Whispers in the Dark is a novella written by K.B. Elijah and published by Black Hare Press as part of a run of ‘underground’ themed short reads.
Shawn Torosian is trapped for decades in a timeless, deathless prison called the Void. One day, a voice begins to speak to him and Shawn’s mind turns to escape for the first time in twenty years. What follows is a detailed account of his escape.
Right off the bat, it is easy to feel sympathy for Shawn Torosian. He’s a political prisoner of a war he played only a minor part in, subjected to unthinkable horrors and a mind-numbing eternity in the Void. The fact that he wasn’t just executed is actually instrumental to the plot of this novella. Actually, most of the small details of this story are instrumental to the plot. K.B. Elijah has done an excellent job of leaving breadcrumbs throughout that an eagle-eyed reader will connect to the eventual twists.
The world-building is solid and there’s a lot to like about the universe outside of the Void. The ‘cyber-fantasy’ setting reminds me just a little of Sega’s old Shining Force series, which I have a sizeable soft spot for. It’s great to see it again.
It’s also amazing the depth of feeling I got from Shawn towards his former lover, Merrigold. Despite never appearing in person, Merri is a fully-drawn character and I can absolutely believe Shawn’s love for her as both a driving force and a source of constant grief.
Avoiding spoilers, the ending of the story is both well-signposted while also being surprising (because there is an unforeseen double twist). However, this is a Black Hare Press horror novella, so you have been warned.
My most major criticism of this story is that it’s short. I mean, duh, because it’s a novella. But K.B. Elijah has constructed a deep and intriguing universe in this novella that screams to be given a more grandiose stage to stand upon. The war between the Empire and the Brotherhood could fill the pages of two or three full novels. The incidents leading to Shawn’s arrest ALONE would be worth a book. While this work does stand well enough alone, I feel the potential of this universe keenly and I’d like to see it drawn in greater detail in additional volumes.
Other than that, there is not a lot here to criticise. There is the occasional typo, but I am usually more forgiving of this in indie publications than in traditionally-published manuscripts. And, while Shawn does spend a lot of time in introspection, this isn’t so much a flaw in the writing as it is simply expected of a character who’s spent twenty years alone, living in either a fantasy of his own creation or a dark, featureless box.
For someone looking for a short, engaging read set in a detailed universe with a character you can both connect to and feel for, K.B. Elijah’s Whispers in the Dark is for you. It won’t take you long to finish but the ending will probably leave you feeling as hollowed out as the Void. Here’s hoping for more from both this world and the author.