Growing up, I generally read anything I could get my hands on that related to horror films, especially movie novelizations. The appeal of going beyond the film and getting into the heads of my favorite characters-- Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, etc-- was too strong to resist. Tie-in novels fed my movie obsession and are part of the reason I continue to write about film as an adult.
While I’m a bit too old to count the RESIDENT EVIL film series as a vestige of my collection, I absorbed the video game novelizations and count them among my favorites. After reading this exclusive excerpt from John Shirley’s novelization of RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION, I’m getting a serious case of nostalgia. The temptation to scoop this one up and relive one of my favorite childhood obsessions is rising. Fellow novelization fans check it out below and if you like what you read, order a copy today.
Alice woke. In a bedroom.
She was lying in a comfortable, rumpled double bed, in an ordinary middle-class American bedroom.
Someone was looking at her. She turned her head, and saw a handsome man smiling down at her—dark, Semitic, his hair as rumpled as the bedclothes—as he pulled on his boxer shorts. He gazed at her at her with a kind of wry familiarity, an intimacy. Like a husband.
He couldn’t be her husband... she had no husband. But he had a wedding ring on—she looked at her own finger—one that matched hers.
Then it came to her—his name was... Todd. That was it.
Looking at him, thinking that she’d known him by a different name, once, long ago... But that name fled from her. He was simply her husband, Todd. Nice that her husband was such a sexy guy.
Hadn’t she been on a ship, shooting at someone? She remembered an explosion. She’d been picked up by a shockwave, tossed like a discarded doll.
She’d drowned, hadn’t she?
No. That hadn’t been real. It couldn’t have been. She could still smell her husband’s sweat, his aftershave on her, other smells from last night, when they’d made love. She felt a little sore, between her legs. He was a vigorous guy...
This was what was real. This was... much better.
The other was just a dream. A bad dream.
Forget it, Alice.
“Come on,” Todd said, chuckling, pulling on his pants. “We’re late. Alarm didn’t go off. Becky isn’t up yet. Mrs. Henderson’s going to be pissed. You know how they get at school when we drop her off late.”
But the sea. The Arcadia. Those people needed her. They all needed her...
“Baby!” Todd stopped dressing, staring at her, a concerned look on his face.
Alice felt tired and disoriented. She should get up, she knew that, but...
“Baby?” He looked at her, lips pursed.
She cleared her throat, and sat up, still a bit dizzy.
The sea. The waves burning overhead...
Todd leaned toward her a little. “Baby—are you okay?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I’ll get...” Becky. “... I’ll get Becky up.”
“You look tired. You didn’t sleep well?”
He didn’t seem convinced. Neither was she, for that matter.
“You sure?” he asked.
He stared at her, the way husbands stare at their wives.
“I’m okay—really,” she insisted.
“Well, in that case...” He whipped the bedclothes off her. “Get that cute ass out of bed.”
Alice smiled wanly, and did as he asked. She felt stiff. Her lungs seemed to hurt, when she took a deep breath.
Reaction to that bad dream...
She caught sight of herself in the bedroom mirror. Wait—that wasn’t right, was it? When did she get blond hair?
She shook herself. No wonder Todd was staring at her.
Sometimes dreams linger and confuse you.
Yeah, that’s what it was...
Alice put on a robe, and went down the hall to wake... Becky.
The seascape in the hallway was familiar to her; the scuffed hardwood floor was familiar; the smells were familiar. This was their home, hers and Todd’s, their one-story, old, suburban, ranch-style house.
So why was she so disoriented?
She went into Becky’s room, paused, and smiled, looking at the sleeping girl, seven years old, sprawled on her small bed with its flower crested headboard.
What a sweet face she had. She looked so peaceful, so adorable, Alice was reluctant to wake her. It felt good just to watch her sleep.
But she sighed and leaned over, gently shook Becky’s shoulder. Her daughter opened her eyes, and blinked. So like her mother’s, those eyes. The child didn’t say anything—she didn’t speak much, she’d only learned to do it by feel, and when she spoke her voice lacked pitch control. She had autosomal recessive deafness, an inherited birth defect that left her missing critical structures in the inner ear.
Both Alice and Todd could hear, so the defect was assumed to be the result of a recessive gene in one of them. Someday, if they planned to have another child, there would be a test to see whose genetics were the problem. Perhaps they’d resort to donated semen or an egg, for a second child. But Becky needed their full attention right now.
Alice kissed her good morning, and laid out her clothing.
Alice took a quick shower, dressed, and went to the kitchen. She was humming to herself, feeling a little better as she made fresh orange juice in the juicer. The coffee had just finished perking, the rich smell filling the room.
Alice poured the orange juice, put the glass in front of Becky and signed.
“You want eggs?” They signed to talk, using ASL.
Becky stuck out her lower lip and signed back.
“Cereal?” Alice asked her. The girl needed something more substantial than pancakes.
“Pancakes,” Becky signed insistently. Alice pretended to think it over, as if she were engaged in a serious diplomatic negotiation. Finally she signed back.
Todd came in, looking shaved and combed, pulling the jacket of his dark suit on over his crisp white shirt.
She looked at him appreciatively. The man cleaned up good. Handsome and kind—and sexy. She was lucky to have him.
He poured himself a cup of coffee, filling the cup a little too much.
“We’re going to be late... again.”
Alice glanced at him as he swigged the coffee—and she saw two drops of coffee fall on his crisp white shirt.
“Shit!” Todd said.
Tom laughed as Becky and Alice both said, “Watch it!” Becky had read his lips.
Alice bent to examine the stain.
“There’s another shirt in your closet. I picked up the dry cleaning yesterday.”
Todd grinned. “You’re my angel.”
“Don’t you forget it.”
He leaned toward her. Alice smiled.
“Easy, tiger... we’re running late. Remember?”
Todd walked toward the living room, headed for the bedroom and that clean shirt. He was thinking that Alice probably didn’t want a weekend away from Becky, his parents babysitting or not. His mother didn’t know much about signing and seemed exasperated, at times, with Becky’s attempts at speaking.
He stopped, looking down the front hallway. Why was the front door open? And wide open, too...
He was about to call out, ask Alice if she’d left the door open—and that’s when the guy with blood on his face leapt at him, charging from the bathroom. The man snarled, fingers bent into claws as he came. He wore a bloodied, torn suit, as if he’d been on his way to work when this madness swept over him.
Todd reeled back, yelling incoherently, and then the guy—a complete stranger—bit his forearm. Hard. Tearing through fabric, through skin, sinking his teeth into Todd’s flesh. Blood splashed across his crisp white shirt. Todd wrenched his arm away, then struck the stranger, making him stagger back a step.
But he wasn’t going to run away—Todd could see it in his milky-white eyes. He was going to finish what he started.
Who or what was this guy?
Alice and Becky ran into the hall gawking, Becky started making a high-pitched noise of fright, deep in her throat, seeing her father fight with the madman.
“Todd!” Alice shouted.
Alice knew, somehow, as she scooped up Becky in her arms, what the attacker was. Not a madman—nothing so simple. Not some drug-addled housebreaker, either. No.
This strange assailant was... undead?
How did she know that? She wasn’t sure...
Todd flung the Undead off him, so that the man stumbled back, crashing through a glass table in the front hall. Broken glass flew and tinkled. But the Undead was up on its feet almost instantly.
“Get Becky away!” Todd shouted, crouching to block his family from the creature.
Unsure of what to do, how to help Todd and protect Becky both, Alice stepped back—and heard a riotous smashing of glass behind her. She turned, looked through the archway into the kitchen, and saw another one, half lunged through the broken glass of the upper half of the kitchen screen door. He was caught in the window’s remains, the jagged edges in the frame ripping at his stomach, but didn’t seem to notice or care.
He clawed toward Alice and Becky, growling hungrily, heedlessly ripping his belly more as he tried to slither into the room.
She looked for Todd—and didn’t see him.
A third Undead came roaring through the front door—and straight at Alice.
Still carrying Becky, she ran down the hall, moving full tilt, and Becky somehow felt light in her arms. Adrenaline was singing through her veins, but it was as if she was running in slow motion, the hallway sliding slowly, slowly past her as she headed for the laundry room. She glanced over her shoulder, saw the Undead, a chunky white man in a blood-splashed green golf shirt, pursuing her from the living room
He seemed to move in slow motion, too.
Time sped up to normal as she darted into the laundry room. She lowered Becky with one arm, while with the other hand she slammed the door in her pursuer’s face. There was no lock on the door.
She jammed her shoulder hard against it and immediately felt the pushback, the Undead trying to force the door open, growling, the living dead man whining in frustration on the other side like a vicious dog on a short chain.
“Mommy!” Becky screeched, waving her frantically signing fingers in front of her mother’s face. “What’s happening? Where’s Daddy?”
Alice couldn’t hold the door much longer. The creature was slowly pushing it open, its slavering, bloody, snarling face pressing into view. She gave it one more shove, with all her strength, momentarily pushing the creature back—then she let go.
Before the Undead could move, Alice pulled over a heavy shelving unit that stood beside the entrance. The cabinet fell on its side, blocking the door, spilling boxes of Tide and conditioner but jamming the way— at least for the moment.
There was a gap, still—and several Undead reached through to wildly claw the air, ravenously trying to get at Alice and Becky. And she knew what they wanted. Some half-forgotten nightmare whispered to her, from the deep recesses of her mind.
They want to eat you. They want to eat Becky— they want to strip the flesh from her body and gobble it down while she still lives...
Alice looked desperately around and saw only one tiny window. She grabbed a small stepladder leaning near the dryer, carried it past the silently sobbing Becky, to the wall under the window. She opened the ladder, climbed up, knocked the mesh screen away.
Behind her she heard a scraping sound as the door was being pushed further open, the cabinet raking the floor.
And she realized that the window was too small, even for Becky.
Alice jumped down from the stepladder—and Becky ran up to her, pointing at the door, where the Undead were pushing the heavy cabinet further out of the way, inch by inch. There was nowhere to go, nothing with which to fight with. Scanning the room, she saw only a washing machine, a dryer, and dirty clothes in a hamper. The concrete floor was solid.
So Alice looked up, because that’s all that was left—and remembered the crawlspace.