Alchemy: the summoning and control of demons. Those who cross the alchemist are in danger of being disposed of. The easiest way to do this? Cast the runes: strips of flesh made from the dried skin of a child sacrifice and inscribed with the time the victim has yet to live...When trucker Josh Spiller pulls his rig into the small town of Furnace, Virginia, all he wants is a decent meal before getting back on the road and away from his memories of a bitter quarrel with his girlfriend. Instead, he witnesses a baby's violent death and can't convince the sheriff that the upstanding, well-dressed woman he saw leaving the scene was responsible. Shaken by his experience, he rolls out of Furnace, stopping to pick up a desperately attractive, female hitchhiker who seems to have the answers to some of his questions about the inhabitants of Furnace--and who is just as anxious to get out of town as he is.Soon after, Josh begins to feel eyes watching him--the burning eyes of misshapen creatures. Is it possible to have nightmares while you're awake? And just as his grip on what's real and what's imagined begins to slip, he makes a bizarre discovery: someone has slipped him what looks like parchment, inscribed with the words, five days alive permitted. Something unnatural is happening in Furnace, but will Josh be around long enough to unravel its secrets?