“A major new voice in horror fiction . . . an electric style and no shortage of nerve.”—Booklist
At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, look for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not; Ann, longing for love; and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.
Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds—Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah, whose eyes are as green as limes—are on their own lost journey, slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.
They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself. . . .
“An important and original work . . . a gritty, highly literate blend of brutality and sentiment, hope and despair.”—Science Fiction Chronicle
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|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.88(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.90(d)|
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The night wind felt wonderful in Steve’s hair.
The Thunderbird was huge. It always drove like a fucking monster, but tonight Steve felt as if he were piloting some great steamboat down a magic river, a river of shimmering asphalt banked by pine forest and thick, rioting expanses of kudzu. They were somewhere far outside Missing Mile, somewhere on the highway that led up to the Roxboro electric power plant and, beyond that, the North Carolina-Virginia border.
Ghost was asleep beside him, his head hung out the window on the passenger side, his pale hair whipping in the wind, his face washed in moonlight. The bottle of whiskey was propped between Ghost’s legs, three-quarters empty, in danger of tipping despite the limp hand that curled around it.
Steve leaned over and grabbed the bottle, took a healthy swig. “The T-bird has been drinking,” he sang into the wind, “yes, the T-bird has been drinking … not me.”
“Um,” said Ghost. “What? What?”
“Forget it,” Steve told him. “Go back to sleep. Have another drink.” He drove faster. He’d wake Ghost on the drive home, to keep him company. Now he wanted Ghost to stay asleep awhile longer; there was bad business ahead. Dangerous business. Or so Steve liked to think of it.
Ghost took the bottle back and stared at the label, trying to focus on it. His pale blue eyes swam, narrowed, sharpened only slightly. “White Horse,” he read. “Look, Steve, it’s White Horse whiskey. Did you know Dylan Thomas was drinking at a pub called the White Horse the night he died?”
“You told me. That’s why we bought it.” Steve crossed his fingers and tried to will Ghost back to sleep.
“He drank eighteen straight whiskeys,” Ghost said, awed.
“You drank eighteen straight whiskeys.”
“No wonder my brain is sailing with the moon. Sing to me, Steve. Sing me back to sleep.”
Just at that moment they crossed a bridge that seemed to bow under the weight of the old brown T-bird, and Steve saw moonlight shimmering on black waters, so he raised his voice in the first song that came to mind: “Silver southern moon … for ten years I thought I was born of you.… Silver moon, I’ll be back someday.…”
“That’s not the way it goes. I should know, I wrote it.” Ghost’s voice was fading. “Oh, silver southern moon … tell me your sweet lies, then let me drown deep in your eyes.…”
“Somedaaay,” Steve joined in. He and the whiskey sang Ghost to sleep, the whiskey with its somnolent amber song, Steve with a voice that cracked when he tried to hit the high notes. Behind them the river passed in silence; the lowest-hanging branches brushed the water, and the leaves rotted on the bough. The moon spread like butter on the black river, and Ghost’s eyes closed; with his head pillowed on the hump between the seats, he began to dream.
They bypassed Roxboro, but Steve saw the power plant on Lake Hyco, lit up all glowing green and white like a weird birthday cake, its million pipes and wires and glass insulators and metal gewgaws reflected in the lake. On the way back, if Ghost was awake, they’d drive up there to a hill Steve knew and look out over the pastures and the lake and all the glittering Milky Way. An hour or so after passing out Ghost was usually raring to go again. His dreams gave him new strength. Or made him laugh or cry, or sometimes scared the shit out of him.
Steve put his hand on Ghost’s head, smoothed back wisps of hair from flickering closed eyes. He wondered what was unfolding beneath his hand, beneath the thin bone, inside the orb of ivory that cradled Ghost’s weird brain. Who was born and murdered and resurrected inside that skull? What walked behind Ghost’s eyelids, what lithe secret phantoms tapped Ghost’s shoulder and made him whimper deep in his throat?
Ghost often dreamed of things that were going to happen, or of things that had already happened that he couldn’t possibly know about. These premonitions could come when he was awake too, but the ones that came to him in dreams seemed to be the most potent. More often than not they were also the most cryptic. He had known when his grandmother was going to die, but then so had she. Though surely painful, the knowledge had given them the time they needed to say goodbye.
Goodbye for a while, anyway. Ghost had inherited his grandmother’s house in Missing Mile, where he and Steve lived now. Steve had spent plenty of time in that house as a kid, watching Miz Deliverance mix herbs or cut out cookies with her heart-shaped cutters, building forts in the backyard, sleeping over in Ghost’s room. Even now, five years after her death, Steve sometimes thought he felt the familiar presence of Miz Deliverance in a room, or just around a corner. He imagined this was something Ghost took for granted.
Suddenly unnerved by the prospect of touching Ghost’s dreams, Steve put his hand back on the wheel.
They drove past a graveyard full of softly rotting monuments and flowers, an abandoned railyard, a barbecue shack whose sign advertised GRAND OPENING EVERY FRI AND SAT NITE. A rabbit darted across the road. Steve braked, and Ghost’s head rolled back and forth on his thin neck—so fragile, so fragile. These days Steve was paranoid about something happening to Ghost. Ghost was spacy, sure, but he could take care of himself. Still, Steve couldn’t help watching out for him, especially now that Ghost was the only person he felt like spending time with.
They had other friends, sure, but those guys mostly wanted to go out drinking and smoke weed and talk about Wolfpack football at the state university over in Raleigh. All of which was okay, even though the Wolfpack was always pretty shitty, but Ghost was different. Ghost didn’t give a flying fuck about football, Ghost could drink everybody else under the table and not get a damn bit weirder, and Ghost understood all the shit that had gone down over the past few months. The shit with Ann. Ghost never asked Steve why he didn’t forget about Ann and get himself a new girlfriend; Ghost understood why Steve didn’t want to see Ann or any other girl, not for months and months, maybe not ever.
Not until he could trust himself, anyway. Right now he did not deserve the company of women. However lonely or horny he got, he had it coming to him for what he had done to Ann.
He played with strands of Ghost’s hair as he drove, winding them around his fingers, marvelling at their fineness, their silvery-gold luster. Just to feel the difference, he ran his hand through his own coarse hair, hair the color of a crow’s wing, hair that stood up in wild loops and cowlicks. His hair was dirty, and he noticed that Ghost’s was too. Steve hadn’t been taking care of himself—he’d gone days without a shower and over a month without washing his clothes; he’d been late for his job at the record store three times last week; he was putting away a twelve-pack of Bud every day or two—but he hoped it wasn’t rubbing off on Ghost. There was such a thing as being too damn sympathetic. Steve’s hand felt greasy. He wiped it on his T-shirt.
They were here. Steve had no idea where, but he saw what he wanted: the faded light of an ancient Pepsi machine sitting outside a fishin’ -and-huntin’ store, casting dim red and blue shadows in the dirt of the parking lot. Steve swung the T-bird in and killed the ignition. Ghost’s head had slipped onto Steve’s knee, and he eased out from under it. There was a little dark spot on the knee of Steve’s jeans. Ghost’s spit, Ghost’s drunken sleeping spit. Steve rubbed it into the cloth, then absently put his finger in his mouth. A faint taste of whiskey and molasses … and what was he doing sucking someone else’s spit off his finger? Didn’t matter. Ghost was lost deep in dreams. Time to go to work.
Steve fished in the backseat. Cassette cases—so that was where Ann’s damn Cocteau Twins tape had ended up. Steve had always hated it anyway, the girl’s feathery voice that was supposed to be so angelic and the ethereal-seasick wall of sound. Empty food bags and a veritable sea of beer cans. Finally he dug out his special tool, a length of coat hanger bent into a hook at one end. He wondered if he ought to pull the T-bird up so it was hiding the front of the Pepsi machine. No, he decided; anybody out driving this time of night is probably on business just as shady as mine.
With a last glance at Ghost, Steve knelt, fed the wire into the coin-return slot of the machine, and wiggled it around until he felt it catch. He tugged gently and seconds later was blessed by a shower of silver. Steve scooped the quarters, dimes, and nickels out of the dirt, shoved them into his pockets, hustled back to the car, and got the hell out of the parking lot.
Excerpted from "Lost Souls"
Copyright © 1993 Poppy Brite.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
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