand closed on it. "I'm Mrs. Clendon. Bath's two doors down, left." She started to leave and then turned. "Yer name . . .?"

I didn't want to tell her my name. I'm not sure why. But of course, I did.

"Melson. William Melson."

With a half nod she left, closing the door behind her.

I took off my wet shoes and stretched out on the bed's tattered grey counterpane. A weak current of warm air seeped into the room through a tiny baseboard vent. It was enough to keep me from perishing from cold, but not much more than that.

After I had rested a few minutes, I got up, shivering, and explored the dreary little cubicle. The closet contained nothing save a few bent clothes hangers. The dresser drawers yielded two paper clips, one nail, and a stale milk cracker wrapped in tissue paper.

I went to the window and looked out. Sleet hammered the filmed-over pane with increased intensity. The storm was getting worse and now it was nearly dark.

Cold and exhausted as I was, I could not bring myself to go out again. I decided I could get through the night without actually starving to death.

I ventured down the hall to the bathroom, a freezing, clammy little cubicle complete with cracked sink and antiquated slate tub, and returned to my room carrying water in a used paper cup.

Supper consisted of the stale milk cracker, chewed very deliberately, and water, swallowed very slowly. It wasn't much, but it gave my stomach a little to work on besides its own lining.

After this banquet I undressed and got into bed. The blankets were thin and patched, but within recent weeks I had slept in far worse circumstances.

Although I ached with fatigue, I had trouble getting to sleep. Somewhere in the far depths of the house an occupant coughed and moaned continuously. When I finally fell asleep, I experienced vague but disturbing dreams. In my incipient nightmare the coughing and the moans seemed to emanate from all quarters of the house, an escalating, somehow menacing, wave of sound.

I awoke abruptly and sat up. The room was like a grave—pitch dark, cold, and silent.

I lay down again but sleep eluded me. Once I heard boards creak in the hall and thought someone had stopped outside my door. I was totally unable to recall whether or not I had turned the key.

I lay filled with apprehension until anger—anger at myself—overcame everything else. I got out of bed, crossed the room, and tried the key. The door was locked. I thought I heard someone shuffling off down the hall, but perhaps it was merely my imagination.

I went back to bed, but I remained awake until a semblance of grey light filtered through the filmy window. At that point I fell into a brief but dreamless sleep.

I awoke cold and ravenous but somewhat rested. Although sleet no longer struck the window, the morning remained grey and sunless. Wind rattled a loose shutter.

I dressed hastily, shivering. My damp, stiffened shoes pinched my feet as I stood up in them. I hated the prospect of tramping the windy, ice-covered streets, but I was getting weak with hunger.

I locked my room and went down the stairs. The house was silent. Every door I passed was closed.

I thought I had grown accustomed to rundown neighborhoods, derelict buildings, and neglected streets, but I found myself unusually depressed as I hunched along buffeted by the wind. Once I slipped on the icy walk and went to my hands and knees but, luckily, sustained no noticeable damage.

Other books

Revel by Maurissa Guibord
The Outlaw Bride by Sandra Chastain
Death on the Rive Nord by Adrian Magson
Just Let Go… by O'Reilly, Kathleen
Heat by Jamie K. Schmidt
Too Wild to Hold by Leto, Julie
Front Man by Bell, Adora
Long Tall Drink by L. C. Chase


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2020