My name is Christopher Snow. The following account is an installment in my personal journal. If you are reading it, I am probably dead. If I am not dead, then because of the reportage herein, I am now--or soon will be--one of the most famous people on the planet. If no one ever reads this, it will be because the world as we know it has ceased to exist and human civilization is gone forever. I am no more vain than the average person, and instead of universal recognition, I prefer the peace of anonymity. Nevertheless, if the choice is between Armageddon and fame, I'd prefer to be famous.
Elsewhere, night falls, but in Moonlight Bay it steals upon us with barely a whisper, like a gentle dark-sapphire surf licking a beach. At dawn, when the night retreats across the pacific toward distant Asia, it is reluctant to go, leaving deep black pools in alleyways, under parked cars, in culverts, and beneath the leafy canopies of ancient oaks.
According to Tibetan folklore, a secret sanctuary in the sacred Himalayas is the home of all wind, from which every breeze and raging storm throughout the world is born. If the night, too, has a special home, our town is no doubt the place.
On the eleventh of April, as the night passed through Moonlight Bay on its way westward, it took with it a five-year-old boy named Jimmy Wing.
Near midnight, I was on my bicycle, cruising the residential streets in the lower hills not far from Ashdon College, where my murdered parents had once been professors. Earlier, I had been to the beach, but although there was no wind, the surf was mushy; the sloppy waves didn't make it worthwhile to suit up and float a board. Orson, a black Labrador mix, trotted at my side.
Fur face and I were not looking for adventure, merely getting some fresh air and satisfying our mutual need to be on the move. A restlessness of the soul plagues both of us more nights than not.
Anyway, only a fool or a madman goes looking for adventure in picturesque Moonlight Bay, which is simultaneously one of the quietest and most dangerous communities on the planet. Here, if you stand in one place long enough, a lifetime's worth of adventure will find you.
Lilly Wing lives on a street shaded and scented by stone pines. In the absence of lampposts, the trunks and twisted branches were as black as char, except where moonlight pierced the feathery boughs and silvered the rough bark.
I became aware of her when the beam of a flashlight swept back and forth between the tree trunks. A quick pendulum of light arced across the pavement ahead of me, and tree shadows jumped. She called her son's name, trying to shout but defeated by breathlessness and by a quiver of panic that transformed Jimmy into a six--syllable word.
Because no traffic was in sight ahead of or behind us, Orson and I were traveling the center of the pavement: kings of the road. We swung to the curb.
As Lilly hurried between two pines and into the street, I said, "What's wrong, Badger?"
For twelve years, since we were sixteen, "Badger" has been my affectionate nickname for her. In those days, her name was Lilly Travis, and we were in love and believed that a future together was our destiny. Among our long list of shared enthusiasms and passions was a special fondness for Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, in which the wise and courageous Badger was the stalwart defender of all good animals in the Wild Wood. "Any friend of mine walks where he likes in this country," Badger had promised Mole, "or I'll know the reason why!" Likewise, those who shunned me because of my rare disability, those who called me vampire because of my inherited lack of tolerance for more than the dimmest light, those teenage psychopaths who plotted to torture me with fists and flashlights, those who spoke maliciously of me behind my back, as if I'd chosen to be born with xeroderma pigmentosum--all had found themselves answering to Lilly, whose face flushed and whose heart raced with righteous anger at any exhibition of intolerance. As a young boy, out of urgent necessity, I learned to fight, and by the time I met Lilly, I was confident of my ability to defend myself; nevertheless, she had insisted on coming to my aid as fiercely as the noble Badger ever fought with claw and cudgel for his friend Mole.
Copyright © 1998 Dean Koontz.
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