Cover art by Alan Lastufka.

When You Leave I Disappear: A Novella

“A tale that will haunt you long after you’ve finished reading.”
Ray Garton, author of Live Girls

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Publication Date

August 20, 2024

Print Length

176 Pages


978-1-959565-38-3 (Paperback)
978-1-959565-39-0 (eBook)

About When You Leave I Disappear

USA Today bestselling author David Niall Wilson's When You Leave I Disappear is a literary horror novella in which a bestselling author's imposter syndrome draws her into a darker and darker world from which she may never escape.


She closed all but her browser window which was waiting for a new search. She typed quickly.

My writing prompts

The screen filled instantly with thousands of hits, most of which said “does not include ‘my’” – with a prompt to search only for the exact phrase. She clicked the only link. That web page was titled (ironically) “My Writing prompts.”

She waited as the site loaded. There was the usual warning about collecting cookies, which she accepted. The screen flickered, and a simple form appeared in the center of a black screen.


She clicked create account and a new screen appeared. She frowned. There were none of the usual suspects among the fields she was presented. No username. No password.

First question: Are you a talented writer?

There was a button for YES. There were no other choices. She hesitated over the YES. A blue circle appeared across the black background. The blue began to disappear at the top, spinning clockwise around the circle and leaving only the black. She wanted to press the button on her mouse and move to the next screen, but she was paralyzed. Was she a talented writer? What did she have to show that would prove it? The Teresa Vincent novels? The short stories in literary magazines she’d written in college that made her cringe every time she re-read them? The bits and pieces of things she’d collected and recorded in journals that had never gotten past the point of ideas? She blinked and realized the blue had completely disappeared. She was about to hit the back key and return to the main screen, thinking it had simply timed out, when the screen shifted again.

“ENTER SAMPLE” was at the top of the screen. Beneath that in smaller type, “Write something that is real. Write what you want to say to the world.”

Then there was a large blank text box. Andrea stared at it. She’d come to the site to get prompts, not provide them. She felt unprepared and oddly vulnerable. Her fingers found the keys, and she began typing the first thing that came to mind. “Alexis Jones was a tall, thin woman with jet black hair and an icy smile.”

The words disappeared from the screen. Another circle, larger than the first one, appeared to the right of the text box. This one was white, but began slowly turning red, moving steadily around from the top like the first. Andrea closed her eyes, flashed back to the first question, then to the review of Imagine Us in Heaven, and began to write.

* * *

Every face you see is a mask and every face you present to the world is also a mask. Some people are experts at shifting from one to the next. The face they show you won’t be the same as the one  your husband or wife sees. They navigate rooms, features flickering from one countenance to another so quickly it’s seamless and impossible to track.

Most people are not so adept. Their masks will linger and give away secrets. Features slip into place that present them to the world in ways that don’t feel real, that are paper-thin and fragile enough to blow away in a gust of wind. Those are the masks you cherish, patching them and molding them until they solidify. Who you believe you are or want the world to buy into. Masks can protect you, but they crack. If you wear them too long, you can forget what’s important. Masks aren’t protection, they’re a prison, and every face is a mask.

There are more dangerous masks. There are more inescapable prisons. These are created for you by others, molded around your features and your words, creating something you have no control over. The more who see and accept that face, the harder it becomes to remove. You wear it in public. No matter how hard you try, it seeps into your private life, shows itself to friends and colleagues, replacing your features and stealing your identity. Imposter syndrome is a very simple disorder when you consider how many imposters you might actually be.

If you want to change the world, you have to break them all. The most terrifying face you can present to the world is the one that hurts the most, the one that burns in the sun and faces the world unprotected. These are the faces of artists, writers, creators. They are the faces that will be remembered far beyond death. They are the faces that lead to madness, or greatness, or both.

The mask I wear is killing me. I have to break it. I have to destroy it, but I am afraid. It’s a face the world loves. What if, after it’s broken, what’s left isn’t enough? What if I’m not enough?

* * *

Andrea lifted her fingers from the keys and stared at the screen. What she’d written had come from somewhere deep inside. Her frustration with her career, her hatred of the work she was doing, combined with her absolute fear of disappointing her fans, her editor, or lost touch with the world she’d created. What would result if they suspected how she felt, or even worse, how she regarded their adoration. If she was an imposter, and what she wrote was crap, what did it say about the millions of readers who snapped up every title as soon as it hit the shelf? Or the book clubs full of wine tastings, blog tours, and book reviewers who raved and promoted her?


“David Niall Wilson is one of the horror genre’s best-kept secrets, which is unfortunate because he’s wildly talented and everyone who loves horror fiction should be reading him. His new story, “When You Leave, I Disappear,” an intense thriller of a tale that will haunt you long after you’ve finished reading, is a great place to start. And then go read everything else he’s written. You’ll thank me.”
Ray Garton, author of Live Girls

When You Leave I Disappear is a nuanced nested doll of a novella that always compels the reader to second-guess where reality ends and fiction begins, blissfully blurring the lines in between.”
Clay McLeod Chapman, author of What Kind of Mother

“Prepare to be transported into the world created by Wilson of a writer questioning the success and quality of their novels as they go on a journey to find their authentic voice. Allow the familiar to carry you through, as I did, until the edges of reality begin to morph into something else, something that will hold your attention until the last page.”
Linda D. Addison, award-winning author, HWA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and SFPA Grand Master

“In an impressive display of virtuoso writing, David Niall Wilson marshals stories within stories and doppelganger characterization to explore one writer’s imposter syndrome. When You Leave I Disappear is quite simply a tour de force.”
—Steve Rasnic Tem

When You Leave I Disappear is part mystery, part thriller, centered around the stresses and pressures of an author including the direction of their career, branding, name recognition, art for art’s sake, for the self, or for the audience, the legacy we leave behind, and of course, imposter syndrome. But this is also a novella focusing on discovering the love for and magic of writing, the meaning behind our words, the power of fiction and how there is a piece of the writer in every word, character, story. Wilson shows us what it truly means when fiction becomes reality and reality become stranger than fiction, when dead darlings—both real and fictitious—resurface.”
Ai Jiang, Nebula, Locus, Bram Stoker, BSFA Award nominee

“Skillfully creating layer upon layer of reality, blending paranoia with genuine magic, WYLID is a compelling tale from one of our most underrated modern horror writers.”
Billy Martin, author of Lost Souls and Exquisite Corpse

When You Leave I Disappear News
May 2, 2024
Today we’re excited to reveal the cover for David Niall Wilson’s When You Leave I Disappear, a new novella coming this August from Shortwave…
January 17, 2024
Today we are announcing the acquisition of When You Leave I Disappear, a novella by David Niall Wilson…
About the Author

David Niall Wilson is a USA Today bestselling, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of more than forty novels and collections. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association and CEO and founder of Crossroad Press Publishing.

His novels include This is My Blood, Deep Blue, and many more. Upcoming works include the collection The Devil’s in the Flaws & Other Dark Truths, and the novel Tattered Remnants. His most recent published work is the novel Jurassic Ark – a retelling of the Noah’s Ark story… with dinosaurs. David lives in way-out-yonder NC with his wife Patricia and an army of pets.

Other Titles by David Niall Wilson
🏆 Bestseller
A Horror Anthology
🏆 Bestseller
🥇 Award Finalist
A Dark Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Anthology