Announcing North Dark by Lane Kareska
Set in a lonesome and barbarous failed state, North Dark is the story of a lone man traveling by dogsled across a frozen wasteland in pursuit of the fugitive who destroyed his family.
Haunted by predators both physical and spectral, the musher’s journey takes him across a deadened tundra, tortured cities and the remains of civilizations long-lapsed into madness. All the while, his enemy slides in and out of striking distance, always one step ahead, always one act of violence away.
About Lane Kareska… Lane Kareska was born in Houston, Texas. He studied writing at Columbia College Chicago and his MFA is from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he was also awarded a Fellowship to live and write in Ireland. Lane traveled Europe and South America to research his graduate thesis. He teaches creative writing and works in technology and new media. His fiction has appeared in Berkeley Fiction Review, Sheepshead Review, Flashquake and elsewhere.
Early Praise for North Dark… “In language as unadorned and as powerful as a blow to the face, Kareska unfolds the story of a man driven from his home and into a terrifying world of endless cold, loneliness, and savagery. Kareska’s is perhaps the most convincingly-drawn post-apocalyptic Iron Age since Russell Hoban’s landmark Riddley Walker. Every turn of the page reveals some new terror and some new delight. Wonderful!” ~ Pinckney Benedict, author of Miracle Boy and Other Stories and Dogs of God.
An excerpt from North Dark…
Two Crows’ face has gone a bright ugly blue with the mutational swelling of his jaw. His eyes are as large as chicken eggs, moonbright, pained and humiliated. He cannot speak but for panicked blasts of hot, phlegmy breath.
Treesplitter drops the key ring in his hand and it lands with a metallic splash on the wooden floor. He sweeps down to his youngest son and unties the belt noosed around his throat and arms. Two Crows tumbles forward to his knees, gluey blood drools from his crumpled mouth to the floorboards. Treesplitter crouches at his son and speaks lowly, “Can you talk? What are your injuries?”
Two Crows lies down on his side and points to his destroyed mouth. Treesplitter examines it without touching anything about his son’s head. The jawbone is clearly broken and maybe in more than one place. The shafts of bone are misaligned and loose beneath the skin of his jaw. “Stay put,” Treesplitter says, his voice quavering. “I’ll be back with the doctor.” Stumbling, he runs out the door.
Two Crows’ next hours are agonizing. The doctor—a local woman with flyaway gray hair and a crooked, running nose—lays him out on blankets on the squalid floor of her home and examines his injury. She binds his jaw shut with strips of whang that seem impossibly tight. She gives him a towel and a bucket of icy water. “Keep the injury very, very cold,” she says.
Two Crows tries to ask questions but he cannot speak at all. He wants to know when he will be able to speak or eat. He is very hungry and very thirsty.
“What now?” Treesplitter asks her.
“What do you mean ‘what now?’”
“What will you do for him?”
“His jaw is shattered. There is nothing to do for him.”
Two Crows falls into a painful sleep. He groans through his sealed mouth. His brain feels as though it is roasting within his skull. He is not sure he is going to survive the night. He cannot believe that two strikes from the hood have injured him so spectacularly.
The next afternoon, as he sits upright in his own bed in blind pain, Treesplitter hands him an old, moldering book and an inkpen. He taps the blank inside cover of the book and says, “Please write down what happened. Exactly.”
Two Crows looks at the book. It is a copy of something printed in some language he cannot read.
He writes very quickly:
after you left i fell asleep in your chair i woke up when i heard ropes breaking the prisoner had ripped out of his ropes and was walking toward me i stood up and reached for my knife but he elbowed me once in the jaw and punched me i blacked out and when i woke up i was tied up he left out the door and i blacked out again lets go get him RITE NOW
Treesplitter reads the note and shows a sour smile. “You just rest and heal.”
Two Crows taps the final word he has written and tries to express with his furious eyes how serious he is about this burning idea.
That night, while Treesplitter rests with his feet up on a chair beside him, Two Crows falls into another troubled sleep. He has hot, swollen dreams driven by the industrially fierce pain in his head. Cloaked in hair, the old woman doctor arrives in his hallucinations, telling him: You will not speak again. You will not ever heal. The hood, a man too strong for his thin frame, walks to him in long, quick steps and strikes him with his elbow and fist over and over again. Two Crows howls in pain and wakes to find himself on the floor, strangling Treesplitter with all of the strength in his body. Treesplitter, redfaced, fights back and pushes Two Crows off of him. Two Crows believes that he is still dreaming. He cries in pain, reaches into the burning hearth, seizes the fire iron and, kneeling, swings it across Treesplitter’s face. The barb slashes deeply into his temple, opening his skull. A volcanic fan of sparks sprays sideways across the room. Treesplitter drops heavily to the floor and never moves again.
Two Crows kneels there.
Wake from this dream right now.
He tries to rouse Treesplitter. He shakes his body and presses his forehead against his father’s bloodied face. He wants to say, “Dad, wake up.” He wants to say, “Dad, I’m sorry.” But no human sound comes from him at all…