The Waking Dark is “a horror story worthy of Stephen King” (Booklist) and “a book you won’t soon forget” (Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments series)—perfect for readers of Gillian Flynn and Rick Yancey.
They called it the killing day. Twelve people murdered, in the space of a few hours, their killers also all dead by their own hand . . . except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town.
Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander, Kansas—something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of its upstanding citizens. As the town begins a descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself.
They have nothing in common. They have nothing left to lose. And they have no way out. Which means they have no choice but to stand and fight, to face the darkness in their town—and in themselves.
“Suspense, chills, gasps—all that and a gem-like writing style that will make you shiver with beauty and horror. A book you won’t soon forget.” —Cassandra Clare, author of the bestselling Mortal Instruments series and Infernal Devices trilogy
“Twisted, pulse-pounding, shocking, and very, very scary. With The Waking Dark, Robin Wasserman conjures vintage Stephen King as she peers into the dark heart of a nightmare America, where violence and evil lurk behind the golden glow of small-town life, and new terrors arrive by the hour. A superb horror story that is by turns visceral and lyrical, heartrending and heart-stopping.” —Libba Bray, bestselling author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and the Diviners series
“This book has the combination of mystery and fright that I love. So many twists and shocks, I nearly jumped out of my chair several times! Trust me—this is a true chiller. Not to be missed!” —R. L. Stine
“A thriller dark and beautiful and—yes—achingly romantic at every unexpected twist and turn. Astounding.” —Lauren Myracle, New York Times bestselling author of The Infinite Moment of Us and Bliss
“Wild, nihilistic madness that will get true horror fans raising their pitchforks and torches in frenzied glee. Wasserman writes as if hooked up to IVs of Stephen King and John Carpenter's spiked blood.” —Daniel Kraus, author of Rotters and Scowler
"Great dialogue and intriguing subplots add to the action-packed story . . . the suspense doesn’t let up until the final pages." —School Library Journal, Starred Review
About the Author
ROBIN WASSERMAN is the critically-acclaimed author of the Seven Deadly Sins series, Hacking Harvard, the Skinned trilogy, and The Book of Blood and Shadow. She lives in Brooklyn.
Read an Excerpt
Later, after he'd trashed his bloody clothes, and stood under the cold shower long enough that the water circling the drain had gone from red to pink to clear, Daniel Ghent would wonder if some part of him had known what was to comeor should have. If there had been something false, something crafty, in Gathers' crookedly welcoming smile, or some too-still quality in the air, like the pressure drop before a storm. He would wonder if there was some reason he had walked into the store on exactly that day, at precisely that time, if despite all previous indications to the contrary, he had been meant to be a hero and save the day. He would wonder whether, if he had seen it coming, he could have done something to stop it, or whether he would simply have backed out of the store and run away. But that was later.
That afternoon, that sticky, sweaty Tuesday in the dog days of summer, he'd seen nothing but heat waves shimmering from pockmarked concrete and a long walk home. He'd known only that it was hot, and that Gathers Drugs on the corner of Ashton and Main was the closest place to buy a Coke or maybe, because there was something about the sun and the sweat and the smell of scorched cement that made him feel like a kid again, one of the sodden ice cream sandwiches Mr. Gathers kept in a tank behind the register.
So he went inside.
The door chimed with his entrance and Gathers took the time to grin a hello before turning back to filling a prescription for Eugenia Wooden. The self-described spinster lived down the street from Daniel and spent half her life in the doctor's office cheerfully complaining of coughs and wheezes and stomach pains and all manner of imagined infirmity until the doctor wrote her a scrip for something or other just to get her to leave. She was nice enough, at least now that Daniel was too old to trample her flower garden with his bicycle or break her windows with an errant baseball. She believed in the healing powers of chamomile tea, strict rules about wearing white after Labor Day, the Republican Party ("after they booted the criminals out" and "before the kooks took over"), civil rights ("within reason"), the wisdom of the Lord and the foolishness of His self-assigned deputies, and, on occasion, a stiff shot of whiskey.
She had approximately ten minutes left to live.
They all did: Sally, the waitress at D'Angelo's who gave free breadsticks to anyone who knew enough to flirt with her. Kathleen Hanrahan, who had babysat for Daniel's little brother until the night Daniel's father stumbled home drunk enough to mistake her for his dead wife. Happy Jerry, a thirty-year-old who couldn't read past a third-grade level but loved comic books and spent every afternoon browsing through the drugstore racks. All of them, dead in ten minutes, except Old Winston, who'd been kicked out of the bar next door and had slumped down by the ladies' hosiery shelf rather than go home and face his wife. He survived for nearly half an hourthough if his desperate prayers to Please, God, just let me die already were any indication, he didn't exactly welcome the delay.
They allexcept a snoring Winstongreeted Daniel by name, exchanging the standard pleasantries about the weather (too hot), the day (too long), and the town (waning). There were no polite inquiries about his father; there was no need. Anyone interested in Daniel Ghent Sr.'s well-being could take a field trip down to the church square, where the Preacher, as he preferred to be called, had set up camp. He'd fester in the plaza for a few weeks, shoving his wrinkled End of Days pamphlets at passersby until the spiritor the Jack Daniel'smoved him to try somewhere new. Daniel, who'd overdosed on humiliation back in grade school, when the whistled chorus of "Son of a Preacher Man" followed him everywhere, was officially no longer bothered by his father's extracurricular activities. But he still kept track of the wandering ministryif only to ensure he stayed, at all times, on the opposite side of town.
"You bringing someone pretty to the church picnic this weekend?" Gathers asked. Daniel didn't bother to wonder at the glaze in the old man's eyes or the perfunctory note in his voice. Nor did he spot anything unusual about the way Gathers kept fiddling with something beneath the counter, sneaking quick, nervous glances at whatever lay below. "Supposed to be a fine, fine day."
"Not going to the picnic," Daniel mumbled. Daniel never went to the picnics. Or the ice cream socials or the potlucks or the bingo nights or the theme dances that featured Reverend Willet dressing up as a pirate or a biblical forefather or, on one memorable occasion, a feather-headed, war-painted Navajo brave.
A damp, meaty hand landed on his shoulder. Every muscle went on alert. His fingers, of their own accord, twitched and balled themselves into a ready fist.
But it was only Happy Jerry, smiling and defenseless and meaning no harm.
"For Milo," Jerry said, shoving a sticky comic book into Daniel's hand.
"Thanks, Jerryhe'll love it." Daniel flipped through the wrinkled pages, past caped heroes who never arrived too late and punches that never left a bruise. He couldn't remember ever being young enough to believe in that kind of world; he didn't want to imagine his little brother ever being old enough to stop.
He was thinking about Milo as he picked out the least squashed of the ice cream sandwiches and dropped a wad of crumpled bills on Gathers' counter. About the things he'd overheard the kids screaming on the playground, the claims that Milo stank, that he was dirty and unwashed and probably diseased. He was thinking about the foot-thick layer of worn and reworn clothing that covered both their bedroom floors, and the broken washing machine and the empty refrigerator and the housekeeper, paid for by his father's disability checks, who had quit two weeks before.
But that was well-worn mental territory, and, as if his life were the scene of an accident, replete with mangled bodies and gasoline fires, he forced himself to look away. By the time he stuffed his wallet back into his jeans, cracked open his Coke, and murmured agreement with Eugenia Wooden that, yes, it was an excellent thing that flu-shot distribution had begun so early this year, you could never be too careful, he was instead thinking about her. Cassandra Porter, again, still, always, Cass Porter and those damn short skirts that tended to ride up on her long, tan legs when she bent to adjust her strappy sandals or with self-conscious whimsy pluck a dandelion for her hair. Cass Porter, who'd spent the first eight years of her life at his sideand barely looked at him in the nine years since. Any illusions he nurtured that they could pick up where they left offif with a little less playing alien explorer in the backyard and a little more groping in the darkwere swiftly dispatched every time he set eyes on the real thing. There was only room in the family for one delusional Ghent, and his father had already laid claim to the role.
His father. There Daniel's thoughts finally landed, just before Gathers, with a bland smile, drew the secret thing from beneath the counter and the secret thing revealed itself to be a shotgun. Whether his father was getting worse. Whether Daniel would care if his father left one morning and never came back. Whether somewhere, in the deep recesses of Daniel's brain, rested a time bomb that would eventually explode and launch him into a dream world as bad as his father's, or worse. Whether he could, for one more day and then one more day after that, stop himself from leaving his father and his house and his brother behind, in hopes that even the nowhere he had to go would be better than the somewhere he longed to escape.
The first blast screamed past his shoulder. Behind him, a wall of ketchup exploded and showered him with a gush of sugary red. He didn't think. He dropped. Face down, arms sprawled, eyes closed. Playing possum. Playing dead. He tried not to move.
He tried not to hear the screams.