The people in the town of Hyde River are hiding something from the outside world. They may smile and wave to a passing stranger, but that apparent back-woods charm is merely a thin veneer. Everyone rigidly keeps to themselves. They live in fear and won't even talk about it among themselves. There is a shadow that lingers over this town and has since the original foundation charter was signed over a hundred years ago. What everyone is afraid of initially is not entirely clear. It could be the dark history associated with their small, company-owned mining town. It might be the iron-fisted patriarch of the Hyde Mining Company, whose power derives from his bloodline. It could be all of the people who have disappeared over the years without a trace and without question. It could be the myth of the dark creature that lives up in the surrounding hills. Perhaps though, the true reason derives from what lives deep inside each of us.
In The Oath by Frank Peretti, the story begins with the gruesome killing of Cliff Benson, a visitor to Hyde River. Steve Benson, the brother of the dead man comes to town to check on the welfare of his brother's wife Evelyn. She tells a bizarre story of Cliff's death that seems to make little sense. The local folks have labeled the death as a bear attack, case closed. However, after a bit of poking around, Steve finds that the bear attack story doesn't hold together. Regardless, the locals want to quickly wrap this case up and get Steve and Evelyn out of town. Steve senses that something is not right and is then quickly pulled into the dark history, past and present, associated with Hyde River and its people.
The dark history of the town is directly connected to a creature that survives off the people. Initially it is small and controllable, and does the bidding of the town's founder and his family. However, over the years it has grown beyond control and shows that no man is its master. The beast in this tale represents sin and the complex, layered story shows us how sin controls us and eventually destroys us. We come to understand that left unchecked, sin can take over our lives. When sin first arises, we feel the pangs of guilt and shame, but eventually we become enured to its influence and stop caring altogether. When sin has us fully under its control, we are led like lambs to the slaughter, a tasty meal for the insatiable monster. However, even though each of us is stained with sin, oozing with its black mark, there is a path to forgiveness and peace through Christ. We just need to care.