Claire, a private and outwardly content librarian, carries a secret: she is wracked with guilt over her twin brother Sam's accidental death fifteen years earlier. Claire's quiet life is threatened when Justin, an aggressive business developer, announces the renovation of Farmington's oldest textile factory, which is the scene of Sam's death along with many other mysterious accidents throughout its long history. Claire not only feels a personal connection to the factory, but she also begins to receive "visitations" from her brother, which cause her to question her sanity. As Justin moves forward with his plans to renew the factory, Claire, and the town as a whole, discover that in Farmington, there is no clear line between the past and the present.
Dead siblings, haunted factories and small-town librarians. Almost Dark by Letitia Trent reads like the secret teratoma or vestigial twin of Andrew Pyper's The Damned. Claire carries a secret: she is wracked with guilt over her twin brother Sam's accidental death. The past bleeds into the present when an aggressive business developer announces the renovation of Farmington's oldest textile factory, the scene of Sam's death—and many other mysterious accidents throughout its long and terrible history. – Sandra Kasturi
September 15th, 1993
Claire and Sam went out to the factory that Friday night because they'd heard from Archie that high school kids went there to party on the weekends. According to Sam, Archie was a trusted source of illicit information: his father was a motorcycle mechanic, a job that Archie had somehow made seem exotic, and he let Archie drink beer and smoke in the house. Archie had only shrugged when Claire expressed shock that anyone's parents would let them smoke or drink.
"I guess we just do things differently," he'd said.
Sam insisted that Archie knew what was cool, and Claire knew enough to believe her brother. Archie knew that you called concerts shows instead of citaoncerts. You called everything an album, even if it was a tape or a CD. He wore a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt—he'd gone to a concert, a show, in Albany, and Trent Reznor had spit on him. He told the story almost every time anyone mentioned going to a show or even listening to a new CD, and wore the shirt almost as often, though it had a small hole in one shoulder and was faded to a muddy grey instead of its original black. But the fading made it even better, and Archie somehow knew that, too. His hair was long and straight and he smoked cigarettes behind the school with another group of boys who bunched in a tight circle, mumbling short, cutting exchanges, sloping their shoulders inward and sliding quick, darting glances at anyone who passed. He smoked pot, too. He'd shown Claire and Sam a baggy full of something that looked like dried garden weeds and told them to inhale. Claire had stuck her nose in the bag and sneezed—it smelled like nothing she recognized.
"I stole it from my dad," he said, brushing his shaggy hair out of his eyes.
"If anyone finds out you have that," Claire said, "you could get kicked out." But she was too excited to be worried for him. She wanted her real life, her adult life, to begin and she had a feeling that Archie might be her way in.
Sam just laughed. "Nice," he said.
Their attention seemed to please Archie. He smiled and put the baggie in his back pocket.
"Can we have some?" Claire asked.
Archie laughed and punched her lightly on the shoulder. "You're too young, kid. Maybe in a couple of years."
Claire could feel that he liked to look at her. This was new. Usually, boys didn't notice her. She didn't quite know what to do with this new development, but she sensed it might benefit her. She wanted to be an adult. She'd recently thrown away her Barbies and bought her first real tube of lipstick, a reddish-brown color like Angela Chase wore on My So-Called Life.
"Oh, come on, Archie," she said. She met his eyes and held them for longer than usual. He looked away first.
"You don't know what you're asking, kid," He said. He sighed and put his hands in his pockets, world-weary, weighed down with so much forbidden knowledge. "It's really strong stuff," he told her, "almost like hash. Hash can really mess you up."
Claire knew hash only as a particularly disgusting meal of corned beef and potatoes, which her grandparents liked to eat with slices of buttered white bread. Her parents were not cool like Archie's dad—they went to the Methodist church every Sunday and her mom wouldn't let her watch Blossom because she'd heard on Dateline that the show had had a whole special about somebody losing their virginity. Claire had to get all of the good television—MTV, Blossom, Life Goes On, and Tales From the Crypt—at her friends' houses, where their parents were too busy working or arguing or doing whatever adults did all day to pay attention to what their kids were watching.
Sam told her later what hash was, after Archie had gone to shop class and nobody was around to make fun of her for not knowing.
"Hash is like pot," he explained, "only stronger. It makes you super high or something. It makes time slow down."
Time slowing down. The idea seemed terrifying to Claire. Why would anyone want time to be slower than it already was? Time was so slow that it seemed that ninth grade was taking months and months and months to finish.
Sam was Claire's twin. He was taller, better looking, smarter, and though they were the exact same age, he somehow seemed older. He looked like their mother, who had been called Snow White in high school (Claire had seen it scrawled in her old yearbook, under her impossibly pretty picture—her mother's eyes and lipstick and black hair against her clear, pale skin). Claire looked like her mother, too, but a smaller, mousier, less striking version.
It was as though Sam had sucked up all of the best genes in the womb and had left her with mediocrity.