The hitchhiker braced his foot against Steward’s chest and jerked the ax free. Its steel head dripped blood.

Steward fell forward onto his face.

The hitchhiker lifted the ax again, swung it down with all his strength into the center of the young man’s back.

Wake finally found the light switch. He flicked it on but the lights stayed off. He flicked the switch off and on, off and on, but the cabin remained dark.

The hitchhiker wrenched the axblade out of Steward’s back and started to slowly walk up the stairs to the front door of the dark cabin.

The cabin began to shake gently at first, then harder and harder, grinding on the foundation, as though gripped by some enormous hand. The hitchhiker had disappeared from the front porch, as though his work were done and he was no longer needed. There was a roaring in his ears, and Wake wasn’t sure if it came from outside the cabin or inside his own head. The windows slowly cracked, then blew out, the wind howling through the cabin. The door flew open, upending furniture, scattering papers.

The cabin groaned, started to come apart. Light poured in through the collapsing walls and Wake ran down the front steps, onto the dead grass around the cabin, out into the light. The roaring sound was gone now. Wake blinked in a powerful light that hovered over him, caught. There was a form inside the light, a man, a space explorer, a deep-sea diver. The figure spoke to him, the voice sounding like it was coming from a great distance away, as though the Diver was struggling to be heard.

“I have something important to tell you.”

Wake tried to speak, but the light… it was too bright, scattering his thoughts.

“It goes like this:

For he did not know / That beyond the lake he called home / Lies a deeper, darker ocean green / Where waves are both wilder / And more serene / To its ports I’ve been / To its ports I’ve been. Do you understand?”

“An ocean green? N-no,” said Wake. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I entered your dream to teach you. The darkness is dangerous. It’s sleeping now, but when it feels you coming, it will wake up.”

“What will wake up?” Wake looked around. The hitchhiker was back, the bloody ax in his hand. He stood on the very edge of the light, just inside the darkness, eager to cross over. As Wake watched, the darkness grew blacker, more intense, shiny as oil. Wake looked back at the Diver.

“You are safe in the light. The darkness cannot hurt you there.”

The light flickered and Wake screamed.



Wake heard Alice calling to him through his nightmare. He slowly floated up toward the sound of her voice, still drowsy.

“Alan, wake up. Come see where we are. It’s so beautiful.”

Wake opened his eyes, squinting in the sunlight. Through the car’s open window, he saw Alice beckoning from the nearby railing of the ferry. She wore tight jeans and black boots, her light-brown hair billowing over the upturned collar of her black leather jacket. Whatever she was looking at, it wasn’t nearly as beautiful as what he was seeing. She waved again and he got out of the car and walked across the deck toward her, feeling the low engine vibration through the soles of his feet.

“I didn’t want you to miss this,” said Alice, pointing.

It took an effort to tear his eyes from her, but he followed her direction, saw an immense forest stretching out on each side of the water, the biggest trees that he had ever seen, so tall and thick he couldn’t see the forest floor.

“Old-growth timber,” said Alice. “Hundreds of years old, never been cut. Not much of that left anymore.”

“Forest primeval, I get it,” said Wake. “Welcome to sasquatch country.” He looked down at the dark-green water churning around the ferry. He buttoned up his gray tweed coat. Even with the hoodie underneath, he was shivering. The sun seemed to seek Alice out, but he was always cold. Wake’s face was long and angular, with a cleft in his chin and a three-day stubble like a rock star on a bender. His eyes were blue, very alert, volatile even. He told Alice once that if he had a tattoo it would read: Born Pissed Off. She told him he needn’t bother. One look at him and people figured that out fast enough.

A fallen tree drifted up ahead, a gnarly elm bobbing gently along on the currents. Its thick trunk and broad leaves made it seem out of place among all the tall timber, and Wake, ever curious, wondered how it ended up here, what had torn it out by the roots. A huge raven perched atop one limb, fluttering its glossy black wings as it pecked at something, peck, peck, peck. Wake leaned forward, straining to see what the raven was so interested in. The raven cocked its head, as though aware of Wake’s gaze, then bent down, pulling up something white and stringy in its beak.

“We should be arriving in Bright Falls in about twenty minutes,” said Alice, basking in the light.

The raven’s greedy cawing echoed across the water as the elm drifted closer, and Wake finally saw what the raven was working at, a child’s tennis shoe caught in the branches, the bird tugging at the laces. Alice turned as the raven flapped off. “Wow, that’s one gigantic crow.”

“Yeah,” Wake said softly.

“Honey, are you okay? You look so… pale.”

“Just my imagination messing with me. As usual.” Wake ran a hand through his dark hair. She worried about him, worried about his moods, and especially about his temper. He gave her reason to. In the distance he could make out the outlines of a small town nestled in the bay. Had to be Bright Falls.

Alice took her camera from her purse. “Why don’t you stand next to that old guy beside the pickup? I’ll take a picture of you with the woods in the background.”

“You know I hate having my picture taken,” said Wake.

“Suffering is good for the soul,” Alice said playfully. “Don’t you want to get to heaven?”

“Not unless you’re there with me,” teased Wake.

“Well, I’m staying here,” said Alice. “You’re the one who’s going over there so I can snap a picture.”

Wake walked over to the older man. The bed of the blue pickup had a fresh deer carcass in it. Cute. He looked at the older man. “Hi.”

“You picked a good time to come to Bright Falls,” confided the older man, a short, balding fellow, his watery blue eyes crinkling behind round glasses.

“Really?” said Wake. Alice waved at him to move closer to the man.

“Yup, a very good time.”

“Uh-huh,” said Wake.

The man pushed back his glasses with a forefinger. “I mean, lucky you.”

Wake took a deep breath. The persistence of geezers was a universal constant as certain as gravity or the speed of light. “Okay, why am I lucky?”

The older man showed his dentures in triumph. “Deerfest is just two weeks away.”

“Deerfest, huh,” said Wake, having no idea what the man was talking about. “Did you hear that, honey? Deerfest!”

“Forgive my bad manners, I’m Pat Maine.” The man stuck out his hand.

“I’m Alan—”

“Oh, I know who you are, Mr. Wake,” said Maine, pumping away with his damp, pillowy hand. “We read books around here, too.” He smiled at his little joke. “When’s that next novel of yours coming out? Seems like

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