As the only black student at an all-white school, Monique Robinson has always had to prove herself. When her best friend, Victoria is left brain dead, Monique fights to bring her back. But she soon realizes that blurring the lines between life and death comes with a price.
Can Monique save her best friend before she heads down a path from which no one will return?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Dark Sight by Christopher Allan Poe, Monique Robinson is the only black student in her high school. Her best friend Victoria is full of life and reckless enthusiasm until she convinces Monique to go to a protest rally put on by the local religious kooks. When Victoria runs across the street after arguing with Monique at the rally, she is hit by a car and left brain dead. Monique turns to the son of the religious leader for help bringing her best friend back, but she is ill-prepared for what actually awakens in Victoria’s body.
In Dark Sight, Poe has crafted another marvelous thriller on a par with his first book The Portal. The characters are charming, realistic, and totally believable. The plot has enough twists and turns and on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments to keep you turning pages from beginning to end.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: While I don’t particularly care for horror, be it in movies or in books, there is just something about the way that Christopher Allan Poe writes. I loved his first book The Portal, but his second book Dark Sight is even more compelling. While you could probably call it YA as the heroine is in high school, the plot, characters, and writing are all very sophisticated. Poe spins a chilling tale of friendship turned obsessive, love and loyalty overdone, and the consequences of messing with evil you don’t understand.
While Poe’s characters are certainly well-developed and three-dimensional and his plots, strong, complex, and intriguing, the thing I like most about his writing is how real the story feels. His books have a ring of truth to them that leave you feeling as if whatever is happening to the characters could easily happen to you. They have you looking over your shoulders and getting up in the middle of the night to make sure the house is locked up tight. Dark Sight is riveting, chilling, and compelling. Once you pick it up, I dare you to put it down before you have finished it.
WHEN VICTORIA COVERED UP the picket sign that she’d made for her protest rally that afternoon, I worried the day would end badly. When she refused to tell me what we were protesting, I was convinced.
In my rearview mirror, I could see the thing sitting there on the backseat of the king cab next to my makeup bag. She’d hammered a wooden stake onto the frame of one of her stretched canvases and then hid the sign portion from me with a taut, plastic trash bag. The scent of acrylic paint filled the car. Not good. Ditching class today and driving with only a learner’s permit were bad enough, but this plan of hers must have been in the works for a while, and yet she had never mentioned it.
As usual, I sucked it up. Unpredictability was the price of being best friends with a savant. Her condition wasn’t debilitating. Far from it, but there was no denying that the artistic part of her brain had devoured the region that controlled her people skills. And then it snacked on her common sense for good measure. The beautiful chaos that resulted was Victoria.
Maybe that’s why I loved her so much. She could deflect insults with grace and win fistfights against boys, right before stepping absent-mindedly into oncoming traffic. That’s why she needed me. To pull her back to the curb sometimes. At the moment, I seriously considered yanking her elbow.
“Monique,” she said from the passenger seat. “Snap out of it.”
“How much farther is it?” I asked. “My dad will kill me if he finds out we took his truck.”
“It’s going to be fine.”
“I’d like to see my sixteenth birthday,” I told her.
“Relax. It’s right up there.”
Ahead, a procession of cars had parked along the shoulder of the highway, against a rock face of sheared, black granite. I pulled to a stop behind them and got out. Victoria grabbed her sign from the backseat and tucked it under one arm.
“We’re here now,” I said. “In the middle of BFE, so tell me. What are we doing?”
“Not yet. It’s a surprise.”
“A surprise protest. Be still my heart.”
“Ooh, it’s dark Monique,” she said, as if I were starring in an old-time Vincent Price movie. “Dreary Monique.”
“I’m not going to laugh, so you can quit it.”
“Will Monique the Sarcastic make an appearance, too?”
“Screw you, Victoria Vinegar-head.” I accidentally smiled. Great. That would only encourage her.
“That’s better.” She pulled out her lipstick from her black fitted cropped jacket and reapplied her red color. Only Victoria. Trying to look gloom-pretty at a protest.
“Any time today,” I said.
“Hold up.” She pulled open my gray pea coat, glanced at my favorite, lint-balled, black turtleneck, and huffed.
“What?” I asked.
“If my girls were that big, I’d put a sign on a tent and charge admission.”
“I haven’t done laundry this week. Not all of us have maids.”
“Hey, you can be a knee-locked virgin forever if you want.” She closed my jacket. “Let’s go.”
“This better be good,” I told her.
To the west, the last of the day’s sunlight peered over the rolling hills, melting the ice on the roadway to a trickle of gritty slush water. Down the embankment on the opposite side of the highway, a snow-covered trail led to a clearing in the dense forest, where dozens of people gathered.
At the bottom, we entered the clearing through the open chain link gate, which was lined with a slinky of razor wire. Inside, we scooted between several protester groups. Splotches of red snow crunched underfoot, which gave way to green, then purple and blue. The hiss of spray paint came from every direction.
“Looks like Rainbow Brite exploded out here,” I said.
“The Jesus lovers are fighting against evil.” She motioned to the sign that she’d brought. “We are too.”
“We’re protesting with a church?”
“Not just any church.” She pulled out wrinkled blue flier from her pocket and handed it to me. “The Awakeners Church of Life.”
“Where did you even hear about this?” My Spidey-sense wasn’t just tingling. It was having cramps. “We don’t belong here.”
“Quit being such a clit,” she said. “These people are harmless.”
Next to the gnarled roots of a dead olive tree, a gang of brightly clothed white folks hovered together, laughing and talking, swinging their signs. One guy lifted his proudly. God Hates Faggots, it read. He checked its heft, swung it around like a sword, and then set it to the side. Across from him, a woman held her own sign. The fetus depicted sat with a gun pointed at its head. The caption read, Mommy don’t kill me.
“And they claim that I’m disturbed,” I told her.
“These people are freaking rad,” Victoria said. “What I want to know, is whose idea it was to bring the butcher’s blood.”
I searched around. Behind us, a mother grabbed her daughter’s hand, dipped it in a bucket from Jackson’s Deli, and smeared a small red handprint across her sign. Jeez-us. The crimson mess that we had just stomped through wasn’t paint.
“Ick.” I wiped my riding boots in patches of untouched snow.
“I know, right?”
“Victoria, we need to get out of here.”
“We have every right to protest, too,” she said. “It’s our first amendment duty.”
“No, actually it’s not.” I pointed to a NO TRESPASSING sign that was riddled with buckshot. “This is private property. We can get in a lot of trouble. Or worse.”
“Promise?” She grinned. Then she snatched the flier out of my hands and read it aloud, “Do you feel lost? Overwhelmed? Come out and worship at the altar of truth.” She glanced up at me. “See, they specifically invited us here.”
“Of course, they did. What good are cult killers without their victims?”
The forest of ancient fir trees seemed to agree. It bristled in the frigid wind. God, it had gotten dark too quickly. Around the perimeter of the clearing, parishioners began lighting a circle of torches. What kind of church held a protest in the middle of a forest? Stupid question. Time to go.
“Victoria, listen to me, right now. I don’t know where you got that flier, but if you value our friendship at all, we need to go. I’m scared.”
“Okay, calm down.” She nodded. “We can leave. That’s all you had to say.”
“Welcome to our camp.” A man with hawkish features and a scraggly beard walked up to us, wearing a puffy snow camo jacket. His dark eyes and deep sockets seemed to hold me in place. “I don’t remember seeing you out here before. Is this your first time?”
“Sorry,” I told him. “I think we’ve stumbled into the wrong place.”
“If you’ve got a sign, this is the right spot. Mind if I take a look?”
Victoria beamed. “Not at all.” She pulled off the black plastic bag before I could stop her, and she held her sign up high.
We were so dead. It might’ve been her best painting yet. Surrounded by erupting volcanoes, Jesus lovingly cradled a baby dinosaur in his arms. The raptor-type reptile suckled on his breast.
“Victoria.” I grabbed her arm firmly and then said to the man, “Sorry to intrude. We’re leaving.”
I turned and yanked her back toward the gate.
“Hold on,” he yelled from behind.
All at once, everyone in the clearing quit what they were doing and stared at us. In my peripheral view, I could have sworn that they all had the exact same smile. I didn’t dare look. I just kept pulling her along. We made it through the gate alive, but we weren’t safe yet.
“Hey,” the man yelled again. From the sound of his voice, he was maybe fifty feet back. Then I heard crunching snow steps behind us. Lots of them. I began to run, pulling Victoria behind me.
We reached the roadway just as a vehicle sprayed by, and then we crossed the street. I glanced back. The cult people didn’t follow us. They just stopped by the edge of the road, as if an invisible barrier existed that they couldn’t penetrate. We got into the car.
“What the hell was that?” I tried to start the engine to my Dad’s truck, but it flooded.
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” she said. “What were you thinking with that little scene?”
“Little scene?” I couldn’t believe what I heard. Please start. The engine finally revved. “We could’ve been killed.”
“They’re my friends, Monique.”
“Of course, the cult people are your friends. What was I thinking?” I backed up. Headlights approached, so I had to wait. At least the car could be used as a weapon if needed. “Quality people, too. Fear mongering gay-bashers.”
“If you’re talking about that sign,” she said. “Justin is gay, dipshit.”
“Justin.” I nodded. Now she was on a first name basis with them. Hold on. I couldn’t have heard her right. “What did you say?”
“He’s one of the people who gave me the flier. Did you even read it?”
“How could I? You just threw me out there.”
“They’re protesting negative messages and all the hateful garbage that everyone spews online these days. Later tonight, they’re going to toss all of their signs into a giant bonfire to burn away the negativity. You just made me look like a complete ass.”
“Well, maybe if you would’ve warned me.”
“I wanted to surprise you with something cool for once, instead of the tired BS you deal with every day. Do you really think I’d put you in danger?”
What could I say? I knew she wouldn’t intentionally try to hurt me, but that didn’t mean she always thought things through.
Across the street, the man in the snow camouflage jacket looked unsure of whether or not to approach us. He carried Victoria’s painting. In the confusion, I hadn’t even noticed that she had dropped it. Now, I really felt stupid.
“I see how it is.” Her voice shook as she opened her car door.
“No, wait,” I called out as she walked around the front of the vehicle. I rolled down my window and leaned out. “Please get in the car, Victoria. I’m sorry.”
“Whatever.” She glanced back at me. “You don’t need to worry about me anymore. I’ll be fine.”
The road began to brighten. Then I heard the roaring splash of tires.
“Get out of the street,” I shouted and wrestled with the car door.
She spun around and held up her hands. I stared helplessly as a blur of screeching tires and blinding headlights hit her. The sickening thump punched the air from my chest. My best friend crumpled beneath the car, which swerved and smashed through the guardrail and disappeared over the embankment beyond.
© 2014 by Christopher Allan Poe