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Night Light


  Books by Terri Blackstock

  Soul Restoration

  Emerald Windows

  Restoration Series

  1 | Last Light

  2 | Night Light

  Cape Refuge Series

  1 | Cape Refuge

  2 | Southern Storm

  3 | River’s Edge

  4 | Breaker’s Reef

  Newpointe 911

  1 | Private Justice

  2 | Shadow of Doubt

  3 | Word of Honor

  4 | Trial by Fire

  5 | Line of Duty

  Sun Coast Chronicles

  1 | Evidence of Mercy

  2 | Justifiable Means

  3 | Ulterior Motives

  4 | Presumption of Guilt

  Second Chances

  1 | Never Again Good-bye

  2 | When Dreams Cross

  3 | Blind Trust

  4 | Broken Wings

  With Beverly LaHaye

  1 | Seasons Under Heaven

  2 | Showers in Season

  3 | Times and Seasons

  4 | Season of Blessing

  Novellas

  Seaside

  Copyright

  Night Light

  EPub Reader Format

  Copyright© 2006 by Terri Blackstock

  This title is also available as a Zondervan audio product.

  Visit www.zondervan.com/audiopages for more information.

  Requests for information should be addressed to:

  Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

  ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27476-6

  All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

  The Scripture quotation which is on page 141 is from the New American Standard Bible, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means — electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other — except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

  Cover photo © Guy Grenier/Masterfile

  Cover design by Michelle Lenger

  Interior design by Beth Shagene

  This book is lovingly

  dedicated to the Nazarene.

  Table of Contents

  Books by Terri Blackstock

  Copyright

  Prologue

  Cast of Characters

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Afterword

  About the Author

  About the Publisher

  Prologue

  CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT ENDED ON MAY 24, AND NO one knows why.

  Some mysterious force has caused all electronics on the Earth to fail. Plumbing doesn’t work because the water treatment plants run on electricity. Trucks and trains don’t run, so stores run out of food. Generators no longer work. In this major meltdown of life, people are left stranded where they are, with no transportation, no power, no communication. People are left with a choice: will they hoard what they have until it all runs out, or will they share with those around them who are in need?

  The Brannings are a Christian family who pride themselves on their righteousness. But in the wake of this disaster, they respond like everyone else at first: they hole up at home, hoarding their food, paranoid that interacting with others will force them to share the few provisions they have. The children are angry that their lives have been disrupted. They’re bored without visual and audio entertainment. Deni, the twenty-two-year-old, explodes at the idea that she won’t be able to get across country to start her new job on time. But word is slowly making its way to them that the power outage is far-reaching.

  After a couple of days waiting for this to pass, Doug reluctantly concludes that this may not be temporary. He breaks down before God, realizing that he’s not equipped to function without technology. How will he support his family? How will he provide food? How will they survive?

  Time passes — and the Brannings, along with all of their neighbors, try to learn to survive with what they have. Everyone works hard just to eat. Everyone is on edge. The Brannings start a church in their home. Doug, who’s been a stockbroker for twenty years and has never even taught a Sunday school class, suddenly becomes the preacher.

  Oak Hollow, the upper middle-class neighborhood where the Brannings live, where neighbors barely know each other, gradually becomes a close-knit, cooperative, and supportive community. But not without hardship. There is, in fact, a near-total breakdown of society. There are killings, robberies — and a family’s most important possessions become their firearms.

  Tension grows between Deni Branning and her parents until she runs away to join her fiancé — and instead finds herself in the clutches of a psychopath.

  Finding food and clean water continues to be a daily struggle. Government barely functions, and although rumors abound, information is hard to come by.

  And still the power outage continues, without explanation …

  Cast of Characters

  Branning, Doug — forty-seven, father of four and husband to Kay Branning. He’s a successful stockbroker who’s never known failure until technology comes to an end, and he’s forced to provide for and protect his family from the dangers surrounding them. Though the circumstances of life threaten to defeat him when the power goes out, he manages to find the character and strength to do what needs to be done.

  Branning, Kay — forty-five, Doug’s wife, mother to Deni, Jeff, Beth, and Logan. She was a spoiled soccer mom before the outage, living in a
four thousand square-foot home with all the bells and whistles and driving a brand-new Expedition. Now she faces a daily struggle to feed her family and help those around her who have less than she does.

  Branning, Deni — twenty-two, Doug and Kay’s spitfire daughter. Just before the outage, she graduated from Georgetown University in broadcast journalism and landed an internship at the NBC affiliate in the Washington, D.C., area. She is engaged to Craig, an attorney who works for a prominent U.S. senator. Just before the outage, she comes home to Crockett, Alabama (a suburb of Birmingham), to plan her wedding. When the power goes out and transportation and communication are shut down, along with all electronics, she feels trapped. She misses her fiancé and longs to hear from him.

  Branning, Jeff — sixteen, Doug and Kay’s son. He’s the star pitcher on his high school baseball team, a true jock, and a popular kid at school. But he doesn’t much like hard work. He’s a Christian kid but has moments of rebellion. Saddled with a lot of adult responsibilities since the outage, he finds the weight of the world on his shoulders as he tries to help protect his family from the evil surfacing around them.

  Branning, Beth — twelve, Doug and Kay’s daughter, who looks up to her older sister. She’s sensitive to the needs of the neighbors and tries to help when she can. But with her siblings, she gives as good as she gets, and the constant arguing and name-calling drives her parents crazy.

  Branning, Logan — nine, Doug and Kay’s youngest child, who was raised on PlayStations, computers, DVDs, and television, and finds their new way of life boring and unfair. But he’s enjoying spending more time with his dad now that he’s home all the time.

  Caldwell, Brad — the Brannings’ next-door neighbor, an attorney, a good man but not a Christian. He sets up a neighborhood watch in Oak Hollow. An African American, he was initially blamed for the murders and robberies in the neighborhood and was beaten up and almost killed.

  Caldwell, Judith — wife of Brad, a nurse, who begins to attend Doug’s house church.

  Caldwell, Drew and Jeremy — Brad and Judith’s sons, nine and seven, friends with Logan.

  Horton, Chris — twenty-two, Deni’s best friend from high school, a nurse.

  Green, Mark — twenty-two, another of Deni’s friends from high school. He’s good looking, strong, inventive, and skillful. He skipped college and went to work in construction. He’s disliked in the neighborhood because of his father’s reputation. But Deni and her family know that Mark is all that he appears — a good Christian man who puts others before himself.

  one

  STEALING CAME EASY TODAY.

  Most days, breaking and entering was harder than this for the boys, requiring hours of watching and waiting for families to leave their homes so the two of them could slip in and out, arms full of loot, without being noticed.

  At nine and seven, Aaron and Joey Gatlin knew how to blend in. They had a system. They would case the ritzy neighborhoods while bouncing a basketball or tossing a Frisbee back and forth, looking like any other kids out playing on a summer day. No threat to anyone.

  The massive power outage that had set technology back over a hundred years, knocking out everything from cars to electricity, had left millions hungry and desperate. But not Aaron’s family. He made sure his brothers and sister had something to eat every day.

  Some of those who lived in this neighborhood called Oak Hollow had begun plowing up their front yards, and vegetables were growing there instead of grass. Word around town was that they were digging a well, which meant they would have fresh water soon. The lake in the middle of the neighborhood already made them rich, since they didn’t have to walk far to get water, and most of them had fancy barbecue pits in the backyard where they could boil the lake water to sterilize it.

  “The Br-an-nings.” Joey, Aaron’s seven-year-old brother, sounded out the name on the mailbox. “They have a big family — they were all working out here in their garden yesterday. Bet they got a lot of food.”

  Aaron remembered seeing them. “Nobody around today. They’re all at the lake, just like the message board said.”

  The big wooden message boards were a major source of information in every neighborhood around town, since there weren’t any newspapers and people couldn’t talk on the phone. According to the boards, Oak Hollow was having some kind of big-deal meeting. The mayor was coming to tell people about something. Most of the neighborhood would be there. There would be bicycle patrols up and down the streets during the meeting, but it was easy for the boys to work around them.

  If they’d had more boxes and a way to carry them all off quickly, they could have swept a dozen houses clean in Oak Hollow today. As it was, they’d hidden their empty boxes in the woods surrounding the neighborhood. They would hit one house, fill the boxes to the brim, then roll their loot home in their rusty wagon. Then they would come back and do the same with the next house, and the next. The problem was that few of the homes had much of what they wanted, so it took a lot of hits to gather enough to call it a day.

  The Brannings’ house had two stories, with a double front door and a big porch with white wicker rockers and a cushioned swing. It was the kind of house Aaron’s mother used to dream about on her good days. She would cut pictures out of magazines and tack them to the walls — glossy-paged shots of colorful rooms with soft, clean furniture and shiny floors. As if she had a chance of ever owning such a place.

  There was no one around. The street was quiet. Aaron couldn’t have timed things better. He hoped they’d left their windows open, inviting in whatever breeze there was in the sweltering month of August, as many families did since air-conditioning became a thing of the past. He and Joey had easily gotten into most of the houses they’d hit today and found treasures they hadn’t expected. This morning, he’d even managed to find nearly new tennis shoes for Sarah and Luke, who’d been barefoot since they’d outgrown their own. His three-year-old sister had stepped on broken glass last month, and it had been a mess trying to get it healed. Now that it was, he didn’t want to let her play outside till she had shoes. Luke, his five-year-old brother, was wearing an old pair that Aaron and Joey had both outgrown — they were so holey there was almost no point in wearing them.

  They went around the house and through the wooden gate to the backyard. No one was there. The gate at the back of the property was open, offering a view of the yard behind them, but there was no sign of anyone there, either.

  “Okay, Joey, I’ll look for a way in. You run back and get the wagon. And watch for the bike patrol. Wait till they’ve gone by before you cross the street.”

  Joey complied, as always. Aaron glanced around again, then went to the back door and tested the knob. It was locked, as he’d expected. These people weren’t stupid.

  He backed up into the yard, stepping on some of the plants, and surveyed each of the windows. The ones on the ground floor were all closed … but one on the second floor was open a few inches.

  Perfect. There was a trellis with vines on it leaning against the house — as good as a stepladder to reach the second floor. He shook it to make sure it would hold him. Carefully, he climbed up, testing each foothold of the white lattice before moving higher.

  At the top, he balanced carefully on the steep roof and stepped across the shingles to the open dormer window, pulled it up, and slipped inside. He looked back out — Joey was stealing back into the yard, two big cardboard boxes in the rattley wagon he pulled behind him.

  Aaron grinned down from the window and flashed Joey a thumbs-up. His partner-in-crime grinned up at him, revealing his two missing front teeth.

  The room looked like a teenaged boy’s room, with a framed baseball jersey with Mark McGuire’s number on it hanging proudly on the wall, an autographed picture beside it. Aaron lingered in front of it for a moment, wishing he could snatch that and hang it on his own wall. But it would be too hard to carry. No, he hadn’t come for that.

  The bed was unmade. Several pairs of large, muddy shoes lay
on the floor. A computer sat in one corner on a desk, looking like it could boot up any time. A television with a DVD player and a PlayStation sat on shelves facing the bed, coveted items before the outage on May 24. But they were useless now.

  He tiptoed out of the room and down the stairs, staying quiet in case they were wrong about no one being home. As he’d hoped, he saw and heard no one. Quickly, he opened the back door, letting Joey in. “Anybody see you?”

  His brother shook his head. “Nope. They’re all gone.”

  “Yeah, well, we better be fast. That meeting could break up any minute.”

  His brother rolled the wagon in behind him, its wheels rattling across the ceramic tiles. Aaron ran into the kitchen and threw open the cabinet doors. Worthless stuff: dishes and small appliances — a mixer, a blender, a coffeepot. He opened the dark refrigerator and saw nothing but recycled plastic containers, a stack of books, and some folded towels. He turned to the floor-to-ceiling pantry next to the fridge and opened it.

  “Score!” Joey cried at the sight of the food on the shelves. The Brannings had a bag of apples and a loaf of homemade bread wrapped in plastic wrap. A paper sack full of potatoes sat on a shelf with a dozen or so jars of vegetables.

  “We’ll be eatin’ good tonight!” Aaron began loading everything he could reach into the boxes in the wagon. He glanced at the kitchen counter. There were several jugs of water lined up there. Someone had written drinking water on the side of a plastic milk jug. They’d struck gold! “Go get that water,” he told his brother.

  Joey’s grinning eyes widened. “Do you think they cooked it?”

  “Prob’ly. Throw it in, quick.”

  Joey found the caps and snapped them on, then carefully placed them in the box. They’d have to remember this place, Aaron decided, so they could give the family time to restock and hit them again.

  Joey helped him empty the shelves, then rolled the wagon around the open pantry doors.

  “Careful, now. Those jars’ll break.”

  “Mom?”

  Aaron froze at the sound of footsteps coming through the back door. He grabbed his brother’s hand and stopped him. The pantry door hid them as the footsteps entered the kitchen.

  “That you?” It sounded like a girl or a young boy. Aaron looked down at his feet, wondering if she could see them under the pantry door. She was coming toward them.

 
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