We’re thrilled to introduce Everything the Darkness Eats, the debut novel from Bram Stoker Award-nominated and Splatterpunk Award-winning author Eric LaRocca, coming June 6th, 2023 from CLASH Books.
Evil waits for the unsuspecting in the small town of Henley’s Edge, Connecticut after a recent string of unexplained disappearances.
Lives are interwoven and transformed forever when pacts are drawn, deals are made, and when hatred is left unrestrained. Some will succumb to the darkness that lurks in the cellar of Mr. Heart Crowley’s home, others will resist, and some will face a truly remarkable being—creator of tides, vessel of infinity, eater of darkness.
WALES, 1994 A.D.
It was late in the afternoon on the third day in April when the Excavation Director—a large man with a pockmarked face named Mr. Pritchard—sent his nine-year-old son to fetch Heart Crowley and tell him they had found something.
Mr. Pritchard told his son that he would most likely find Mr. Crowley taking his afternoon tea, as was his custom, in the small tent they had constructed at the foot of the mountain—not only a place of refuge from the icy wind, but a sanctuary where they could catalog the artifacts they had uncovered.
If you could even call them artifacts, that is.
Nearly two weeks at the dig site and hardly any of the items they had unearthed were unfit to appear in even the most tasteless sideshow attraction.
But finally—a sign.
Mr. Pritchard’s son scampered down the path, mountain wind beating hard against him and spiriting him further ahead as if he were being carried by an invisible gloved hand. When he came to the tent, he peered inside and found the room empty—maps strewn across the tables, digging tools left unguarded. As he circled the tent, he came upon a small embankment and stared down into it only to find Mr. Crowley on his knees sifting through a large tray of dirt.
“Mr. Crowley,” the boy called, waving his arms in the air. “They found something.”
Mr. Crowley was on his feet in a matter of seconds, climbing up the small ridge. As he approached, the boy couldn’t help but notice how much older Mr. Crowley seemed to appear despite his age—his mouth constantly pulling downward, the swollen pouches of excess skin beneath each of his eyes. He resembled something not unlike a fresh cadaver that had yet to become smartened by a skilled mortician.
The boy began to lead Mr. Crowley further up the mountain path toward the rim where most of the excavation crew had gathered. As they neared the summit, the young boy turned and noticed Mr. Crowley’s pace slowing to a crawl, his eyes seemingly transfixed by the neighboring mountains curtained with low-hanging mist—the primordial landscape screaming at the both of them as a rainstorm shower passed over.
Finally reaching the ridge where the crew was waiting, the young boy watched as Mr. Crowley greeted Mr. Pritchard with a look of uncertainty. Mr. Pritchard merely passed a helmet to Mr. Crowley and motioned for him to venture inside the small crevice they had opened in the nearby patchwork of boulders.
The boy filed inside the small chamber after the others had followed Mr. Crowley and Mr. Pritchard. Flashlights tore bright glowing halos in the darkness, the walls shimmering wet and viscous looking like the black, oiled skin of some underwater creature.
“Where is it?” Mr. Crowley asked the director, panting like a dog in heat from his recent climb.
His way of asking seemed more akin to a petulant toddler seeking gifts on a holiday than a benefactor who had sunk nearly half of his savings into funding this dig.
Mr. Pritchard answered, aiming his flashlight at a section of the wall in front of them. “Look.”
Mr. Crowley’s eyes followed the pool of light and arrived at a primitive drawing etched into the rock. Although it might have been rudimentary in construction when compared with the Sistine Chapel, the illustration was gloriously ornate in design. It was an etching of a group of people standing in a circle as if in worship, a bright light at the center of their gathering and a giant shape—a creator—sprawling from the middle of the light. Ancient hieroglyphics and other symbols were scrawled beneath the illustration and resembled the vague outline of a prayer.
Mr. Pritchard’s son watched as Mr. Crowley’s mouth hung open. He watched him press his trembling hands against the wall, his eyes sparkling wet and shining.
“You found it,” Mr. Crowley whispered.
The boy watched as his father flanked Mr. Crowley and wiped the dirt from his brow with a small handkerchief.
“What is it?” Mr. Pritchard asked.
Mr. Crowley inhaled deeply through his nostrils, drawing in thousand-year-old oxygen, and seeming to straighten at a newfound vitality coursing through him.
“It’s an invocation.”
Mr. Crowley’s eyes snapped to Mr. Pritchard and seemed to widen with hideous intent. Mr. Pritchard’s face furrowed, quizzically studying him when suddenly he seemed incapacitated. Mr. Crowley’s stare intensified until Mr. Pritchard dropped to his knees, the poor man’s body convulsing as if in the throes of a grand mal seizure.
Some of the other excavation crew members tried to hasten to his rescue, but Mr. Crowley merely raised a hand and commanded them to halt. They obeyed, their eyes dimming and glazing over as if hypnotized.
The boy watched helplessly as Mr. Crowley circled his half-dead prey. Mr. Pritchard’s body seized and spasmed like a drowning insect.
Finally, with the flick of his wrist, Mr. Crowley seemed to command Mr. Pritchard to explode—bright scarlet ribbons fountaining from the gaping hole he had opened where the man’s head once was. Mr. Pritchard’s headless body slumped to the ground like a discarded child’s toy, his clothing dyed dark red as more blood pumped from the severed wellspring deep inside him.
Mr. Crowley turned on the other diggers—waving his hand at them and exploding each of their heads as if they were mere balloons. Heads burst like swollen sacks of meat tethered to dynamite, blood splattering the cave walls and dripping like fresh paint. Headless bodies tumbled forward, arms flailing helplessly as if attempting to undo what could never be undone.
When he was finished with the others, Mr. Crowley cornered the boy where the two walls met.
The boy did not cry or plead with him.
Instead, he sank to his knees and merely waited for it to be over—for the dome of his skull to mushroom like a nocturnal plant in twilight’s bloom and to be swallowed by thought as red as sunset.
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Praise for Everything the Darkness Eats
“Everything the Darkness Eats is an emotionally devastating novel of unflinching violence, lost souls, and cosmic horror. Eric LaRocca’s prose sings and his characters are heart-achingly true. Another brilliant work from one of horror’s fastest-rising talents.”–Tim Waggoner, author of We Will Rise
“LaRocca has conjured for us a mad, beautiful tale of dark magic, trauma and love, and how these things intertwine — this is an author in command of powerful narrative sorceries, and is deserving of your immediate attention.”–Chuck Wendig, author of The Book of Accidents
“A colossal feat of imagination and moments of pure magic delivered with style and tenderness in a way that gives Gaiman a run for his money.”–Gemma Amor, author of Dear Laura
Eric LaRocca (he/they) is the Bram Stoker Award®-nominated author of several works of horror and dark fiction, including the viral sensation, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. A lover of luxury fashion and an admirer of European musical theatre, Eric can often be found roaming the streets of his home city, Boston, MA, for inspiration. For more information, please follow @hystericteeth on Twitter/Instagram or visit ericlarocca.com.