Rick Burroughs


To my brother, James, wherever you are


I would like to thank Harry Crews, my first writing instructor, who gave me the best critique any young writer could ask for: “I don’t understand what you’re up to, son, but you clearly do, so keep doing what you’re doing.”

Thanks also to my editor, Tony Elias, for keeping me on track and for getting the jokes.

My appreciation to all the folks at Remedy for creating the world of Alan Wake, to Sam Lake and Mikko Rautalahti for their feedback on the manuscript, to Eric Raab at Tor Books, to Chris Lassen for her design work, and to Jorg Neumann and Brandon Morris at Microsoft Game Studios for making this project possible.

I must also thank my neighbors, the Eagans, for bringing by the bacon and cornmeal biscuits last winter when I was snowed in and couldn’t get out of my driveway. You saved me!


WAKE DIDN’T SEE the hitchhiker until it was too late. It was night and he was tired, driving down the coastal road toward the lighthouse, driving too fast, as usual. The hitchhiker seemed to appear right out of the darkness, standing there in the middle of the road, just staring into Wake’s oncoming headlights. Wake didn’t even have time to hit the brakes, reacting only after he heard the thump of metal against flesh.

Shaken, head pounding, Wake got out of the car to check on the hitchhiker. The front end was splattered with blood, the hood crumpled. Steam rose from the crushed radiator. Wake bent over the body of the hitchhiker, the two of them caught in the headlights now as though onstage. The man was dead. Wake put his hand on the hitchhiker’s bloody clothes, wanting to apologize, to explain, to ask the man why he had just stood there unmoving as Wake hurtled at him. It wasn’t the hitchhiker who was going to have to explain his actions, though.

There were no skid marks on the road, Mr. Wake, the police would say. Why didn’t you slam on the brakes? Didn’t you see him? You’re a writer; were you distracted, maybe thinking about your next book? Just for the record, exactly how fast were you going, Mr. Wake? Had you been drinking before the accident? Taken any pills? You look tired.

A raven cried out from a nearby tree, and Wake turned, seeing only its eyes in the darkness. When he looked back the hitchhiker was gone. Disappeared. Wake actually put his hand onto the spot where the hitchhiker had been lying, feeling around, as if he might find a hole, a deflated blow-up hitchhiker, some sort of insurance scam fake out, something. There was nothing and nobody there. Just the pavement, cool in the night air.

Wake stood, knees shaking. He looked around, then pushed the car to the side of the road. It was a write- off. He started walking toward the lighthouse in the near distance, trying to stay upright, to stay steady. The man had been there. Wake had hit him. Killed him. So where was the body? Wake turned back. His car was still there, water leaking onto the pavement, the hazard lights flashing against the night. Up ahead, a streetlight lit up a wooden, pedestrian walkway that wound its way to the lighthouse. He still wasn’t sure what he was going to tell the police when he reported the accident.

A streetlight exploded as Wake walked under it.

Son of a bitch, he thought, covering his head as tiny bits of broken glass drifted down around him like snow. He looked back again to his car. Froze.

The hitchhiker was there. Standing in front of the car, covered in blood and shadows. He had something in his hand. An ax. He strode toward Wake.

Wake couldn’t move.

A streetlight farther down the road exploded, then another, and another still.

“You don’t even recognize me, do you?” said the hitchhiker, disgusted. “You think you can play with people’s lives, kill them when it adds to the drama?” He hefted the ax, his clothes spotted with gore. “Well, you’re in the story now, Wake, and you’re going to suffer for your art. Let’s see how you like that.”

Wake recognized the hitchhiker now. He was a character in a story Wake had written when he was first starting out. An innocent man run down at the start of the story, a driver walking away in the night. He had never finished the story, but his character had now escaped off the page and was coming for vengeance.

Wake started to run, his feet pounding on the wooden walkway as he raced toward the lighthouse.

“What’s your hurry?” mocked the hitchhiker, coming after him. “I thought you liked horror stories.”

Wake kept running, his footsteps drumming on the wooden slats, the lighthouse a beacon in the night.

“What kind of a writer are you?” called the hitchhiker.

The planks in the walkway were cracked and weathered, whole sections missing so that Wake had to jump over the gaps. Up ahead was a rickety footbridge that stretched over a chasm; the ocean crashed on the boulders below in a spray of foam.

“Mr. Wake!” A young man in a college letterman’s jacket waved from the far side of the footbridge. “Hurry!”

Wake glanced behind him. The hitchhiker was closing in, the ax cleaving the air.

Hurry, Mr. Wake!” shouted the young man.

Wake ran. Partway across the bridge, his leg broke through one of the rotting planks. He clung to the railing, pulled himself up. He limped across the remainder of the bridge.

The young man grabbed his arm, led him toward a dark cabin at the base of the lighthouse. “It’s me, Mr. Wake. Clay Steward, don’t you remember?”

“I don’t know you…” Wake shook him off.

“You’re a joke, Wake!” shouted the hitchhiker, halfway across the bridge.

“Get inside,” said Steward, pushing Wake up the steps of the cabin. “Turn on the lights, I’ll stop him.”

Wake rushed into the cabin and fumbled for the light switch. He cried out as the door slammed shut behind him. Through the window he could see Steward standing by the front porch, holding a revolver as the hitchhiker approached.

“Steward!” shouted Wake. “Get in here!”

“Stay where you are, Mr. Wake,” said Steward, voice cracking. “Just put all the lights on!”

“Come inside…” Wake tugged at the door, trying to open it, but it stayed shut. “Steward!”

The hitchhiker rushed at Steward, swinging the ax with both hands.

Wake struggled against the door, but couldn’t budge it.

Steward fired the revolver. The bullets staggered the hitchhiker for an instant, but he shrugged it off. Steward fired again. “Why… why won’t you die?” Steward wailed, emptying the revolver, each shot hitting the hitchhiker.

Wake watched as the hitchhiker hurtled forward and drove his ax deep into Steward’s chest, splitting the gold letter on the young man’s jacket.

Steward let out an awful moan and sank to his knees.

“No!” shouted Wake, beating on the window so hard it vibrated.

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