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It’s been six years since author Josh Malerman published his acclaimed novel Bird Box, a postapocalyptic tale that was adapted into the 2018 Netflix film of the same name starring Sandra Bullock. The film was viewed by 45 million accounts worldwide in its first week on the streaming service, catapulting Malerman’s book onto the New York Times best-seller list four years after its publication.
In his follow-up, Malorie, out July 21, Malerman reintroduces the character of Malorie and her two children, Tom and Olympia, survivors of a unknown entity that causes people to commit suicide upon seeing it. Ten years after finding salvation in a school for the blind, Malorie and her children find a new home but must confront the creatures once again after Malorie learns there’s a possibility that there are more survivors all these years later.
In the new book, Malerman takes readers on another frightening journey as Malorie, Tom and Olympia must venture out into the world with their blindfolds once again and confront an enemy they are unable to see. Will they find more survivors? Will the true origins of the creature finally be revealed? What other dangers lie in store for Malorie? Below, The Hollywood Reporter shares an excerpt.
Malorie stands flat against the brick wall of a classroom. The door is locked. She is alone. The lights are off.
She is blindfolded.
Outside, in the hall, violence has begun.
She knows this sound, has heard it in nightmares, has heard it in the echoes of a fallen house full of sane people tearing one another apart as she gave birth to her son.
Tom is out there in the violence right now. Malorie doesn’t know where.
She breathes in. She holds it. She breathes out.
She reaches for the door, to unlock it, to open it, to find her son and daughter among the screams, the hysteria, the frenzy. Something cracks on the other side of the door. Sounds like someone slamming their head against the hall wall.
She pulls back from the doorknob.
When she last saw Olympia, the six-year-old was reading braille books in the Tucker Library. A dozen others were there, listening to the classical music played through the school speakers by way of the record player in the office.
Malorie listens for the voices of those people now. She needs to know if this violence has reached the library. Reached her daughter. If it has, she will look for Tom first.
Her kids have taught her a lot about listening since arriving at the Jane Tucker School for the Blind. And while Malorie will never hear the world they do, she can try.
But there’s too much noise out there. Chaos. It’s impossible to discern one voice from another.
She thinks of Annette. The blind woman, much older than herself, whose name she heard screamed, moments ago, as Malorie, hungry, walked the hall to the cafeteria. Before Malorie had time to process the nature of the scream, Annette herself came around the corner, blue bathrobe and red hair trailing like spinning sirens, knife in hand. Malorie had time to note the woman’s open, unfocused eyes before closing her own.
Malorie thought, She’s blind . . . how is she mad?, then she went still. Annette passed her, breathing heavy, moving fast, and Malorie, hearing the first guttural howls from deeper in the school, stepped blind to the nearest classroom and locked its door behind her.
She reaches for the knob again now.
The last she saw of Tom he was in what was once the staff lounge, pieces of a new invention at his knees. Malorie is responsible for those pieces. Only six, Tom the boy invents like Tom the man, his namesake, once did. Often Malorie’s instinct is to humor this impulse. She feels a mother must. Or perhaps, a mother should have, in the old world. Now, here, she always destroys what Tom’s made and reminds him that the blindfold is the only protection any of them will ever need.
Yet, Annette is blind.
And now mad.
Malorie hears a sudden obscenity from the other side of the locked door. Two people are fighting in the hall. It’s a man and a woman. And it’s not difficult to put visual images with the sounds they make. Clawing, scratching. Fingers in eyes and fingers down throats and the cracking of a bone and the tearing of what sounds like a throat.
Malorie doesn’t move. A body slams against the wood door and slides to the tiled floor. Whoever’s won the fight, he or she is panting just outside.
Malorie listens. She breathes in, she holds it, she breathes out. She knows there’s no stopping the panic. She wants to hear farther up the hall, past the breathing, to the screams of the people who live here, to the exact things they say, to the exact location of her kids. She remembers giving birth in the attic of a home, a place much smaller than this. She recalls a cry from below: Don tore the drapes down!
Who tore them down here?
In the hall, the breathing has stopped. But the distant sounds of fists on wood, fists on fists, and the last vestiges of sanity are getting louder.
Malorie unlocks the classroom door. She opens it.
There is no immediate movement in the hall. No one erupts toward her. No one speaks at all. Whoever won the fight, they are gone now. Howls erupt from deeper in the building. Muffled death knells, last words and wishes. There is the smacking of fists, the cracking of wood. There is yelling and gibberish, doors slamming open and doors slamming closed. Children cry out. The music from the office continues.
Malorie steps over the body at the open door’s threshold. She steps into the hall, keeping to the wall. An alarm sounds. The front door to the school is open. The rhythmic throbbing is so at odds with the classical music that for a confused second Malorie feels like she’s already lost her mind.
Her kids are somewhere in this furor.
Shaking, she tries to close her eyes a third time, behind her already closed lids, behind the fold wrapped tight to her head, closing her mind to the idea of what this all must look like.
She slides along the brick wall. She does not call out to Tom or Olympia though it’s all she wants to do. She breathes in, she holds it, breathes out. The bricks prickle her bare shoulders and arms, tugging at the fabric of the white tank top she wears. The alarm gets louder as she approaches the end of this hall, approaches the very place from which redheaded Annette came rushing with a large knife in hand. People scream ahead. Someone is close. Heavy, clumsy boots on the floor, the grunt of someone not used to this much effort.
Malorie goes still.
The person passes her, breathing hard, muttering to himself. Is he mad? Malorie doesn’t know. Can’t know. She only slides along the wall, finding herself, incredibly, feeling a slim sense of gratitude for the two years they have lived here. For the respite from the road. But that indebtedness is a marble fallen to a beach of glass orbs, never to be found again. A horror she’s long expected has arrived.
Excerpt from Malorie by Josh Malerman, copyright © 2020 by Josh Malerman. Used by permission of Del Rey, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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