For years, the Jackson family vacationed at their matriarch's old Victorian house on Gull Island, a place of superstition and legend off the southern coast of the U.S. One particular summer, young Beau follows his cousin Sumter into a shack hidden among the brambles and windswept trees near bluffs overlooking the sea.
And within Neverland, the mysteries and terror grow...
For fans of Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Bentley Little.
"Neverland is a masterpiece of dark suspense that will forever haunt your dreams." - Douglas Preston, New York Times Bestselling Author of Impact and (with Lincoln Child) of Relic and Gideon's Corpse.
"Douglas Clegg's Neverland is an unforgettable novel that combines creeping horror and psychological suspense. It starts like a bullet and never slows down." - David Morrell, New York Times Bestselling Author of Murder as a Fine Art.
"This is a powerful and thrilling tale, Douglas Clegg's best novel yet. The novel builds in whispers and ends in a scream. You will never forget Neverland." - F. Paul Wilson, New York Times Bestselling Author of Nightworld and the Repairman Jack series.
"From start to finish, Neverland is a haunting and tragic masterpiece. A powerful, thrilling tale, Douglas Clegg tells Beau and Sumner's incredible story with a subtle blend of humor and sadness that resonates with the reader long after the novel ends." - Marjorie M. Liu, New York Times Bestselling Author.
"A brilliant novel that grows richer with each reading, a multilayered marvel that will one day be recognized as one of the classics of supernatural literature." - Bentley Little, Bestselling Author of The Influence and The Haunted.
"Clegg's stories can chill the spine so effectively that the reader should keep paramedics on standby." - Dean Koontz, New York Times Bestselling Author of Odd Thomas and Innocence.
"Clegg knows exactly what scares us, and he knows just how to twist those fears into hair-raising chills. Neverland is Clegg at his best." - Tess Gerritsen, New York Times Bestselling Author of Girl Missing and the Rizzoli & Isles series of novels.
"Douglas Clegg . . . could have hung out with (in a better world) Robert R. McCammon, Bentley Little and Stephen King. These are guys who know America, and know how to literally scare up the best and worst aspects of the American character and slap them into a ripping yarn full of monsters, terror and enough action to keep the pages turning late into the night." - Rick Kleffel, book commentator for NPR
"Combing elements of H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, southern gothic, and adolescent angst, Douglas Clegg subsumes us in horror with Neverland, a tale so chilling it infected my dreams. Clegg builds horror in rich detailed layers. It is a testament to Clegg's gifts that we can't turn away; scary though the trip may be, the fright reaches out from the pages and pulls us along...Neverland is scary stuff, the product of a skilled writer of horror, and best read with the lights on." - San Francisco Book Reviews
"I can tell you without hesitation that Neverland is a true gothic masterpiece. I am incredibly impressed with it. This is a remarkable piece of literature."- Scott A. Johnson, Dread Central.com
"Neverland is a scary work written by an author soaring to the top of his game." - The Merry Genre Go Round Review.
"Neverland delivers . . . delicious slow horror...I'm going to put a library hold on one of Clegg's other novels, because if they're anything like this one, I'm an instant fan." - Sci-Fi Saturday Night.
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:April 1, 1958
Place of Birth:Alexandria, Virginia
Read an Excerpt
Among other words we wrote across the walls, some in chalk, some with spray paint, these two words were what my cousin Sumter believed in most.
There were other words.
Some of them were written in blood.
I have always known about my dreams. It's like blue eyes in the family, it's like the way Grammy could predict the weather. The dreams used to take me out of my body, just like I was flying, and sometimes they were good dreams and sometimes they were bad. I rarely ever told anyone about my dreams, because I saw things in them and I believed them. Sometimes, harmless things, like a woman sitting across from me on a bus who I dreamed was going to ask me what time it was, and then she did. Or I would dream of what my sisters had gotten me for Christmas, and I would be right.
Sometimes, the dreams were darker.
I had a relative who was crazy, and my great-grandmother Wandigaux was in and out of institutions most of her life because of alcoholism and schizophrenia: she knew about her dreams, too, but she made the mistake of talking about them. I learned early not to talk about most of the things I saw, even when I was wide-awake and dreaming. People think you're crazy if you dream too much, if you see too much. Even now the dreams take me back there - to that strip of land off the coast of Georgia, the place where our tragedies were born.
The place where my cousin Sumter reigned, and dreams and nightmares intertwined.
I didn't meet Sumter until we were both six years old, and my parents took me and the twins - Missy and Nonie, although their real names were Melissa and Leonora - to Gull Island to see Grampa Lee while he was still breathing. My little brother Governor would not be born for another three years, and Missy and Nonie - who were eight and inseparable - spent our six days on the island in the company of a middle-aged maid named Sugar who treated my sisters like little princesses.
Grampa Lee scared us so much that the grown-ups kept us away from him - his body was ravaged by illness, and he coughed phlegm up onto our sleeves when he tried to hug us. He stank of sourmash and B.O. The maid was constantly lugging a huge canister of fly spray, and would pump out a few shots into the room, which would then take on an aspect of peppermint to further confuse our noses. Grampa's body odor, peppermint, and Grammy's potpourri slapped at us at every turn; outside, near the bluffs, the air was all of dead fish and seaweed and salt. Nonie walked around half the time holding her nose - she did what she could to stay as far from our grandfather's bed as possible.
Grampa Lee was just a shadow to me, sunken into the huge four-poster bed, his dried-apple head hardly ever lifting up from the pillow. Uncle Ralph had always said that Grammy had wizened him before his time with her nagging and moods, and perhaps there was some truth to this. The skin on his hands was like tattered spiderwebs, and when he held his hand out for me to touch him, I flinched. "First rule of life," he said, "watch your back, boy, and take care of yourself first. You take care of your garden, and things will go your way. You spend too much time in somebody else's yard, and yours'll wither and die. I know, boy, I been there and back and now I'm just withering." When he spoke, it reminded me of what my mother told us about conscience, that it was the "small voice" in our heads, and Grampa Lee's voice was that same one, just a small voice in my head; and, just like what little conscience six-year-olds have, completely ignorable compared to the bigger voices surrounding it.
On that trip I was only dimly aware of my cousin Sumter, for he mostly hid behind his mother's skirts as if he were sewn right into the cotton. His eyes were wide soup bowls, and his mouth a small round empty spoon. He would clutch at her hemline and press his nose against the backs of her legs. My aunt Cricket never seemed to mind - just kept right on talking as if he wasn't there.
But as soon as he'd make a move in another direction, out would come her hand, down to his shoulder, and pinch him hard. Without a sound he would huddle closer to her and stare out at me in pop-eyed wonder. "Sunny," my aunt would say, "be a good boy for mama."
And there was something hard and shiny in Sumter's eyes, like a splinter that he wanted to keep thrust in them, something that made me think maybe if Sumter had a garden to tend that he would probably set it on fire and laugh while it burned.
It wasn't until the third evening that he spoke directly to me. Our parents were sitting on the front porch drinking bourbon and lemonade and talking about the upcoming elections and the dreadful way the Democrats had thrown the South to the dogs. Missy and Nonie were playing with Grammy's old gingerbread dollhouse and her twenty-seven Victorian dolls. They brushed each other's hair with Grammy's silver-handled natural bristle brush while Grammy and Sugar watched over them in one of the guest bedrooms. Grammy had a way of watching over children that made me think she didn't much care for them. I once overheard her telling Mama that until human beings reached the age of reason, there was nothing could be done with them but make sure they stayed out of trouble.
Sumter was supposed to be showing me his new plastic snap-together bird model. It was a canary, but he'd snapped all the wrong things on, the feet where the head should be, a wing where the feet were supposed to go. It looked goofy, and I told him so. "It ain't like that. No bird looks that way."
"I seen birds like this," he out-and-out lied. "Can you keep a secret?"
I shrugged. "Sometimes."
He told me, "I sold my soul to the Devil last full moon." He spoke like a four-year-old and had a slight lisp. His hair was pure white and fluffy like duck down - Daddy called him a towhead, but at the time I thought he meant toadhead - the curly hair was too long for a little boy (my father preferred to keep me in a flattop at that age), and I did not like him one bit. He was just the sissiest thing I'd ever seen.
I told him he made that up about the Devil.
"Look," he said, and rolled the sleeve of his white shirt up past his elbow. There were twelve stitches tracking from inside the crook of his elbow all the way up to his shoulder. When you are six, scars and such exercise a strange fascination. I moved closer to get a better look. "I went down to a place in the woods, and I met the Devil and he told me to do it."
"You been playing with milk bottles is all," I said. "I did that once when I was only four, on my toes. I ran out the door and into the bottles and they broke all over me. A stitch for each toe. You're fibbing, you ratfink."
"Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. The Devil's got hooves and a tail and he's hungry all the time. He's out on the bluffs."
"You been watching TV is all," I said. There was something about my cousin that made me nervous, made me wish the grown-ups had included me in their group. I wanted then to be sitting between my father and my mother on the front-porch swing, pretending to understand what they were talking about.
"Watch this," my cousin said, and reached up with his left hand. He stroked his fingers across the stitches. The skin around where he touched turned pink, as if his arm were blushing. "I'm calling blood up, it's something the Devil taught me."
Then he made me put my hand against his stitches. "You can call the blood up, too."
He told me to pinch the stitches.
I felt a kind of heat pass from his arm to mine, until it seemed like he was burning with fever and I would catch it, too, at any moment.
I pinched down on the stitching, harder than I meant to, until I felt my fingernails scoop into his flesh.
And as I pinched them, he thrust his arm hard against my fingers, twisting his elbow around as if he were double-jointed, and then pulled down sharply. My fingernails came away with skin slivers.
Without wanting to, I had pulled his stitches out.
His arm gushed with blood.
Sumter screamed out loud. His face stretched out like Silly-Putty. His skin was red from crying; blood sprayed out from his open cut in rhythmic spurts; I tried to shut the skin back together, suturing it with my fingers while his life poured out across my hands.
"You made me do that!" I yelled at him, but by that time Aunt Cricket had come running in from the porch smelling like cigarettes and kisses, and she grabbed Sumter up, cradling him, holding his arm together. He clutched her fat arm like it was a tree branch swaying in the wind, his head snuggled into the paisley green-gold of her blouse just above her box-shaped breasts. He pressed his bleeding arm against her neck to stop the flow.
After she shouted for Uncle Ralph to call the doctor, she looked at me and at her son and said, "Sunny, I can't leave you alone for a minute, can I? But you," she said to me, "I would've thought you'd have more sense, since your daddy's so sharp."
I don't believe my cousin Sumter really sold his soul to the Devil back then. But Sumter was open, ready, even at six, to give himself to something so completely that he would endure pain as proof of his willingness.
My cousin Sumter was looking to sell his soul.
Four summers later, when we were both ten, he found his god, in a dwarf's shack. In that sacred Gullah place, something waited there, wanting what he had to offer.
No child alive has a choice as to where he or she will go in the summer, so for every August after Grampa Lee died, our parents would drag us back to that small, as yet undeveloped peninsula off the coast of Georgia, mistakenly called an island.
We would arrive just as its few summer residents were leaving. No one in their right mind ever vacationed off that section of the Georgia coastline after August first, and Gull Island may have been the worst of any vacation spots along the ocean. Giant black flies would invade the shore, while jellyfish spread out across the dull brown beaches like a new coat of wax. It was not, as sarcastic Nonie would remark, "the armpit of the universe," but often smelled like it.
The Jackson family could afford no better. We were not rich, and we were not poor, but we were the kind of family that always stayed in Howard Johnson's when we traveled together, and were the last on the block to have an air-conditioned car and a color television. Daddy was still jumping from job to job, trying to succeed in sales while he tried as well to overcome the bad stammer that had appeared when he'd attempted to sell his first piece of commercial property. We could not afford the more fashionable shores of Myrtle Beach, nor would my mother consent to go to the land of the carpetbaggers, as she called Virginia Beach. So we would go to what was called the "ancestral home" on Gull Island, which the twins and I had nicknamed "Dull Island."
It was there that we were first introduced to a clubhouse inside which my cousin, Sumter Monroe, ruled, and through which our greatest nightmare began.
The shack, really just a shed, was almost invisible were you to walk into the woods and look for it - it blended into the pines that edged the slight bluff rising out of the desolate beach. There was a story that it had belonged to a dwarf who had been a ship's mascot all his life and had built it there so he could watch the boats come in. Another story made it out to be built on the site of an old slave burial ground. But Mama told me that it had just been the gardener's shed, and "don't you kids make up stories to scare each other, I will not have my vacation ruined with nightmares and mindless chatter." Sumter was fascinated by the shack, and terrified, too. The first three Augusts my family spent on the peninsula, my cousin Sumter would not go near it, nor would he allow any of us others to venture through its warped doorway. He acted like it was his and his alone, and none of the rest of us cared enough about that moldy old place to cross him.
But that was when he was still completely under my aunt Cricket's thumb. Sumter was an absurdly loyal mama's boy, and I thought he was too much of a sissy to really be my cousin. Aunt Cricket, wiping her Bisquick-powdered hands into her apron, would call after him from the front porch as we all trooped toward the woods, "Sunny, you be careful of snakes! You wearing your Off! spray? Don't you give me that look young man, and don't spoil your appetite for lunch. And Sunny, never, never let me catch you around that old shack! You hear me? Never!"
So, the fourth summer I knew my cousin, Sumter Monroe, he entered the shed and he named it.
He called it Neverland.