I have been very vocal about my love of Alec Worley’s first audio horror, Perdition’s Flame. The voice work, combined with tense atmosphere and pacing, along with a rarely seen faction made for a thrilling listen. His latest audio drama, The Watcher in the Rain, has been on my list for some time. I decided to dive into it, along with my 12-year old, because I make questionable parenting decisions A LOT. The audio drama moves in surprising ways, with a production quality that is unmatched.
Warp Storm of the Century
On an Imperial world cut off from the Imperium, a massive warp storm is brewing. With it comes biblical rains which threaten to leave the city engulfed in water. Citizens are fleeing the planet on transports. As the last transport threatens to leave, a lowly scribe and an Inquisitor’s interrogator are forced to find alternate means of escape. If the rushing waters weren’t enough, there’s something in the rain, watching and waiting.
The scribe, Greta, has an awful secret. A simple clerical error resulted in the death of Imperial Guard, and Interrogator Crucius is determined to see her heresy laid bare. Crucius is unflinching in his belief and loyalty, which makes him an imposing figure. The city is literally drowning around them, and he never loses sight of his end goal: to torture the information and confession from Greta.
It might feel heavy-handed if not for Greta’s earnestness. Throughout their daring escape Greta seeks nothing but to prove her innocence. As she and Crucius are forced to aid one another, a strange bond begins to form. The audio drama is only an hour and a half, but by the 30-minute mark I was deeply invested in the trust that was forming between these two disparate characters.
“Is the Inquisition bad guys?”
We listened to The Watcher in the Rain on the heels of listening to Perdition’s Flame. There came a point, in PF, when my daughter asked if the Inquisition was bad. No, no, they’re not, I assured her. But as we listened to WitR, she turned to me and did not ask so much as state, “The inquisition IS bad.” Which then prompted a long conversation that ultimately ended in me saying “some are bad, some are good, and some do bad things in the name of good.” Needless to say, she accused me of being vague and I couldn’t argue that point.
I’ve said it before but my favorite horror is that of the human heart and mind. The titular Watcher is an intriguing entity that we rarely see. This isn’t the hunt you down and kill you type of being, nor is it the “turn you into a slavering cultist” type either. Its malice lays in its desire to lay one’s deeds and heart bare. When dealing with something as twisted and complex as the Inquisition, that’s a horrific prospect. What has Interrogator Crucius done in the name of the Ordo? His reveal, while jarring, is of a cruelty we perhaps suspected the Inquisition capable of, but the confirmation is wrenching.
And despite Crucius’ deeds, Greta’s are even more intriguing. In Perdition’s Flame Worley painted Imperial honor and duty as unflinching and valiant. The warriors and foot soldiers of the Imperium are something to marvel at. In The Watcher in the Rain we see bureaucracy in its coldest, most spiteful form. If Worley has nothing but respect for the fighters of the Imperium, he has nothing but contempt for the politics. The commentary within this story is biting, to say the least. And it’s delicious.
Dat Production Tho
It is impossible to overstate how great the production value is on this story. Unlike many other audio books, Watcher in the Rain (along with PF) is more of an audio play and less of an audio book. The story is comprised of all dialog with zero narration. Worley’s sense of the dramatic is outstanding. The dialog keeps the story moving (more on this in a bit), and the sound effects are awesome. As a listening experience, it calls to mind the radio plays of yore, and is well worth the $13 entry point.
My sole complaint about the story is that when we finally learn the truth of Greta, the reveal drags on a couple minutes too long. Her monologue is phenomenal, at first, but after a minute, I was ready for her to cut to the chase. Any irritation though is quickly dampened by a final cruel irony. It’s an O. Henry-style ending, similar to The Way Out, that had both my daughter and I laughing and horrified in equal measure.
I sincerely hope Alec Worley continues to make these horror dramas. The stories are fun (in awful ways, natch), full of creepy atmosphere, and the production value is amazing. I will listen to these as long as they put them out. Though I’ll screen it first, before diving in with my 12-year old.