Amidst a growing drifter rebellion, sixteen-year-old Gwyn travels to the university in the city to bring help back to her dying community. When she gets there she discovers a game-changing secret that the university has been hiding for over a hundred years. Can Gwyn find a way to save the last of humanity from all-out war or does she fall for the wiles of the drifter rebel, Zack?
“The screams went on for an eternity,” the crone said. Her voice was raspy like she hadn’t had a drop of water to drink in all her long years. “The higher the water rose, the more desperate and pleading the sound became until, suddenly, there was nothing to hear but the gurgling of angry water.”
We sat still as stone, our young eyes wide, trying to decide if the old woman was attempting to scare us or if millions of souls had indeed tried to claw themselves away from the Drowned during the Great Flood.
“If you get too close to one of the water demons,” she continued, “they’ll reach out their rotting arms towards you and pull you under the surface with the unearthly strength only the damned can posses.”
The crone was the only person alive who could get all two-dozen children from our drifter community to sit silent and still. No one else could terrify us the same way. There was something in her aged, broken body that made me believe her tales of the undead creatures of the deep, the Drowned.
“Now that their watery castles are overfull, they look for little boys and girls to act as their slaves in the dark depths of the Big Deep. They particularly love those who act naughty…like you, Zack.”
All the drifter children turned their heads towards Zack, who had been reaching out towards my frizzy hair, a dead frog pinched between his fingers. The fact that the blind woman knew Zack had been about to torment me again filled us with even more fear and awe.
Zack placed the frog on the ground next to his scratched and dirty legs, looked up at the old woman and said, “I’m not afraid.” He crossed his arms in front of himself in a small act of defiance.
“You should be.” The old woman smiled, but it was not comforting.
I wanted to go home to my family’s shelter at the other end of the drifter cluster, where our entire community has tied our rafts together. I wanted my mother to wrap her soft, warm arms around me and tell me I would be alright. I wanted someone, anyone, to tell me that the stories of the Drowned were nothing but the ramblings of an evil, crone.
No one ever did.
“The castles of the Drowned are filled with little children just like you.” The old woman pointed towards us with one knobby, shaking finger and I felt a shiver crawl over every inch of my skin.
That was when I learned to live in fear, like a good drifter child should.