Dead Space: Martyr (Excerpt)

Just picked up the new Dead Space 2 game from Electronic Arts? Need a little more Dead Space in your life? We hope you enjoy this excerpt from Dead Space: Martyr, a tie-in novel from Tor Books.

*

Chapter 1

Chava woke up earlier than usual that day, just before the sun rose. His mother and sister were still asleep. His father was gone, traveling again. When the boy asked him where he went, he was always evasive, and Chava had learned not to ask further. He took a ladleful of water from the bucket and drank it, careful not to wake his sister. He poured another into the basin and washed his face and hands and arms before quietly slopping the rest onto the dirt floor.

He was still sleepy. He watched his sister move restlessly, giving a little moan. Why had he woken up early? He had been in the middle of a frightening dream. There was something chasing him. A strange, stumbling creature, something that moved in lurches and starts, something that seemed at once alive and dead. He shook his head, wondering how something could be both alive and dead. He slipped into his clothes and left the shack, careful to stop the piece of aluminum that served as a makeshift door from clacking behind him. Outside, he could smell the salt in the air, could see, a few hundred meters away, the slate gray waves. The tide was out, the waves gentle now, hard to hear from this distance.

Something lingered in his head, a noise, a strange sound: a whispering. It was saying words but in a language he couldn’t understand, so softly that he couldn’t even tell where one word stopped and another started. He tried to force the sound out, but though it receded, it didn’t go away. It just hid itself somewhere deep in the back of his skull, nagging at him.

His dream rushed forward to fill the space. The creature had been large, just a little bigger than a man. He was watching it from behind. In the dream, at first he had thought it was a man, but when it turned, he saw that it was missing part of its face, the jaw. There was something wrong with its arms as well, but the dream was blurry and he couldn’t make out what it was exactly. It watched him with eyes as blank and inhuman as the eyes of a fish. And then, in a single bound, hissing, it had been on him, its slavering half jaw trying to sink broken teeth into his throat.

* * *

He was wandering, not really aware of where he was going, trying to fight off the bits of dream playing out in his semiconscious mind. He was surprised to find himself down at the shoreline. To the left, the coast was empty. Down the coast to his right, far in the distance, were two or three fishermen, standing in the surf, trying to pull something in. Whatever it was, the boy knew, would almost certainly be deformed and taste of oil. It would be a challenge to choke down. It was no longer safe to fish. The sea here was polluted and starting to die, and similar problems were working their way inland as well.

He’d heard his father talking angrily about it. Crops that even a few years back had been healthy and strong now came up stunted if they came up at all. The only supposedly safe food was the patented foods grown in controlled environments by mega-corporations, food that few could afford. So the choice, his father said, was either to eat food that slowly killed you or go broke on food you couldn’t afford, while everyone went on destroying the world.

He started walking toward the fishermen, but something hindered his steps, slowly turning him. He began moving down the beach in the other direction, where it was deserted.

Or almost deserted; there was something there, something rolling in the surf.

A fish maybe, he thought at first, but as he walked forward, it seemed too large to be a fish. And the shape was wrong. A corpse maybe, a drowned man? But when it flopped back and forth in the tide, he knew he was wrong. That it was wrong.

The hair started to stand on the back of Chava’s neck. He walked toward the thing, trying not to listen to the rising cacophony of whispers taking over his head.

 

Copyright © 2010 by Electronic Arts, Inc.

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