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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Morrell David

«Creepers», David Morrell

Иллюстрация к книге

A Bram Stoker Award Nominee

To Jack Finney and Richard Matheson, whose imaginations never fail to inspire.

"…places you're not supposed to go." -subject of the website infiltration.org

"…Hell is empty, And all the devils are here." -Shakespeare, The Tempest


9 p.m.




That's what they called themselves, and that would make a good story, Balenger thought, which explained why he met them in this godforsaken New Jersey motel in a ghost town of 17,000 people. Months later, he still would not be able to tolerate being in rooms with closed doors. The nostril-widening smell of must would continue to trigger the memory of screams. The beam from a flashlight wouldn't fail to make him sweat.

Later, as he convalesced, sedatives loosened the steel barriers he'd imposed on his memory, allowing frenzied sounds and images to dart out. That chilly Saturday night in late October. A little after nine. That was the moment when he could have turned around and saved himself from the mounting nightmare of the next eight hours. But in retrospect, even though he'd survived, he surely wasn't saved. He blamed himself for failing to notice how hyper everything felt. As he approached the motel, the crash of the waves on the beach two blocks away seemed abnormally loud. A breeze scraped sand along a decaying sidewalk. Dead leaves rattled across cracked pavement.

But the sound that Balenger most remembered, the one that, he told himself, should have made him retreat, was a mournful rhythmic clang clang clang that drifted along the area's abandoned streets. It was harsh, as if from a fractured bell, but he would soon learn its true origin and how it represented the hopelessness he was about to enter.


It could have been a warning to ships to stay away and avert disaster.


Or it could have tolled for a funeral.


Or it could have been the sound of doom.


The motel had twelve rooms. Only unit 4 was occupied, a pale yellow light seeping past its thin curtain. The exterior was run-down, as much in need of paint and repair as all the other buildings in the area. Balenger couldn't help wondering why the group had chosen it. Despite the hard times the community had suffered, there were still some decent places in which to stay.

The cold breeze made him tug the zipper on his Windbreaker all the way to his neck. A broad-shouldered man of thirty-five, he had short, sandy hair and an experience-etched face that women found appealing, although there was only one woman he cared about. He paused outside the room, wanting to control his thoughts, to prepare his emotions for the role he needed to assume.

Through the flimsy door, he heard a man's voice. It sounded young. "The guy's late."

A woman's voice, also young. "Maybe he isn't coming."

A second man, much older. "When he contacted me, he was enthused by the project."

A third man. Young, like the first two. "I don't think it's a good idea. We never took a stranger with us before. He'll get in the way. We shouldn't have agreed."

Balenger didn't want the conversation to proceed in that direction, so he decided he was as focused as he was going to get and knocked on the door.

The room became quiet. After a moment, a lock was freed. The door came open the length of a security chain. A bearded face peered out.

"Professor Conklin?"

The face nodded.

"I'm Frank Balenger."

The door closed. A chain rattled. The door came open again, revealing an overweight man of sixty silhouetted by light.

Balenger knew the man's age because he'd researched him thoroughly. Robert Conklin. Professor of history at the State University at Buffalo. Vietnam War protestor during his graduate-school years. Jailed three times at various political events, including the 1967 march on the Pentagon. Arrested once for possession of marijuana, the charge dismissed for insufficient evidence. Married: 1970. Widowed: 1992. One year later, he became a creeper.

"It's after nine. We began to wonder if you were coming." The professor's gray hair matched his beard. His glasses were small, his cheeks heavy. After a careful look outside, he shut and locked the door.

"I missed the earlier train from New York. Sorry to hold you up."

"Quite all right. Vinnie was late arriving also. We're getting organized."

The professor, who looked out of place in jeans, a sweater, and a Windbreaker, indicated a thin man of twenty-four, who also wore jeans, a sweater, and a Windbreaker. As did the two other young people in the room. As did Balenger, who'd followed the instructions he was given, including the directive to make certain the clothes were dark.

Vincent Vanelli. B.A. in history: State University at Buffalo, 2002. High school teacher in Syracuse, New York. Unmarried. Mother deceased. Father unable to work, suffering from smoker's-related emphysema.

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