Authors: Michael Richan
By Michael Richan
The Dark River series:
All three series are part of
and there is crossover of some characters and plots. For a
suggested reading order, see the
Copyright 2016 by Michael Richan
All Rights Reserved.
characters appearing in this work are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Published by Dantull (149716129)
the covers from his body and sat up in bed, holding his head in his hands. He
made a low growl, a moan of frustration and irritation at not being able to
moments just before sleep came, something else arrived instead: symbols. A
series of ciphers passed through his mind, repeating over and over. They were
accompanied by a nagging anxiety, the sense that the symbols were about to
disappear at any second, and that he had to decipher them quickly before they
he belted as he rose from the bed, looking for something to write on. He felt
the cool air from the conditioner hit his naked body, causing him to wake even
more, heightening his anxiety. The symbols were still there in his mind, but
they were fading quickly.
landed on a pen and he grabbed the nearest piece of paper. Without turning on
the light he scratched the symbols down, hoping to capture them before they disappeared
from his head. When he had completed the last one, he opened his eyes. The room
was dark; he couldn’t see anything except the glowing light from his clock. He
reached for the lamp by his bed and turned it on.
across a Chinese takeout menu were a dozen symbols he’d never encountered
before. Seeing them in ink instead of the transient images in his mind caused
him to calm a little, relaxing at their permanence. He took a couple of slow,
deep breaths, feeling his heart rate slow down. He looked again at the symbols,
rotating the page to see if it helped to make sense of them. It didn’t.
his eyes once more and the symbols were gone. He knew they would be. They only
came at that moment when his body was leaving the conscious world and preparing
to sleep, that delicate stage where it was still easy to be woken back up, but
just seconds from dreamland. And since it was the same series of symbols he’d
tried to ignore the previous night, he was beginning to think he was the
recipient of a message that could only be received when he was in that slightly
altered state. He lowered his head back into his hands.
seen these before somewhere?
A billboard? A TV show? Maybe it’s like when
you wake up with a song running through your head, a song that was planted
there several days ago when you heard it over the speakers in a grocery store.
You’re hardly aware you even heard it, but it was enough to trip some synapse
in your brain that allowed the whole song to come back as you wake and stumble
from the bed to the bathroom.
he thought, trying to make sense of
what he felt.
It’s not that. It’s a message.
would be trying to communicate with me this way?
Then he sat
upright, sleep leaving his system rapidly, replaced by the adrenaline of a new
▪ ▪ ▪
another croissant,” Carma said, gesturing to the gigantic platter of pastry in
the center of the table. “Be sure to try the chocolate.”
for one, picking it carefully and adding it to the three half-eaten croissants
already on his plate.
“These are tasty,
Carma,” David said, sitting across the table from Winn. He’d downed several
already, and Carma beamed at him appreciatively.
“I spent the
last three days working on them,” she replied, “and I think I’ve finally
perfected the recipe. The trick is the butter, which is fiddly to handle on hot
think it could be from her?” Winn asked Carma, breaking off a tip of the crispy
roll and placing it in his mouth.
examined the paper in her hands. “First things first,” she said, rising from
the table and disappearing into her small office. She returned with a pad and
you doing?” David asked.
these,” she replied, not looking up from the pad.
what it says?” David asked.
“I guess I
should have said
,” she replied. “I’d like to examine them not
surrounded by Kung Pao chicken and Moo Shu pork. It’s distracting.”
as Carma carefully re-created the symbols he’d scribbled onto the menu,
impressed with her skill. When she finished there were a dozen or so, reading
cleanly on her pad. She turned it to Winn.
right?” she asked.
the characters. “That’s it. That’s what I saw.”
“As you were
about to fall asleep?” David asked.
Winn answered. “Not just last night. The night before, too.”
the pad back. She laid it on the table in front of her and studied the symbols
intently. Winn saw the edge of her mouth curl into a smile and she leaned back
in her chair, lighting a long, thin cigarette, using her lips to exhale the
smoke directly into the air above her head. She looked at him.
Carma replied, inhaling a second drag. “No idea at all.”
Winn replied, taking another bite of croissant. “For a moment there I thought
you might recognize it. I saw you smile.”
Carma said, taking a third drag, “was the moment I realized I was going to have
“Can I see
them?” David asked, and Carma handed him the pad. He scanned the drawings and set
the pad down. Winn looked at him expectantly.
like a made-up language,” David said, “like something you might find in a video
game, or on the internet. Did you look there?”
“How am I
supposed to do that?” Winn replied. “They’re not text. I can’t type them into a
whipped out his phone. “Maybe just visually compare them,” he said, searching.
“I’ll see if anything is close.”
it’s from Deem,” Winn said. “I think she’s trying to communicate with me.”
Carma sigh and watched as she took another long drag on her cigarette.
possible, isn’t it?” Winn asked. “This place Lyman’s got her locked in — it’s
possible she might be able to get a message out, somehow, right? It’s not
airtight,” Carma replied.
a way in, there’s a way out,” Winn said.
way out,” Carma answered, “but it’s impossible to find. That’s the whole point
of a soul cage.”
how?” Winn asked. “How are we going to get Deem out of there?”
you before,” Carma said. “They’ll all be released when Lyman releases them.
That’s the only way.”
waiting for?” Winn asked, growing frustrated. “I’m going down there and ask
the same answer you got last time,” Carma replied, stamping out her cigarette
in an ashtray. “He’s been assembling the spirits inside the cage for years,
planning for an attack on local church authorities. He’s not going to waste all
that work and let them go just to free Deem, as much as we’d like him to, and
as much as I’m sure he’d like to. Deem is fine for now. When the time comes to
release the others, she’ll be free as well.”
“It’s been a
while,” David said. “People are going to become suspicious at her absence.”
asked. “You’re her closest friends. She didn’t have a job, there weren’t people
who saw her every day.”
mother,” David offered.
Arizona,” Carma replied. “Hasn’t called. I check her phone every night.”
they had seems to have developed into a complete split,” Carma answered. “And
speaking of Warren, I need you both to track him again today when he gets off
his shift. We suspect something is going down.”
down?” David asked.
chatter,” Carma replied. “People on the move. We think Warren is relaying
messages. I need you to try and intercept them today. Lyman’s worried that
something big is about to happen.”
to do with Dayton?” Winn asked. “Or the other church elders?”
connected with him, yes,” Carma replied, reaching for a croissant. She deftly
peeled back the top crust of the pastry, revealing a soft, flaky interior.
“Ohhh!” she softly swooned, looking at the delicate layers.
like all this pussyfooting around Warren,” David said. “I wish we could just
“And let him
know we’re on to him?” Carma replied. “What a silly idea. We’re getting good
intel from him. We don’t want to jeopardize that.”
he’d care what’s happened to Deem,” David replied.
go and spoil this now,” Carma said, waving a long, bony finger in the air at
David. “Whatever you think of him, he’s useful right now. Don’t muck that up!”
“I was never
buying the whole cowboy thing, anyway,” Winn said. “Seemed inauthentic.”
David echoed. “A poser.”
“We picked up
information that he’ll be at a feed store to drop something after his shift,”
Carma said. “I’d guess around 1. I suggest you locate his truck while he’s
working and tail him, since ‘feed store’ could mean a dozen different places
Winn replied. “But what about these symbols, Carma? Unless you can tell me for
certain that Deem can’t get a message out of the soul cage, that’s what I think
they are — a message from her. I need to find out what it means.”
claim a communication couldn’t get out,” Carma replied. “Anything’s possible in
this world. It would be nice to hear from her.”
still flipping through his phone. “They don’t look like anything I’m seeing
online,” he said. “There are a lot of fake languages people have invented, so
there might be more to go through. But so far, your symbols are unique.”
another layer from her croissant and held it in front of her face, admiring it.
“Awan,” she said.
someone who’s into symbols and languages,” Carma said. “I remember him
mentioning it to me once; a friend of his, I believe.”
“Can I have
this?” Winn asked, reaching for Carma’s pad.
she replied, watching as he ripped the page from it and folded it away into his
from the table and placed his napkin next to his plate. He reached for his cup
of coffee and downed what remained in two quick gulps.
deal with Warren,” he said, “I’m off to Indian Springs to see Awan.” He turned
to David. “You coming?”
“I can do the Warren thing, but I can’t go to Indian Springs with you. I have a
final tomorrow; gotta study the rest of the day. May we be excused from the
pleasantly and nodded. They turned to leave, but Winn returned and quickly
grabbed another pastry for the road. “Amazing croissants, Carma!” he said,
giving her one of his disarmingly charming smiles.
back in her chair. “Such well-mannered and correctly opinioned young men!” she
commented to herself as they left the house.