Innocence Read online
Innocence is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Dean Koontz
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
A signed, limited edition has been privately printed by Charnel House.
Title page art from an original photograph
by Agne Kveselyte
BANTAM BOOKS and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Koontz, Dean R. (Dean Ray)
Innocence : a novel / Dean Koontz.
ISBN 978-0-553-80803-2 (acid-free paper)—
ISBN 978-0-345-53965-6 (eBook)
1. Social isolation—Fiction. I. Title.
Jacket design: Scott Biel
Jacket photo: Pawel Gaul/E+/Getty Images
Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.
—PETRARCH, DE REMEDIIS
Part One: The Girl I Met in Lamplight Near Charles Dickens
Part Two: The Flame Delights the Moth Before the Wings Burn
Part Three: What Might Have Been and What Has Been
Other Books by This Author
About the Author
HAVING ESCAPED ONE FIRE, I EXPECTED ANOTHER. I didn’t view with fright the flames to come. Fire was but light and heat. Throughout our lives, each of us needs warmth and seeks light. I couldn’t dread what I needed and sought. For me, being set afire was merely the expectation of an inevitable conclusion. This fair world, compounded of uncountable beauties and enchantments and graces, inspired in me only one abiding fear, which was that I might live in it too long.
I WAS CAPABLE OF LOVE, BUT I LIVED IN SOLITUDE after Father died. Therefore I loved only the precious dead, and books, and the moments of great beauty with which the city surprised me from time to time, as I passed through it in utmost secrecy.
For instance, sometimes on clear nights, in the solemn hour when most of the population sleeps, when the cleaning crews are finished and the high-rises darkle until dawn, the stars come out. They are not as bright over this metropolis as they must be over a Kansas plain or a Colorado mountain, but they still shine as if there is a city in the sky, an enchanting place where I could walk the streets with no fear of fire, where I could find someone to love, who would love me.
Here, when I was seen, my capacity for love earned me no mercy. Quite the opposite. When they saw me, men and women alike recoiled, but their fear quickly gave way to fury. I would not harm them to defend myself, and I remained therefore defenseless.
ON CERTAIN NIGHTS, BEAUTIFUL BUT SAD MUSIC found its way into my deep windowless rooms. I didn’t know from where it came, and I couldn’t identify the tune. No lyrics accompanied the melody, but I remained convinced that I had once heard a smoky-voiced chanteuse sing this song. Each time the song came, my mouth moved as if forming the words, but they eluded me.
The piece was not a blues number, yet it weighed on the heart as did the blues. I might call it a nocturne, although I believe that a nocturne is always an instrumental. Words existed to this melody. I was certain they did.
I should have been able to follow those mellifluous strains to a vent grille or a drain, or to some other route of transmission, but every attempt to seek the source ended in failure. The music seemed to issue from the air, as if passing through a membrane from another, unseen world parallel to ours.
Perhaps those who lived in the open would have found the idea of an invisible world too fanciful and would have dismissed the notion.
Those of us who remain hidden from everyone else, however, know that this world is wondrous and filled with mysteries. We possess no magical perception, no psychic insight. I believe our recognition of reality’s complex dimensions is a consequence of our solitude.
To live in the city of crowds and traffic and constant noise, to be always striving, to be in the ceaseless competition for money and status and power, perhaps distracted the mind until it could no longer see—and forgot—the all that is. Or maybe, because of the pace and pressure of that life, sanity depended on blinding oneself to the manifold miracles, astonishments, wonders, and enigmas that comprised the true world.
When I said “those of us who remain hidden,” I should instead have said “I who am hidden.” As far as I was aware, no other like me existed in that metropolis. I had lived alone for a long time.
For twelve years, I shared this deep redoubt with Father. He died six years earlier. I loved him. I missed him every day. I was now twenty-six, with perhaps a long, lonely life ahead of me.
Before I arrived, my father lived here with his father, whom I never had the honor of meeting. Most of the furnishings and books were handed down to me from them.
One day perhaps I would pass my belongings to so