Twilight Eyes Page 29

“Well,” she said without looking up.

“Since you told me about Abner Kady and your mother, I’ve begun to understand why darkness falls over you at times. But understanding doesn’t make me worry any less about it.”

“There’s no need for you to worry,” she said softly.

“Look in my eyes and tell me.”

She took a long time in lifting her gaze from the remnants of her breakfast, but she met my eyes forthrightly when she said, “I have these . . . spells . . . these depressions . . . and sometimes it seems that going on is just too difficult. But I’ll never give in to those moods entirely. Oh, I’ll never . . . do away with myself. You don’t have to worry about that. I’ll always pull myself out of those funks and go on because I’ve got two damned good reasons not to give up. If I gave up, Abner Kady would win, wouldn’t he? And I can’t ever allow that. I’ve got to go on, build up my little empire, and make something of myself, because every day that I go on and every success I have is a triumph over him, isn’t it?”

“Yes. And what’s your other reason?”

“You,” she said.

I had hoped that would be her answer.

She said, “Since you’ve come into my life I’ve got a second reason to go on.”

I lifted her hands, kissed them.

Although she appeared relatively calm—if teary—on the surface, she was in an emotional turmoil of which I could make little sense.

I said, “All right. We’ve got something together that’s worth living for, and the worst thing that could happen now is that we’d somehow lose each other. So . . . I don’t want to scare you . . . but I have had a . . . a sort of premonition . . . that worries me.”

“Concerning me?” she said.


Her lovely face darkened. “Is it . . . really bad?”

“No, no,” I lied. “It’s just that . . . I vaguely sense some trouble heading your way, so I want you to be careful when I’m not with you. Don’t take any chances or risks—”

“What sort of chances? What kind of risks?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “Don’t climb up high anywhere, certainly not up the Ferris wheel again, until I’ve sensed that the crisis is past. Don’t drive too fast. Be careful. Be alert. It’s probably nothing. I’m probably being a nervous nellie because you’re so valuable to me. But it won’t hurt you to be more alert for a few days, until I have a clearer premonition or until I sense that the danger is past. Okay?”


I did not tell her about the gruesome vision in which she had been covered in blood, for I did not want to terrify her. That would not accomplish anything and might even contribute to the danger she faced, for exhausted by prolonged and constant terror, she would not think instinctively or well when the crisis finally came. I wanted her to be cautious, not constantly afraid, and when we walked up to the midway a short while later and parted with a kiss, I felt that she was in approximately that desired state of mind.

The August sun rained golden light upon the carnival, and birds sailed in a serene blue sky. As I prepared the high-striker for business my spirits rose steadily, until it seemed that I could take flight and join the birds above if I so desired. Rya had revealed her secret shame and the horror of her Appalachian childhood, and I had told her the secret of my Twilight Eyes, and in this sharing of long-guarded confidences, we had created an important bond; neither of us was alone anymore. I was confident that she would eventually reveal her other secret, the story of the orphanage, and when she had done that, I might test her trust in me with hints about the goblins. I strongly suspected that, given more time with me, she would one day be able to accept my goblin tales as the truth, even though she did not have the ability to see the creatures and confirm my testimony. Certainly there were still problems ahead: the enigmatic Joel Tuck; the goblins’ scheme involving the Ferris wheel, which might or might not be the same danger that hung over Rya; and our very presence in Yontsdown, with its abundant demonkind in positions of power from which they could cause us unguessable misery. Nevertheless, for the first time I was confident that I would triumph, that I would be able to avert the disaster at the Ferris wheel, that I would be able to save Rya, and that my life was, at last, on an upward track.

It is always lightest just before the dark.

Chapter fifteen


Throughout the afternoon and early evening, Thursday was a skein of bright yarn that unraveled without a knot: pleasantly warm but not searingly hot, low humidity, a gentle breeze that cooled but never grew strong enough to cause problems with the tents, thousands of marks eager to part with their money, and no goblins.

But it changed with nightfall.

First I began to see goblins on the concourse. There were not many of them, only half a dozen, but the look of them, inside their disguises, was worse than usual. Their snouts seemed to quiver more obscenely, and their hot-coal eyes blazed more brightly than ever, with fevered hatred that exceeded in intensity the malevolence with which they usually regarded us. I sensed that they had passed the boiling point and were engaged upon an errand of destruction that would vent some of the pressure that was building in them.

Then my attention was drawn to the Ferris wheel, which began to undergo changes that were visible to no eyes but mine. Initially the enormous machine began to loom even bigger than it was, to rise up slowly like some living creature that heretofore had been crouched to convey a false impression of its size. In my vision it rose and swelled until it was not only the dominating object in the carnival (which it had always been) but a truly mountainous mechanism, a towering construct that would crush everyone on the midway if it toppled. By ten o’clock the hundreds of lights that outlined the wheel appeared to be losing power, growing dimmer by the minute, until at eleven o’clock the giant ride was totally dark. A part of me could see that the lights continued to blaze as before, and when I looked at the wheel out of the corner of my eye, in a sidelong glance, I could confirm its continued bright adornment, yet when I looked at it more directly, I saw only an ominously huge, portentously dark Ferris turning ponderously against a black sky, as if it were one of the mill wheels of Heaven—the one that relentlessly grinds out the flour of suffering and cruel misfortune.

I knew what the vision meant. The disaster at the Ferris wheel would not take place tonight; however, the groundwork for that tragedy would be laid soon, in the dead hours after the midway had closed. The half dozen goblins that I had seen were a commando team and would remain on the fairgrounds after the midway shut down. I felt it, sensed it, knew it. When all the carnies had gone to bed, the demonkind would crawl out of their separate hiding places, join forces, and sabotage the ride, as they had meant to do on Sunday night, when they had been interrupted by Jelly Jordan. And then, tomorrow, death would visit some innocent fairgoers who were looking forward to a spin on the big wheel.

By midnight the mammoth Ferris, seen through my Twilight Eyes, was not only without lights but was like a great silent engine that produced and flung off a deeper darkness of its own. That was much the same cold and disquieting image I had had of it the first night I had come onto the Sombra Brothers lot, last week, in another town, though that strange impression was stronger now and even more deeply disturbing.

The midway began winding down shortly before one o’clock, and contrary to my usual diligence and industry, I was among the first to shutter. I had closed the high-striker and bundled up the day’s receipts when I saw Marco passing by on the concourse. I called him over, persuaded him to take the cash to Rya in her trailer, along with the message that I had some important business to do and would be late.

As strings and banks and panels of lights winked out from one end of the midway to the other, as flaps were pulled over tent entrances and snugged down, as the carnies drifted away singly and in small groups, I ambled as nonchalantly as possible toward the center of the grounds and, when unobserved, dropped down and slid into the shadows beneath a truck. I lay there for ten minutes, where the sun had not been able to thrust its drying fingers during the last two days, and the dampness worked its way through my clothes, exacerbating the chill that had settled into me earlier, when I had begun to notice the changes in the Ferris wheel.

The last lights were extinguished.

The last generators were switched off, died with a chug, a rattle.

The last voices faded, were gone.

I waited another minute or two, then eased out from beneath the truck, stood, listened, breathed, listened.

After the cacophony of the carnival in motion, the silence of the carnival at rest was preternatural. Nothing. Not a tick. Not a scrape. Not a rustle.

Carefully following a discreet route that led through those places where the night was further darkened by piles of shadows, I crept to the Tilt-a-Whirl, paused by the ramp that led up to the ride, and again listened intently. Once more I heard nothing.

I stepped cautiously over the chain at the bottom of the ramp and went up to the platform in a crouch, so as not to present an obvious silhouette. The ramp was made of two-by-fours, solidly constructed, and I was wearing sneakers, so I made barely a sound as I ascended. But once I reached the platform, stealth was not as easily achieved; there, hour after hour, day after day, the vibrations of the ride’s steel wheels passed through the rails and into the surrounding wood, with the result that creaks and squeaks nested like termites in every joint of the structure. The Tilt-a-Whirl platform sloped up toward the back, and on my way to the top of it, I remained close to the outside railing, where the floorboard joints were the tightest and protested the least. Nonetheless, my progress was accompanied by several sharp little sounds that were startlingly loud in the uncanny quiet of the deserted midway. I told myself that the goblins, if they heard at all, would interpret these indiscretions as the settling noises of inanimate objects, yet I winced and froze each time the wood cried out beneath my feet.

In a few minutes I passed all the Tilt-a-Whirl cages, which resembled giant snails slumbering in the darkness, and came to the top of the platform, approximately ten feet above the ground, where I crouched against the railing and looked out across the night-cloaked carnival. I had chosen that observation post because I could see the base of the Ferris wheel, plus more of the midway than from any point on the ground, and also because I was practically invisible there.

The night had taken a few bites out of the moon since last week. It was not as helpful as it had been when I had pursued the goblin to the Dodgem Car pavilion. On the other hand, the moon-shadows granted me the same comforting concealment that gave a sense of security to the goblins; as much was gained as lost.

And I had one advantage that was invaluable. I knew that they were here, but they were almost certainly unaware of my presence and could not know that I was stalking them.

Forty tedious minutes passed before I heard one of the intruders leave its hiding place. Luck was with me, for the sound—a grating of metal on metal and a soft squeal of unoiled hinges—came from directly in front of me, from behind the Tilt-a-Whirl, where trucks and unlit arc lamps and generators and other pieces of equipment were lined up along the middle of the midway, with rides on both sides. The protestation from the hinges was followed swiftly by movement that caught my eye. A slab of darkness, one of a set of double doors on the back of a truck, swung open through the deeper darkness around it, and a man came out of the cargo hold with elaborate caution, twenty feet from me. A man to anyone else, he was a goblin to me, and the flesh prickled at the back of my neck. In this poor light I could not see much of the demon within the human form, but I had no difficulty finding its glowing crimson eyes.

When the creature had studied the night and had satisfied itself that it was unobserved and in no danger, it turned back to the open cargo hold. I hesitated for a moment, wondering if it was going to call forth others of its kind from inside the truck, but instead it began to push the door shut.

I stood, swung one leg over the railing, then the other, and was for an instant perched on the Tilt-a-Whirl’s balustrade, where the beast below could not have missed me if it had suddenly turned around. But it did not turn, and although it closed the door and slid the latch bolt home as quietly as it could, it made enough noise to cover my cat-footed leap to the ground.

Without looking back toward the dense shadows where I crouched, it moved off toward the Ferris wheel, which stood two hundred yards farther up the midway.

I drew the knife from my boot and followed the demon.

It moved with the utmost caution.

So did I.

It made hardly a sound.

I made no sound at all.

I caught up with it alongside another truck. The beast became aware of me only when I leapt on it, threw one arm around its neck, pulled its head back hard, and opened its throat with my blade. As I felt its blood spurting, I released it and stepped out of the way, and it fell as suddenly and limply as a marionette whose control cords had been severed. On the ground it twitched for a few seconds, raising its hands to its gaping throat, where blood jetted black as oil in the lightless night. It could make no sound, for it could not draw breath through its ruined windpipe or command a single vibration in its gouged larynx. In any event, it lived less than half a minute, relinquishing life with a series of feeble flutters. The radiant red eyes fixed on me, and as I watched, the light ebbed from them.

Now he seemed like only a middle-aged man with bushy sideburns and a potbelly.

I pushed the corpse under the truck, to prevent one of the other beasts from stumbling upon it and being tipped off to the danger. Later I would have to return, decapitate it, and dig two widely separated graves for the remains. Now, however, I had other worries.

The odds had improved a little. Five-to-one instead of six-to-one. But the situation was not heartening.

I tried to kid myself that not all of the six I had seen on the concourse had stayed past closing time, but it was no good. I knew they were all nearby, as only I can know such things.

My heart raced, overloading veins and arteries with a surge of blood that made me feel exceptionally clearheaded, not dizzy or frantic at all but sensitized to every subtle nuance of the night, much the way that a hunting fox must feel as it tracks prey in the wild and, at the same time, remains on guard for those things that regard the fox, himself, as prey.

Under the half-devoured moon I prowled, a dripping knife in my hand, its blade glimmering like a magically coherent length of oily liquid.

Snowflake moths air-danced around chrome poles and flitted back and forth across other faces of highly polished metal, wherever there was a vague reflection of waning moonlight.

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