Home > Night Fall (The Quantico Files #1)

Night Fall (The Quantico Files #1)
Author: Nancy Mehl

Prologue


His mother sat in the chair next to his bed, reading from The Book. He was almost twelve now, and she’d been reading it to him ever since he was a little kid.

Adam hated it. It scared him. Did everyone really come from beings in the sky? Were people really born either demons or angels? Mother said they were—and that they had no choice in the matter.

He’d begun to believe he was a demon, but he’d always been too scared to ask her. He suspected she thought he was, though, because of the way her dark eyes bored into his. It made him feel strange inside. But if he was a demon, didn’t that make her and Father demons too? Mother said demons could have only demon children, which meant demon children always had demon parents. He didn’t want to be a demon. If only he could run away. Go somewhere else. Be someone else. But that would never happen. He was trapped.

He tried to be as good as his mother wanted him to be, but it was hard. Too hard. She considered everything a temptation. Even food. That meant they never had much to eat in their house. Tired of being hungry, he’d stolen a candy bar from the store when no one was looking. He’d stuck it in his pants pockets, and he hadn’t been caught.

But would an angel steal? Or just a demon?

The truth was he hated his mother. He was closer to his father, who had a high forehead and large eyes that reminded Adam of a drawing he’d seen of an alien. Maybe The Book was right about where they all came from.

Surely his father was an angel. He gave him treats when Mother wasn’t looking. And he made faces at her behind her back, making Adam want to laugh out loud. Of course, they couldn’t really laugh at Mother. They were both afraid of her. If Father weren’t afraid, he’d just tell her to shut up. He’d ignore her orders to beat Adam with the paddle she kept in the kitchen. But he always did whatever Mother told him to do.

When he wasn’t teaching Adam his school lessons or out making what little money they seemed to have, Father spent most of his time in the basement smoking. Mother wouldn’t let him smoke anywhere else in the house. When she asked him what he was doing down there, he said he was working on things. Adam had no idea what these things were. He wasn’t allowed to go down there. He was sure Mother didn’t know either. She had a bad leg so she stayed out of the basement. She didn’t seem to mind Father spending time downstairs, though. It was clear she didn’t like him any more than he liked her. Maybe Father didn’t want to be a demon either, but Mother treated him like he was.

Although Adam hated the beatings, he was even more afraid of the times her eyes went dead and she put her hands around his neck. Usually when Father wasn’t there. Adam had grown taller in the last year, but she was still stronger than he was. It hurt. He could hardly breathe. Sometimes he wondered if she would stop. Sometimes he wished she wouldn’t, but he was afraid of dying. Which planet would he go to when he died? The one for angels or the one for demons?

Most of the time he understood what he’d done wrong when he was punished. He’d stayed outside too long, or he’d forgotten something he was supposed to do. Then once, at one of the special meetings his parents had taken him to every week until a few months ago, he smiled at a man’s pretty daughter, who was about Adam’s age. That made Mother really angry, and he got a beating that night. She kept telling Father to hit him harder because what he did was so bad. His father acted like he was obeying her, but the paddling got softer and softer.

Adam hadn’t been taken to the meetings again. That was all right with him. He liked being home alone. Sometimes he’d sneak food out of the refrigerator, and so far Mother hadn’t noticed. He’d also stare at the paddle on the wall, thinking about using it on her. The image in his head made him smile.

An angel wouldn’t think about hurting his mother, would he? Yet, more and more, thoughts about hurting other people swirled in his mind. The feelings they caused were so strong he had to force himself to think about something else. Otherwise, he might do one of those awful things.

His mother finally closed The Book, then started reciting that scary poem about the Train Man. For as long as he could remember, she’d said it every night so he’d stay in bed and not make any noise.

After Mother turned out the light and left his room, he hooked his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling. It was so dark in here. Not that it mattered. What was there to see? Just a small bed with an old mattress that smelled, a nightstand that wobbled, and the desk and chair his father found next to a trash dumpster.

A few months ago his family visited his aunt’s house. Until that day, Adam hadn’t even known his mother had a sister. His aunt had kind eyes and a soft touch. And her house was beautiful. Bright and cheerful. He’d looked around the kitchen. No paddle. He couldn’t help but wish his aunt could be his mother. When she smiled at him, it made him feel something he’d never felt before. Envy.

Turned out she had a boy Adam’s age with a bedroom full of wonders. New furniture. Posters on the wall. Toys. Video games. He couldn’t believe it. His envy turned into something even more dark. Anger. He wanted to hurt his cousin and take all his amazing treasures. Why should that boy have everything Adam wanted? It wasn’t fair, was it?

They didn’t stay long, and after they left, Mother announced they would never go back. She said their house had too many temptations. Maybe that was true, but he didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t anymore. New feelings had begun to grow inside him. Resentment. Rage. Hatred.

As he tried to force himself to go to sleep, he kept an ear turned toward the train tracks that ran somewhere behind their house. Thankfully, he heard only silence, yet he knew that a train could go by at any moment. Even though Adam was fairly certain the Train Man wasn’t real, he was terrified of him. Reluctant to take a chance, he’d stay in bed no matter what.

Someday he’d find a way to leave here. Maybe he could live with his aunt. But if Adam really was a demon, and she found out, she wouldn’t want him there, would she?

His eyelids finally grew heavy, but suddenly the door to his room squeaked open. Light streamed in from the kitchen, and Father stood in the doorway with an odd look on his face. He motioned to him with his fingers. “Come with me,” he said.

As Adam followed him, he wondered where Mother was. She’d be mad if she caught them, and he’d get another beating. He wasn’t sure how many more of those he could take. His father didn’t seem concerned about her, though. And when he stopped at the door to the basement, Adam was confused.

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