Northern Frights #2

The Haunting of Drang Island

"One of you will not return."

This is a young adult horror novel that was just released. It's scary. It's fun. And it's full of Icelandic folklore.

Read my reviews of other books that I'm reading right now.

The Haunting of Drang Island
Released By Orca Books in the Fall of 1998
Call 1-800-210-5277.
Available now in all fine bookstores


	If you're gonna die, die with your boots on.
	That's what my Grandpa Thursten used to say.  It was the
Viking code.  "Remember, Michael," he'd whisper in his harsh,
gravely voice, "face whatever life has to throw at you with
gritted teeth and grim determination.  Never surrender."
	I wished he'd given me a few more details.  Like what to do
if you and your father were stuffed into lifejackets and trapped
on the wild ocean in a tiny ferry piloted by a man who was three
times as old as God.  And let's say all the forces of nature
were trying their best to send you to the bottom of that ocean,
while lightning tore holes in the sky.  Wind ripped the breath
from your lungs.  Waves pummeled you.  What would you suggest
we do then, Gramps?
	I gripped the side of the boat.  Dad was right next to me,
one hand clamped on the bench.
	A little more than thirty hours ago I was tapping my pen
against my desk, waiting for the school bell to ring and finally
announce the end of grade nine and the start of summer.  At the
time I was looking forward to getting away from a year of bad
marks and failed friendships.  If someone said I could beam
myself back to that same desk right now and live my last year
over again, I'd almost do it.  Almost.
	Harbard, the ferryman, faced Dad and I.  "One of you will not
return," he announced.
	"What?" Dad yelled, struggling to be heard above the noise of
the engine and the crashing waves.  He had his baseball hat on
backwards to prevent the gale from ripping it off.  His round
rimmed glasses dripped with water.  "What did you say?"
	Harbard turned his head and glared, his deep set eyes burning
with anger, almost like he was mad that he'd allowed us on his
ferry, that the storm was our fault.  He looked as if he hadn't
slept, shaved, or had a haircut since the sixties.  Who would
give this guy a license to run a boat?
	He stared right at me.  Could he read my mind?  I leaned even
harder against the back of the ferry, squirming away from his
	"One of you will not return.  I will take you both to Drang
Island tonight, but only one will come back with me.  It is
örlög: fate."
	A wave hurled itself against the bow, spraying us with water.
Dad shielded his face.  "You can stop kidding around, now," he
said, half joking.
	Harbard was staring forward again, fighting to keep the boat
steady.  He shook his head, making his yellow seaman's cap move
back and forth.  "No jest, not tonight.  The Norns decree the
shape of our lives, regardless of our wishes."
	"You're scaring the heck out of me and Michael," Dad shouted
into the gale.  He sounded serious.  I don't think Harbard heard
him this time, at least he didn't make any reply to show he had.
	"I'm not frightened," I said, quietly, "really, I'm not."
	Dad glanced down at me.  People always commented on how
similar we were; we both had blue eyes and the same long, thin
boned features passed down to us by our Icelandic ancestors.  The
only difference was my father had sandy-blonde hair and mine was
almost black.  But I hoped I wasn't looking at all like Dad right
now.  There was an expression on his face I'd never seen before.
Not fear, but something close to fear.  He clenched his teeth;
his jaw muscles bulged.  He seemed like he was about to speak,
then he turned away and stared across the ocean.
	I followed Dad's gaze.  By squinting my eyes I could pick out
glowing spheres in the distance, zig-zagging all around like
restless fireflies and occasionally blinking out.  They were the
lights of the park, our destination.  At least there was
electricity on the island.  We already had a spot reserved in the
campground.  But would we ever get there?  I was sure we'd been
lurching through the water for more than an hour since leaving
Port Hardy.  And every second seemed to be bringing us closer to
the ends of the earth.
	Another huge wave struck like a battering ram, forcing the
boat to lean.  It knocked Dad and I to the edge of the bench.
	The ferry kept tipping in the same direction.  It felt like a
huge hand was pushing one side upwards.  The motor sputtered and
several moments passed where I couldn't hear anything.  Just
silence.  The boat leaned farther, so far that water began
lapping over its edge.
	And I had the sudden feeling this was more than a wave;
something bigger, underneath, lifting us higher.
	And higher.
	Then, just when I thought we were about to be tossed
overboard, a clap of thunder crackled through the sky.  The boat
fell back the other way, crashed down into the water and leveled
out again.  Harbard gunned the throttle.
	"Jormungand just turned over," Harbard said.  The first word
sounded like yourmungond.  He rubbed at something hanging
on his neck.  A good luck charm?  "The god of the deeps spared
us.  This time.  Many a ship has gone down in this very spot. 
Last year twelve sailors drowned.  They found part of the hull. 
Nothing more."
	"What's he talking about?" I whispered to Dad, trying my best
to be tactful.  "Is he nuts?"
	My father put his finger to his lips, motioning me to be
silent.  "They told me back at port that this can be a bad
stretch of water.  But there was no sign of a storm when we
left."  He paused, glanced at Harbard  "And despite his looks,
our ferryman came highly recommended.  He's even part Icelandic."
	Well, I should have seen that from the beginning.  The crazy
eyes, the need to talk about doom and gloom.  Being Icelandic
myself, I knew we were a race of people stuffed full of long
stories and weird ideas.  And it got worse as we got older.  My
Grandpa Thursten is the perfect example of that.  He's eighty or
so and all he talks about now is people coming back from the dead
or trolls chewing on the bones of sheep or Norsemen yelling
insults at each other from their boats.
	Don't get me wrong.  Grandpa's a fun guy.  You just have to
get used to his dark sense of humour.
	Of course, after everything that happened while I was staying
with him last summer, I took anything any Icelandic person said a
lot more seriously.  "Which ... which one's Jormungand, Dad?  Is
he the giant wolf the Viking gods have to bind?"
	Dad shook his head.  "I don't want to get into all that stuff
	"Well ... just give me the short version."
	Dad smiled.  Maybe he wasn't as nervous as I thought.
"Jormungand is the big snake who lives under the ocean and wraps
himself around the whole world.  He spends his time biting his
own tail and swallowing whales that are unlucky enough to pass
near him."
	"Is he friendly?"
	"No.  Loki, the most evil and trickiest of the gods, and the
giantess Angrboda had three monstrous children, each with enough
power to destroy the gods.  Jormungand was one of them.  He
started out as just a little snake, but Odin knew how dangerous
this monster would become.  He threw him in the ocean and
Jormungand grew gigantic.  He waits down there, until the end of
the world -- Ragnarok.  The final, vicious battle between the
gods and the giants.  Jormungand is killed by Thor, the god with
the hammer.  Then Thor stumbles back nine steps and falls down
dead, poisoned by Jormungand's venom."
	"Oh.  I see."  Well, that was enough about that.  Why weren't
there any happy Norse stories?  Ones where the good guys win in
the end and everyone lives to a ripe old age.  Or how about one
where three travelers on a ferry don't sink in the ocean and
become fish food?
	Dad was staring into the distance again, lost in thought.  We
carried on without speaking, the boat's engine alternating
between roaring and gasping as it struggled through the watery
turmoil.  The lights gradually came closer, turning into a sparse
set of street lamps set far inside a cove.  A few small buildings
were visible, huddled close together.
	They looked tiny compared to what surrounded them -- tall
spires and walls of jagged rock standing high in the air.  We
passed so close to a finger of stone that I could have reached
out and run my hand along its chipped surface.  How many boats
had it claimed?  For a split second a bolt of lightning
illuminated the cliffs.  Every corner seemed sharp and
unassailable, every crag dangerous.
	So this was Drang Island.  Who would want to call this place
home?  It looked about as friendly as Harbard's face.
	We came out of the open water and into the bay.  The waves
were calmer here and for the first time I relaxed my grip on the
side of the ferry.  I got a good look at the buildings on the
beach.  They were cabins, old and unkempt, facing the water.
Only one had light coming from the window.  Behind them was a
thick collection of trees, their branches reaching down toward
the rooftops.  A path had been cut through the trees, lit by two
dim street lamps.  I assumed that would be the way to the
	We pulled up to a deserted wooden wharf and Harbard tossed a
rope around a post and secured the boat.  Dad and I gathered our
gear and bikes and stepped onto solid wood.  My legs felt all
wobbly.  My balance was off centre.  It was as if some part of me
was still on the water, rocking back and forth.  I planted my
feet firmly and sucked in some air then let out a long sigh.  It 
was hard to believe that most of my ancestors had spent their
lives on the wide open ocean.  Tonight, I just wanted to be a
	We handed back our lifejackets, then Dad started digging in
his wallet for our fare.  When we'd first boarded the ferry,
Harbard had explained that he only accepted payment for his
services after he reached the other side, just in case something
happened on the way there.  He'd said this with a slight smile at
the time.
	But now there was no smile.  Harbard shook his head and
motioned for Dad to put his money away.  He stared silently, his
gaze going back and forth between us.  I had no idea what he was
searching for.  Behind all that hair and sunken face, he looked
sad.  A small version of Thor's hammer hung from a metal chain
around his neck -- it was a good luck charm.  "Your futures are
not entirely clear," he whispered, hoarsely, "but I know one
thing; it would be ill luck to take money from the doomed."  Then
he undid the mooring and limped to the front of the boat.  Did he
have a peg leg?  I wondered.  Harbard backed the ferry out of the
dock, gunned the motor and steered toward the open water, leaving
us staring at his retreating figure.
	I looked at Dad.   "What did all that mean?"
	"I have no idea."  He patted my shoulder.  "It's probably
nothing.  We all get a little stranger as we get older."  He
scrunched up his shoulders, did his best Hunchback of Notre Dame
impression.  "See, it's happening to me already."  I laughed and
clapped politely.
	Dad bowed, then lifted his backpack and used his right hand
to guide his bike.  "Pick up your stuff and don't forget
anything, okay?"
	"I won't."  You'd think I had Alzheimer's the way Dad was
talking.  I grabbed my own back pack and bike.  
	Dad pulled up the collar on his coat and motioned me ahead
with a nod.  "I'd guess we're not too far from the campground. 
On the way we can stop at the Park Office, call home, and tell
your mom and your sister we made it safe and sound.  But we
better hurry.  It feels like it might rain."