Nightstruck - Jenna Black


A whisper of movement in the darkness, not visible to the mortal eye. A hush falls over the deserted alley, the sound of nearby cars fading into an impossible distance. The street holds its breath, and the heavy stone wall of the church on the corner shies away from a newly formed cold spot, a pinprick flaw in the barrier that keeps the Night Makers from entering the mortal world.

It has happened before, this brief failure of the barrier. The flaw is tiny. Inconsequential. Certainly too small for the Night Makers to fit through. But it is large enough to admit a thin tendril of magic, magic that has no place in the world of mortal creatures.

It is a lure, a baited hook that awaits unwary prey.

Six times has this hook been cast between the worlds, and six times has the barrier sealed up the opening before the bait was taken. But seven is a special number, a lucky number—or an unlucky one, depending on one’s point of view.

This time, the hook would sink deep into mortal flesh, each taste of mortal blood widening the hole in the barrier, allowing more and more magic—and other things—through.

The magic settles into the shadowed corner of the church’s stoop. The Night Makers enjoy this irony of location. Like the thick, inky smoke of an oil fire, the magic forms a blacker shadow, one that slowly begins to take shape. The shape is small and imperfect. It would not pass inspection in the bright light of day. But for the purpose of this night, it would do. Yes, it would do nicely.

The shape solidifies. Moments later, it lets out a long, unearthly wail.

And the trap is set.


Walking the dog when it’s twenty degrees outside isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but, as usual, my dad was working late, and if I didn’t take Bob Barker (don’t blame me; my dad named him) out for a walk, I’d have an even more unpleasant chore in front of me. Bob is a seventy-five-pound German shepherd, and I know from experience he can make one hell of a big mess.

I bundled up in my down coat, pulling on a wool hat even though it would make my hair into an electrified puffball. Bob waited impatiently, eyes focused on me with the unnerving intensity only a dog can manage, his tail wagging in anticipation. He’d be just as eager to go out if it were minus twenty.

“Don’t say I never do anything for you,” I muttered at him as I clipped on his leash and stepped outside into the arctic blast.

My dad and I live on a narrow side street in Center City, Philadelphia. As Center City neighborhoods go, it’s pretty good, but I was always glad to have Bob at my side when I had to go out at night. He wasn’t a police dog, but he’d had some of the same training, and no one remotely sane would mess with him. I walked him down to Walnut Street, shivering and cursing the icy wind as Bob went through his usual routine of sniffing everything in the neighborhood to confirm that it smelled the same as it did six hours ago.

“Hurry up!” I ordered him, but he was having too much fun sniffing to pay much attention to me. My dad, with his deep, stern voice, could probably get Bob to stand on his head with nothing but a simple voice command, but me, not so much.

We made our torturous way around the block, Bob squirting a drop or two of pee on every immovable object we passed. The moment he finally took care of business, I made a beeline for home. We were on Chestnut Street, and the fastest way back to my front door was to cut down an alley that I would ordinarily avoid. Even so close to home and in a safe neighborhood, my city-girl instincts balked at walking down a narrow, deserted alley at night. But I was freezing, and I had Bob, so I made an exception just this once.

There was nothing in the alley except for the back side of a few businesses, all of which were closed for the night, their windows dark. There was a church at the far end, but its windows were dark too, and as Bob and I walked away from the busy street, I felt like I was somehow leaving civilization behind. It didn’t help that one of the streetlamps had burned out,