Richard Franklin has left his Midwestern roots behind to live on the coast of Maine with his family. But in the autumn of the year 2000, he must return to his Illinois birthplace on a sorrowful journey. His wife Michelle has been killed in New England by a hit-and-run driver who is never found, so back home he comes with her cremated remains, to fulfill a final wish and on her birthday scatter her ashes in the park along the river in Blackwater Valley–simply Blackwater Val to locals–the small town where they both grew up and fell in love.
With him he brings his six-year-old daughter Katie who still grieves for her lost mother: Katie, who can sometimes guess who’s going to be on the phone before it rings. Who can stop all the clocks in the house, and break up clouds in the sky with her mind, and heal sicknesses, and who sometimes sees things that aren’t there . . . people who are no longer alive. All gifts she inherited from her mother.
Only something isn’t quite right in the Val.
Sinkholes are opening up, revealing the plague pits the sleepy hamlet was built over in the 1830s, when malaria and cholera outbreaks ran riot. Mysterious bird and fish die-offs begin to occur, and Katie can see ghosts of the dead gathering all around. But what she can’t see is the charred, centuries-old malevolence which has been waiting for her, and wants her for its very own. Or the pale Sallow Man who haunts the town’s nighttime streets . . . or the river witch–another Blackwater Val, of sorts–each of whom will be drawn one by one into the nightmarish bloodletting about to take place.
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“The val is a great visit to the darkness within the heart of man. The secrets of history, the things we humans will do to live, to die and to move up in the world, some times we are better off where we were. Excellent read. “
~ Summer Waite.
About William Gorman
William Gorman makes things up and writes them down—and occasionally lifts clever sayings like that one from Neil Gaiman or prominent others in the field. A ghost-lore historian and lifelong denizen of the upper Midwest, he became enamored at an early age with all things that go bump in the dead of night. His stories have appeared in Thin Ice, Severed Tales, Nightside, The Sterling Web, Nightmares, and The Rockford Review. And also in Ghost Whispers: Tales from Haunted Midway, a collection he put together comprising of spooky legends and lore from his hometown in Illinois, where the local library now conducts bus excursions and walking tours based on the original stories in his book. He doesn’t attend these anymore, choosing instead to hide away and to lose himself in dark ruminations about the validity of magic and the secrets of fine cheese-making.
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