What Grows in the Dark by Jaq Evans

Posted 8 March, 2024 by Heather in Blog, Blog Tour, Book Excerpt, Heather / 0 Comments

Published by MIRA
I really love horror novels, and I’m excited to bring you an excerpt from Jaq Evans’ WHAT GROWS IN THE DARK. Here, a YouTuber who “investigates” places experiencing paranormal activity, then fakes her results, must return home and face the trauma of her sister’s suicide sixteen years ago. Here’s an excerpt of the novel. This is one I will be tackling in the future.



October 2019
An Attic


Brigit Weylan slid her fingers across the vintage tape recorder in her lap, the plastic warm as living skin. 

    “Are you picking anything up?” Ian asked, snaking a hand beneath the camera on his shoulder to massage his trapezius. He caught her watching and she cut her eyes away, thumbed off her mic. 

    “Nothing but your breathing.”

    “It’s ambience. And we’re stalling because…” 

    She shifted on the pine floor. Pinkish clouds of insulation erupted from the walls on either side, and the ceiling sloped aggressively. It was a delicate maneuver to uncross and stretch out her legs in this tight space, but her foot was at risk of falling asleep. Brigit switched her mic back on. 

    “Sorry for the technical difficulties. We’re getting a little interference, which is actually a good sign—
    At the far end of the attic, a cardboard box fell off its stack. Papers spilled across the plywood in a plume of dust that brought the moldering scent of dried mouse droppings. Ian coughed but kept the camera level. In the living room downstairs, the baby goth who’d hired them would have a perfect view. 

    “Hello?” Brigit asked calmly, holding in her own cough as her throat burned. “Logan, is that you?” 

     Logan Messer, struck down by a heart attack in 1998. Craggy of face and black of eye, he’d glared up from the obituary they’d found in the Woodbridge library like a nineteenth-century oil magnate. Definitely the most likely of several spirits that could be haunting Haletown House. At least, that’s what Brigit and Ian had told its newest occupant. 

    A gust of wind ruffled the scattered papers in the corner, although the attic had no windows and the rest of the air sat thick and claustrophobic. Dust motes swirled through the wedges of light cast by the single hanging bulb. Brigit pushed her short hair back from her forehead and presented Ian’s camera with an unobstructed slice of profile. 

     “Logan, my name is Brigit Weylan. My sister and I are here to help you find peace.” She took a moment to steady her voice. “Is Emma with you now?” 

     From the corner came a sharp rap like knuckles on wood. At the same time Ian strangled another cough in the crook of his arm, nearly drowning out the knock. Brigit kept the tension from her face by digging her fingertips into her thighs. A small black hole had opened in her chest where her sister’s name had passed. 

    “I know you don’t want to leave, but I promise you’ll be happier once you do. All you need to do is take Emma’s hand and you’ll be free.” 

    The knocking came again, louder. Brigit had expected an echo, but the air seemed to catch the sound. The rest of the house was so chilly, all its warmth trapped up here like breath. Whatever mice had left those droppings probably suffocated. Little mummies in the walls. 

    “Brigit,” Ian murmured. “Can you see them?” 

    “I can’t see anything.” She licked her lips. Her tongue felt dry, chalky with dust. “But Logan is here. I can feel him in the room with us. I may need to move—don’t lose me.” Brigit raised her voice. “Emma, I’m with you. Let me help. Let me give you strength.” 

    She stretched her hand toward the corner. The knocking was a drumbeat now, even faster than her pulse. Slowly, Brigit shifted to her knees and readied herself to crawl toward that wedge of darkness—and the drumming stopped. Ian let out his breath in a quiet whoosh. Brigit exhaled too, long and slow. Then she turned to face the camera and smiled. 

    “It’s done,” she told Haletown House’s youngest resident. 

    “This house is clean.”

    The boy who’d paid for their services was waiting on the couch when Brigit and Ian climbed down from the attic. Brigit went first, Ian following with the camera bag now stuffed with their equipment: the laptop and its associated Bluetooth speaker, the miniature fan she’d hidden underneath the boxes, the fishing line trap in the corner. There were a few other props around the outside of the house—such as the rotten eggs in the upstairs gutter, which had been carefully planted in an early-morning excursion that had nearly put Ian in the hospital—but those were all biodegradable and couldn’t be traced back to them.

    In and out, that was the modus. They were surgeons like that, implanting a psychic placebo effect. Honestly, most of these people? They just wanted to feel believed. The rest wanted to see themselves on YouTube.

    Brigit hadn’t needed that moral reassurance when she finally agreed to Ian’s pitch for the series a year ago, but there was something about this kid today. A familiar sloppiness to the liner drawn below his pale blue eyes. He asked, “You think the old man’s really gone?” 

    “I hope so,” she said. Ian watched her from the doorway to the living room. Brigit could feel it on her neck as she dropped into a plush armchair. “You’ve got our contact info if he isn’t.” 

    The boy shrugged. “Guess I’ll be on the show either way.” 

    “Technically we need the waiver signed by someone over eighteen,” Ian put in. The kid looked at him while Brigit looked at the kid. Dyed black hair, chapped lips. His sneakers weren’t actually black, just Sharpied to a purplish gray. She sat forward. 

    “You’ll be on the show. Your birthday’s what, next year? This wouldn’t go online for a few months anyway. We can hold the episode.” 

    Why had she said that? It didn’t matter how old he was. Their first season hadn’t gotten picked up despite all attempts to woo a real television network, and neither would the second. Ian was fooling himself if he thought this thing was going to happen for real. 

    The kid smiled, and his eyeliner cracked. Discomfort fisted in Brigit’s chest. “Cool,” he said. “Thanks.” 

    “I do need something in exchange. If things keep happening around here, stuff only you can hear, smell, whatever? Tell your parents. Call us too, but you have to tell your folks.” 

    “Why? They’d lose their minds if they knew about this.” 

    “Because you’re a minor, and this isn’t exactly a hard science. If it turns out I screwed up in there and it comes back on you, I need to know you’ve got someone in this house who can get you out.”

    Or if he was in real trouble, the kind that could hit kids at around his age, that he would confide in someone other than a fake psychic out to pocket his summer cash. It was a moment of weakness, wanting this promise she’d never be able to confirm, but Brigit couldn’t stop herself. 

    The kid chewed at the inside of his lip. Something turned behind his eyes, a decision being weighed as Brigit held her ground. Then he grimaced. “What if I lied to you just now?” 

    “About what?”

    “They wouldn’t lose their minds. They wouldn’t care at all,” he said. “My dad doesn’t even live here. The house was a bribe to keep my mom from making his life more difficult, and she hates that she took it, so she just works all the time. I tried telling her before, about the old man, and she said I needed more friends. That was before the wine.” 

    The spike of decade-old commiseration at this was so sharp and startling that Brigit almost laughed. Behind the kid, Ian looked faintly stricken.

    “Got it,” she said briskly, and relief eased the kid’s shoulders. “How about a neighbor? Someone at school?” 

    “Ms. Brower, maybe. My English teacher?” 

    “Classic choice.” Brigit calibrated a wry smile and won half of one in return. “Okay. More weird stuff goes down, you tell Ms. Brower and then you call me. Deal?” She stretched her hand across the coffee table. 

    The kid hesitated. Behind her, Ian’s breathing was louder than anything else. Then a slim, chilly hand smacked into hers, and for a moment, Brigit wasn’t in this stranger’s living room at all. She was in the woods, the Dell, in the cold dark night, her sister’s icy fingers clamped around her own. 

    You want to be the wild child, Wild Child?

    “Deal,” said the kid. Brigit didn’t blink. The room came back to her, his grub-white face, cold palm against her own. Vanilla candles on the mantel. Nothing of Emma or their game but the bitter tinge of earth beneath her tongue.

Excerpted from What Grows in the Dark by Jaq Evans. Copyright © 2024 by Jaq Evans. Published by MIRA.




On Sale: March 5, 2024; 304 Pages, MIRA

The Babadook meets The Blair Witch Project in this chilling contemporary horror novel about confronting trauma. When fake spiritualist Brigit returns home to investigate the disappearance of two teenagers, the case eerily echoes her own sister’s death sixteen years earlier.

This chilling tale of siblings, the emotional toll of the places you once called home, and the necessity of confronting and moving beyond past trauma brings together the psychological horror of The Babadook with the found footage and supernatural eeriness of The Blair Witch Project. 

Brigit Weylan’s older sister, Emma, is dead. Sixteen years ago, Emma walked into the woods in their small hometown of Ellis Creek and slit her wrists. She was troubled, people said—moody and erratic in the weeks leading up to her death, convinced that there was a monster in Ellis Creek, and had even attempted to burn down the copse of trees where she later took her life. Marked by the tragedy, Brigit left and never once looked back. Now, Brigit and her cameraman Ian travel around the country, investigating paranormal activity (and faking the results), posting their escapades on YouTube in the hopes that a network will pick up their show. The last thing she expects is a call from an Ellis Creek area code with a job offer—and payout—the two cannot refuse. 

When Brigit and Ian arrive in Ellis Creek, they’re thrust in the middle of an investigation: two teenagers are missing, and the trail is growing colder with each passing day. It’s immediately apparent that Brigit and Ian are out of their depth; their talents lie in faking hauntings, not locating lost kids. Except for the fact that, in the weeks leading up to their disappearance, the teens had been dreaming about Emma—Emma in the woods where she died, ringed with trees and waiting for them. As Brigit and Ian are drawn further into the investigation, convinced that this could be the big case to make their show go viral, the parallels to Emma’s death become undeniable. But Brigit is worried she’s gone too far this time, and that the weight of being back in Ellis Creek, overwhelmed by memories of Emma, will break her…if it hasn’t already. Because Brigit can’t explain what’s happening to her: trees appearing in her bedroom in the middle of the night, something with a very familiar laugh watching her out in the darkness, and Emma’s voice on her phone, reminding Brigit to finish what they started. 

More and more, it looks like Emma was right: there is a monster in Ellis Creek, and it’s waited a long time for Brigit Weylan to come home.



Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop.org | Books-A-Million | Goodreads

About Jaq Evans

Jaq Evans is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program and a former Pitch Wars mentee . Her short fiction has been published in Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Apparition Literary Magazine, Fusion Fragment, and others.


Connect with Jaq Evans

WebsiteTwitter | Instagram | Goodreads



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I'm a PhD chemist who loves sarcasm, music, and books-paranormal, mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, and romance. Most of my free time is spent at the martial arts studio these days--whether practicing Combat Hapkido or reading books while watching my son's Taekwondo classes, or even working up a sweat with Kickboxing for fun. Goodreads

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