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On the morning of November 5th, 2021, a joint task force from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed 2,587 dead in Signal Cove, a remote fishing village stuck between the turbulent North Pacific and some of Washington’s thickest Sitka spruce forest. This was extremely concerning for Lead Investigator Osbyrne Lynch, who had officialized the count, because nine days earlier the population of Signal Cove totaled a measly 412. Accounting for active tourist reservations at the Wyffles’ Waffle bed and breakfast did nothing to balance the tally. It barely added an extra hundred. Spring Valley High’s visiting football team and the caravan of parents who arrived for the 1B bracket playoff accounted for even fewer. Ten instant coffees, twenty-five hours[BF1] , and too many corpses later, Oz shut her laptop. Tossed the one-page briefing book. Chair legs on cheap tile echoed through the empty school cafeteria—her impromptu HQ—before she crashed through the red exit doors and puked in the mud.

Searching for scores of missing persons between the lines of spreadsheets had proved a fruitless endeavor. Wallowing over the discrepancy had become an exercise in do-it-yourself madness. The data were useless and would tell her nothing more beyond the fact that there were too many bodies with too few explanations, the rotten cherry atop a sundae of lesser mysteries. Strangeness was in the town’s DNA, a nearly tangible thing that had clotheslined her the moment she crossed county lines into Middle Mile Wood.

The force was unshakeable. Smothering. It hadn’t let her take a full breath since she emerged on the other side of the trees yesterday afternoon. Maybe it had something to do with the fog the sun would inevitably fail to burn off. The sun, after all, didn’t shine on hell, and so there were only clouds here.

Oz had drawn the cosmic short straw and was first to arrive on-scene, joined shortly by her partner dispatched from the Talache field office. Unable to see through the solid wall of mist, she’d ignored her colleague’s protests, walking down the dirt road to a ridge overlooking the village. Signal Cove was a terraced town, its cedar-shingled cottage and cabin residences rubbing elbows with metal warehouses on four tiers leading down to the docks. Stairs and steep roads connected buildings arranged in a horseshoe around a glassy gray bay festooned with old fishing boats. Doe’s Run—a skinny freshwater river—sliced the town in two, emptying into the ocean in a rush of rock-tumbled rapids. It could have been beautiful. Picturesque, even, if not for the silence. The emptiness.

The stench.

There’s a gravity to dread, isn’t there? How it draws you in. One more second, one more step, one last flash of sense before it evaporates in horror’s heat. You don’t know what’s waiting for you. You know it’s something terrible, something which can’t be unseen, but you keep holding your breath and gulping your spit and slowly moving forward. Oz hadn’t stopped chewing the thought since her arrival, though the gum had long lost its flavor. Dread had gravity, alright, and at its core, at the proverbial other end, was always, always regret.

Shuffling further down the road, Oz had noticed the river running red. A graveyard of toppled trees. Human shapes face down in the dirt. Iron. Sulphur. Raw, rotting meat.

And then she’d seen it. The something that can’t be unseen.

About the Book

In a sleepy Washington fishing village on the verge of economic collapse, a coalition of citizens devises a plan to save their home by marketing a local legend as fact to paranormal tourists. Led by Dr. Richard Lorne, Staghead—the demon witch of Middle Mile Wood—is resurrected from the region’s racial memory to save the livelihoods of its residents. After a group of seven fails to return from a forest tour, however, a series of monstrous events unfold.

When Officer Oz Lynch arrives nine days later, she discovers a town razed by an unknown calamity, hundreds more bodies than the town’s population accounts for, and a handful of traumatized survivors, Richard among them. With three hours to go before a military crew arrives to cover up the inexplicable disaster, Oz and her partner race against the clock to interview Richard and figure out what really happened in Signal Cove.

But something is troublingly different about the small-town veterinarian. Something malevolent. Ancient. Something that says the danger hasn’t passed… and is only just beginning.

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