The perfect place for Alan Wake, a bestselling crime novelist, and his wife, Alice, to relax for a few weeks. Maybe a second honeymoon and the fresh air will cure Wake of his writer's block.
But when Alice goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Wake's desperate search for her leads him into a hell only he could imagine.
In the depths of nearby Cauldron Lake, a dark and malevolent presence has awakened from a long slumber. It's reaching out now, turning the townsfolk into mindless killers. Sheathed in shadows, vulnerable only to light, they are Taken.
Wake's journey will lead him to the very edge of madness, and deep within the dark woods, he will come face-to-face with a story he has no recollection of ever writing.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||8.26(w) x 5.72(h) x 0.84(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Rick Burroughs
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2010 Microsoft Corporation
All rights reserved.
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 we've been waiting —"
"Working on it," snapped Wake.
"Of course, can't rush the creative process, can you?" said Maine. "I hope this isn't too presumptuous of me, but I'm the night host at the local radio station. Any chance I could get an interview? A best-selling author doesn't come through these parts very often, and —"
"I'm on vacation with my wife," said Wake. "Trying to keep a low profile."
"I understand completely," said Maine, winking. "Still, you change your mind, I'm an easy man to find."
Wake walked back to Alice.
"I got some good shots," said Alice, pushing her hair back. "Nice to see you making friends."
"Yeah, we swapped bundt-cake recipes," said Wake.
Alice lightly punched him in the arm. "Wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen. You might actually enjoy yourself."
Wake didn't respond. He stood shoulder to shoulder beside her at the railing, eyes half closed, enjoying the sensation of her wind-blown hair tickling his face.
He had lied to Pat Maine about his next book. He hadn't written a word in two years, and had no idea if he would ever write again, but standing beside Alice, Wake put aside all thoughts of the books he had written, and the books he might never write, put aside the frustration that tore at him night and day. There was just him and Alice. That was enough. For this one perfect moment, that was all he needed.
"Oh yuck," Alice said softly.
"What?" said Wake, not wanting to look, wanting to stay where he was, smelling her perfume and forgetting everything else.
"There's the creepiest guy watching us," said Alice.
Wake opened his eyes, the perfect moment gone now, popped like a soap bubble on a summer afternoon. He saw a grubby man in his forties staring at them from the far end of the ferry, an insolent grin on his face. The man wore camouflage pants and a hunting vest, a stained ball cap and scuffed work boots. A cigarette dangled from his lower lip.
He started walking slowly toward the man. "Do you have a problem?" Wake challenged, raising his voice to be heard over the rumbling engines.
The man didn't react, just took a long, slow drag on his cigarette, and kept staring.
"Alan, don't," said Alice. "Stay here. This is no way to start a vacation."
Wake allowed Alice to steer him back to their car, neither of them saying a word until they were both inside.
"You ... you scare me sometimes," said Alice.
Wake watched the vein at the base of her throat pulse, angry at himself for upsetting her. "I'm sorry."
"Men like that ... they're not worth worrying about," said Alice. She squeezed his hand. "You just have to learn to back away."
"I can't do that," said Wake. "The world will eat you alive if you let it."
"That's not true," said Alice. "Most people are good."
"Alan Wake, they most certainly are."
"What about the ones who aren't good?" said Wake, looking past her as the town came clearly into view, a collection of bright storefronts and a few small houses scattered across the surrounding hills. People and cars waited at the ferry dock. He turned back to her. "What about the ones who want to hurt us?"
"Why would anyone want to hurt us?"
Wake reached over and kissed her. "Envy. Who wouldn't want what we have?"
Alice kissed him back, her lips warm and pouting. "Well, they can't have it."
Alice drove the car off the ferry and onto the dock, past the fishermen lining the railing and people waiting to board. There was a chill in the air now, clouds building up on the horizon. Locals in quilted jackets clomped down the sidewalk, eating ice cream cones, enjoying the sunshine. No seagulls, which was odd, since they usually hovered around the waterfront, looking for scraps and leftovers. No seagulls. Just ravens watching from the roofs and power lines. Wake shivered.
"It's nice, isn't it?" said Alice. "Quaint. No one seems to be in a hurry."
"Wait until Deerfest," said Wake, "the place will be throbbing with activity."
"See, I knew you were going to like it here," said Alice.
"Don't get carried away," said Wake. "I was just kidding."
"That's what I mean," said Alice. "Your sense of humor ... it's coming back. I'm so happy. These last couple of years you got so serious."
"Well, these last couple years, things were serious," said Wake. "Not today, though. Today, we're going to pick up the key to our cabin and officially start the vacation, and if you're good, very, very good, I'll take you to Deerfest and let you pet Bambi."
"You need to take a look around and see where you are, city boy," teased Alice. "Around here, they don't pet Bambi, they eat him."CHAPTER 2
Who am I supposed to get the key to the cabin from?" said Wake.
"A Mr. Carl Stucky." Alice stopped at the traffic light, the only one they had seen in the town. "He said he was at the Oh Deer Diner every afternoon about this time."
Wake looked around as the car idled, waiting for the light to change. Nothing here but a dozen storefronts of dull, weathered brick, the whole downtown located on one street that ran along the water. Bright Falls was a tidy, small town, with no litter, no graffiti and no parking meters. On one side of the street a hardware store touted deals on chain saws and generators, on the other side a shoe store announced a sale on steel-toed boots. A banner over the intersection declared, JUST TWO WEEKS UNTIL DEERFEST!
"Welcome to Mayberry," he said.
"Don't be such a snob," said Alice. "It's quaint. Very quaint."
Wake watched a dog amble across the street. "Quaint means no Starbucks, no deli, no cable, and the film playing at the single screen movie theater has been out on DVD in the real world for six months."
"Some people would find that a relief."
Wake sighed. "It's just hard for me to relax."
Alice squeezed his hand. "That's why we're here."
"You're right." Wake smiled in spite of himself. "I'm an idiot. I don't know why you put up with me."
"Well ... you do have your charms." The light changed, but Alice ignored it.
Wake watched her in the soft, late afternoon light. She was long and lean beside him, her movements languid and sensuous as a cat stretching in the sunlight. "Let's pick up the key and I'll do my best to make it up to you."
Alice glanced over at him. "It's a deal," she said, starting through the intersection. A block later, she slowed and came to a stop in front of the Oh Deer Diner, leaving the engine running. "You get the key from Stucky and I'll pick you up after I get some gas."
They watched as a lone parade float drove slowly down the street, a heavy-duty logging truck decorated like a gigantic deer, antlers impossibly large.
"You're not just going to drive away and leave me here, are you?" teased Wake.
"It might do you some good," said Alice. "Give you a taste of the simple life."
"Not without you. What kind of fun would that be?"
Alice pointed at the news rack beside the door, change glistening on the stack of newspapers. "Look at that. The honor system. When was the last time you saw that in New York, Alan?"
"Right around the moment that the Dutch settlers swindled the Indians out of Manhattan." Wake kissed her and got out.
He watched as she drove down the street toward the single gas pump down the street. A smear of something pink lay melting on the sidewalk, surrounded by tiny black ants. Some kid must have dropped strawberry ice cream off his cone. Wake watched the line of ants streaming from under the diner to the smear, ravenous, more and more of them pouring out from the cracks to feed. He hurried into the diner, stopping just inside the doorway, feeling like a man who had just realized he was standing in the middle of a minefield.
Not two feet away was a life-size cardboard standup of himself looking haunted and sensitive, a blowup of the author photo that Alice had taken for his last novel, The Sudden Stop. Basic promotion, but in their condescending review of the book, the New York Times had found room to say it — "while Wake's sleek good looks undoubtedly contribute to his massive sales, the current author photo, so redolent of the archetypal tortured artiste, signals an attempt to cross over into literary territory." Yeah, thought Wake, next photo shoot I'll wear a frilly dress and hockey mask so no one thinks I'm putting on airs.
He stared at his frozen image and thought of the frantic book tour, the missed connecting flights and crowded bookstores, the gushing television and radio interviews. He remembered settling into the plush silence of a waiting limo after a long day, looking out at the world through thick smoked glass and wondering which side of the fishbowl he was on. Worse than all that, though, was the constant sense that the famous Alan Wake was a total fraud. The praise, the flattery, the first-class jets and four-star hotels ... it would all come to a crashing halt when the world realized that he hadn't been able to write a word since The Sudden Stop. He had spent months now staring at the blank sheet of paper in his typewriter. All he had to show for it was the title: Departure. It was just a matter of time until he ran out of excuses to his publisher, his agent, his wife ... himself. What good was a writer who couldn't write?
"Oh. My. God," a female voice said.
Wake wanted to bolt out the door and chase Alice down, wanted to beg her to drive away, back to a city big enough that he could disappear in.
"Omigod, omigod, omigod," said a young woman, coming out from behind the counter, wiping her hands on her apron. A pretty girl in a waitress uniform, with light brown hair and a face like an eager mouse. "This is so amazing. I almost didn't come to work today, if you can believe that. I would have just died if I had missed you." She pumped his hand like a desperate wildcatter. "I am your absolute biggest fan. Honest."
Wake slowly disengaged his hand from her grip. "I didn't know there was a contest."
"I've read all your books, Mr. Wake," she said. "Every one of them."
"I'm Rose Marigold," said the girl, shaking his hand again. "I got the standup from your publisher. I put it up so I can see you all day while I work."
"Nice to meet you, Rose," said Wake, looking around to see if anyone was watching the scene. They weren't. The only people in the diner was a park ranger in uniform at the counter, and two white-haired old coots sitting in one of the back booths. One wall was covered with dusty trophy heads — deer, elk, and antelope — but their dull glass eyes didn't see a thing.
"Mr. Wake?" Rose peered at him. "I know at the end of The Sudden Stop you killed off Alex Casey, but he's not really dead, is he? I mean, not like forever dead. Alex Casey's my favorite character in the whole world."
"That's very flattering," said Wake.
"You're full of tricks, aren't you?" said Rose, grinning as she wagged a finger. "You can tell me. It's not like I'm going to post it on my blog. Unless you want me to, of course!"
"I ... I really have to ...," said Wake, backing away. "I'm supposed to meet someone here —"
"A Mr. ... Carl Stucky," said Wake. "He's got the key to the cabin my wife and I will be staying in."
"You're staying in Bright Falls?" Rose fanned her flushed face. "This is the best day of my life." She turned to the deputy sitting at the counter. "Rusty, did you hear that?"
"Yup. Best day of your life, Rose." Park Ranger Rusty hoisted his coffee cup to Wake. "Best cup of coffee in town too, sir."
"Rusty, this is Alan Wake, the famous novelist," said Rose. "Mr. Wake, this here's Rusty. He's no longer human. Nothing but black coffee under a thin layer of skin."
Rusty sipped from his cup, smacked his lips. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Wake."
"Back at you," said Wake. "Do you know where I can find Carl Stucky?"
Rusty jerked a thumb toward the corridor in the back. "I believe he's using the facility."
"Thanks," said Wake, starting toward the corridor. As he passed the two old men sitting in the booth, one of them pointed at the nearby jukebox.
"How about some tunes, mister?" demanded one of the old men, clawing at his white beard.
"Play B2," said the other one, a cheerful type with a black eye patch, his lone eye bright and blue as a sapphire.
His hair was as white as the other man's, and so was his beard. He had an adhesive name tag on his chest with Tor Anderson scrawled in red crayon. The other man had a similar tag with Odin Anderson on it. "I'd play it myself, but my legs fell asleep."
Excerpted from Alan Wake by Rick Burroughs. Copyright © 2010 Microsoft Corporation. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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