Those of you who have read The Haunting at Grays Harbor have heard about The Dark River. It’s the place Roy was adamant about, insisting that Steven promise he would never go there. If I say much more, I know I’m giving spoilers for that book, so I’ll stop right there.
It turns out, though, that The Dark River is a place many gifteds DO go, and it’s as addictive and depraved as Roy feared. It’s a bizarre, dark landscape with strange people and evil creatures. Roy is right; most who go there wind up there, permanently lost. It’s best to stay away — far away.
Derick doesn’t have a father figure with the gift to warn him away. In fact, he isn’t even gifted — but everything about the River intrigues him, including the Riverview Motel where people routinely die or are found in a coma. The Riverview is near the access point to the Dark River, and gifteds use the motel as a way to park their bodies while they explore it. Sometimes they come back; many times they don’t.
When he worked as a cop, Derick saw a lot of strange things in his case work. Aside from the routine depravity of his fellow human beings, he occasionally encountered something that was baffling and unexplainable; every cop ran into these things, and they knew to steer around them and spend their time on leads that would amount to something rather than going down the rabbit hole. Derick was able to ignore those things while he worked, but now that he was retired, the unexplained details bugged him, and he wanted answers. With the help of The Achernar Group, he found them.
Things really changed for Derick when he discovered a way to enter the River. It’s the holy grail of The Achernar Group: a non-gifted person able to enter the flow, and Derick’s discovery transcended their knowledge and ability, placing him in a position they want and envy.
It also gave him an opportunity to explore, and he soon followed the gifteds who used the Riverview Motel on their way to the Dark River. His instincts as a cop informed him of the risks of the place. He’d experienced enough addiction and sickness in his career to know a bad situation when he saw it, and he recognized the downside of the Dark River almost immediately, knowing if he didn’t learn how to avoid it, he’d become one of the infected and depraved right along with the others.
Instead, he found a way to make money off it. Desperate family members, worried that their children or siblings had become lost in the Dark River, were willing to pay handsomely for someone to save their loved one from the clutches of the place. Fortunately for Derick, he also discovered a way to force other people back, out of the Dark River and back into their bodies, provided they hadn’t turned. He charged a tidy fee for his services, and he developed a reputation as someone you could count on to go in, find your loved one, and yank them back. It usually didn’t require more than a cursory excursion into the Dark River; most of the wanted didn’t go far in and were merely “rushing”, indulging in the intense pleasures the Dark River offered. It was easy to incapacitate them while they were wrapped up in ecstatic bliss and kick them back to the real world with the aid of a device he’d acquired. It was a nice little business for a retired cop living on a pension. He was saving up to move to Belize.
So this is where we find Derick when the novel A begins. He’s been to the Dark River enough to complete the contracts he’s been hired for, and he has resources inside the place that he can use to get the job done. But he’s smart enough to stay out of most of it, concentrating on just getting in and getting back out…before he becomes infected.
In A, the contract Derick takes doesn’t go as planned, and he finds himself dragged into the depths of the Dark River, where firestorms descend from the sky like fiery tornadoes, torching the land and everything in their path, and forces who prey off the sickness of others target him as a threat to their enterprise. Soon he’s wrapped up in a problem much deeper than he ever intended, spending far more time inside the Dark River than he expected, exposing himself to the flies, and the infection…
Still, as careful as he is to avoid it, The Dark River is such a fascinating place. So much more fascinating than the real world.
A is intended as the first book in a new series, set within the River universe. There are a myriad of connections to details in The River and The Downwinders series, so if you’re familiar with those titles, you’ll find familiar things here, too. It’s got a different vibe than those two series, with new characters and a truly bizarre setting.
It’s my intention to rotate between these three series for a while, alternating with each book as I’ve done the past year with The River and The Downwinders. I hope you’ll jump in and explore the Dark River with me, even though Roy wouldn’t approve. It’s going to be a really twisted ride that I hope you enjoy!