The speculative horror novel Gollitok.
So much of my favorite fiction has two things in common: It defies easy categorization and it’s relentless in its drive. Both are true of Andrew Najberg’s debut novel. Gollitok is tightly-written, suspenseful end to end, the product of a big, original imagination and definitely the work of a writer to keep an eye on.
-Author of the Typist and Eveningland
Gollitok is a bellwether, a masterful genre-bending exploration of the ferocious resilience of a human psyche at war with an unforgiving (super)natural world that pierces the veil of reason with skillful intent reminiscent of Hitchcock, Doerr, and King, leaving this reader in a state of awe.
— V. G. Anderson, author of The Light in the Sound
The lantern at the prow lights our way across the channel. It is I, Hammel, my briefcase, and the Ferryman. The Ferryman chews an unlit pipe as he rows, and he wears a black fisherman’s cap with a dead-man’s hitch emblem on the temple. His face is salt scoured with a scar from a badly closed surgery between lip and septum.
Fog surrounds us as it is not yet dawn. The stars look like meaningless specks of flour on black tablecloth. I never learned my constellations, and my geography is juvenile at best. When I look back over my shoulder, I see the mainland lighthouse still, a distant dot of light on an otherwise black, craggy shore.
Ahead, the soft glow of the Midway dock. Beyond stands the watchtower, storehouse, the residence, and the official office, whereat I am to rendezvous with Brogden. Until then, the Ferryman who only grunted when I introduced myself is my companion.
The pipe has slowly rotated under the grit of his teeth, the bowl now turned down. If it once had anything in it, it doesn’t now.
I lean against the stern and dangle my hand to the water. I barely feel the cold wet before the Ferryman speaks.
“Wouldn’t do that were I you,” he says.
“Sharks?” I ask.
The Ferryman spits.
“Jellyfish,” he grunts. “Black ‘uns. They wrap their tendrils ‘round your fingers, and you’ll be screaming ‘til your next birthday.”
The many papers The Bureau issued me upon departure include a small leaflet on local marine life. Perhaps I should peruse them. Until now, I’ve regarded them as a novelty.
“You been crossing these waters long?” I ask.
I can’t tell if the Ferryman shrugs or if it’s just the roll of his shoulders as he rows.
“Ten years since I’ve had a working motor,” he says.
“I’ll put in a word for a replacement,” I say.
This time it’s clear that the Ferryman shrugs.
“My successor will be grateful,” he says. “I’ll be dead before it arrives.”
Then, he fixes his jaw and looks to the side.
As a cool wind sweeps and swirls the fog, the rhythmic dip of the oars and the lap of wavelets on the hull absorbs me until a man on the Midway dock who I presume to be the Customs Inspector hooks the mooring ring and ties us to a post. The Ferryman doesn’t respond when I thank him, but the Inspector takes my hand and helps me and my briefcase out of the boat. On the horizon, first light breaks through clouds like a candle behind stretched silk.