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Nate Kenyon

DAY ONE

For Brendan Deneen, the spark who lit this fire

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I’d like to thank my editors at Thomas Dunne, Brendan Deneen and Peter Joseph. Their early guidance and incredibly insightful feedback on the first draft of Day One made it a much better book. I’d like to thank my agent, Howard Morhaim, a true gentleman in this business, for his hard work on my behalf. Finally, I’d like to thank my friends and family for their support, particularly my amazing wife, Kristie, and my children: Emily, Harrison, Abbey, and Ellie Rose. I love you all more than I can say.

PROLOGUE

12:03 A.M.

LATER THAT DAY, it was the dream he would remember. In the dead hours between midnight and dawn, it crept up on him like a child playing hide-and-seek.

Thomas was running toward him from the park, his cherubic face lit up with a thousand-watt smile. That’s my son, Hawke thought as he watched the boy race through the scattering of leaves. It filled him with a sense of wonder and bewilderment. That this child would depend on him for everything, look up to him the way men looked to God; it kept him from being anything less than honest.

During the worst of what was to come, it kept him sane.

The dream changed without warning. The expression on the boy’s face was not one of happiness at all, but a grimace of fear. Tears streaked his cheeks. Thomas reached up as he ran on chubby little legs and Hawke crouched to gather him into his arms. The boy grabbed him by the neck with a drowning grip and buried his face in the hollow between collarbone and chest. The impact carried Hawke over and he sat down hard, crunching into a pile of fall leaves that had drifted against the foot of an ancient oak. Rough bark bit into his back.

Please, Daddy, don’t leave me!

This kind of emotion for Thomas wasn’t normal. He hardly ever cried. The boy squeezed tighter and wrapped his legs around Hawke’s waist. Beyond them, the park was deserted, the swings ticking softly on their metal chains as a breeze nudged and twisted them. The whole world had disappeared; there was nobody left except the boy and his father sitting in the leaves.

Thomas’s tears bled through Hawke’s shirt. He rubbed his son’s back, but the boy wouldn’t stop. He kept squeezing, trying to mold himself to his father’s body, and Hawke held on tight and swallowed hard against a lump in his throat.

I won’t let anything happen to you; I promise. I’ll do anything to keep you safe.

Cool air swept across the park. The wind grew teeth as bits of dust and leaves swirled and flung themselves against Hawke’s face. He squinted against the sudden attack as the sky lowered itself like a metal plate pushing against their heads and thunderclouds boiled up and spilled over the dusty ground.

In moments, they were soaked through. Hawke struggled to his feet, still gripping his son to his chest. The boy’s cries became more frantic, his fingers digging into the flesh of his father’s back. Hawke stumbled forward and blinked against the river of water pouring down his face and the stinging needles of rain that lashed his skin.

Something was pulling Thomas away from him.

He held tight, but the pull was strong. He glanced over Thomas’s shoulder and saw nothing at first. The park was empty, the basketball court deserted, black and slick with rain. The boy cried out as a cold, slippery thing wormed its way between them, wrapped around his waist, and yanked. The muscles in Hawke’s arms grew taut and quivered. Panic lit him up inside like an electric shock, thickened his tongue.

He looked up again and saw tentacles uncoiling like silvery-steel ropes from the metallic sky above, a monstrous, multi-limbed creature snaking down to snatch at his son.

Don’t let them take me, Daddy!

Another one wrapped itself around Thomas’s neck. The pull grew stronger. Hawke fell to his knees, sobbing. He had a feeling that it was his fault, something he’d done that was causing this. His arms were on fire. He fought against the thing trying to take his boy as the wind whipped across the empty park.

I won’t let you go! he shouted into the rain. But as the words were torn from his throat his grip gave way. He watched as his child tumbled backward across the asphalt and was swept up into the vacuum of the night as the clouds wept and the earth moaned with him.

* * *

The dream left Hawke gasping into his pillow. His son’s pleading face remained vividly etched into his memory, the helplessness he felt as sharp and clear as a physical ache.

He got up from bed and padded through the familiar darkness of the hall, wiping his eyes and nose with his undershirt, the shirt his wife used to tease him about wearing. You look like a little old man, she would say, smiling. Before things had started going wrong. Take it off and come to bed. But he could never fall asleep like that, thinking that somehow he’d be more prepared for an emergency if he had something on. If there was a fire. If someone got into the apartment, someone like Lowry. He was always thinking that way.

He couldn’t calm his trembling limbs, or banish the feeling that had welled up in him. He’d been feeling this way all the time lately, like he was standing on humming tracks with a train bearing down and no way to step aside. He wondered if it would be like this forever.

Thomas’s room was stiflingly hot. The night-light lit up enough of the floor for him to see. The colors changed from blue to red, making the carpet look like a slowly beating heart. He walked to the bed and looked down at his sleeping child. Thomas’s brow wrinkled and he sighed, turned over and stuck his little thumb in his mouth.

Only a dream, Hawke thought. My boy’s safe. It’s over now.

Later, he would realize how incredibly wrong he’d been.

STAGE ONE

CHAPTER ONE

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