For social worker Adrian Montgomery, rebuilding families is the only way to cope with his own problems. So when his seven-year-old client, Nathaniel, goes missing, he jumps at the chance to aid in the investigation. But the clues don't make any sense. Like a drawing of a razor-toothed skeleton that Adrian recognizes from his own recurring nightmares. And a doorway at the scene of the disappearance where none should be.
On the other side is Tagestraum, a world fed by the energy of children's imaginations. Without their dreams, the whole faerie kingdom is plunged into the sort of Darkness where monsters are born and nightmares become real. But Tagestraum's been having an energy crisis lately, because dreams and children have been stolen, and the thief's description matches the drawing Nathaniel left behind.
In order to find the dream-thief and rescue Nathaniel, Adrian must journey through a savage wonderland of flesh-eating unicorns, dream-addicted faeries and corrupt monarchs. At night, the Darkness drags him through his darkest memories, forcing him to face horrors from his own troubled childhood. Unfortunately, Tagestraum isn't built for grown-ups, and it assaults the sanity of rational minds – and Adrian's mind is made up of locked doors and labeled file cabinets.
As his mind falters, Adrian must choose: escape Tagestraum with his sanity, leaving Nathaniel behind forever, or risk everything to save him and solve the mystery that links them both together.
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First 500 words:
The Nightmare Man came today.
Adrian could still hear the echo of Nathaniel's words in his mind – the words the boy had said when he made the drawing. The sketch now stared up at him from his coffee table: a tall, cloaked man with wide, blank eyes and a gaping mouth rimmed in teeth like the maw of some deep-sea fish.
The first time Nathaniel had shown him the drawing, months ago now, a cold chill had crept up Adrian’s back, a sense of déjà vu that he could not entirely place. It bothered him. Now, with Nathaniel missing and the picture staring up from its place on the coffee table, it bothered him a whole lot more.
The phone clicked in his ear as the voice mail picked up. Adrian waited for the beep, then said, “Hey, Detective Roark? It's Adrian Montgomery again, from Social Services, about the Weaver case? I’m not sure if my last call went through…you didn’t call me back. I just wanted to –"
The phone beeped, and the call disconnected.
Adrian dialed it again. It took longer to connect this time. Finally, the line picked up, and a woman’s electronic monotone said, “We’re sorry. The voice mailbox you are calling is full. Goodbye.”
For good measure, he tried it one more time. When he got the same message, he rose from the couch and walked into the kitchen. The refrigerator bathed the room in light. He stood in the glow for a long time, staring at the mostly-bare shelves. After a minute, he closed the door and walked into his office, sitting down at the computer chair without bothering to turn on the light.
He pulled up the online Missing Children Registry, searching for familiar names. There were a few; Social Services and missing children tended to go together more often than he'd like. Not like Nathaniel, though. Kids were usually kidnapped by their estranged parents, or ran away from home. They didn't just disappear from their backyards without a trace.
And they didn't tell their child welfare agent about The Nightmare Man.
Nathaniel wasn't the kind of kid to run away. Adrian was confident of that. He'd been working with the Weavers for nearly eight months – ever since Nathaniel's second grade teacher found out that the boy was staying by himself in a motel room while his mother worked double shifts as a maid and night greeter at Wal-Mart. Things had been bad, then, but they were better now. Angela Weaver had a decent job, was renting half of a town house, Nathaniel's grades were improving. Adrian had seen all of it happen, coming as close to a happy ending as any case he'd ever worked on. It didn't make any sense for things to go wrong now.