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Exclusive preview: First chapter of Nick Cutter’s shocker novel “THE TROOP”

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Stephen King, THE RUINS author Scott Smith and our own reviewer Jennifer Morrow have given Nick Cutter’s forthcoming novel THE TROOP a bloody thumbs-up, and we’ve got an exclusive first look at the opening chapter past the jump.

In THE TROOP, coming from Gallery Books February 25, Cutter (a pseudonym for an acclaimed author based in Toronto) spins the ghastly story of a group of Boy Scouts who go on a weekend camping trip on an uninhabited island. They soon receive an unexpected visitor—one who, unfortunately for them, is afflicted by a hideous sickness that infects the boys, leading to an exceedingly gruesome struggle for survival. Says King, “THE TROOP scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best.” Smith calls it “Lean and crisp and over-the-top…Disquieting, disturbing.” And in Fango #330 (now on sale), Jennifer describes it as “a gold mine if you’re into body horror.” Pre-order the book at Amazon, and get a taste of the terror below…

 

EAT EAT EAT EAT

The boat skipped over the waves, the drone of its motor trailing across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The moon was a bone fishhook in the clear October sky.

The man was wet from the spray that kicked over the gunwale. The outline of his body was visible under his drenched clothes. He easily could have been mistaken for a scarecrow left carelessly unattended in a farmer’s field, stuffing torn out by scavenging animals.

TROOPFIRSTCHAPTERNEWSHe’d stolen the boat from a dock at North Point, at the farthest tip of Prince Edward Island, reaching the dock in a truck he’d hotwired in a diner parking lot.

Christ, he was hungry. He’d eaten so much at that roadside diner that he’d ruptured his stomach lining—the contents of his guts were right now leaking through the split tissue, into the crevices between his organs. He wasn’t aware of that fact, though, and wouldn’t care much anyway in his current state. It’d felt so good to fill the empty space inside of him…but it was like dumping dirt down a bottomless hole: you could throw shovelful after shovelful, yet it made not the slightest difference.

Fifty miles back, he’d stopped at the side of the road, having spotted a raccoon carcass in the ditch. Torn open, spine gleaming through its fur. It had taken great effort to not jam the transmission collar into park, go crawling into the ditch, and…

He hadn’t done that. He was still human, after all.

The hunger pangs would stop, he assured himself. His stomach could only hold so much—wasn’t that, like, a scientific fact? But this was unlike anything he’d ever known.

Images zipped through his head, slideshow style: his favorite foods lovingly presented, glistening and overplumped and too perfect, ripped from the glossy pages of Bon Appétit—a leering parody of food, freakishly sexual, hyperstylized, and lewd.

He saw cherries spilling from a wedge of flaky pie, each one nursed to a giddy plumpness, looking like a mess of avulsed bloodshot eyeballs dolloped with a towering cone of whipped cream…

Flash.

A porterhouse thick as a dictionary, shank bone winking from fat-marbled meat charred to crackly doneness, a pat of herbed butter melting overtop; the meat almost sighs as the knife hacks through it, cooked flesh parting with the deference of smoothly oiled doors…

Flash.

Flash.

Flash.

What wouldn’t he eat now? He yearned for that raccoon. If it were here now, he’d rip the hardened rags of sinew off its tattered fur; he’d crush its skull and sift through the splinters for its brain, which would be as delicious as the nut-meat of a walnut.

Why hadn’t he just eaten the f**king thing?

Would they come for him? He figured so. He was their failure—a human blooper reel—but also the keeper of their secret. And he was so, so toxic. At least, that’s what he overheard them say.

He didn’t wish to hurt anyone. The possibility that he may already have done so left him heartsick. What was it that Edgerton had said?

If this gets out, it’ll make Typhoid Mary look like Mary Poppins.

He was not an evil man. He’d simply been trapped and had done what any man in his position might do: he’d run. And they were coming for him. Would they try to capture him, return him to Edgerton? He wondered if they’d dare do that now.

He wasn’t going back. He’d hide and stay hidden.

He doubled over, nearly spilling over the side, hunger pangs gnawing into his gut. He blinked stinging tears out of his eyes and saw a dot of light dancing on the horizon.

An island? A fire?

About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor, the position he holds to this day while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews.
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