Final December, Polygon premiered the primary excerpt of Chuck Wendig’s new novel, The E book of Accidents. With the e book now out on cabinets, we’re reupping the passage, together with Wendig’s personal introduction written for Polygon readers. Right here’s a style of what to anticipate from the author’s newest.
There are apocalypses, after which there are apocalypses.
Those that come to thoughts are massive ones — a meteor hits, a nuclear bomb goes off, or ahem ahem ahem, a pandemic throttles humanity and crushes civilization below its. That’s the sort of apocalypse I wrote with in my e book Wanderers (2019), the place folks start mysteriously sleepwalking towards an unknown vacation spot whereas a second illness, White Masks, rises like a specter throughout an America savaged by diseased politics and white supremacy. (Sound acquainted? Oops.)
However with this subsequent e book, The E book of Accidents, it’s extra about these little apocalypses — these small however important occasions that roll up on us and rock us to our core, that threaten who we’re and what we’ve constructed, that characterize the ending of issues. Much less “hearth within the sky” and extra “emotional cataclysm.” It’s about trauma circuits and abuse cycles, but additionally about how we finish these harmful loops — typically in methods which might be releasing, and typically in methods which might be terrifying.
On this excerpt, the daddy of a household of three — Nate, married to Maddie, the 2 of them dad and mom to teen boy Oliver — goes to the home he grew up in as a child, a home whose horrors he escaped from way back. He goes there to witness (and in a method, confront) his useless father, who waits in repose. However what Nate meets there may be far stranger, and much more confounding, than he anticipated. It begins a type of little apocalypses, the sort that households undergo typically. However it’s price remembering: apocalypses are endings, however they’re additionally new beginnings. And so they’re revelations, too: typically releasing, typically terrifying.
Or perhaps, simply perhaps, each.
The One Situation
This was the home:
It was a stone colonial farmhouse, its outdated bones courting again to the late 1700s. It was a tall home with slender shoulders, and it forged a deep shadow because the solar rose behind it. The door was crimson. The gable roof above the door was teal. However the paint on each had lengthy pale, peeling away in leprotic strips. The flagstone walkway was cracked and fractured, with weeds widening these gaps. Spiderwebs, some outdated, some new, hung within the home windows. The slate roof was in grave disrepair, most of the tiles damaged and shattered. Nature needed this home again. Wisteria hung from the ability strains, and ivy—poison ivy and five-finger ivy—crept up from the bottom, like fingers trying to seize the home and pull it down into the filth.
Simply because the bushes loomed over the home, the home appeared to loom over Nate. He had a vertiginous second the place it felt just like the crimson entrance door would whip open, and the home would lean ahead and the doorway would change into a mouth. Gobbling him up and swallowing him down. This was a home of foul breath and unhealthy goals.
As Nate regarded his childhood house, not seen by his eyes for many years, he heard an engine, and the pop of stones below tires.
The lawyer, Rickert, drove up the lengthy cracked-asphalt driveway in a decades-old BMW—a welcome interruption. He parked the BMW subsequent to the little Honda Nate suspected belonged to the hospice nurse.
Rickert hopped out of his automotive and sauntered up, clutching a brown paper bag envelope with string-and-button enclosure.
“Mr. Graves,” he mentioned.
“Rickert,” Nate mentioned.
“Your one situation has been met.”
“He’s in there now?”
Rickert nodded, unfazed. He didn’t like Dad, both, Nate realized. Which was apropos; Dad hated legal professionals a lot as he hated something.
Nate dug into his pocket and pulled out a ratty, wrinkled greenback. The sort a snack machine would spit out.
The lawyer took it. Then he handed over the envelope. Nathan peeked inside, noticed a sheaf of papers—ones he’d already signed just a few days in the past, the day after Oliver advised them he needed to maneuver—plus the deed and a key ring.
The door to the home opened, simply then, and the hospice nurse—a broad-shouldered lady with type eyes, a helmet of brown hair, and a tragic look on her face—got here out. “Nathan Graves?” she mentioned.
Nate nodded, however sharply corrected: “Nate. By no means Nathan.”
“Hello, Nate, I’m Mary Bassett,” she mentioned, taking his hand and holding it. Had that Philly accent. Wooter. Fullelfya. Gow. “I’m the hospice nurse. I’m so sorry to your loss.”
“Don’t be. I’m right here to brag, not mourn.”
A flash in her eye advised him she understood. It made him surprise what sort of hell she’d needed to put up with from the outdated man within the final week of his life.
The wreckage that outdated creep left in his each wake . . .
“He inside?” Nate requested.
“He’s. Within the grasp on the second flooring.”
“Then I’d prefer to see him.”
This, then, was Nate’s one situation: He’d advised Rickert over the cellphone three days in the past that he would settle for the greenback supply if he had been allowed a small, personal “viewing” on the home, after his father had handed, however earlier than they got here to cart the physique away.
His father, by Rickert, had agreed to that stipulation.
And now, right here Nate was. Taking a look at his father’s corpse.
Nate had seen a handful of our bodies in his time as a Philly cop—one time, a warmth wave took an aged lady, leaving her a greasy and swollen mess, blistered and oozing. One other time, a tough winter robbed the life from a homeless man, froze him stable in opposition to a dumpster. All of the deaths he’d seen had been unintentional—overdoses and automotive accidents and, the worst of the worst, three our bodies pulled out of a nightclub hearth. What was true in these deaths was true right here: A useless physique had no soul. One thing essential had gone. A lacking piece had turned them from a residing factor to a waxen prop.
The outdated man’s pores and skin lay unfastened on his bent skeleton, wrinkled and sallow, just like the pages of a Bible that had gotten moist. The eyes had been glassy, the mouth skinny, every lip a sickly earthworm spooning the opposite.
This wasn’t his father. Not anymore. It was only a model.
Nate had anticipated that when he noticed his father once more, he would really feel indignation that might give strategy to rage like some pyroclasm deep inside—an increase of lava in his throat, a magma roar of fireside that might not, couldn’t, be contained.
He hoped he’d really feel pleasure, like a boy advised the monster within the closet was gone, that in reality all the monsters had been beheaded, that every part from right here on out was balloons and carousel rides.
He feared that he would really feel unhappy—that seeing his father this one final time would open up one thing he’d been hiding, a reservoir of disappointment, at seeing the outdated man like this. Unhappy at by no means attending to have the childhood he thought he’d have. Unhappy at questioning what made his father change into the person that he had change into.
As a substitute, he simply felt empty. A chalkboard, cleaned of all marks and left a gleaming, damp black.
One factor he did really feel: like he was intruding upon this room. His father had by no means let him in right here. It was off-limits. One time Nate snuck in and poked round and thought he wouldn’t get caught, however Dad knew in some way. He at all times knew. One thing about the way in which the molecules within the room had been disturbed.
(That didn’t go effectively for Nate. He had bruises for weeks.)
It made him really feel queasy being in right here. Like he was gonna get caught once more. He didn’t give into that feeling, although. He didn’t run, although he needed to.
The room had modified. It was messier, a hoarder’s paradise: stacks of gun magazines on the dresser, piles of soiled garments, a pair defunct mousetraps within the nook (no mice), a stack of filthy plates on a nightstand subsequent to knockoff Rolex watch and an old-ass alarm clock, the sort with the 2 metallic bells on high of it. It didn’t appear to be this when Nate had lived right here—Mother stored the place immaculate. These molecules within the room had been hers to rearrange, and preserve organized, all for the pleasure of the outdated sonofabitch.
Nate anticipated, too, that his father’s weapons had been nonetheless right here: a .45 ACP within the sock drawer, a pump-action shotgun below the mattress, a two-shot derringer in a shoebox within the closet. And in the event that they had been right here, they had been loaded. Dad was paranoid. Stated somebody would come someday to steal his shit—the imagined array of racist fears, like a line of Black guys or Mexicans had been simply lining up in the dead of night forest exterior to rob him of his knockoff watches. King has to defend his fortress, Dad at all times mentioned. However he was no king. And this was no fortress.
However there was one factor that did shock Nate.
Dad hadn’t offed himself.
That was at all times his massive factor. I ever get sick, actual sick, I’ll put a gun below my chin. I’m going out on my phrases. That was one thing he advised his son when Nate was . . . what? Twelve years outdated? Who tells a twelve-year-old that sort of factor?
“Coward,” Nate mentioned, not anticipating any response.
However his father responded anyway.
Dad’s physique stiffened on the mattress, life thrown out of the blue again into its bones. The corpse’s again arched, the eyes wrenched open, and the jaw opened large, wider, crackling because it did, the face turning quick right into a rictus of uncooked distress. Dad gasped like wind whistling by a damaged window—
“Jesus,” Nate mentioned, backpedaling up and about.
After which he noticed Dad, one other model of his father, standing within the nook of the room. Inconceivable, however there it was: one father mendacity on the mattress, one guarding the nook of the room. The one within the nook wore mud-caked denims, a dirty white T-shirt, carried a boxy military pistol in his left hand, his incorrect hand. He was staring proper at Nate—gazing him, or staring by him, Nate couldn’t inform, all whereas on the mattress his father’s precise corpse stretched and stiffened tighter and tighter, the high-pitched sucking breath occurring louder and longer than appeared potential.
“Nathan?” the model of his father within the nook requested, voice so hoarse it buzzed, buzzed like a wall filled with secret wasps.
The door to the bed room burst open, and the hospice nurse got here hurrying in. The physique on the mattress went slack and slumped. Nate blinked—the presence within the nook, the second Carl Graves, was gone.
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