The five teenage Midnighters of Bixby, Oklahoma, thought they understood the secret midnight hour—until one morning when time freezes in the middle of the day.
As they scramble for answers, the Midnighters discover that the walls between the secret hour and real time are crumbling. Soon the dark creatures will break through to feed at last . . . unless the Midnighters can find a way to stop them.
Blue Noon is the third and final book in the Midnighters trilogy, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Uglies series.
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Midnighters #3: Blue Noon
By Scott Westerfeld
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Scott Westerfeld
All right reserved.
Bixby High's late bell shrieked in the distance, like something wounded and ready to be cut from the herd.
Rex Greene was always late these days, stumbling in confusion from one class to another, late with his father's pills or forgetting them altogether. But the worst was getting up for school. It didn't help that he'd unplugged his clock a few nights ago, unable to sleep with the soft buzzing sound it made all night, like a mosquito hovering just out of arm's reach. His newly acute hearing had turned every electronic contraption into something whiny and annoying.
But it was more than just the clock's noise; it was what it meant, with its false day of twenty-four hours. Since what had happened to him in the desert, Rex had started to feel time as something marked out in the sky -- the rise and fall of the sun, the spinning stars, the interlocking ratios of the light moon and the dark.
The rest of the world still had their clocks, though, so Melissa had banged on his window again this morning, dragging him rudely out of his strange new dreams.
"Smells like . . . assembly," she said as they pulled into the school parking lot, her head tipping back a bit, nostrils flaring.
All Rex could smell was crumbling vinyl -- the upholstery of Melissa's crappy Ford broken down by thirty-odd Oklahoma summers -- and gasoline fumes leaking up through the floorboard from the car's rumbling engine. Humans loved their oil, a flash of darkling memory informed him. They scoured the desert for it, used it to make clever things like plastic and gasoline. . . .
Rex shook his head to clear it. On mornings like these, when he'd dreamed of Stone Age hunts all night, he had more trouble concentrating than usual. The old knowledge inside him seemed more real than his sixteen years of human memories. Sometimes Rex wondered if he would ever recover from what the darklings had done, the half change they'd effected before Jessica had rescued him.
Was he gradually healing from the experience? Or was the darkness they'd left inside him like a virus, slowly growing stronger?
As Melissa maneuvered the Ford into a parking place, Rex spotted a few stragglers making their way into the gymnasium entrance. The sound of an amplified voice echoed out from the propped-open double doors.
"Crap, that's right," Melissa said, gripping the steering wheel tighter. "Pep rally today."
Rex groaned and closed his eyes. He hadn't faced anything like this since the change, and he wasn't looking forward to it. The thought of all those bodies pressed in close around him, chanting together, brought a trickle of nerves into his stomach.
"Don't worry," Melissa said, reaching across to take his hand. "I'll be there."
At her touch, with no more insistence than a cool breeze, a calmness fell across Rex. His stomach stopped roiling, his mind growing still as Melissa's serenity poured into him.
A shudder passed through Rex; her strength became his.
Funny. A month ago it had been Rex who'd had to talk Melissa through the beginning-of-football-season pep rally. Now she was the sane one, and he was . . .
He didn't know yet, and Rex hated not knowing. There were no halflings in the lore, much less recovering halflings.
Bad dreams last night?
Rex smiled and turned to face Melissa. The words had come through as clear as speech. They could have whole conversations now without her uttering a sound.
Her control was almost perfect, not a leaked thought anywhere, so different from the vomited rush of fear and pain that had struck him when they had first begun to touch each other. Although sometimes Rex missed those early experiments, the terrifying moments when he saw all of Melissa at once.
When his mind was focused, he hardly had to speak himself; Melissa simply pulled the words from him. But this morning he was too much of a wreck.
"Yeah, some bad dreams," Rex said aloud. "But not all of them."
The hunting dreams had been sweet -- the cold, patient hunger as he tracked prey for days across the plain, anticipation building as the weakest were cut from the group, and then the burning rush of the kill.
But of course, there'd been those other dreams as well, memories of when the clever little monkeys had started hunting back. The beginning of the end.
"Jeez, lighten up," Melissa said, pulling her hand away and rubbing it, as if to wring out the ancient horror she'd felt in his mind. "I think someone forgot to drink his coffee this morning."
"Sorry, Cowgirl. Yeah, I guess I could use a cup. Or six." Rex shook his head again. His brain felt stuffed full, his own thoughts almost crowded out by the memories that the darklings had implanted to make him one of them. "Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get back to normal."
Melissa snorted. "When were you ever normal, Rex? When were any of us?"
"Well, maybe not normal," Rex admitted. "But I'd settle for human."
She laughed and touched his shoulder, and he felt a spark of her pleasure even through the fabric of his long black coat. "You're totally human, Rex. Trust me on that one."
"Glad you think so," he said, smiling.
Melissa's fingers stayed on his shoulder, drumming out a nervous rhythm, and her glance strayed to the open gymnasium door. Rex realized that however much her control had improved, the thought of enduring a pep rally still made Melissa anxious.
"You'll be okay," he said softly, pulling her closer.
She turned to him, and their lips met.
At first Rex felt serenity in the warmth of their kiss, her new calmness and self-control flowing into him. But then Melissa allowed her composure to slip, and it was like their first time. Everything inside her crashed out in a torrent: the enduring . . .
Excerpted from Midnighters #3: Blue Noon by Scott Westerfeld Copyright © 2006 by Scott Westerfeld. Excerpted by permission.
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