read an exclusive excerpt of Ex-Purgatory right here



read an exclusive excerpt of Ex-Purgatory right here
Excerpted from EX-PURGATORY by Peter Clines, Copyright 2014
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Peter Clines
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a
Penguin Random House Company, New York.
Broadway Books and its logo, B \ D \ W \ Y, are trademarks of Random House LLC. Library of Congress Cataloging- in- Publication data is
available upon request.
ISBN 978- 0- 8041- 3661- 7 eBook ISBN 978- 0- 8041- 3662- 4
Printed in the United States of America
Cover illustration: Jonathan Bartlett
Cover design: Christopher Brand
SYLVESTER TAPPED HIS pencil on his knee. He did it like a
drum­roll, so the sound was sharp against his jeans. He always
had a pencil, even though she couldn’t remember him ever using
a notepad. Three months now, a dozen sessions, and he’d never
taken one note.
He was bald, but she was pretty sure he shaved his head. It
made it tough to figure out how old he was. His tight goatee came
to a perfect point under his chin. He had dark brown eyes, and his
eyelids hung low. It gave him a relaxed, thoughtful appearance.
Sylvester stopped tapping the pencil, leaned back in his chair,
and gave her a look. “How are you sleeping?”
She shrugged. “Same as always.”
“Which means?”
Her fingers danced on the arm of her wheelchair. “I don’t like
the mask. If I try to do anything except sleep on my back it pulls
at my head or leaves marks on my face. And it doesn’t fit right.
Air leaks out and blows over my eyes, so they’re always dry when
I wake up.”
“Has it always been like that?”
She shook her head. “No. I mean, the whole thing only started
a while ago. Near the end of senior year.”
“Have you tried different masks?”
“Yeah. Dad tried altering them, too. It doesn’t make any difference.” Her lips twisted into a weak smile. “I think I’ve got a
funny-­shaped head.”
“It looks fine to me,” he assured her.
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She blushed. Just a little. “Thanks.”
“You understand why you have to wear it, right?”
She nodded. “Yeah.”
“Do you resent it?”
“Didn’t we go over all this ages ago?”
“We did,” said Sylvester, “but I want to see if your answers
have changed any.”
She shrugged again. “It’s keeping me alive. The doctors—­the
other doctors—­they say I stop breathing as soon as I fall asleep.
The first couple times it happened they were pretty sure I’d died
in my sleep. Severe sleep apnea.”
“One of the worst cases on record,” he said.
“Yup. Mom gets worried whenever I stay up late because she’s
worried I’ll nod off in class and asphyxiate.”
“Big word.”
“I’ve heard it a lot.”
“So do you resent it? The mask?”
“It’s keeping me alive.”
“That’s not really an answer.”
She sighed. “I don’t like it, but that’s just the way it is, right? I
wish I didn’t need it, but I also wish I didn’t need to use a wheelchair most of the time. And I wish I had red hair, too.”
“Why red hair?”
“Because black hair and pale skin make everybody think
you’re some kind of Goth. Red hair and pale skin mean you’re a
sexy Irish girl.”
“Are you Irish?”
“No, but nobody knows that.”
He tapped the pencil three times on his knee, then a fourth.
“Are you worried how the mask’s going over at college?”
Sylvester had covered one side of his office with black-­bordered
motivational posters. She still wasn’t sure if it was serious or a
joke to make people lighten up. “A little bit,” she admitted after a
minute of poster-­studying.
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“That’s the whole point of this.” The pencil tapped twice for
“I always wonder if everyone thinks I’m some kind of freak,”
she said. “Every study session, every party, every late night hanging out, I’m always the girl who has to get back to her room and
strap this thing to her head before she falls asleep. And how’s
that—­” She looked back at the wall of posters and stared at one
marked Desire.
“And how’s that . . . what?” he asked.
She glanced at the office door, toward her mother in the waiting room. “What if I meet a guy?” she asked. “What if I meet
someone and things are going great? The chair’s bad enough,
how do I tell him, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do it in my room because I’ve
got to make sure I strap on my Darth Vader mask before I fall
asleep or I’ll probably die’? What guy wants to hear that?”
Sylvester smiled. “That’s your big worry?”
Her mouth twitched into a smile for a moment. “It’s one of
He took a long, deliberate look of his own at the door, at her
mother in the waiting room. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this,”
he said, turning his gaze back to her, “but I don’t think you need
to worry about guys in college not wanting to have sex. Even if
you have to strap on an oxygen mask afterward.”
She blushed again. “I just think it’s going to be weird.”
“Trust me. They won’t care.”
She turned back to the wall of posters.
He let the silence stretch out between them for a minute.
Then he rapped the pencil on his knee once. “You’re still having
the dreams?”
She stared at the posters, then at her hands. He let her sit for
a moment before he asked again. She nodded once. “Yeah. Every
“Exactly the same?”
She straightened up as best she could. “Not always. Sometimes I remember different parts of it. Different places, different
people. But it’s all the same. It’s all . . .”
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He tapped the pencil one-­
t wo-­
four times. “It’s all
“You know.”
“It’s important for you to say it,” Sylvester said.
“Because how you remember things and how you describe
them are little clues to what’s going on in your head.”
She sighed. “It’s all real,” she said. She waved her hand around
the office. “The stuff in my dreams feels more real than all of
The pencil rapped three-­four-­five-­six times against Sylvester’s
knee. “Your parents think it’s because of this obsession you’ve
developed with horror movies.”
“I told you, the dreams came first.”
“That’s not what they say.”
“They saw the movies first. I didn’t tell them about the dreams
until later.”
The pencil spun twice between his fingers, then tapped
against his knee. “And they’re still suicidal dreams?”
“No,” she said. “No, they’ve never been, I keep telling you that.
They’re just . . . I’m just dead in them, that’s all.”
“But not suicidal.”
“If the dream is so realistic, how can you be dead? How are
you experiencing it?”
“I’m supposed to be dead,” she explained, “but I’m not. Not in
the normal way.”
“Buried alive?”
She shook her head. “No, not like that. I’m dead, like a vampire or something. But I’m different than the others.”
“Well, most of the undead just want to eat you, right? I’m still
me, I’m just . . . dead.”
Sylvester’s pencil paused in the air between taps. “Okay,” he
said. “Let me ask you this. In these dreams, can you still walk?”
She looked at her legs. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, I can.”
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“So, you’re having a dream that feels incredibly real where
dead things walk around. And in this dream your legs—­which
have been ‘dead’ for ten years now—­work again.”
“Sort of. Is that a normal dream? It isn’t, is it?”
“I have heard of it once before,” he said. “Something a lot like
“You have?”
“It was in a movie. You’ve been watching a lot of horror movies, right?”
“Some of them, yeah.”
“Did you ever see one called Nightbreed?”
She thought about it and shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
“It might be before your time. It’s an older one by Clive Barker.”
“The Hellraiser guy?”
“I met Pinhead at a convention in Seattle last year,” she said.
“The guy who played him, I mean. He was really nice, even though
he seemed pretty bored.”
“I think he’s in this one, too.” Sylvester drumrolled his pencil against his knee. “It’s a film about a man who has dreams
he’s dead, and then he ends up becoming one of the undead. And
parts of him that had stopped working start working again.”
“Is that a sex thing?”
She shook her head. “It’s not like that.”
“That’s good,” he said, smiling. “The psychiatrist in that one
turned out to be a homicidal maniac.”
“No,” she said. “You’re not a maniac.”
“I’m in the dream, too?”
She paused and weighed the question. “Lots of people I know
are in it.”
He tapped the pencil against his knee two-­three-­four times.
“So, if I’m not a maniac in the dream, what am I then?”
She stared at her legs for another moment. “You’re dead,” she
told him. “Everyone is. The world is dead.”
“Was there a war?”
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“It was a disease. A virus.”
“Ahhh. A virus that made the dead walk?”
“Yeah.” Madelyn bounced her fist on the arm of the wheelchair, breaking the beat of the pencil tap. “And I don’t know why
it’s all different now.”
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