When aliens come to a small town, it's time to fight ... or die.
Read an Excerpt
By Rodman Philbrick, Lynn Harnett
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1998 Rodman Philbrick and Lynn Harnett
All rights reserved.
Matt noisily slurped up the last of his soda through the straw, then whirled and tossed the big cup at the trash can across the pizza shop's parking lot.
"Way to go, bonehead," jeered Billy when the cup bounced off the rim and fell to the ground.
"The wind caught it," Matt protested.
"Yeah, right," Billy taunted him. "You couldn't sink a boat with a hole in it."
Luke Ingram sighed and pushed himself up off the low wall that bordered the side of the parking lot. Billy and Matt were his buds, but lately it seemed like everybody—including himself—kept doing and saying the same things over and over.
School had been out less than a week, and already he was bored out of his skull.
"Later, guys," Luke said, hitching his hands into his jeans pockets as Matt trotted across the lot and picked up his cup to throw again. "I'm out of here."
Billy and Matt both stopped, and turned and looked at him in surprise.
Matt had grown a lot during this past year, when they'd all turned seventeen. He looked like a clumsy bear in his baggy clothes. In contrast, Billy was much smaller and his new spiky haircut made him look like a runt porcupine—which was not something Luke would ever tell him.
Luke wondered what he looked like to them. Too skinny probably, with an oversized head that didn't correspond to brain size.
"Hey, it's only ten o'clock," Matt said.
"Don't be a wuss, Luke," Billy razzed him. "Let's go over to the cafe, see who's around."
For a moment Luke wavered. The Upside Cafe had only been open six months and it was the hottest new hangout in Greenfield. Mandy might be there. Something might be happening. If he went home now, he'd miss it.
Then boredom settled over him once again, like a black emptiness stretching as far as he could see. Nothing ever happened in this dumb town.
"Nah. I'm out of here. See you guys tomorrow at the quarry." He turned away, and started up Main Street toward home. "It's supposed to be eighty degrees," he called over his shoulder. "Maybe we can go swimming."
Billy yelled something, but Luke tuned him out. He trudged past closed-up shops, his reflection flickering like a ghost in the dark storefront windows.
In the three blocks it took to reach downtown Greenfield's outskirts, not a single car passed him. "They ought to rename this place Deadsville," Luke muttered to himself.
But instead of turning down Broom Street where he lived, Luke kept walking. His parents would have a stroke if he got home this early. They'd wonder what was wrong. His mother would start fussing, peering at him like she was afraid of what she might see.
Luke sighed. Actually his 'rents were pretty cool most of the time. But lately they'd been getting weird. Like they didn't trust him. Like they blamed him for stuff they heard on the news. Teen Psychos Run Wild. Honor Student Terrorizes Neighborhood.
He'd tried arguing. "Mom, Dad, get real. I'm not going to steal a car. I'm not going to smoke crack. And there's only a very small chance I'll get the whole cheerleading squad pregnant!"
His mom looked shocked and his dad just said, "Don't talk to your mother that way."
Of course, Luke knew the real reason his parents were acting this way. It was all Jeff's fault.
Lately, Luke's fifteen-year-old brother had turned sullen, shaved his head, and got into body piercing and tattoos. He hardly ever opened his mouth anymore except to eat, and when he did say something, it was always sarcastic.
You could hardly blame the 'rents for being frantic. Whatever happened to the worshipful younger brother who used to follow him around like a shadow? How had that basically cool kid turned into a sullen skinhead?
Luke shrugged disgustedly, walking on until the neat streets with their neat houses petered out at the old, disused railroad tracks. He crossed the tracks and left Main Street, climbing a rutted path that led to Old High Street.
Before the highway went in, Old High Street had been the main route between towns. No one used it anymore. The road hadn't even been paved since the Dark Ages before Luke was born.
The high-tension power lines were still strung along the road though, the thick wires buzzing like a private telegraph. The tall aluminum poles towered over the dark landscape—scraggly woods and the rocky humped hills behind the old limestone quarry.
The quarry pool had been enlarged, landscaped, and turned into a park and picnic area with an entrance on Main Street. But you couldn't see any of that from where Luke was standing.
There were no streetlights. The pale half-moon looked brighter here away from town, but it didn't shed much light. And the only sound was the electric sputter of the wires.
The wires dominated Old High Street. Encased in thick rubber, the heavy cables traveled in six separate tiers, carried on pylons four feet thick at the base, rising sixty or seventy feet in the air. Each pylon bristled with insulators.
Nothing could contain the singing of the deadly current they carried.
Tonight, for some reason, the sound stirred the fine hairs at the base of Luke's neck.
It was a good place to brood.
The poles marched to the top of a low rise, where they butted up against another set of massive pylons crossing east-west. The furious sputter of their meeting and the thick tangle of lines reminded Luke of a nest of writhing black snakes.
The electrical noise seemed especially intense tonight.
As Luke neared the top of the rise, a sharp crackle made him jerk his head up. He jumped as a sudden shower of sparks exploded off the junction.
That wasn't supposed to happen, was it?
Suddenly everything went quiet.
Weird. He couldn't hear the cars from the overpass. Nothing, not even the buzz of the wires. It was like somebody had turned down the volume control.
A wind sprang up, a gust that nearly pushed Luke off the road. Then it died. The air was completely still. And suddenly as frigid and cold as the grave.
Luke felt his hair stand on end—from the cold? From the electricity in the air? All at once he felt afraid.
He looked up. A small sound escaped his tightening throat. Suddenly all the air was sucked from his lungs. He was frozen in place, feet welded to the ground.
Slowly the stars winked out of the sky one by one. The moon disappeared. The sky turned black.
Every muscle shrieked to run. But Luke couldn't move.
He stood paralyzed as the absolute darkness descended over him like a huge hungry mouth.CHAPTER 2
It was a groan that woke her. She emerged like she was swimming up out of some deep, dark hole. Her mind felt sluggish, drained.
With dawning horror, she realized she didn't know who she was.
Her hands pushed against rough boards. Boards? But she was in bed—wasn't she? Cool air brushed her face.
Fear batted the inside of her skull like a moth against a window.
Then, with a rush that made her head ache, awareness flooded back. She was Mandy Durgin, seventeen, and she lived at 12 Hopewell Terrace. And she had gone up to bed to read at ten o'clock. That was the last thing she remembered.
The headache receded, but the fear grew. Because she wasn't in bed. She was outdoors. Lying on her own front porch. Dressed in nothing but the oversize T- shirt and panties she wore to bed.
Ice congealed around her heart. How had she gotten here?
Mandy jumped up. Suddenly she needed to get inside the house—now. Something was coming to get her—she knew it instinctively. Something awful, something unknowable, something from the deepest, darkest corner of her nightmares.
She bolted for the front door. Locked. A scream started from deep inside her as panic hammered at her ribs. Mandy bit her lip in the effort to hold the scream back.
Her house was dark. She had no idea what time it was. Every house on the street was dark.
If she woke her parents, she would have to explain all this—and she didn't have a clue. No idea of how she'd gotten here, or why she was so terrified. Mandy shuddered. She struggled to get her ragged breathing under control.
The basement. There was a key by the bulkhead. She could get in through the basement.
Mandy turned her back on the house and crossed the porch, shivering in her thin T-shirt. She started down the steps to the front walk.
Halfway down she stopped, clutching the rail, unable to take another step.
Someone—some thing—was watching her.
Something was waiting for her to step off the porch steps. She could feel the eager eyes. Predatory eyes.
She scanned the street anxiously. Nothing moved. But there were so many bushes and trees.
Anyone, or anything, could be hiding out there, staring from the inky shadows. Motionless under the Hudsons' big maple or crouched down beside the Browns' hedge.
Mandy shivered convulsively. She felt so exposed.
Invisible eyes seemed to bore right through her, as if the watcher could see her thumping heart and pulsing arteries. She felt like a bug pinned under a microscope.
The panicky feeling worked up into her throat again. Mandy swallowed hard and forced herself to take a deep, shaky breath. Then another.
She had to get calm. Once she was safe inside the house, she could figure all this out. There was a rational explanation. There had to be.
But right now what she had to think about was getting down the porch steps. Around to the basement.
Keeping her thoughts focused on moving, Mandy crept down the steps.
"Nobody is out there," she told herself. "Nobody but me."
She stepped down to the ground.
Instantly a black shape shot out from behind the bushes at the side of the house.
It leaped into the air, straight for her.CHAPTER 3
Luke's arms and legs flailed in panic. He was falling, plummeting through total blackness. He didn't know where he was or how long he had been falling.
His hands worked convulsively. But there was nothing to grip. Faster and faster he hurtled, downward through a bottomless abyss.
And then suddenly—
He landed. His body jerked. His breath slammed in his chest like something solid. His head was spinning.
He felt something soft and springy under him. Something familiar. As his whirling brain slowed, objects came into view. His desk, cluttered with junk; his chair, piled with clothes.
With a start Luke realized he was in his own room, in his own bed.
Relief flooded his dazed mind. It had all been a dream. Just a particularly horrible nightmare.
But something wasn't right.
Luke looked down at himself and realized he was fully clothed—right down to his sneakers. He couldn't remember getting into bed. He couldn't remember coming home.
He sat up and held his head in his hands, struggling to remember. The effort was like pushing through a net of spiderwebs.
Dimly he remembered the crackling wires, the moon vanishing, the sky blotting out. Then nothing. Just nothing. The last thing he remembered was ... nothing.
He sat for a moment, searching his brain. But it was like there was a brick wall in the center of his head. No, not brick. Steel. Like a solid steel door had slammed shut, closing off his memory of what had happened out on Old High Street under the high-tension wires.
He shook his head to clear it and turned to look at the luminous dial of his clock. Two A.M. He'd lost four whole hours! But how could he not remember getting home?
And then something else struck him.
Voices downstairs. At two in the morning.
Listening, he realized the voices belonged to his parents. They sounded frantic, urgent, like something bad had happened. Jeff? Had his brother Jeff finally gotten in real trouble?
Pushing his own worries aside, Luke left his room and crept downstairs.
Every light in the house was on.
Luke could hear his father on the phone. His mom caught sight of him when he was halfway down the stairs. Her eyes went wide and then—amazingly—she burst into tears!
Luke's father whirled at his wife's cry. He gave his son a ferocious look then spoke quickly into the phone. "Never mind. Sorry to bother you, officer. He's just come home."
Dad dropped the phone and took two long strides across the room so he was right in Luke's face.
"Where have you been?" he demanded. "Did you really think you could get away with sneaking back in through your bedroom window?"
"But my room's on the second floor," stammered Luke. "How could I—"
"Don't lie to me," his father shouted, eyes bugging out of his head. "I checked your room not half an hour ago and you weren't there!"
"But I swear," Luke protested, "I was walking home. Early, around ten or even earlier. And then it got, like, weird. I must have blacked out or something."
"'Like weird'!? 'Or something'!? Just what is that supposed to mean?"
Luke flinched at his father's scathing tone.
"Way to go, Luke," someone else said.
He noticed his skinhead brother, Jeff, sitting across the room, smirking, the ring in his nose winking in the blazing light. He was totally enjoying the fact that at last Luke was in real trouble.
"Look at me when I talk to you!" their father yelled. "Do you know what would have happened to me if I'd pulled a stunt like this when I was your age? Forget about it!"
Luke flinched again as his father smacked his big fist into the palm of his hand. He was nearly as tall as his dad but nowhere near as big or strong.
"John, stop," said Luke's mom, putting a hand on her husband's arm. "It's late. Luke, go to bed. We'll discuss this in the morning."
His father backed away and Luke headed up the stairs. His parents' voices trailed him, along with his brother Jeff.
"Maybe he did black out, John," his mother was saying. "He could have hit his head or had some kind of seizure. Maybe we should take him to Dr. Fanelli before we jump to conclusions."
"Oh, please, Margaret, you're not going to buy that nonsense, are you? He's obviously lying!"
Jeff snickered as they reached the upstairs hall. "Good going, bro'," he said, like this was the greatest thing since his first pierced ear.
Luke went into his room and closed the door softly, shutting his parents' voices to a murmur. He went to bed but couldn't sleep.
Eventually even the 'rents quit arguing about him and went to bed. But Luke still couldn't sleep.
What was happening to him? Why couldn't he remember? How had he lost four hours out of his life?
But even worse than the black hole in his head was the strangest feeling.
A sensation like a ghost of a memory: a feeling that eyes were focused right on him, studying him like a bug.
Luke kept turning and tossing. He tried burrowing under the covers, putting his pillow over his head. But nothing worked.
The creepy feeling would not go away. Something out there was watching him.
Something not human.CHAPTER 4
Darker than night, the black shape separated itself from the darkness.
It launched into the air.
Mandy froze, heart-stopped. The dark thing filled her vision as it hurtled straight at her. She couldn't move.
It snarled. The awful noise jump-started Mandy like a switch. She dodged back out of its path.
With a shrill cry the Johnsons' cat landed a foot in front of her and raced off across the lawn, a black blur.
Mandy leaned against the stair railing, clutching a hand to her pounding heart. Adrenaline coursed through her, making her shaky. She felt a giggle of panic rising, but it passed.
She sensed eyes on her.
Trying to shake off the feeling, Mandy edged around the side of the house, keeping a wary eye on the street.
Then she bolted for the back. The half-moon was just bright enough to keep her from stumbling over her mother's newly planted flower beds.
Chest heaving, Mandy stopped once more to watch and listen. Nothing moved. Her shuddery breath was the only sound.
Mandy ran to the basement bulkhead. She went to search for the round stone under the bush next to the bulkhead. Her hand closed over it.
She pushed the rock aside and felt for the key that was supposed to be there. Her fingers touched the cool, familiar metal.
Relief flooded her. But it drained just as quickly. The bulkhead door squeaked. What if her parents heard? What if they thought it was a prowler?
She pushed the anxiety away. That was a chance she'd have to take.
Bracing herself for the noise, Mandy hauled open the bulkhead door. The screech of rusted hinges ripped through the night. Mandy froze, looking up at the house.
It was hard to tell how long she waited but no lights came on, no windows opened.
Excerpted from Abduction by Rodman Philbrick, Lynn Harnett. Copyright © 1998 Rodman Philbrick and Lynn Harnett. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >