We're pleased to exclusively debut this excerpt from author Chuck Wendig's latest novel, The Book Of Accidents. Wendig sets the scene for us, ahead of the excerpt from his new book:
At this point in the book, the Graves family — Nate, Maddie, and their son, Oliver — have moved back into the house Nate grew up in, a house haunted by the trauma he endured there, and maybe haunted by something worse. Their homecoming as such is troubled — and strange things begin to occur.
The Book of Accidents is now available, click here to purchase your copy.
Check out our recent Convo x Fango with Wending for an in-depth discussion about his new book. Without further ado, enjoy this haunting excerpt from The Book of Accidents.
Nate knew it was a dream even as he dreamt it.
He stood amid the black, broken-teeth rocks of Ramble Rocks
park. Fog slid between the stones like sulking ghosts. The air was
cold but he wore only a white sleeveless shirt and ratty boxers—
a shirt he didn’t even own in real life, which was one signal that this
was not real.
In this dream, his son, Oliver, stood before him.
The boy’s cheeks were wet. As if he’d been crying.
Nate’s fist throbbed.
The boy’s lip was split. Blood connected his lower lip to his chin
like a bright red thread.
This isn’t happening, Nate thought. Just wake up.
But onward it went. Nate flexed his hurt hand, and to his son, he
said, “What did you do?” No. That wasn’t right. He didn’t say it to his
son, but rather he heard himself say it. Felt his mouth moving, and
the vibration of the words in his chest. It wasn’t something he willed.
It was something he witnessed.
“I’m sorry,” Oliver stammered.
“Sorry is for sissies,” Nate said. And there, in his voice, was the
rumble of another voice: his own father’s. No, no, no. “You screwed
everything up. Didn’t you? Broke it all real good.”
“I—I didn’t mean to—”
“I, I didn’t mean to,” Nate heard himself say, in a singsongy voice.
Mocking his own son. He wanted to reach out and grab his own
throat, wanted to throw a punch at his own stupid mouth. Shut up,
shut up, shut up. But still he kept on talking, even as he took another
step toward his son. “Listen to you. Cowering like your mother. You
fucked up. You need to own that. You’re an apple that fell from a perfectly good
tree, but sat there and went rotten in the grass. Didn’t you? Didn’t you.”
“Shut up. You invited this in. Made this all happen.” He sucked air
between his teeth—tssk. “Like the world isn’t bad enough, Oliver?
You just had to push it over the edge, didn’t you? Getting into fights
at school. Making friends with that . . . that pack of freaks, living in
your own heads.” He felt the words leaving his face and he tried like
hell to clamp them down—and even as he did, he tasted the whiskey
vapors on his breath. Cheap shit whiskey, too, with a woody, breathy,
“I won’t do it again—”
He reached for his son—
Oliver tried batting his hand away—
And then, wham.
Nate felt the vibration go from his fist to his elbow to his shoulder.
His son’s head rocked back with the hit. Whap. The boy took one step
back, and then looked at his father through a ruined eye. Oliver’s left
eye had popped like a green grape, leaking ocular jelly. Nate heard
himself cry out.
The boy took a few steps backward, bumping into a rock behind
him that hadn’t been there moments before. Had it? Nate couldn’t
remember. The rock was long and flat, like a table, though its base
made it look like a blacksmith’s anvil, too.
A shot rang out, then—a rifle crack dissecting the air like an ax
splitting a board, ka-rack, and Oliver’s head whipped back again, and
in the center of his forehead now was a cigar-burn hole that drooled
blood, and the egg-salad stink of gunpowder filled the air—
Oliver fell backward against the table—
He landed flat, and the blood from the center of his head found
the grooves in the table rock and ran down those stony furrows toward the edges,
where it dripped against thistle and grass, and as it
did, the sky grew dark, and a clotted red rain began to fall, one spattering drop
at a time—
Pat, pat, splat, pat—
Nate gasped awake.
Time passed. The night deepened. He was slick with sweat. The
dream clung to him like a bad smell. Just a dream, he thought. Olly is
okay. It was just a dream. The house, he told himself, had unsettled
Nate tried to fall back asleep. He rolled over onto his right side.
Then his left side.
Then onto his back.
He sighed and stared up at the dark ceiling.
Maddie snored lightly, a gentle sawing of wood.
He focused on her soft breathing. Here he thought she’d be the
one who couldn’t hack living in the country. But maybe it was him.
Because this was his every night since moving into this house. He’d
get to sleep eventually for three or four hours. Bad dreams would
stitch his night together. And then it’d be morning.
While not sleeping, he’d lay feeling like the house was somehow
awake, and agitated. It wasn’t just that the house unsettled him—it
Nate looked into the dark. He half expected to see his father there,
staring from the corner. Or worse, from the end of the bed. Gun in the
wrong hand, he thought. What a strange vision that was.
Hallucination due to stress, he had to figure.
But no one was there.
He sat up with a groan and slid out of bed, his feet bare on the
uneven wooden floor. Their room was the same one he’d slept in as a
boy—his muscle memory kicked in and he didn’t even need to think
about the house’s layout. He left the room, wandered down the hall,
the floorboards squeaking and complaining.
Nate checked in on Olly, creeping up the attic steps and peering in
at his boy—
He’s not there. He’s not in bed. He’s gone.
But then his eyes adjusted, and he saw Olly’s long body tangled up
in the sheets. Head half under a pillow, limbs splayed out.
Nate breathed a relieved sigh, then headed downstairs into the
kitchen and poured himself a glass of tap water. The water tasted
strange—bitter and with a strong mineral tang. He reminded himself
to get it tested.
Then, in the quiet of night, in the dark of the house, a sound met
his ears. Distant and small, but persistent.
What the hell was that? Didn’t sound like the normal sounds of a
house settling, but it scratched something familiar into the wood of
his memory. He couldn’t quite figure out what yet.
He listened closer. Nothing. He shrugged, set down the glass, and—
His mouth went dry. His palms, gone sweaty. An absurd reaction to small,
quiet sounds—wasn’t anything to worry about, wasn’t a burglar coming in.
A little voice put the image in his head again of his father, dead but suddenly
awake on the bed, gasping as some other version of him stood in the corner,
gun in hand . . . the tic-tic-tac of him messing with the gun’s safety, thumbing it
on and off, on and off . . .
This wasn’t that. That, in fact, Nate decided, didn’t even happen.
It was just a trick of the eye, a jarring moment brought on by
the surprise of his father’s . . . what was it called?
He heard the sound again—tic, tac, tic—somewhere toward the front of the house,
so he made no effort to be quiet, and he marched out of the kitchen,
past the cellar door, past the entrance into the dining room on the left,
the living room on the right, and—
A handful of fireflies were gathered at the square window in the
front door. He watched one pull away before flying back toward, and
into, the glass.
Tic, tac, tic.
The bug, lightly tapping before settling back down.
A few more fireflies joined, clustering around one another—each
glowing an ethereal green. Ghost lights squirming against the black.
Nate was surprised. He didn’t remember fireflies being out this
late in the season. Summer had just ended. But it was still hot out.
Maybe their season had changed—climate change had gone and
borked everything up, hadn’t it? The seasons weren’t really the seasons anymore.
He took a few steps closer until he was right at the door. This
close, the firefly glow illuminated the actual insects themselves—
their little long bodies crawling this way and that.
Nate put a finger on this side of the glass. He wasn’t sure why he
did it, but something compelled him to. Pressing his finger pad
against the window, he watched as they began to line up—
And slowly spiral around it in a winding carousel of glowing in
sects. Around and around they went. Some would take momentary
flight, as if trying to escape the vortex of their brethren—but then
they’d settle right back down in line, orbiting the tip of Nate’s finger
pressed on the other side of the door.
Ants and deer and maggots.
And now, lightning bugs.
He yanked his finger away, and that seemed to break their pattern.
The spiral dissolved and they scattered. Nate watched them fly away,
drifting into the dark, their green starshine flicker over the grass. The
moon through the trees cast long arms of light—and the trees in return
cast long legs of shadow.
His eyes passed over the forest—
And found one tree. A strange tree he didn’t remember. Small.
Closer to the house, in the front yard, than it should’ve been.
The tree moved.
He blinked to make sure that what he was seeing was what he was
It wasn’t a tree at all.
A figure stood out at the edge of the yard. Just inside the woods.
He couldn’t make out much, but Nate could see the moonlight
shining around a too-tall figure. He blinked, knew he was seeing
things again. This was just his mind gone wonky from too little sleep.
Or maybe it was another dream. He stared at the image, certain as
anything that the silhouette would slowly resolve and reveal itself to
be a tree, but then—
The figure’s head moved.
Tilting like an animal that didn’t understand.
An animal. Just a deer, Nate thought, but his gut clenched like a
closing fist, and even as he told himself that again and again, just a
deer, just a deer, he found himself darting back up the steps, quiet as
he could. Just a deer, gotta be that, he thought as he eased back into
their bedroom and, from under the bed, withdrew the small safe. He
pressed a finger down on the lock, and he heard the locking pins disengage with a
Just a deer. But just in case.
He snatched up the pistol inside—an old Browning Hi-Power
9mm—and snapped the magazine into the underside of the grip before he
hurried downstairs again on the balls of his feet.
Nate eased open the front door, pistol in hand.
He walked out onto the cracked stone steps.
The figure was still there.
As if waiting for him.
Just a deer. Just a deer.
He scanned the margins of the yard, looking for antlers, or for the
rest of the animal to manifest—four legs, not two, maybe the flash of
a tail—but he found no such thing. He swallowed hard and
called out: “Hey!”
A moment passed.
Then the figure turned to run.
Nate’s heart was fast out of the gate, urging him to move, move,
move—so he bounded across the leaf-strewn lawn, snapping back
the action of the pistol. He saw the shadow crashing through the
trees, deeper into the woods, and he, in bare feet, followed. Nate
leapt down off a shelf of earth, tearing through a tangle of dry thorn.
His eyes adjusted as he strode the paths of moonlight, chasing after
the presence, who loped ahead of him in long-limbed strides.
Branches cut across Nate’s cheeks and forehead. He nearly stumbled
across a leaf-covered ditch between trees—a place where a log once
lay, but was now rotted into mulch. Pain tweaked through his ankle,
up his calf, but he kept going.
It occurred to him: We’re heading toward the park.
Toward Ramble Rocks.
Toward the place in his dream.
Suddenly he was crashing through a tree line, and onto soft grass.
Ahead, in a shaft of moonlight, stood a man. As if trapped there,
pinned by the spear of light.
The figure was scarecrow tall and prisoner thin. A long, raggedy
rat’s nest beard hung down his bare chest. A pouch of belly hung over
the hem of his rotten jeans, and Nate saw sores marking the man’s
skin—sores like little bite marks, like welts.
Nate skidded to a halt, and brought the gun up, pointing it at him.
“You. Who are you. You were outside my house—”
It was then he saw the stranger’s face.
It was crawling.
Something moved over it, black dots, squirming in the light.
Shiny and twitching. Twitch, twitch.
He heard the fly-wing buzz—
Flies, he realized. Horseflies, maybe, or deer flies. Then they lit up
in a ghoulish glow: fireflies.
“Who. Are. You.”
The man’s mouth opened wide, too wide, showing a set of bony
teeth and a pale, wriggling tongue. Then the mouth kept going, crack,
crackle, snap—and it suddenly cracked hard as if something inside
had broken, though the skin had not, leaving the jaw hanging there
loose in the thatch of beard like a broken porch swing. The man
began to keen, a long, mournful wail—and then all the world lit up,
lights blinding out the darkness, a silent thunderclap of air slamming
Nate in the chest. The light ripped through the stranger, washing it all
out, erasing him.
From The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig. Copyright ©2021 by Chuck Wendig. Reprinted by arrangement with Del Rey, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.