Authors: Tim Lebbon
RAVE REVIEWS FOR TIM LEBBON!
“Tim Lebbon moves me, challenges me, and makes me remember how rich our particular strange bent can be.”
âJack Ketchum, bestselling author of
The Girl Next Door
“Lebbon is quite simply the most exciting new name in horror in years.”
“Tim Lebbon is a master of fantasy and horror, and his visions make for disturbing and compelling reading.”
âDouglas Clegg, author of
“Lebbon's work is infused with the contemporary realism of Stephen King and the lyricism of Ray Bradbury.”
“Creative, intelligent, and absolutely enthralling. . . . Utterly fresh and innovative,
proves once again that Tim Lebbon is the Grand Master of Horror today.”
“Lebbon's imagination is one to be reckoned with . . .
will keep you thinking to the very last page.”
âThe Horror Channel
“Lebbon is a genuinely masterful writer . . . [with] fresh ideas, shimmering prose, and often terrifying scenarios.”
“. . . Lebbon doesn't give you a chance to catch your breath. Incredible stories that take you to four different levels of fear and back again. . . . Lebbon is one of the best new faces in horror, and you cannot ignore him!”
MORE RAVES FOR TIM LEBBON!
“Intense and affecting,
will seize and hold your attention from the opening paragraph to the end. A writer blessed with extraordinary gifts, Lebbon's chief talents lie in exploring the darker moments of everyday life. . . . A true disciple of the dark, Lebbon's imagery wrings true fear from his audience.”
“Lebbon's novel will reward the careful reader with insights as well as gooseflesh.”
“Lebbon draws the reader into this nightmare to experience the horror with his characters. [He] taps into our universal fear of the unknown, the unseen, keeping this reader looking over her shoulder to catch that slight movement of shadow glimpsed out of the corner of her eye.”
THE NATURE OF BALANCE
“Beautifully written and mysterious,
The Nature of Balance
will put some readers in the mind of the great Arthur Machen. But with more blood and guts.”
âRichard Laymon, bestselling author of
The Beast House
“Vibrant, exploding with imagery, Tim Lebbon takes you on a white-knuckle ride of uncompromising horror. This is storytelling at its best.”
âSimon Clark, author of
“As fascinating as his plot is, it's the beauty of his prose that raises his work to a higher level.”
Scott opened his eyes. And screamed.
The garden was full of dead people.
It was still his front garden. He recognized the plant pots in the shape of boots, the inexpertly trimmed bushes, and the gate with one broken hinge. And beyond the garden the world was still there; Mrs. Hacker was in the distance now, and Scott could still see her casually wild brunette hair farther along the street, and neighbors' cars sloping into and out of the gutter.
But standing in the garden were monochrome images of people he had never known, and none of them were alive. He would have known that even if it were not for the evidence of their deaths; fractured skulls, ruptured chests, pale, drawn faces still twisted with the pain of their final moments. A few of them looked almost serene, but their eyes always bore the truth. These ghosts were haunted.
None of them was completely motionless. A few wavered in his sight, as though distorted by heat haze. One or two swayed where they stood, like drunks at the end of a long dark night of obsession and addiction.
Others were moving slowly towards the house. . . .
Other books by Tim Lebbon:
THE NATURE OF BALANCE
Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
200 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Copyright Â© 2007 by Tim Lebbon
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Trade ISBN: 978-1-4285-1751-6
E-book ISBN: 978-1-4285-0229-1
First Dorchester Publishing, Co., Inc. edition: May 2007
The “DP” logo is the property of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
Printed in the United States of America.
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“A dreamer lives for eternity.”
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the
transition that's troublesome.”
The memories were most treasured when they came unannounced. Like rays of sunlight through stormy clouds, or sweet cherries in a bowl of sour grapes, they never failed to make Scott smile. He could be cooking dinner, dusting bookshelves, walking in the woods, staring from the window, or drifting into sleep, and Papa would appear.
“Nettles don't sting on Saturdays,” his grandfather says, and Scott, seven years old at the time, reaches out and is stung from palm to elbow. The old man laughs uproariously, leaning back to shout at the sky. Through the prickle of tears Scott laughs with him. Even at that tender age, before he knows anything of ghosts and damnation and the pains of death, he realizes that the old man is special.
“Men were made to be inebriated,” Papa whispers, “because that can be the best time to see the truth.”
Scott plays in the pub garden while his grandfather sits and drinks. Sometimes other men gather around and are lost within a haze of pipe smoke and profanity, but every now and then he sees his grandfather's cautious eyes peering from the miasma, bright and watchful and alert, checking that Scott is safe. He offers a secret grin, as if to say,
I may be sitting here with these wizened old men, but I'm your age at heart, Scotty.
The last time Scott saw his grandfather, the old man opened his eyes, just a crack, and whispered, “I'm not afraid, because I know the truth. And one day I'm going to tell you.” He never heard his grandfather speak again. The old man had already been dead for three days, and these last words were whispered from his open coffin.
Scott had been sixteen years and sixteen days old when he stared down at the body of the man he loved so much. The corpse's wrinkled faceânot so wrinkled in death, as his mother pointed out, not so painedâwas blurred by Scott's tears, the gray eyelids made to flicker, and that brief semblance of life made the tears feel good. He reached out and touched his grandfather's cheek, and even the cool finality of that contact could not change the way he felt. It was a shock, seeing the old man like this, a man so vital and strong, motionless and quiet at last.
There were muted sounds of conversation, some shuddery tears, a sad little laugh from his mother as her sister sighed something into the air, but the dead man was the center of the room. Scott knew that, because Papa had always possessed such power.
Sixteen-year-old Scott had never really heard those final words, of course. Not through his ears, at least. Perhaps his tears made the man's cool white lips twitch, and the clicking in his ears as he sobbed combined with the breath shuddering in his chest to form those sounds: “I'm not afraid, because I know the truth. And one day I'm going to tell you.”
Scott had always called his grandfather Papa, and Papa had loved him dearly.
The first time he ever hurt Scott was three decades after his death.
The letter took so long to hit the floor that Scott thought he'd been mistaken. Perhaps he had only dreamed the familiar sound of the mail slot snapping shut. He lay still, breathing softly, listening for the postman's footfalls retreating along the street. But he heard only peaceful breathing from Helen beside him, and the cheerful sound of birdsong.
He yawned, rubbed his eyes, and scratched his head, and then the letter dropped to the floor downstairs, delivered in slow motion. He felt as though he'd slept and dreamed between the snap of the mail slot and the landing of the letter. Papa's voice haunted that dream, though the words were old and decayed, like thoughts long gone. His wife grumbled something in her sleep. She sounded agitated. Scott sat up and rested wearily on the edge of the bed.
The sun was blazing behind the curtains, and the bedroom was already warm. It was going to be a lovely day.
He walked quietly out onto the landing. Scott enjoyed receiving mail. For every dozen circulars, invitations to own a credit card, and appeals for charity, there was one postcard or a letter from an old friend. He didn't even mind the bills, because they were addressed to him.
We're all just fleeting dreams
, his grandfather had once said in one of his more subdued moments. Scott wanted his dreams to be alive, to persist. Seeing his name in print fixed him to the world.
This morning, looking down from the top of the staircase to the front door, he could see that there was only one envelope lying there.
He went slowly downstairs, yawning and rubbing his eyes again, taking care as his aching, aging knees became accustomed to moving him about for one more day. The birds chattered in the front garden, singing in the morning. The house was silent and peaceful, a home, somewhere lived in and loved in. There was no reason why today should be any differentâbetter or worse, safer or more dangerousâfrom any other.