Many, many stories have been told about groups of friends banding together to defeat the forces of evil. In a way, almost all stories are about something like this. But in The Dead Friends Society, authors Peter Hall and Paul Gandersman flip that tried and true tale on its head. Not all of the friends are alive.
The Dead Friends Society is a new Young Adult novel about a group of college kids who are murdered by a masked killer called the Fireman. Their spirits are then relegated to a single house and trapped there for decades. When a new family moves in, the dead friends must team up with the living to stop the Fireman, because he’s coming back.
The book is out today and you can get an physical or e-copy at this link. There’s also an audiobook (available here), and below, we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from it, both in audio and text. Hall and Gandersman (who, full disclosure, are personal friends) describe this scene as almost the pre-title card scene. The end of the big prologue. Listen or read below.
Drew reached for the doorknob, only, it wasn’t there. Her hand passed through the air. For a moment, she felt like a ghost, like the knob was there and she was the one who was missing.
But then reality sank in, yet again.
The Fireman smashed off this doorknob, too.
Of course he had. Why the fuck wouldn’t you see this coming?
You’re so fucking stupid.
Of course he smashed this one. He smashed them all. He’s smarter than you.
They’re all smarter than you.
You deserve this.
You deserve to die.
“Fuck off!” Drew yelled, surprising herself.
It wasn’t at The Fireman. It wasn’t even at herself. She was yelling at every snide comment from her mom that made her feel like a failure. She was yelling at every piece of advice Rose gave her that she ignored. She was yelling at the universe, at the space time continuum itself. She was calling out every swirling atom that led her to this moment of self-doubt.
Drew wasn’t a failure. She was a fighter. And she was going to prove it. Drew spun away from the door in a mad dash to Eli’s workbench. She tossed aside fried motherboards and disassembled computer parts until she found what she was looking for: needle nose pliers.
She rammed them into the shattered lock of the door in a desperate attempt to create her own handle. She kept working the pliers, trying every possible angle. “Open, open, open, open, why won’t you fucking open?”
And then something changed inside the door. The needle nose snagged on the right piece of metal. Holy fucking shit. Drew twisted the pliers, and the lock turned in response. She savored the click and had a flash of a half-remembered movie where some cool guy in a denim jacket rammed a screwdriver into the ignition of a stolen car and twisted until the machine roared to life, driving off into the sunset. She ripped open the door, triumphant, defiant. The cool night air kissed her skin as she took her first step, crossing the threshold of the door, stepping out of Greywood House as its lone survivor.
But then she heard it.
It was faint and distant, but unmistakable.
Drew looked up, beyond the tall trees and at the moon. It was full and gorgeous, an impossibly bright spotlight in the night sky illuminating her path to safety. She took another step, following the path.
But the coughing continued. It grew louder, harsher.
Someone upstairs in the house was still alive. And it wasn’t Eli… It wasn’t Wes…
Drew clenched her fists and stepped back into the basement.
“Rose! Is that you?” she whisper-shouted. The coughing intensified in reply; a haggard and desperate struggle for air, the human equivalent of an old car engine trying to turn over. Drew’s face filled with optimism. Rose Calder was still alive. But then Drew’s eyes were drawn to the moonlight again. All she had to do was run and be free of this nightmare. She’d be free to reach the police, free to get help. That was the responsible thing to do, right? To go get the police. To let them deal with The Fireman. Let the professionals save Rose.
Drew knew that was a lie. There was no way she could get help in time to save Rose. That maniac was upstairs with her best friend. Drew knew what she had to do. She had to turn around, storm back up those rickety stairs, confront The Fireman (again), and save Rose. Any other choice was selfish. Any other choice was one she’d regret for the rest of her life. Just thinking about it was wasting precious seconds Rose didn’t have.
Drew charged back into the house, nearly face planting into the concrete after tripping over a crate of videotapes. She cursed Eli’s messiness, even though she knew her room wasn’t any cleaner. The coughing intensified as she scrambled back to her feet.
And then it stopped.
The house fell silent.
“Rose!” Drew screamed, no hint of a whisper this time. Her footsteps slowed as she neared the kitchen stairs, as if her brain knew what her heart wouldn’t admit. She hesitated at the base of the stairs, wilting in the silence, praying that Rose would answer her; if not by calling out her name, at least with another cough, another anything to prove her best friend was still alive.
But there was only silence.
Drew looked up the staircase and saw nothing but darkness in the kitchen. She wondered if The Fireman had turned off the lights. Until the darkness moved, and Drew realized the lights weren’t off; The Fireman’s enormous body was blocking the path to the kitchen. He advanced down the staircase toward her. His steps were no longer slow and deliberate. He moved fast, shaking the staircase. He pounded the walls with his axe as he rushed downward. THUD, THUD, THUD.
Drew raced like hell back to the basement door, back to the moonlight, back to freedom. She leapt like an Olympic hurdler over piles of Eli’s crap. The door had drifted shut, but she grabbed the plier-handle and ripped it open again. The door was barely open an inch when it slammed back shut. At first Drew thought the house itself had come alive and slammed it shut in her face. She liked that explanation more than what was really happening.
The Fireman had thrown his axe. It pinned the door back into its frame, closing it in front of Drew’s horrified face. The sharp spike on the back of the axe was inches from Drew’s right eye, threatening to perform crude surgery on her cornea.
Drew tried to scramble away from the near miss, but The Fireman was no longer patient. The game of cat and mouse was over. The Fireman charged at her like a freight train.
She never had a chance. The Fireman was on her before she could react. His hand reached out and grabbed her by the throat. He lifted her off the ground, his thick gloves closing off her oxygen supply. In a split second, he drove Drew’s face into the spike, nailing her to the door like he was hanging a piece of art.
It wasn’t like in the movies. The end didn’t last an eternity. Drew didn’t see a white light. Drew didn’t watch a montage of her life’s best moments. She didn’t see her loved ones. She just felt blinding pain as the spike impaled the center of her forehead, splitting her open like a coconut. Skull, blood, brains; crack, splash, squish.
Drew Denns was dead.
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