Home > Gossamer(8)

Author: Lois Lowry

John knelt. "Here," he said, and held the biscuit toward Toby. Nervously, tentatively, the dog leaned forward. Its ears were upright, alert, its eyes on John's hand holding the treat.

A pink tongue appeared. Just as the dog was about to take the biscuit, John pulled it away. He laughed harshly, and Toby looked confused.

"Thought you'd get it, huh? Thought I liked you?" He spoke in a low voice so the woman wouldn't hear him. She was at the door, waving to the car the social work lady drove. It was a business car, with the city seal on its door. She probably didn't even have her own. She was probably married to some jerk who wouldn't let her have a car, who said she was a dumb broad, too dumb to drive. She had to take a bus to work, he figured.

Carefully he put the dog biscuit into his pocket. "I might give it to you later," he whispered to the dog. It was a good game, to get someone to believe you, even a dumb dog. Get them to trust you. Then surprise them. Hah. He'd keep pulling the biscuit away forever.

He pounded once with both hands on the piano. Then he went to the kitchen, picked up the glass from the table, and gulped the rest of the lemonade. If he didn't, she would take it away from him, hoping he would cry so she could hit him.

She was holding his suitcase now, and smiling at him. He frowned and wiped his sticky mouth with the back of one hand.

"Where's the TV?" he asked in a loud voice.


Sinisteeds rarely sleep. No sprawled snoozing Heap for them. They are a restless herd, these dark creatures who contain within them the most profound of all our fears, the hidden things, old guilts and failings that we will ourselves to forget. Their constant pawing and snorting is accompanied by an atmosphere of foul-smelling sweat, for they glisten with it. Their energy is boundless. They toss their heads and flare their nostrils, tasting the air, searching for the places where they will spew their loathsome holdings, waiting for deepest night, the time when infliction takes place.

They are not bound by rules or limits, as the dream-givers are. They prey on the most vulnerable. They have no mercy.

And they were aware of the boy. They were making ready for the boy.


Most Ancient called a meeting. The dream-givers gathered early in the evening, before dark fully fell, before they went out on their nightly work.

"A warning to you all," he announced. "I dislike bringing this up. It is not something we like discussing. But I'm feeling some early warning signs. Small tremors in the earth. I want you to be alert."

A murmur rippled through the Heap. Littlest One listened carefully. Around her, she heard the ssssss sound. The dream-givers were saying the word under their breath.

Sinisteeds. Sinisteeds.

"They're convening," Most Ancient said. "I believe they have a victim identified. They've been on the prowl."

"Prowl?" Trooper asked. Trooper was a large, muscular dream-giver, forceful and decisive. "I'd say rampage is the word for it. I had to deal with one quite recently. It inflicted a terrible nightmare on a young man in my assigned house. Did a lot of damage. I've been doing remedial dreams ever since."

"I've had some trouble as well!" another voice called. Littlest peered toward the back of the Heap to see who was speaking. It was Dowager, so precise always, speaking now in a clipped tone. "I've been able to ward them off, but I've definitely felt some approaches. And I saw scorch marks on the wall of a bedroom."

"Scorch marks?" Littlest whispered in a questioning voice to Thin Elderly, who was beside her. "What are scorch marks?"

"I'll explain later," he whispered back.

"Anyone else?" Most Ancient looked around. Some heads nodded. A few hands went up.

"Well. We've always had these individual forays, of course. Trooper, good work. You do deal well with these. If any of you need help, feel free to call on Trooper for a little extra muscle.

"But what I want you all to be on the lookout for are signs of a pending group attack. I'm feeling a gathering starting. A Horde.

"This happens only rarely. Over the years, occasionally, they have focused on one victim, someone particularly helpless. Then they mass and descend. Perhaps only the oldest of you here have ever experienced it. Anyone remember the last Horde attack?" He looked around. "No one? Well, it's been a very long while.

"I don't mean to worry or alarm you. And I don't see it as imminent. But we must be on the lookout. Somewhere out there they are beginning to sniff—to sense—a victim. Let's be vigilant. Let's be on guard."

Subdued, the dream-givers rose from the Heap and began to set out for their night of work. There were apprehensive murmurs among them. Littlest could hear the whispered sound, ssssss, that meant some of them were still saying the name under their breath.

"Sinisteeeeed," she whispered to herself, testing the sound of it.

But Thin Elderly, looking down at her, shook his head in warning. He put his finger to his lips. Chastened and a little nervous, Littlest reached up, took his hand, and held tightly to it as they set out.


"I can't stay in a house with no TV," he said again. He was standing beside the piano with his hands clenched. The dog nosed at his sneakers but the boy didn't notice.

The woman knelt beside him, though she knew already not to reach out with a touch. Earlier she had tried to put her arm around him but he had flinched and pushed her away.

"You know," she said in a calm voice, "there are a lot of other things to do. I'll read to you, or you can read to yourself. There are plenty of books. Some left over from my own childhood. The Bobbsey Twins? I suppose that's more for girls. But there will be some book you'd like, I'm sure."

He rolled his eyes. "Get me a Game Boy, then, if all you have are stupid books," he said.

"A what?" she asked, laughing. "I don't even know what that is. But if you like games, we can play games. Ever played Monopoly? I always lose, but I'm a pretty good sport. I have a Monopoly set in the cupboard over there, and Scrabble, and some others. I keep them for visiting children. I have a lot of grandnieces and grandnephews."

"I'm gonna run away," he announced. "Even if that door is locked I know how to open it. I'm out of here."

"Listen," the woman said, and tilted her head. "Hear that?"

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
» Nightchaser (Endeavor #1)
» Right Where I Want You
» Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)
» Be the Girl
» Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
» If I Only Knew
» Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)
» 99 Percent Mine
» Free (Chaos #6)
» Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3
» Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)