The Night of the Triffids

BOOK: The Night of the Triffids
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Simon Clark
The Night of the Triffids
    
***
    
    At the end of
The Day of the Triffids
, the hero, Bill Masen, his wife, and four-year-old son leave the British mainland to join a new colony on the Isle of Wight.
The Night of the Triffids
takes up the story 25 years later. David Masen, the now grown-up son of Bill, is a pilot, still searching for a method of destroying the implacable triffid plant as it continues its worldwide march, seemingly intent on wiping out humankind. David eventually manages to reach New York, where a very different sort of colony has been set up, a colony whose members seem to be immune to the triffid string and where David comes face to face with an old enemy from his father's past.
    
***
    
    
From Publishers Weekly
    In John Wyndham's
The Day of the Triffids
(1951), mankind is overtaken-and much of it blinded-by the demonic walking plant of the title, a monster created in a lab in an act of Cold War profiteering. Clark (
Vampyrrhic
, etc.) picks up the story more than 25 years later, puts a new narrator at the helm and spins a brisk and engaging adventure-cum-horror yarn. Clark's narrator is David Masen, son of scientist Bill Masen (the protagonist from Wyndham's book). The Masen family, along with a handful of other survivors, has set up an outpost on the Isle of Wight, and have gone about rebuilding society. A major part of this renewal involves a particularly bizarre idea called the Mother House, a convent-like home where women spend their lives giving birth over and over again. All seems well, until one morning when the sun doesn't rise and the triffids, long thought condemned to the mainland, attack. Clearly marketed as a genre horror title, this crafty continuation is elegant in its construction. Clark's prose is clean, thoughtful and perfectly suited to his faux doomsday-memoir approach. Less cautionary than the original, but more literary than many books of its ilk, this is a truly enjoyable voyage.
    
***
    
    
From Library Journal
    A quarter of a century after an invasion by the deadly alien plants known as triffids blinded most of the world's human population and caused the collapse of civilization, only a small colony of survivors on the Isle of Wight continues to preserve what they can of society and culture. When a new phenomenon arises, resulting in the darkening of the atmosphere, pilot David Masen, the son of the colony's founder, sets out to discover the source of the problem-and encounters a new group of technologically advanced survivors from across the Atlantic. Continuing the classic tale of alien invasion begun 25 years ago in John Wyndham's
The Day of the Triffids
, Clark envisions a world poised to fight back against their invaders. Winner of the 2002 British Fantasy Award for Best Novel, he retains a feel for SF pulp horror in an action-filled tale that captures the spirit of the original story. Recommended for most SF collections.
    
***
    
    'The hottest new purveyor of horrific thrills currently working on these shores.'
    
-Big Issue
    
    'A master of eerie thrills.'
    
-Richard Laymon
    
    'NIGHT OF THE TRIFFIDS, essentially a story of good versus evil, is an intriguing and enjoyable sequel that should delight appreciators of Wyndham's work.'
    
-The Third Alternative
    
    'A definite confirmation of this author's growing reputation as one of the top genre novelists around today.'
    
-Starburst
    
    'Readers will relish Clark's uncomplicated cocktail of chlorophyl and human blood.'
    
-Financial Times
    
***
    
PROLOGUE
    
    IT is now twenty-five years since three hundred men, women and children withdrew from the British mainland to establish a colony of survivors on the Isle of Wight.
    There, in every library and in every school, is a mimeographed typescript of William Masen's account of the Great Blinding, the coming of the triffids and the fall of civilization.
    Comprising little more than two hundred quarto pages, it is bound between covers of stiff orange card. Inside you will find no illustrations and not so much as a single photograph.
    It is a vivid enough story nonetheless.
    This is the final paragraph of William Masen's book:
    
    
So we must regard the task ahead as ours alone. We think now that we can see the way, but there is still a lot of work and research to be done before the day when we, or our children, or their children, will cross the narrow straits on the great crusade to drive the triffids back and back with ceaseless destruction until we have wiped the last one of them from the face of the land that they have usurped.
    
    That is the end of William Masen's testament. What follows now is the beginning of another - in a world that still lies in thrall to the dreadful triffid…
    
CHAPTER ONE
    
WORLD DARKENING…
    
    WHEN nine o'clock on a summer's morning appears, so far as your eyes can tell, as dark as midnight in the very depths of winter, then there is something very seriously wrong somewhere.
    It was one of those mornings when I awoke instantly alert, refreshed and ready for a new day. I was, as my mother Josella Masen would have put it, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
    Only, for the life of me, I didn't know why I felt that way. Raising myself onto one elbow, I looked round the bedroom. It wasn't just dark. That's too tame a word for it. There was an absolute absence of light. I saw nothing. Not a glimmer of starlight through the window. No lamplight from a house across the way. Not even my hand in front of my face. Nothing.
    Only darkness in its inky totality.
    
There,
I remember telling myself firmly,
it's still the middle of the night. You've been woken by some cat giving voice while following its natural instincts. Or perhaps the old man in the next room had to get up for some reason. Now, go back to sleep.
    I lay flat on my back and closed my eyes.
    But something was wrong. A mental alarm bell jangled faintly yet with some urgency deep inside my head.
    I opened my eyes. Still I saw nothing.
    I listened suspiciously, with all the intensity of a householder hearing a floorboard creak beneath an intruder's stealthy foot.
    Now I was certain that it was the middle of the night; there could be no doubting the evidence of my eyes. I couldn't see even the faintest glimmer of dawn beginning to filter through the curtained window. Yet at that moment understanding at last dawned on me: the sounds I could hear were those of a summer's morning, when the sun should have been streaming across the island's fields.
    I heard the clip-clop of a horse passing the cottage, then the brisk rap of a stick on the pavement as one of the Blind went about their business. There came the clatter of front doors. Water rushed down a drain. And, perhaps most noticeable of all, there was the wonderful sizzle of bacon being fried for breakfast, accompanied by its tantalizing wafting aroma.
    Immediately my stomach rumbled hungrily. But with those first pangs of hunger I realized that the world, somehow, had gone all wrong. Profoundly wrong.
    This was the moment when my life, as I had known it for the last twenty-nine years, ended. Right there, on that Wednesday, 28 May. Nothing would ever be the same again. There was no tolling of a funeral bell to mark its passing. Only the sounds that should not be - indeed,
could
not be! - those morning sounds so strangely out of place here in the dark heart of the night: the sound of a horse pulling a cart to the beach; the smart tap of sticks as the Blind went up the hill to the Mother House; the sound of a man's cheery goodbye to his wife as he set out for his day's work.
    I lay there hearing it all perfectly. But, I confess, none of it made sense. I stared up at the ceiling. I stared for a full five minutes - five seemingly endless minutes - in the hope that my eyes would adjust to the gloom.
    But no.
    Nothing.
    It remained as dark as if I'd been sealed into a box and buried deep underground.
    I felt uneasy now. And within seconds that uneasiness spread like the very devil of an itch across my body, until soon I could lie there no longer. Quickly, I sat up and swung my feet out of bed onto cool linoleum.
    Now, I was not at all familiar with the room, unsure even of in which direction the door lay. Sheer fate had placed me there. I'd been taking a flying boat on a short hop from Shanklin across the four-mile stretch of sparkling sea to Lymington on the mainland where I was to pick up a foraging party.
    I'd been flying the single-engine plane solo - those little hops from the island to the mainland were no more dramatic than a local cart journey after all these years. The sky was clear, the sea flat calm, mirroring that flawless blue; my spirits were high with the prospect of a trouble-free flight on such a perfect summer's day.
    However, fate always lies in wait to trip the complacent, with results that are either comic, irritating - or lethal.
    The instant I overflew the Isle of Wight coast a large gull exchanged its earthly existence for the chance of some avian paradise by the simple expedient of flying into my aircraft's one and only propeller. Immediately the wooden blade shattered.
    And a flying boat without its propeller is about as airworthy as a brick.
    Luckily I managed to tug the nose of the aircraft round in a U-turn as it glided downward, the slipstream whistling through the wing struts.
    The landing, while lacking any elegance whatsoever, was at least adequate - that is to say, I damaged nothing when the flying boat flopped onto the surface of the sea just yards from the beach.
    The rest of that particular incident was without drama. A fishing smack towed me to a jetty where I moored the plane. Then I walked to the little seaside village of Bytewater where I radioed back the news that I'd been downed by a seagull.
    After the obligatory laughter and leg-pulling I was told that a mechanic and a new propeller would be dispatched to Bytewater the following morning. Meanwhile, I should find myself a bed for a night.
    I then spent a messy hour or so removing what remained of the carcass of the bird from the plane's engine.
    But I should have saved a feather from that bird as a good-luck charm, I really should. Because, unknown to me, the bird had just saved my life.
    And without its sacrifice you certainly wouldn't be reading these words now.
    My predicament showed no signs of improving as I sat there on the bed. My eyes still told me it was the middle of the night.
    Yet my ears - and my nose - retorted emphatically that this was well after sunrise.
    There were sounds of people working. Sounds of people moving around outside. All the buzz and murmur of daylight hours.
    Then, suddenly, I heard a burst of unintelligible shouting in the distance. It was perhaps nothing more than some contretemps between a man and his wife, I thought. I even waited for the slam of a door to indicate the dramatic finale of the disagreement.
    The voice became abruptly silent.
    Indeed, the sound of the tapping stick stopped as quickly.
    Seconds later the steady
clip-clop
of the walking horse became a sudden clatter of hooves against the road surface as it bolted.
    Then that too faded to eerie silence.
    And this all-pervading darkness…
    It was really too much.
    I was a pilot. A man of steady nerves. But this dark was beginning to eat into me, unsettling me more than I could say.
    I called out the name of my host.
    'Mr Hartlow… Mr Hartlow?'
    I waited, expecting at any moment to hear the door open and Mr Hartlow's kindly voice saying, 'Now, now, then. What's all the fuss, David?'
    But there was no Mr Hartlow who, after thirty years of blindness, could find his way around his house with as much assurance as a young man with twenty-twenty vision.
    'Mr Hartlow…'
    That hungry darkness greedily devoured my voice.
    A nasty feeling began to run through me. Powerful. Undeniable. The resurfacing of those childhood fears that you put away as you mature into adulthood. Suddenly they were racing back.
BOOK: The Night of the Triffids
7.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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