Bundle Up Tight Before You Read This Chilling Deep Roots Prelude

Dan Watters & Val Rodrigues’ Vault Series Hits Shelves April 25th

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Bundle Up Tight Before You Read This Chilling <i>Deep Roots</i> Prelude

If you don’t yet know Dan Watters’ work, you certainly will soon. The writer behind the Image Comics VHS-horror Limbo hits the mainstream in a major way this August, when he becomes the fourth-ever devil’s advocate for Neil Gaiman’s take on Lucifer. But before Watters pledges himself to the Morningstar, he, artist Val Rodrigues, colorist Triona Farrell and letterer Aditya Bidikar have their own mythology to create in Deep Roots, arriving April 25th from upstart publisher Vault Comics. The debut issue of Deep Roots takes readers on a gnarled ride of Brussels-sprout bank robbers, shadowy government operations, deadly airborne spores, faerie walkabouts and a grand destiny buried in the soil. In advance of the series, Paste is thrilled to host a chilling short prose prelude from Watters that will also run as backmatter in the first issue. Fair warning: you might want to skip this one if you live close to a wooded area. We’ve also got an extended preview of the book’s interior, along with looks at three covers for the first issue.

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Deep Roots #1 Retailer Incentive Variant Cover by Caspar Wijngaard

“Cradled”

The body is curled, naked and foetus-like, cradled in the roots of a great oak, face pressed to the bark like a suckling new-born. Alabaster skin against black wood, an outline clearly visible even as sunlight struggles to pierce the woodland foliage. I’ve been staring at the body for a long time. I hardly feel the bite of the wind through my jacket any more.

I’m sure if I searched the area I’d find this poor sap’s clothes. It’s a phenomenon called “paradoxical undressing.” As a person freezes to death the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body heat, malfunctions. They begin to feel warm and strip their clothing off before dying. It’s relatively common. It’s so easy for a traveller to get lost in these woods, especially when the nights have grown as long and cold as these.

When I was a child, Nana worried that I’d get lost here myself. She never stopped me from exploring, but insisted that I return to the house before sunset.

“After all, when the moon rises these woods belong to the Good Folk, and the fair folk are awful protective of their homes,” she would tell me. I would roll my eyes and shake my head, and yet I’d obey. The woods did feel like a different place at night. A quiet, still place where I had no right to trespass.

Years have passed and I am grown, but as sundown approaches I still can’t help but see the body as a fellow intruder in the woods. My imagination transforms the rustling of wind in the trees into the voices of the Good Folk, and I’m gripped by a compulsion to remove the stain of our humanity, to take the body out of the woods with me. I’m already berating myself as I reach to touch it. This could be a crime scene. You’re never supposed to touch a crime scene. I hear myself scream as my fingers brush skin, and the head turns to face me.

There are acorns where the eyes should be. It’s only a crude facsimile of a face, and as the body twists around I’m aware that there are no nipples or genitalia; this is only their idea of a human body, crude yet effective for their purpose. The mouth opens, gums lined with seeds, to whisper to me with the voice of the wind.

The voice tells me secrets that only the woods know. Of how flowers sing. How trees tell each other stories through the rings on their trunks. It tells me of fantastic species that exist deep in the earth, too small or evasive to have been catalogued by thick, plodding humans.

Nana thought the Good Folk were dangerous, but these woods know me. They trust me. They whisper me secrets until the sun has long set, and moonlight illuminates a fresh layer of frost on the branches. I’m not even cold. The woods keep me warm. I unzip my jacket.

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Deep Roots #1 Interior Art by Val Rodrigues & Triona Farrell

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Deep Roots #1 Interior Art by Val Rodrigues & Triona Farrell

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Deep Roots #1 Interior Art by Val Rodrigues & Triona Farrell

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Deep Roots #1 Interior Art by Val Rodrigues & Triona Farrell

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Deep Roots #1 Interior Art by Val Rodrigues & Triona Farrell

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Deep Roots #1 Interior Art by Val Rodrigues & Triona Farrell

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Deep Roots #1 Interior Art by Val Rodrigues & Triona Farrell

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Deep Roots #1 Main Cover Art by Dani Strips

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Deep Roots #1 Variant Art by Val Rodrigues & Triona Farrell

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