The local sheriff of Dead River, Maine, thought he had killed them off ten years ago — a primitive, cave-dwelling tribe of cannibalistic savages. But somehow the clan survived. To breed. To hunt. To kill and eat. And now the peaceful residents of this isolated town are fighting for their lives…
|Product dimensions:||8.10(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Jack Ketchum’s debut novel, Off Season (1981) — an updating of the Sawney Beane story — prompted The Village Voice to publicly scold its publisher for publishing violent pornography. Since then, he has published 12 additional novels and several short story collections. He has won numerous Bram Stoker Awards, including Best Collection 2003 (Peaceable Kingdom), Best Long Fiction 2003 (Closing Time), Best Short Fiction 2000 (Gone), and Best Short Fiction 1994 (The Box). Four of his books were recently filmed as movies: The Lost (2001), The Girl Next Door (2005), Red (2008) and Offspring (2009). Ketchum is one of the most exciting and well-respected horror authors on the market today.
Read an Excerpt
By Jack Ketchum
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2006 Dallas Mayr
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePART I
MAY 12, 1992
She stood dappled in grime and moonlight beneath the drifting branches of the shade tree and watched through the window. Behind her the others jittered.
She touched the screen with her fingertips. It was loose. Old. She rubbed her thumb and forefinger together, felt the fine grit of rust.
She concentrated on the girl inside. The acid-flower scent of her, riding high and strong over the musty-smelling couch on which she lay-even above the warm, grease-soaked kernels of grain in the bowl beside her.
The girl smelled of musk. Of urine and wildflowers.
The girl had breasts and long, dark hair.
Older than she was.
Her clothes were tight.
They would hinder.
The males pressed close, anxious to see. She let them.
It was important that they know what lay inside, though she would guide them when the time came. The males were younger and needed guidance.
But this was new to them, and thrilling. The lash of thin birch sticks across their bodies. For balance they would have to look carefully now.
She felt the diamond brush her chest, itscool gold setting, swaying from the dirty knotted twine.
The night was still. Crickets calling in the hollow.
They watched the girl lost and deaf to them in the bright splash of voices out of the flickering light. And each, for a moment, as though brushed with the wind of one sudden mind, felt the baby asleep and alone above them in the thirsty dark-their dark, the dark of their elders, of the Woman and First Stolen.
They imagined they could see the child, smell the child.
They only had to watch.
A single cloud had only to pass before the moon.
Every light in the house was on again. Downstairs, anyway.
She turned the Buick wagon up into the drive.
Girl must think I'm made of money, she thought. I bet the stereo's on and the TV too and there's no Coke left in the refrigerator.
She was just a little drunk.
Her right rear wheel slid over the row of rocks and gravel and crushed three of the remaining tulips trying to survive at the edge of the lawn. To hell with 'em, she thought.
She'd crushed them sober too, half as often as not.
She cut the motor. Switched off the lights.
She sat there a moment thinking about Dean across the bar, ignoring her, drinking his Wild Turkey, her goddamn husband for god's sake looking right through her as though she were a ghost.
But that was Dean. Either you got nothing or else you got a whole lot more than you'd ever want to bargain for.
The nothing was better.
It was humiliating, though. And typical. Whether you lived with him or without him he was Mr. Humiliation. He got his kicks that way.
She took a deep breath to shake off the anger and opened the car door, reached for her old black purse with the .32 revolver in the zippered side pocket that she kept there just in case he tried to beat the shit out of her again like he had in the Caribou lot last Friday night, pushed away from the wheel, and got out. It was harder than it should have been. She'd never lost the weight after the baby. She guessed the beers didn't help any. The purse felt heavy on her arm.
She slammed the car door. It didn't shut right on the driver's side. I got to fix that, she thought.
With Dean gone there was hardly enough money to feed her and the baby. That and pay the sitter one night a week. With the housework and the job, that one night a week-a movie and a couple of drinks, maybe-was a necessity now that the baby was finally old enough to be left for a while. But a barmaid made next to nothing in Dead River, and nobody tipped worth a shit. Whatever you had to say about the tourists, they tipped at least.
One more month, she thought, till tourist season. You just got to hang in there.
She stepped across the cracked macadam to the side door, sorting through her key ring for the house key.
She heard something thump through the open kitchen window. A Coke bottle, probably, against the too-expensive butcher-block table. Nancy eating and drinking her out of house and home again.
I guess I could cut down on the beers, she thought. I could do that. Save a little money that way. I mean, what's important, anyway?
Me and the baby, right?
She felt a flush of guilt.
Why did she always call her the baby?
Her name was Suzannah. Suzi. It wasn't always the baby. She remembered a time when she'd crooned the name. Now she hardly used it. It was as though the baby were just some sort of thing, another something in the way like the mortgage on the house and repairs on the roof or the faucet leaking down in the cellar.
She guessed Dean had screwed the pooch on that for her too. Like everything else.
For a moment she could almost cry.
She walked up the stairs and fit the key in the lock.
God dammit, Nancy!
She didn't need the key. The door was open.
She'd told the girl again and again-keep it locked.
Okay-so Dean was at the bar tonight. But he wasn't always going to be. He was going to drop by one of these nights when she wasn't home, when her car wasn't there in the driveway. And twice already he'd threatened to clean her out. Pull up in Walchinski's truck and haul away everything but the dirty laundry.
I wouldn't put it past him, she thought.
I got to talk to this girl.
She opened the door to the dayroom where the television was on without the sound-whatever goddamn good that was-and closed the door behind her and locked it. She kept on walking toward the kitchen. And the first thing she saw was the puddle on the linoleum floor seeping around the corner into the good hardwood floor of the dayroom-Coke, she guessed, coffee, something dark and flowing and jesus! she was going to murder this girl-and stepping carefully to avoid it, she looked up and at the same time smelled the stink and suddenly what she was going to say froze inside her and so did the scream, so she could only stand there a moment trying to wrench it all into her at once like a single labored breath in a gale-force wind.
Two of them perched on the counter by the sink. Squatting, staring at her, eyes unnaturally bright. Their dangling arms covered with blood.
While Nancy lay naked on the butcher-block table.
Her body motionless. Pale.
Her arms already gone.
Her clothes lay scattered across the room. Her jeans beside the table-wet, brown and gleaming.
The cabinets were open, boxes and jars broken. Flour, bread crumbs, crackers, sugar, jams and jellies spilled across the counter to the floor.
Her arms were drying in the sink. Along with the dishes.
All this she saw in a moment, saw too that they were ready for her while her stomach boiled and the girl with the bloody hatchet and the two identical, filthy boys who had been holding Nancy's legs apart turned to her all serious and businesslike and not at all like the younger two squatting grinning on the counter.
She looked at the girl and, empty eyed, the girl looked back, and each seemed to recognize the other and what her presence meant here-and for a moment the object of their thoughts was the same, simultaneous, though the thoughts themselves were as different as blood and stone. The girl's thoughts cold, formal, almost ritualistic, an assertion of power, concerned that this woman should know everything that had happened here. Hers so suddenly urgent and up from so wrenchingly deep inside her that when her daughter's name swelled across her lips
she knew Dean had done nothing to change what lay between mother and daughter, it was only a kind of exhaustion of her hopes, temporary, and that given time it would have passed. And knowing this, and knowing that there was no time, she felt her heart break then and there. So that when the smallest boy, the one she hadn't seen before, stepped out from behind the table with the white plastic trash bag pulled tight over the small, still, familiar form inside and held it up to her for her to see, she was already tearing at her purse for the revolver so she could blast them back to whatever hell they came from-and would have-had not the hatchet fallen in its fine arc to the center of her forehead and brought her instantly shuddering to her knees.
Blind to heartbreak forever.
Excerpted from Offspring by Jack Ketchum Copyright © 2006 by Dallas Mayr. Excerpted by permission.
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