Winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel
In The Day of the Triffids, Bill Masen escapes with his family to a colony on the Isle of Wight after a meteor shower blinds most of the human race and the deadly Triffid plants begin to take over the world.
Now the story continues, more than twenty-five years later, as pilot David Masen, Bill’s son, travels in search of an effective weapon against the Triffids. In New York City, he discovers a group of people who appear to be immune to the Triffids’ deadly poison. But all is not as it seems in this colony, and soon David must face a dangerous adversary from his family’s past . . .
“Brisk and engaging . . . This crafty continuation is elegant in its construction . . . A truly enjoyable voyage.” —Publishers Weekly
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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.
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.
That dread of the dark. When the silhouette on the wall can become a cruel, nameless beast that is waiting to pounce and rip at your throat ... and that creak of a floorboard — it heralds the arrival of a madman coming through the door, wielding a bloody axe ...
At that moment I realized: those fears don't disappear with age, they merely hibernate. They only need the right environment and back they come, loping like phantom hounds from the recesses of your mind ...
And the reason I can't see, and the reason I can hear people moving about as if it's broad daylight is because ...
A deep shiver ran through me as the words came slowly yet inexorably from somewhere deep inside my head. I cannot see because: I am blind.
* * *
As a newly blind man I had none of the self-assurance of one of the old Blind who'd lost their sight when the strange green lights had flooded the night sky three decades ago.
Instead, I must have made a pathetic, shambling figure as I crossed the bedroom, my hands stretched out in front of me. All I could hear now was the loud pounding of my heart.
'Mr Hartlow ... can you hear me?'
'Mr Hartlow ... Mr Hartlow!'
I moved through the door onto the landing, still engulfed by that all-encompassing darkness. Now there was soft carpet beneath my bare feet. I shuffled forward. My fingertips pressed against the rough textures of wood-chip wallpaper, then there was the cool hardness of a door frame, followed by the door itself.
I opened it, calling, 'Mr Hartlow? Are you there?'
There was no answering reply. My terrified breathing, which overlaid the thump-thump-thump of my heart, was far too loud to allow me to hear any subtler sounds that might be stirring the air.
I struggled on, opening doors. Calling.
By now I was becoming disorientated, not even sure in which direction my own room lay.
So this is what it is like to be blind, I told myself. A world of endless night.
An ominous thought struck me.
Had those mysterious green lights that had blinded more than ninety per cent of the population all those years ago returned to the skies? That strange cosmic firework display that had entranced so many people on the same night that my father, Bill Masen, had lain in a hospital bed, his eyes bandaged after triffid poison had sprayed into his face?
I cast my mind back.
I'd gone to bed after a pleasant evening listening to a piano recital on Island Radio and chatting with my host, Mr Hartlow. He'd poured me a glass or two of his excellent parsnip brandy to speed me on my way, so to speak. For the life of me, I couldn't recall seeing anything amiss with the night sky.
Perhaps, however, one didn't even have to see the green lights — (if they were responsible for my lamentably sightless condition). Maybe they had flitted across the sky during the day, unseen by people going about their work across the island. Was it possible that an invisible radiation they emitted was responsible for burning out the optic nerve?
I had just found the stairs by stepping off the end of one. My foot slipped down at least three more before I managed to grab the banister rail. Although I'd stopped myself from pitching forward and breaking my neck, my ankle had taken a painful wrench.
Yet, in a way, that jab of pain along the arch of my foot did my nerves some good. It encouraged me to stop my imagination roaming restlessly, and fruitlessly, over what might or might not have happened to me, to stop wallowing in self-pity, and to damn' well do something.
When I reached the level floor below I stopped and listened, the stone slabs of the kitchen chillingly cold beneath my feet.
No. I could hear nothing.
Limping slightly from the sprain, I moved across the kitchen, hands outstretched to detect obstructions (and all the time irrationally expecting my fingers to touch the soft hollows and contours of a living human face). I stubbed a toe on a stool leg and for a few seconds the pain made me lose interest in pretty much everything else, provoking from my lips a few words that I would never have uttered in the presence of my mother, unshockable though she was.
Again I reached a wall. Tentatively, as if the wall might suddenly sprout sharp-toothed mouths to snap at my fingertips (my blindness had certainly unleashed a hundred irrational fancies!) I moved slowly along it. First, I reached a curtained window (the Blind still draw curtains through habit); quickly I tugged open the curtain, vainly hoping light would cascade dazzlingly into the room.
Darkness — still darkness.
I moved on, touching pans hanging from hooks, a row of knives, bunches of dried herbs. Somewhere a clock ticked with a ponderous, doom-laden rhythm.
Tick ... tock ... tick ... tock ...
An insufferable noise that I hated — again irrationally — with a passion.
Tick ... tock ...
If I should happen to lay my hands on the clock I would smash the damnable thing against the floor.
'Mr Hartlow?' Then I added, rather illogically, 'Can you hear me?' Because if he had heard, he would have answered, surely.
Tick ... tock ...
Tick ... tock ... tick ...
As I reached a doorway my hand brushed against an electric light switch. In a small village like this there would of course, be no electricity. Electricity, after all, was a precious commodity reserved for workshops, hospitals, clinics, communications — and for laboratories like my father's. Nevertheless, I gripped the switch eagerly. The thing obviously hadn't been used for decades; metal contacts grated across an accumulation of grit as it clicked downward.
With the rational part of my mind I had expected none. But a tormenting voice inside my head sang out loud and clear that light — lots and lots of lovely brilliant light — had cascaded from the bulb to flood the kitchen. But you can't see it, because you really are blind, David Masen ... sightless as any three blind mice ... three blind mice running after the farmer's wife ...
Stop that, I told myself sharply, fighting down the wave of panic rolling dangerously through me. Stop that at once.
Once more I fumbled my way across the walls. Now there were worktops.
A sink. Cooker.
More cupboards, with plates from —
Quickly, I groped back through the cloaking darkness until I found the burners and the iron stands on which to set the pans. There I could feel the round gas-control knobs, hard beneath my anxious, searching fingers.
Gas. Yes — yes.
I fumbled for a lighter that must, I thought, be close by.
After a few moments' fruitless search I began cursing — an equally fruitless occupation.
I realized too that there must be candles and lamps nearby. Not for Mr Hartlow's use, of course, but for any sighted guests he might entertain.
But, for me, these might as well have been hidden on the dark side of the Moon as I groped sightlessly through what seemed to be endless racks of plates, cutlery and vegetables in baskets. A candle might have been right there in front of me, only I couldn't, for the life of me, find it.
As it was, my characteristic impatience rescued my ailing sanity.
I found the cooker again.
Or rather, I located it — by blindly putting my hand in the hot bacon grease in the frying pan. I turned the knobs at the front of the cooker, instantly hearing the methane as it hissed odourlessly from the burners.
Right, this was crude ... but if it worked ... well, that would be just tickety-boo by me.
I reached out again to the worktops. My fingers found a pan — one that was satisfyingly heavy — and picked it up. Then, with the gas hissing from the cooker vents, I brought the pan down hard against the iron stands.
The impact clanged mightily.
I struck the top of the cooker again.
And again the metallic clang rang loud in my ears.
Then, at the third attempt — this time swinging downwards with all my might, shattering the wooden pan handle — my plan worked.
The two metal surfaces crashing together produced a single spark.
With a loud pop, followed by a whoosh, a ball of flame blossomed under my nose.
I reeled back from the smarting rush of heat, the smell of singeing telling me that I'd been too slow to save my eyebrows.
But I didn't care. I didn't care the tiniest bit. Because something wonderful had happened.
I could see.
I saw in perfect detail that brief blossom of orange and yellow fire. Within a moment it had died back to four discs of blue flame where the gas jets burned from their vents.
They were anything but bright. Yet they cast a faint bluish light across the kitchen, revealing the stairs, table, radio — and here were Mr Hartlow's pipe and tobacco pouch on a shelf by the window.
And, more importantly, I could see on the wall the clock from which issued those lugubrious ticks and tocks. For a second I thought my eyes really were playing tricks.
The clock, if it was right, told me it was ten minutes past nine o'clock.
I looked outside.
That was the moment when I realized that either I had in some way gone spectacularly mad and was imagining all this — or that it really was the end of the world. For all I could see beyond the window was absolute darkness. That tormenting voice of unreason wasted no time before murmuring: 'You're right, David Masen. The sun is dead. And this is the beginning of everlasting night.'CHAPTER 2
An Old Foe
What should have been giddy relief at being able to see again gave way immediately to a sheer, stunned perplexity.
This was a May morning after nine o'clock. The village and surrounding fields should be awash with daylight. Instead there was only that velvet black. So, where had the sun gone?
The idea that it had simply just not risen hurtled across my brain. Could it be that during the night some disaster of cosmic proportions had knocked the Earth from its orbit? Or that the Earth had stopped revolving and from now on would present the same face to the sun in the same way that the Moon eternally presented only one side to the Earth?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Night of the Triffids"
Copyright © 2014 Simon Clark.
Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. World Darkening ...,
2. An Old Foe,
3. Eye of the Storm,
5. To Dark Skies,
8. A Haunted Isle ...,
15. The Grand Tour,
16. Rhythms of the Night,
17. Paradise Found,
26. Sight & Sound,
27. The Return,
28. Some Came Calling,
30. Columbus Pond,
31. Necessity's Child,
32. A Little Forward Planning,
33. Night Journey,
34. 'Some Other Hand ...',
36. Going Solo ...,
37. ... And So Like Orpheus,
39. To the Deep,
40. Something Wicked This Way Comes ...,
41. Zero Hour,
42. Fire Fight,
44. In the Country of the Blind the One-Eyed Man Is King,
45. The World Beyond,