Shadows

PROLOGUE

Shadows.

Timmy Evans woke up in shadows.

Shadows so deep he saw nothing.

Shadows that surrounded Timmy, wrapping him in a blackness so dense that he wondered if the vague memory of light that hovered on the edges of his memory was perhaps only a dream.

Yet Timmy was certain that it was not merely a dream, that there was such a thing as light; that somewhere, far beyond the shadows in which he found himself, there was another world.

A world, he was suddenly certain, of which he was no longer a part.

He had no idea what time it was, nor what day, nor even what year.

Was it day, or night?

He had no way of knowing.

Tentatively, the first tendrils of panic already beginning to curl themselves around him, Timmy began exploring the blackness of his shadowed world, tried to reach out into the darkness.

He could feel nothing.

It was almost as if his fingers themselves were gone.

He put his hands together.

Instead of the expected warmth of one palm pressed firmly against the other, there was nothing.

No feeling at all.

The tendrils of panic grew stronger, twisting around Timmy Evans like the tentacles of a giant octopus.

His mind recoiled from the panic, pulling back, trying to hide from the darkness.

What had happened?

Where was he?

How had he gotten there?

Instinctively, he began counting.

“One.”

“Two.”

“Three.”

“Four.”

The numbers marched through his head, growing ever larger as he listened to the voice in his mind that silently intoned the words that meant the most to him in all the world.

The same voice he remembered from the suddenly dim past, when there had been light, and sounds other than the voice that whispered the numbers to him in the silence of his mind.

Even then, before he had awakened in the shadows, only the numbers had truly meant anything to him.

It had always been that way, ever since he was very small and had lain on his back, staring at an object suspended above his crib.

The numbers on the blocks hanging from the mobile had meant something to Timmy Evans.

Though he had been too young to have a word for the mobile itself, the memory of it was clear.

“One, two, three, four.”

The object, brightly colored and suspended from the ceiling on a string, turned slowly above him, the voice in his head speaking each numeral as his eyes fastened on it.

“One, two, three, four.”

Later, he’d seen another object, on the wall high above his crib.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.”

Timmy Evans had learned to count the numbers as the hands on the clock pointed to them, though he had no idea what the clock was, nor what purpose it served. But he would lie in his crib all day, his eyes fixed on the clock, saying each number as the hand came to it.

When he’d learned to walk, he’d begun counting his steps, saying each number out loud.

Counting the steps that led down from the front porch of his parents’ house.

Counting the cracks in the broken sidewalk that separated his yard from the street.

Counting the panes in the stained-glass windows when his parents took him to church, the pillars that supported the church’s high ceiling.

Counting the slats in the Venetian blinds that covered the window of his room at home, and the neat rows of vegetables in the little garden his mother planted in the backyard.

Counting everything, endless numbers streaming through his mind.

Numbers that meant something.

Numbers that meant order.

Numbers that defined his world.

The numbers filled his mind, consumed him.

They were his friends, his toys.

He put them together and took them apart, examining them in his own mind until he understood exactly