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When Stephanie moves to the notoriously cheap Perry Bar neighborhood of Birmingham, she's just happy to find an affordable room for rent that's large enough not to deserve her previous room's nickname, "the cell." The eccentric albeit slightly overly-friendly landlord seems nice and welcoming enough, the ceilings are high, and all of the other tenants are also girls. Things aren't great, but they're stable. Or at least that's what she tells herself when she impulsively hands over enough money to cover the first month's rent and decides to give it a go.
But soon after she becomes uneasy about her rash decision. She hears things in the night. Feels them. Things...or people...who aren't there in the light. Who couldn't be there, because after-all, her door is locked every night, and the key is still in place in the morning. Concern soon turns to terror when the voices she hears and presence she feels each night become hostile. It's clear that something very bad has happened in this house. And something even worse is happening now. Stephanie has to find a way out, before whatever's going on in the house finds her first.
Adam Nevill's No One Gets Out Alive will chill you straight through to the core a cold, merciless, fear-inducing nightmare to the last page. A word of caution, don't read this one in the dark.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||8.20(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.30(d)|
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No One Gets Out Alive
By Adam Nevill
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Adam Nevill
All rights reserved.
The dream receded quickly and Stephanie recalled little of it, beside an anxious desire to leave a cold, greyish place; a narrow space in which people stood too close to her. One of them had been crying.
Into the unsettling moments, trailing the end of sleep, came a relief that only her panic lingered from the nightmare. The respite was twinned with a sense of loss for something important, yet indefinable and left incomplete. And she was cold. Where her head poked out of the duvet it stiffened, as though her bed had been placed outside of the building.
Stephanie's eyes were open. She was lying on her back and could see nothing above. But inside the darkness was a voice, a muffled continuous voice surrounding her waking thoughts. Not a single word was loud or clear enough to be understood, but she was horribly certain the muttering could not be part of the dream because she was fully awake. There was no urgency to the voice, or particular emphasis, or even emotion; the tone suggested monotony, a monologue.
The voice issued from the side of the room, near the fireplace that she couldn't make out in the dark. Even with the lights off, not even an ambient glimmer peeked around the thick curtains.
A radio? In another room?
Though the more she considered the voice, the greater was her impression that someone was speaking behind the wall on the other side of the room. But there was nothing on the other side because the house was detached. So perhaps a television was switched on – yes, don't forget those – in the room below her own, and the sound was travelling up through the chimney.
When the voice in the fireplace began sobbing, Stephanie felt like joining in. It was a strange kind of broadcast that allowed one person to speak continuously before breaking down on air.
Could be another tenant. In a nearby room someone might have been talking to themselves and was now crying. This sound of genuine anguish introduced a picture into Stephanie's mind of a woman kneeling on the floor beside an open fireplace, clutching her face.
She could not go and ask after them. She disliked herself for feeling embarrassed by another's distress, but it was the middle of her first night in the house and she wasn't confident enough to offer that kind of gesture to a stranger.
But thank God it's only a neighbour. For a moment I thought—
The tension returned to her body and her mind so quickly and with such force that she sucked in her breath as if she'd stepped into cold water. Because no radio or television or heartbroken tenant could possibly account for the scratching that began beneath her bed.
She might have risen from the bedclothes screaming had she not arrived at a new hope: that the grating noise against timber was issuing from beneath the floorboards, as opposed to the wooden slats on the underside of the bedframe.
Mice! There were mice here; she had seen two little cardboard traps, the type containing a blob of poisonous blue bait, on the first floor landing and the second floor toilet. When she was shown around the house yesterday morning the sight of the traps had shocked her; they were another symbol of diminishing choices, of being compromised by poverty – a side to freedom improperly considered before independence was achieved, or exchanged for a different kind of captivity. But she'd lived in a building infested with mice before, and seen similar traps in the warehouse where she worked last summer.
And during your first night in the darkness and unfamiliarity of a new room in a strange building, the sound of mice was bound to be alarming and to seem too large a disturbance for small animals. When you lay alone in bed, the sound of tiny claws were amplified in the silence of deep night, everyone knows that. Only in these circumstances could such a noise suggest the activity of determined human hands beneath your bed.
The mice were having a go at something that was rustling. Polythene. Maybe. Yes, it must be polythene. There could be a plastic carrier bag under there and the mice, or rats – don't even go there – were having a go at the bag, or tearing something under the floorboards. Yes, that is a better idea.
Beneath her bed the sound of rustling increased in volume and ardour and her imagination swamped her thoughts again with the notion that these were, in fact, human fingers pulling at polythene. She was just about to sit up and reach for the bedside lamp – the one she'd read by before she fell asleep, satisfied she'd found a new room so quickly – when everything suddenly got worse and she was filled with the kind of fear that was mindless, that was madness. Because Stephanie could now hear a fresh intrusion of noise inside her room.
Beyond the foot of her bed, between the two large sash window frames, was a table and chair. On the table were her unpacked bags. And from this area came a rustling, a rummaging, as if someone's hands were going through her rucksack. The painted floorboards beneath the rug creaked as the intruder shifted its weight.
Behind the fireplace a woman wept.
Under the bed fingers pulled at polythene.
The darkness was filling with sound.
Stephanie could see nothing. The air was so cold she shivered. She desperately wanted to reach for the bedside light, but that would creak the old bedframe. She didn't want to make a sound, any sound at all.
And what will I do if I turn the light on and someone is standing there?
The door to her room was locked. The key was inside the lock. Had they come in through a window? Could she get off the bed and reach the door, and hold the key in her fingers, and turn the key in the lock, and open the door, and step through the doorway ... before it reached her?
Can I fight? Should I start screaming?
She had no strength for screaming, let alone defence. Everything inside her was frigid with a fear so vast she was nothing but terror; she became stone from the hair on her head to the toes on her feet.
Unwelcome images flashed: cotton buds being used to take swabs, police officers in plastic overalls collecting hairs from a carpet, a gurney covered with a sheet being loaded into an ambulance, watched by a woman in the doorway of a nearby house.
Stephanie sat up and reached for the bedside table. The bedframe made the sound of an old wooden ship.
The rifling of her bags stopped.
She slapped a hand around the bedside table. The wooden surface was cold under her mostly useless fingers. She found the rubber cable with the light switch attached to it, then lost the cable, sensed it swing away from her fingertips in the darkness.
Footsteps creaked across the floor towards her bed.
She groped for the cable again and found the metal stem of the lamp instead. When she located the cable her desperate fingers twitched their way to the plastic switch.
Beneath her feet the mattress dipped as someone sat down.
Through the darkness she was sure a face was moving closer to her own.
She snapped the lamp on and turned to confront the intruder sitting on the end of her bed.
'Oh God, oh God, oh God, shit, shit, shit, oh God.'CHAPTER 2
Stephanie sat in the pre-dawn darkness with the duvet grasped under her chin. Through the open curtains the sky turned from black-blue to mackerel-grey. The bedside light was switched on. The overhead light was switched on. In the palm of one hand her mobile phone was cloudy with the heat from her tight grip. On the bedside cabinet the small travel clock clicked towards six a.m.
When she'd turned the bedside light on, there had been no one sitting on her bed and no one in her room. When she'd summoned the courage to look under the bed, she'd seen large balls of greyish dust on painted floorboards, but no plastic bag. Her door key was still hanging from the lock of the secured door. The sash windows were closed and held tight with metal clasps. Only her clothes occupied the walnut-veneered wardrobe. She couldn't be sure that someone had actually interfered with her bags during the night either, because she'd left them unzipped and gaping before she went to bed.
The scratching under the bed must have stopped when the light came on, though she couldn't recall the exact moment the noise ceased. When she put an end to the darkness there had been no voice in the fireplace either.
The fireplace grate and surround were made from metal, thickly coated in black paint and dusty. The chimney flue was no more than a few inches across. She'd moved her ear close to the fireplace and heard what sounded like a distant wind, nothing more.
Stephanie looked at the walls around her more closely. They had not been decorated in years, not since the yellowing paper, carrying the impression of bamboo stalks and leaves, had been pasted upon them. The room was as depressing as the others she had lived in since leaving home; small capsules of space left stranded by the onward surge of life, untouched by modernization and a source of revulsion for those of means. These rooms were now home to those who were only one more misfortune away from homelessness, and so close to dropping out of the statistics of the unemployed and into the statistics of those with no fixed address, or those reported missing.
Stephanie squeezed the duvet until her nails pressed through the fabric and hurt the palms of her hands.
Thoughts of the MDMA she'd once taken came back to her with the full weight and pressure of an accusation, as did memories of the skunk weed she'd smoked a few times, and the magic mushroom tea she'd once drunk – all three years ago in her first year at college. She wondered if those brief and fledgling experiments with drugs had been the cause of the hallucinations; some kind of delayed reaction.
And as she sat in bed, waiting for the morning, it began to seem a long time since she had woken in a room loud with intrusive sound. Most of her mind now insisted that the experience was part of the indistinct nightmare, that had continued in the form of footsteps crossing the room, followed by the impression of someone sitting on the bed. All of it could have been imagined.
Must have been.
But what she had so recently heard in the dark didn't feel like the lingering effects of a dream. After she had slapped the lights on and finished her inspection of her sealed room, she'd thought about ghosts for a long time. And she remembered a story her dad had told her. Long before her natural mother died, her dad told her that his own mother, Stephanie's paternal grandmother, once appeared beside his bed and asked, 'Are you coming?' The following morning her dad was called on the phone by his sister to say their mother had died the night before, in her bed, in her home, on the other side of town. The story had enthralled Stephanie, but also given her a hope that death was not the end. What she'd just endured made her wish that death was, in fact, final.
Her dad also used to call her 'my miracle girl' because she'd come close to death as a toddler after swallowing seawater. She had no memory of the incident, but had briefly wondered, when she was small, if nearly dying had made her special. Because at the funerals of both her grandfathers, in a way she still could not explain, she remembered being engulfed by a sense of them around her, and inside her head, at the terrible moment their coffins rolled behind the red curtains in the same crematorium chapel in Stoke.
But this was the sum total of her experience with the supernatural. Stephanie hadn't watched a horror film since she was sixteen and she wasn't religious. She'd always assumed she needed to sort out her place in this world before she thought of the next.
Looking back on the episode that had so recently occurred in her new room, she was struck by a notion that two very different places had opened onto each other, or come together.
* * *
The sky turned from mackerel to white-grey.
Exhaustion lay heavy inside her body, but the fatigue helped the shock dwindle. Listless memories of the previous day drifted through her mind as the sun rose.
There was a blister on the little toe of her right foot and her calf muscles bulged with aches; both reminders of the three trips she had made on foot from a tiny rented room in another sub-divided house in Handsworth to this one. She'd carried her bags three miles through quiet, identical streets choked with parked cars. Her new room was the same price but much bigger than her last place – a room she had called the cell. She'd nearly gone mad inside 'the cell' during her first few months in Birmingham.
Weariness from the move and from the weekend's two twelve-hour shifts, working as a steward in the reception of a caravan show, had put her to sleep before ten p.m. She'd awoken more frightened than she could remember between two and three. In one hour, un-refreshed and tense, she would need to leave for work.
How did I get here? Why is this happening to me?
She ran through the seemingly ordinary sequence of events that led to her sitting up in bed, terrified and praying for the dawn light to hurry into the sky. The day before, an overly friendly man she had found it hard to like, a Mr McGuire, or 'Knacker', had guided her round 82 Edgehill Road: an old, neglected, but otherwise ordinary house with rooms he let out to lodgers scratching around the bottom of the rental market.
Knacker was the landlord and lived on the top floor in a private flat. He had shown her this large room with high ceilings that she had been so excited to find at forty pounds per week. It had been advertised on a card in the window of a local grocer's: BIG ROOM. 40 QUID FOR WEAK. GIRLS ONLY. SHARD BAFROOM, KICHEN. V CLEEN. There had been a mobile phone number too, and she had grinned at the misspellings and imagined the house was let by migrants for whom English was still a mystifying second language. Many of the big Victorian houses in the area were sub-divided into bedsits. Her ex-boyfriend, Ryan, who was working in Coventry, knew Birmingham well and had said Perry Barr was mostly an Asian area, but increasingly popular with Eastern European migrants and students from the City of Birmingham University. He'd said it was really cheap, and really cheap was all she had the budget for. But at least this place was only let to females, and in the most deprived areas of town that was an asset among such unappealing pickings.
There was nothing extraordinary about the circumstances of her being here; anyone in the same position could have ended up in the same room and, therefore, experienced the same thing. But sitting in a strange bed, in an unfathomable building, made her feel that her life resembled a landscape pitted with bad decisions and unfortunate situations created by circumstances she had no control over. And the craters of hasty choices, or impacts made by fate, were interspersed with the shadows of anxiety about her immediate future.
Did she always bring these situations upon herself? Her stepmother had always said as much. Bitch. But how is it done, how is control over your life possible when you have no money, and no prospect of getting more than a little to survive on? To exist on was closer to the truth. Because that is what you are doing: existing, not living.
A familiar suspicion revived itself: that she hadn't even started in life and was still outside it somehow, looking in, drifting, or being blown about its fringes, while trapped in places where anything could happen to her.
Regret had become tangible overnight and was now a lump in her throat and a cold weight in her tummy; it made her face literally feel too long. Taking the room had been impulsive, as was handing over £320 in cash as a deposit and first month's rent to a man who made her wary.
She now seriously regretted not calling Ryan and asking if he knew anything about the street, or even to come down to get his sense of the landlord. She hadn't spoken to Ryan in a month, but didn't know anyone else well enough to ask them to perform such a task on her behalf. Her friends were mostly at home with their parents, applying for jobs, retaking A Levels and signing on in Stoke.
Excerpted from No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill. Copyright © 2014 Adam Nevill. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Closer by Darkness than Light,
Nine Days in Hell,
Also by Adam Nevill,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Gotta give adam props again love his stories what creative writing and wonderful detail and of course his characters always make novel worth while
I am an unabashed Adam Nevill fan, still catching up with all his titles. No One Gets Out Alive will serve as one of my all time favourites. At over 600 pages, it is a tall order to maintain the tension, suspense and fear without falling into the trap of a saggy middle. But this is Adam Nevill. He doesn't do saggy middles. This story of Stephanie - down on her luck and reduced to taking a cheap, seedy room in an even seedier house - takes off from the beginning. The chilling atmosphere of the building, the disgusting landlord, Knacker McGuire and his even more revolting cousin, the unexplained crying coming from the fireplace. The atmosphere is dark, sinister, menacing as Stephanie begins to unravel the grisly truth about the house and its inhabitants - on both sides of the veil. Truth that will take her to the brink of insanity and even beyond. This was a thrilling, gripping book that enhances the author's reputation as one of the best modern horror authors around.
I really liked this book…so why only 3 stars? It was just too long. The story was phenomenal….but just as the tension started rising and the creepy factor intensified, it slowed down. It was kinda like hearing the ding of a microwave and thinking you’re about to eat – only to realize the foods still cold so you have to cook it longer. Don’t get me wrong, I love the build of a story----I just felt like this one took too many side streets. The story was perfect---the journey was just too long. With that said – I’d still recommend it!!
The book has no real point or developed storyline. It is sexist (a weak and stupid main female character created by a male author), unnecessary violent and disturbing, and is not based in anytype of reality.