Read an Excerpt
By Andrew Harper
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2004 Dorchester Publishing
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOctober was Hell, and he knew it was because of the wind itself.
The Santa Ana winds blew down like the roar of a lion along the arroyos and canyons of the desert; across the mountain passes into the bowl of valley known, depending on which country you were in, as San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Pascal, all sharing the dry October of southern California, too far inland from the ocean to get a cool breeze, too far from the desert to thrive in the heat. The mountain pass beneath Big Bear was blocked off by the fires that had spread along the ridge; below this, the foothill communities, and across the flatlands of freeway and neighborhood grids, pre-dawn, a ridge of hills that seemed nearly prehistoric with their red rock and sporadic sprays of palm trees. Heat and dust coughed through the air, and the young man who felt them most, who was choked by a chilling terror at the shadows that flew by night, lay staring up at the window, listening to it rattle with the wind.
Those burning winds brought the shadows to him. Blew them all back from the edge of hell or heaven.
Fingers coming toward him, scraping at his throat.
The night fears grew with darkness, and they were like the shadows he saw sometimes, moving toward him, reaching for him. He could barely breathe when they touched his skin, and he lay awake all night waiting for the faintest light through the window.
Then, the darkening light slowly came up from outside; he heard her get out of bed in the next room and go run the shower in the bathroom. Still, sleepy. Not ready to get up. Just another hour or two of sleep. Another dream before the day had to get going.
He called himself Doc, although he hadn't yet cured himself of the night fears that came on unexpectedly. Still, he knew how to heal, and set limbs, and make infections go away. But the night fears were always after him, and he had slept badly yet again. Sometimes, he didn't fall asleep until the rest of the world awoke. In all his nineteen years, he could not remember a good night of sleep. The night fears came in the dark, and they crawled all over his skin, and kept him from drifting into the dreamworld he wanted to find. But by the time of the first light out the window, he knew he was safe, after all. Even in his bed, his special bed, he knew the night fears could not get him.
But it was the purple light outside the window that relaxed him the most. The white hot light of midday hurt him. The dark of night brought the fears crawling to him.
But early mornings, and twilight, were just perfect times.
He curled up into as much of a ball as he could make of himself. His arms hurt, as they often did, but he felt that warmth of happiness in this position.
His special bed.
The crate was just large enough for him to scrunch himself into, and just tall enough that he didn't press against the top of it. He felt good in the cage, and more important than that, safe, at least until she returned each day to take him out of it. The night fears couldn't get in there with him. It was just big enough for him and no one else.
His early memories of the cage, from the time he'd been four, were calming and sweet and allowed him to sleep at night without fear. Sometimes, she brought fear with her, like a smell on her. She didn't always shake it off at the door, as she promised. She sometime brought rage with her, too, and then he didn't mind being locked into the cage.
Sometimes, after she'd let him out, she would tell him about his father, and where he'd been conceived, and how it was like an enormous cage itself. He liked her best when this happened.
He liked to hear her memories of that place with its special rooms and all the people she talked about, and how she described his father to him. "He was a good man then," she said. "But he made promises. And he broke some of them. He made some things terrible for me. And for you. But everyone who breaks a promise pays a penalty in life. You know that, don't you? Someday, you'll get to meet him. Someday, he'll find you or you'll find him. Someday, he'll pay the penalty for what he's done. Punishment always comes to people, whether in this life or the next. And the punishment always fits the crime."
In the cage, curled up in a ball, he fell asleep just as the sun was coming up beyond the room. He dreamt of the place where his mother and father had met, as if it were a promised land to which he'd one day return.
It was a hospital. He felt he knew the place by memory - just from what his mother had told him. About the high fences with the wires made out of razor. About the police everywhere. About all the doctors, all of them smart as he himself was, smart as his mother. The long corridors of rooms with windows in the doors so patients could look out. In his dreams, he felt he floated down the corridor and saw the people staring through their door-windows, watching him as he went, ghost-like, to find the cage where his mother had lived when his father had made love to her.
Even in the dreams, he saw the words emblazoned on the sign as he passed along the outside wall of one of the buildings:
The Darden State Hospital For Criminal Justice.
Excerpted from Night Cage by Andrew Harper Copyright © 2004 by Dorchester Publishing. Excerpted by permission.
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.