Pray for Darkness is the story of three twenty-something year old friends—Ben, Auggie, and Cooper—who head to the Amazon in the hope of creating some lasting memories before they are completely saddled by the drudgery of everyday life. Once there, they arrive at a rustic jungle lodge, populated by tourists hailing from around the world, and are immediately entranced by the fragile beauty of the forest and its creatures. However, it does not take long for their wanderlust to kick in, and they decide to up the stakes by venturing even deeper into the jungle to spend a few days at a remote campsite.
Under the watchful eye of their native guide, Ernesto, they abandon the relative safety of the tourist lodge and head to the remote camp in search of a “true” adventure. But when their riverboat captain is murdered and their boat disappears, their dream vacation quickly becomes a real life nightmare. Now they must brave the dangers of the wild as they make their way back to civilization.
And they are not alone.
A tribe of hungry corpses has detected the presence of the human intruders, stalking them under cover of darkness. Now Ben and his friends must use every resource at their disposal in order to survive the journey back to safety.
Targeted Age Group:: 17-50
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
In my new novel, Pray for Darkness, I drew from a wealth of personal experience while writing about an ill-fated adventure trip into the Amazon.
While developing ideas for the novel, I journeyed deep into the Amazon not once, but twice, in order to experience the jungle and all of its glorious (and potentially lethal) flora and fauna firsthand.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters are about 95% fiction; the other 5% comes from various people I’ve met during my travels to some of the more far-flung places of the world. I try to create realistic characters that the reader will care about, despite any flaws (and sometimes because of these flaws.) Although I write mostly in the horror genre, my stories tend to have a few tender moments. I want my readers to care about the characters long before the danger comes.
Brooke was walking on autopilot, still lost in thought, when a hand suddenly clamped over her mouth and pulled her down to the soggy ground. She dropped her spear and flailed wildly, attempting to counteract gravity. Instinct told her to kick and claw and scream, but her assailant had anticipated this response—his other arm snaked around her, thin but strong, pinning hers uselessly against her chest. She could feel the tight cords of his muscles as he held her fast, rendering her helpless.
After a moment, the panic dissipated and she allowed her body to go limp. Sensing her complacency, he relaxed his hold on her, but the hand that covered her mouth remained. It was small and wet and smelled vaguely of the earth.
Ernesto’s voice was barely a whisper, his mouth so close she could feel the stir of his breath against her cheek. Breath that smelled acidic and coppery, like blood. The smell of fear, she thought. Ernesto knew the jungle better than any of them, and it unnerved her to think that he of all people was afraid of something—afraid of anything at all, for that matter. She sat without moving, straining her ears to listen but hearing little beyond the beating of her own heart.
Something was moving through the underbrush. She had not noticed it before, would not have noticed it at all were it not for Ernesto and his extraordinary senses. Whatever was out there moved with such calculated patience that she had at first mistaken it for the sound of raindrops plinking down through the foliage. It was only after the thin arms hastily forced her to crouch on the wet ground that she could differentiate the rhythm of the footsteps from the white noise of the rain.
One by one, the others came to a clumsy halt and hunkered down beside her. One of the boys pressed against her, seeking her warmth. Judging by the weight and slender musculature of the body, she was certain it was Cooper. Yes, Cooper. She remembered how he and Janie had fooled around at the bar
(in a different life)
on their first night at the Amazonia Lodge, and the memory touched her heart with an icy finger. She couldn’t really say how she knew it was him. The boys were more or less the same size, each one different in appearance and personality, but their frames were otherwise indistinguishable in the darkness. Even so, she felt fairly certain it was Cooper pressing against her right now, and she would not have minded his warmth were it not for the fact that he was shivering all over—or trembling, she reasoned, he could be trembling—so violently that it occurred to her, in a brief moment of panic, that he might be experiencing some kind of seizure. Thankfully, the tremors soon abated, and she could feel the rise and fall of his chest as his lungs labored against the soupy air.
Where’s Ben? Brooke knew it was probably just wishful thinking, but she thought she could just make out his silhouette in the darkness, crouching a few yards away: the well-defined shape of his shaved head, the aristocratic nose, and strong, square jaw. She even imagined she could see the flash of his ocean-blue eyes as they reflected a sliver of moonlight. Eyes that were at once intelligent, wise, and full of compassion. It was impossible to think of anything bad while looking into those eyes.
Thinking about Ben helped her to focus—anything not to think about Janie. It was much too soon to think about Janie. The rain stopped as abruptly as it had arrived, as though someone had closed the valve on a sprinkler system. One moment there was a hissing torrent, the next, nothing but the tapping of residual raindrops passing through the canopy to the jungle floor. All other noises also seemed to stop, if in fact they had ever really been there at all. Maybe it was just the rain all along? Or an animal—a few of those cute little squirrel monkeys, perhaps? A wild pig? Brooke measured the time by the metronomic tapping of the raindrops. Her silent count reached sixty before her mind began to wander again. Sixty raindrops. Sixty seconds. An eternity wrapped inside a minute.
They waited in darkness, seeing nothing, hearing nothing except the dripping water. A strange stillness settled around them, as though the jungle was holding its breath. After a time, the hand that was cupped around Brooke’s mouth withdrew itself. The stillness gave her pause to think and, though she at first resisted, it allowed her to wonder what had become of Janie. A collage of images flickered through her mind’s eye: Janie at Machu Picchu, laughing as she struck a sexy, defiant pose for the camera, her breasts thrust forward, her hands on her hips. Janie putting back tequila shots at Molly’s, the local dive back in Palo Alto. Janie’s piercing scream as she was dragged away from camp, the scream reaching a shrill crescendo before it was abruptly cut short and Janie Castellano was no more.
Beside her, Cooper was shivering again. She reached down and found his hand. Like a child, his fingers curled instinctively around hers. Her touch seemed to calm him, and the shivering gradually subsided. Several minutes passed, and no one dared to move or speak. Brooke was beginning to think that Ernesto had been wrong for once, that maybe what they’d heard was nothing more than an animal, some critter foraging in the underbrush. Then, as the clouds shifted and the moonlight trickled down through the treetops, Cooper dug his nails into her hand.
“There,” he whispered, pointing.
Brooke followed the direction of his outstretched finger. Just ahead, the underbrush gave way to a small clearing. A furtive movement between the trees caught her attention, and at last she glimpsed what had been stalking them. Were it not for their strange, drunken gait and misshapen heads, she might have mistaken them for humans—one of the lost tribes she had read about on the Internet, perhaps. But no human she had ever seen moved like that… Because they’re not human, she realized. Her mind seized these words and repeated them like a chant:
Not human. Not human. Not human.
Somehow, in a forbidden corner of her mind, she had known this all along.
About the Author:
James Michael Rice is the author of Rebel Angels, A Tough Act to Follow, The Still, and Pray for Darkness. He lives in Southeastern Massachusetts, and recently appeared in “The Bridgewater Triangle Documentary”, the first full-length documentary on New England’s own paranormal hotspot.
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