Read an excerpt from the Stephen and Owen King novel Sleeping Beauties

Stephen King

A couple months ago, we caught word that Anonymous Content is developing a television series based on Sleeping Beauties, a novel written by Stephen King in collaboration with his son Owen. It was tough to have much of a reaction to this news, though, since Sleeping Beauties isn't even going to be published until September 26th. All we had to go on was this strange and intriguing synopsis: 

Sleeping Beauties takes place in the near future in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison. Something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent. And while they sleep they go to another place. Meanwhile, the men are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain?

Now we have a little more to go on. Although there's still almost four months to wait before the novel reaches the shelves of stores and libraries, an excerpt from it has been posted on StephenKing.com. The pages shared on the website center on a character named Lila Norcross, the town sheriff, and the excerpt starts like this: 

But Lila Norcross wasn’t asleep.

She had read in a magazine article, probably while waiting to have her teeth cleaned or her eyes checked, that it took the average person fifteen to thirty minutes to fall asleep. There was a caveat, however, of which Lila hardly needed to be informed: one needed to be in a calm state of mind, and she was not in that state. For one thing, she was still dressed, although she had unsnapped her pants and unbuttoned her brown uniform shirt. She had also taken off her utility belt. She felt guilty. She wasn’t used to lying to her husband about little things, and had never lied about a really big thing until this morning.

Crack-up on Mountain Rest Road, she had texted. Don’t try calling, we need to get the mess cleaned up. This morning she had even added a bit of verisimilitude that now pricked her like a thorn: Cat litter all over the highway! Needed a bulldozer! But a thing like that would be in Dooling’s weekly paper, wouldn’t it? Only Clint never read it, so perhaps that would be all right. But people would talk about such a humorous happenstance, and when they didn’t, he’d wonder . . .

“He wants to be caught,” she had said to Clint when they were watching an HBO documentary — The Jinx, it was called — about a rich and eccentric serial killer named Robert Durst. This was early in the second of six episodes. “He would never have agreed to talk to those documentary guys if he didn’t.” And sure enough, Robert Durst was currently back in jail. The question was, did she want to be caught?

If not, why had she texted him in the first place? She told herself at the time it was because if he called and heard the background noise in the Coughlin High School gymnasium — the cheering crowd, the squeak of sneakers on the hardwood, the blare of the horn — he would naturally ask where she was and what she was doing there. But she could have let his call go to voicemail, right? And returned it later?

I didn’t think of it, she told herself. I was nervous and I was upset.

True or false? This morning she leaned toward the latter. That she had been weaving a tangled web on purpose. That she wanted to force Clint to force her to confess, and for him to be the one to pull the unraveling string.

It occurred to her, ruefully, that for all her years of experience in law enforcement, it was her husband, the psychiatrist, who would make the far better criminal. Clint knew how to keep a secret.

Lila felt as though she’d discovered that there was a whole other floor in her home. Quite by accident she had pressed a certain scuffed spot on the wall and a stairwell had been revealed. Just inside the secret passage was a hook and draped on that hook was a jacket of Clint’s. The shock was bad, the pain was worse, but neither compared to the shame: How could you fail to perceive? And once you did become aware, once you did wake up to the reality of your life, how could you live a second longer without screaming it out loud? If the discovery that your husband, a man you had spoken to every day for over fifteen years, the father of your child, had a daughter that he had never mentioned — if that didn’t warrant a scream, a throat-ripping howl of rage and hurt, then what did? Instead, she had wished him a good day, and lain down.

Weariness at last began to catch up and iron out her distress. She was finally going down, and that was good. This would look simpler after five or six hours of sleep; she would feel more settled; she would be able to talk to him; and maybe Clint could help her understand. That was his job, wasn’t it? Making sense of life’s messes. Well, did she ever have a mess for him! Cat litter all over the road. Cat shit in the secret passage, cat litter and cat shit on the basketball court, where a girl named Sheila dropped her shoulder, making the defender scramble back, then crossed over and headed for the hoop.

A tear dripped down her cheek and she exhaled, close to the escape of sleep.

Something tickled her face. It felt like a strand of hair or maybe an errant thread from the pillowcase. She brushed it away, slipped a little deeper toward true sleep, and was almost there when her phone bugled at her from the utility belt laid across the cedar chest at the foot of the bed.

She opened her eyes and swam into a sitting position. That thread or hair or whatever it was brushed her cheek; she swatted it away. Clint, if that’s you—

She got the phone, stared at the screen. Not Clint. The single word was BASE. The clock read 7:57 AM. Lila thumbed ACCEPT.

“Sheriff? Lila? Are you up?”

“No, Linny, this is all a dream.”

“I think we might have a big problem.”

Linny was clipped and professional. Lila gave her full marks for that, but her accent had crept back into her voice, not I think we have a big problem but Ah thank, which meant she was serious and worried. Lila popped her eyes wide, as if that would help her wake up faster.

“Caller reported multiple homicides out by Adams Lumberyard. She might have been wrong about that, or lying, or even hallucinating, but there certainly was one hell of a bang. You didn’t hear it?”

“No. Tell me exactly what you got.”

“I can play the call—”

“Just tell me.”

Linny told her: stoned woman, hysterical, says there’s two dead, Avon Lady did the deed, explosion, visible smoke.

“And you sent—”

“Unit Four. Terry and Roger. According to their last call-in, they’re less than a mile away.”

“Okay. Good.”

“Are you—”

“On my way.”

There's plenty more where that came from, building up to Lila encountering a bloodstained woman wearing nothing but a flannel shirt. If you'd like to read the rest of the excerpt, head over to StephenKing.com.

If you'd like to read the entire novel when it's published, copies can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

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Source: StephenKing.com



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