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Nightworld

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Nightworld

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Author: F. Paul Wilson
Publisher: Dark Harvest, 1992
Series: The Adversary Cycle: Book 6

1. The Keep
3. The Touch
4. Reborn
5. Reprisal
6. Nightworld

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Horror
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(11 reads / 6 ratings)



Synopsis

This is the way the world ends…not with a bang but a scream in the dark.

It begins at dawn, when the sun rises late. Then the holes appear. The first forms in Central Park, in sight of an apartment where Repairman Jack and a man as old as time watch with growing dread. Gaping holes, bottomless and empty…until sundown, when the first unearthly, hungry creatures appear.

Nightworld brings F. Paul Wilson’s Adversary Cycle and Repairman Jack saga to an apocalyptic finale as Jack and Glaeken search the Secret History to gather a ragtag army for a last stand against the Otherness and a hideously transformed Rasalom.


Excerpt

WEDNESDAY

Nicholas Quinn, Ph.D.

Manhattan

On May 17, the sun rose late.

Nick Quinn heard the first vague rumors of a delayed sunrise while filling his coffee mug from the urn in the lounge of Columbia University's physics department. He didn't pay them much mind. A screwed-up calculation, a missed observation, a malfunctioning clock. Human error. Had to be. Old Sol never missed appointments. It simply didn't happen.

But the rumor continued to echo through the halls all morning, with no offsetting rumor of explanation. So at lunch break, when Nick had settled his usual roast beef on rye and large cola on his tray in the faculty cafeteria, the first thing he did was hunt up Harvey Sapir from astrophysics.

Nick looked for the hair. Harv's hair was always perfect. It flowed back seamlessly from his forehead in a salt-and-pepper wave, so full and thick it looked like a toupee. Close up, if you looked carefully, you could catch a glimpse of pink scalp through the mane. A running joke around the physics department was guesstimating how much time and spray Harv invested in his hair each morning.

Nick spotted him at a corner table with Cynthia Hayes. She was from astrophysics too. The two of them were in deep conversation.

Harv's hair was a mess.

Nick found that unsettling.

"Mind if I join you?" he said, hovering over the seat next to Cynthia.

Both glanced up and nodded absently, then immediately put their heads back together.

Beneath his uncombed hair, Harv's face was haggard. He looked all of his fifty-five years and then some. Cynthia too looked disheveled. She was younger--mid thirties--with short chestnut hair and glorious skin. Nick liked her. A lot. She was the main reason he'd put aside his Coke-bottle lenses and got fitted for contacts. Years ago. Still hadn't found the nerve to ask her out. With his pocked skin and weird-shaped head, he felt like a warty frog with no chance of ever changing into a prince, yet still he pined for this princess.

"What's all this I hear about the sun being late?" he said after swallowing the first bite of his sandwich. "How'd a story like that get started?"

They both glanced at him again, then Cynthia leaned back and rubbed her eyes.

"Because it's true."

Nick stopped in mid bite and stared at them, looking for a smile, a twist of the lips, a hint of the put-on.

Nothing. Two deadpan faces.

"Bullshit."

Instantly he regretted it. He never used profanity in front of a woman, even though many of them had no reservations about swearing like sailors in front of him.

"Sunrise was scheduled at five twenty-one this morning," Cynthia said. "It rose at five twenty-six. Five minutes and eight-point-two-two seconds late."

Her husky voice never failed to give him a warm feeling.

Except today. Her words chilled him. She was saying the unthinkable.

"Come on, guys." He forced a laugh. "We set our clocks by the sun, not vice versa. If the clock says the sun is late, then the clock needs to be reset."

"Atomic clocks, Nick?"

"Oh."

That was different. Atomic clocks worked on nuclear decay. They were accurate to a millionth of a second. If they said the sun was late...

"Could be some sort of mechanical failure."

Harv shook his head. "Greenwich reported a late rise too. Five minutes and a fraction late. They called us. I was here at four thirty A.M., waiting. As Cynthia told you, sunrise was late here by exactly the same interval."

Nick felt a worm of uneasiness begin to work its way up his spine.

"What about Palo Alto?"

"The same," Cynthia said.

"But do you know what you're saying? Do you know what this means?"

"Of course I know what it means!" Harv said with ill-concealed annoyance. "This is my field, you know. It means the earth has either temporarily slowed its rate of spin during the night or tilted back on its axis."

"But either would mean cataclysm! Why, the effect on tides alone would be--"

"But it didn't slow. Not the slightest variation in axial rotation or axial tilt. Believe me, I've checked. The days are supposed to be getting progressively longer until the equinox in June, but today got shorter--or at least it started out that way."

"Then the clocks are wrong!"

"Atomic clocks? All of them? All experiencing precisely the same level of change in nuclear decay at the same time? I doubt it. No, Nick. The sun rose late this morning."

Nick's field was lasers and particle physics. He was used to uncertainties at the subatomic level--Heisenberg had seen to that. But on the celestial plane, things were supposed to go like... clockwork.

"This is all impossible!"

Harv's expression was desolate, Cynthia's frightened.

"I know," he said in a low voice. "Don't I know."

And then Nick remembered a conversation he'd had with a certain Jesuit a couple of months ago.

It will begin in the heavens...

After years of hiding in the South, Father Bill Ryan had returned to the city, but was still lying low. Only a handful of people knew he was back. After all, he was still wanted by the police.

Poor Father Bill. The years of seclusion had not been kind to him. He looked so much older, and he acted strange. Simultaneously jumpy, irritable, frightened, and angry. And he talked of strange things. No specifics, just cryptic warnings of some sort of approaching Armageddon. Nothing involving Islamic crazies. Something else...

One thing Father Bill had been fairly positive about was where it all would start.

It will begin in the heavens.

He'd told Nick to keep his ears open and to let him know if he heard of anything strange happening in the skies, no matter how insignificant.

Well, something more than strange had happened. Something far from insignificant. Something impossible.

It will begin in the heavens.

The unease in Nick's spine stopped crawling and sprinted up to the back of his neck, spreading across his shoulders. He excused himself from the table and pulled out his cell phone as he headed for the hallway.

William Ryan, S.J.

"Ask him about tonight," Glaeken said, close by Bill's side. "Do they think the sun will set ahead of schedule tonight?"

Bill turned back to the phone and repeated the question. Nick's reply was agitated. Bill detected a tremor weaving through the younger man's voice.

"I don't know, and I'm sure Harv and Cynthia don't know, either. This is terra incognita, Bill. Nothing like this has ever happened before. All bets are off."

"Okay, Nick. Thanks for calling. Keep me posted, will you? Let me know about sunset."

"That's it?" Nick said. "Keep you posted? What's this all about? How did you know something was going to happen? What's it all mean?"

Bill sensed the fear, the uncharacteristic uncertainty in Nick, and wished he could say something to comfort him. But Bill had nothing comforting to say.

"You'll know as soon as I know. I promise you. Get back to me here tonight. I'll be waiting for you. Good-bye."

Bill hung up and turned to Glaeken, but the old man was over by the picture window, staring down at the park. He did that a lot.

Glaeken looked eighty-something, maybe ninety, with white hair and wrinkled olive skin; blue eyes shone above high cheekbones. Though slightly stooped, he was still a big man, and his frame blocked a good portion of the window. Bill had been living here in Glaeken's apartment building for the past couple of months, helping him with his ailing wife, driving him around town while he did his "research," but mostly waiting.

A huge apartment, occupying the entire top floor of the building, filled with strange curios and even stranger paintings. The wall to Bill's left was mirrored and he started at the stranger facing him in the glass, then realized he was looking at himself. He'd shaved his beard and cut his hair. He missed his ponytail and still wasn't used to seeing himself with bare cheeks. Or looking so old. The hair had been gray for years, but the beard had hidden all the lines in his face.

He moved up to the window and stood beside Glaeken.

The months of waiting since March were apparently over. In a way he was glad for that. But an icy tendril of dread slithered through his gut as he realized he had traded one uncertainty for another. The apprehension of wondering when it would start had been replaced now by a greater worry of what was starting.

"You didn't seem too surprised," Bill said.

"I sensed the difference this morning. Your friend confirmed it. The Change has begun its march."

"You wouldn't know it from the looks of things down there."

Across the street and a dozen stories below, the high spring sun spread a palette of greens across Central Park as the various species of trees sprouted this year's leaf crop.

"No. And you won't for a while. But now we must lower our watch. The next manifestation will occur in the earth."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. But if he follows his pattern, that is where he'll make his next move. And when he has reached his full powers--"

"You mean he hasn't?"

"He must go through a process before his power is complete. Plus, there's a purpose to playing with the lengt...

Copyright © 1992 by F. Paul Wilson


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