The Vanishing Island


Illustration © Dave Stevenson

A chilling excerpt from the novel, The Vanishing Island

When Jacob Beenders was a boy in Holland, his mother told him stories about the Night Demon of the Netherlands, a black-clad boogeyman with fangs and shredding claws. He hides under your bed, she said, or in your wardrobe, and there he stays if you are good. But woe betide the children who misbehave.

The Night Demon had caused Jacob many sleepless nights as a child. But the child had grown into a man, who had been a sailor now for more than half his life. He had seen men torn apart by cannonballs, gashed by swords, and eaten by sharks. He had watched a fellow crewman walk the plank, his hands bound, and seen the terror in his eyes as the waves swallowed him whole. Jacob Beenders was no longer frightened by childish things.

But that was before Murmansk—a desolate port on Russia’s northwest coast. While his crew slept, Jacob went alone to a tavern where he drank one beer, then another, until he saw the man sitting alone in a corner. A man dressed in black, who seemed to grip his cup with a pale, sinuous claw.

His mind was playing tricks on him, of course.

When Jacob left the tavern the streets were empty, swept clean by the winds off the Murman Sea. Still, he couldn’t escape the sensation of being followed and began to walk faster, until he was running back to his ship. “Cut the mooring ropes. We’re setting sail now,” he told his crew, then stood at the rail, staring back at the harbor until the ship had finally nosed away from the pier and out to sea.

Damp with sweat, Jacob lay on his cot and closed his eyes, and suddenly the terrors of childhood came back to him. He stared at the door of his wardrobe; he imagined the Night Demon’s clawed hands rising up from beneath his cot.

He leaped out of bed, short of breath. He needed fresh air. On deck he stood under the mainmast and looked up at the crow’s nest. He tried to remember the last time he had gone aloft, and, giving in to impulse, he began to climb.

Illustration © Dave Stevenson

It was more difficult than he remembered. The rolling sea tried to pull him from the mast, and the bitter cold made it hard to hold the ropes. He heard a noise below . . . someone was climbing after him. “Is that you, Abram?” he called. But the head of the night watch didn’t answer.

The crow’s nest was twenty feet away. He climbed faster. When he reached the nest he looked around for anything he could use as a weapon. As he stood there, one clawlike hand, then another, reached up out of the darkness.

Jacob slammed the heel of his boot over and over into the monstrous hands, then climbed higher on the mast, until he reached a rope angling from the mainmast to the foremast. Gripping the rope with frozen hands, he slid forward until he was standing atop the foresail, and then turned back toward the crow’s nest.

This high up, the moonlight shone on them like a pair of actors upon the stage, and Jacob saw the shadowy man throw back his head, as if laughing. The man extended one hideous, crooked finger and made a slashing motion from ear to ear, as if threatening to slit Jacob’s throat. A moment later Jacob felt a searing pain across his neck, and when he reached up to grab himself, his hand filled with blood.

Panic set in. All I have left is the sea, thought Jacob.

And so he began inching his way through the web of ropes to the end of the yardarm, marching to the mournful drumbeat of wind-snapped sails, until beneath him was only darkness and all its imaginary terrors. He looked back once more to see the man in black still standing there, his cloak billowing, until the dark fabric began to fray, the fibers gradually becoming feathers and the outspread cloak a pair of wings, and just as the figure launched himself from his perch, Jacob threw himself into the deep.



The Vanishing Island Chronicles of the Black Tulip, Volume 1 By Barry Wolverton Illustrations by Dave Stevenson Published by Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins Publishers Age Range: 10+ Years

Now in Paperback!

Paperback: ISBN-13: ISBN: 978-0062221919

Hardcover: ISBN-13: 978-0062221902

An engrossing fantasy, a high-seas adventure, an alternate history epic—this is the richly imagined and gorgeously realized new book from acclaimed author Barry Wolverton, perfect for fans of The Glass Sentence and the Books of Beginning series.

It’s 1599, the Age of Discovery in Europe. But for Bren Owen, growing up in the small town of Map on the coast of Britannia has meant anything but adventure. Enticed by the tales sailors have brought through Map’s port, and inspired by the arcane maps his father creates as a cartographer for the cruel and charismatic map mogul named Rand McNally, Bren is convinced that fame and fortune await him elsewhere.

That’s when Bren meets a dying sailor, who gives him a strange gift that hides a hidden message. Cracking the code could lead Bren to a fabled lost treasure that could change his life forever, and that of his widowed father. Before long, Bren is in greater danger than he ever imagined and will need the help of an unusual friend named Mouse to survive.


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Explore a ship, navigate with a compass, tie knots, write in Chinese, and sink an enemy vessel with the Vanishing Island Activity Kit.


Barry Wolverton


Barry Wolverton is the author of Neversink and the Chronicles of the Black Tulip series. He has more than fifteen years’ experience creating books, documentary television scripts, and website content for international networks and publishers, including National Geographic,, the Library of Congress, and the Discovery Networks. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.