Authors: Dennis Etchison
BEFORE THE LIGHT OF DAWN,
YOU WILL KNOW THE
VENGEFUL FURY OF THE DEAD.
Tonight the fog that rises off the California coast is different. And deadly. A writhing icy mist pulsing with terror. It is too late to escape. Even now the people of Antonio Bay are cut off, engulfed. Along darkened streets, death searches them out. There is no sanctuary for the living. Those who are doomed will die horribly. Those who spared will suffer the endless fear of a soul-chilling night when the dead, finally, return for revenge.
A Bantam Book / February 1980
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1980 by Hilltopper Productions, Inc.
Cover art and photographs © 1980
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. For information address: Bantam Books, Inc.
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada
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PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
From Ghoulies and Ghosties
And Long-Leggéd Beasties
And Things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord deliver us!
The moon rose over the bay, round and burnished as a golden doubloon.
It hung there high above the black waters, breaking the even waves with yellow tips and tinting the flat sand and the beach houses and the jagged trees behind them with a faint, ghostly pallor, a reflection of its polished, uneven face. Coming through the trees, it seemed to Andy that it was swaying slightly over the coastline, but that was probably just the shifting of the tall branches against the sky as he walked, or his imagination. Yes, his imagination. That’s what Mrs. Kobritz said whenever she caught him lying awake, watching and listening for the nighthawk to come scratching again at his misty window pane.
Only your imagination, Andy.
But now he was late and had no time to play with the delicious fear that tingled inside him whenever he tried to remember the beating of the birds’ wings against the pilings and the funny way its claws sounded as it scrabbled across the shingles of his bedroom roof. It was already almost midnight; the campfire would be dying out, the others huddled around it under their blankets moving their hands and feet toward its warmth. He hoped there would still be a good place left for him, maybe next to Adam and Noah. But not Debbie. She always got scared at the end and spoiled everything by asking too many questions or starting to cry right when Captain Machen was about to tell them the good part—the part with the really scary stuff that you could remember and tell the other kids at school the next day or tell yourself over and over under the sheet at night when nobody could hear you and the surf sounded like feet walking between the rocks if you were brave enough to listen, and your mother never knew anything about it.
He lost the moon for a while when it dipped below the trees as he continued his climb, and he started to get that lost feeling he always got when he couldn’t see or hear anything, not the old moon or even the rushing of the water in the tide pools down below. But he kept going, following the familiar path to the top. He didn’t like it, but it was the only way to get there from where he was now, a place between the land and the sky where there was nothing but trees and bushes, old deadwood that picked at your jacket like fingernails and curled down over you. Just then he knew, they were whispering to him or about him behind his back, he couldn’t tell which, and the sound swished like tires on the streets when it rained, or like something else, something else. He shook his head, bit his teeth together hard, and remembered the radio. He smiled secretly in the darkness.
Take this, you old beastie-boys! See how you like it. Can’t scare her! Keep trying, but you can’t. Go on, try!
He reached down and clicked on the portable.
“. . . That brings us up to eleven-fifty of a cool spring night, and that’s just between you and me,” said a woman’s soothing voice.
See what I mean?
Get away from here, now. Go on, scram!
“. . . And remember, I’m going to stay right here by your side for another hour or so, spinning the kinds of sounds you like to hear best. Nothing could tear me away. So don’t you go anywhere, now. And whatever it is you’re up to at this time of night, be sure it isn’t anything I wouldn’t do, hear?”
I hear you,
Another hour, then. Plenty of time for Captain Machen’s best story—he always saved the best chiller for the end. Tonight it had taken Mrs. Kobritz an extra long time to fall asleep in front of the TV, but Andy had finally heard the low rumble of her snoozing above the muffled screaming of the “Late Late Show.” Then he had zipped his jacket, pried up the creaking, warped window, and he was away. There was still time.
He found the moon again. It was only a reddish disk between the bushes now as he neared the top, but it was there, swinging back and forth beyond the next rise of the eucalyptus trees. He was positive he heard voices, real ones, in the distance ahead.
“. . . So this is Stevie Wayne herself, in the flesh, your new best friend, coming at you from the mighty KAB, thirteen-forty on your dial for the Antonio Bay area, points inland and, of course, for all our ships at sea . . .”
He clicked off the radio. The other voices stopped then, too. He listened, but there was only a popping and crackling. He squinted through the trees.
A warm light flickered somewhere behind the leaves. It was orange, almost blood-red at the edges where it blended into the deep blackness of the shrubbery. And there was a miniature gold moon, bobbing directly above it. He smiled and stepped forward.
His foot broke a twig, the cracking like a pistol shot in the night. Someone gasped. He parted the foliage and walked into the campsite.
“Well, well,” said Captain Machen, turning stiffly on his log. “Another shipwrecked straggler makes his way ashore.”
“It’s Andy Wayne!”
“Aw, it was only Andy . . .”