One good thing about working in the book industry is that sometimes you get to read things early, and all I’ll say about The Twelve is this: trust us, it’s worth the wait. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:
He ran like hell.
He had made it halfway to the Ferrari when he heard the first viral drop behind him. There was no time to turn and fire, Kittridge kept on going. The pain in his knee felt like a wick of fire, an ice-pick buried to the bone. At the periphery of his senses he felt a tingling awareness of beings awakening, the garage coming to life. He threw open the door and wedged himself inside, tossing the AK and rucksack onto the passenger seat, slamming the door behind him. The vehicle was so low-slung he felt like he was sitting on the ground. The dashboard, full of mysterious gauges and switches, glowed like a spacecraft’s. Something was missing. Where was the gear-shift?
A wang of metal, and in the next instant, Kittridge’s vision was filled with the sight of it. The viral had leapt onto the hood, assuming a reptilian crouch. For a frozen moment, it regarded him coolly, a predator contemplating his prey. He was naked except for his wristwatch, a Rolex fat as an icecube. Warren? he thought, for the man had been wearing one like it the day he had taken Kittridge to see the car. Warren, old buddy, is that you? Because if it is, I wouldn’t mind a word of advice on how to get this thing in gear. He discovered, then, with the tips of his fingertips, a pair of levers positioned on the undersides of the steering wheel, left and right. Paddle shifters. He should have thought of that. Up on the right, down on the left, like a motorcycle. Reverse would be a button somewhere, on the dash. The one with the R, genius. That one.
He pushed the button and hit the gas. Too fast: with a squeal of rubber the Ferrari shot backward. Kittridge knew what was about to happen before it did. As the viral tumbled away, the right rear quarter panel of the car clipped a concrete post; Kittridge’s head was slammed into the driver’s-side window. His brain chimed like a tuning fork; glittering motes danced in his eyes. But to contemplate this fact, even for a moment, was to die. The viral was rising from off the floor now, preparing to leap. No doubt it would try to take him straight through the windshield.
But something else seemed to catch its attention. With a birdlike darting quickness, it swiveled its head toward the stairwell door.
As the viral jumped away, Kittridge swung the wheel to the left and gripped the right paddle, engaging the transmission as he pressed the accelerator. A lurch and then a leap of speed: Kittridge was thrust back into his seat. Just when he thought he’d lose control of the car again he found the straightway, the walls of the garage and its parked vehicles streaming past; allowing himself a quick glimpse in the rearview, he saw the viral tearing into the body of one of the soldiers. The second was nowhere visible, though if Kittridge had to bet, the man was surely dead already, torn to bloody hunks. In school, Kittridge had learned that you couldn’t catch a fly with your hand because time was different to a fly: in a fly’s miniscule brain, a second was an hour, an hour was a year. That’s what the virals were like. Like beings outside of time.
The ramp to the street was at the far end of the lot, which was laid out like a maze; there was no direct route. The soldiers had bought him a moment but that was all: the only safety was daylight. As Kittridge downshifted into the first corner, engine roaring, tires shrieking, two more virals dropped from the ceiling directly in his path. One fell under his wheel with a damp crunch – he almost lost control of the car again – but the other leapt over the roof of the Ferrari, striding it like a hurdler. He didn’t look back.
They were everywhere now, emerging from all the hidden places. They flung themselves at the car like suicides, driven by the madness of their hunger. He barreled through them, bodies flying, their monstrous, distorted faces colliding with the windshield before being hurled up and over, away. Two more turns and he’d be free, but one was clinging to the roof now. He braked around the corner, fishtailing on the slick cement, the force of his deceleration sending the viral rolling onto the hood. A woman: she appeared to be wearing, of all things, a wedding gown. Gouging her fingers into the gap at the base of the windshield, she had drawn herself onto all fours. Her mouth, a bear-trap of bloody teeth, was open very wide; a tiny golden crucifix dangled at the base of her throat. I’m sorry about your wedding, Kittridge thought as he drew one of the pistols, steadying it over the wheel to fire through the windshield, point-blank into her face. He turned the final corner; ahead, a golden shaft of daylight falling down. Kittridge hit the ramp doing seventy miles an hour, still accelerating. The grate was sealed, but this fact seemed meager, no obstacle at all. Kittridge took aim, plunging the pedal to the floor, and ducked his head beneath the shattered windshield. A furious crash; for two full seconds, an eternity in miniature, the Ferrari went airborne. It rocketed into the sunshine, concussing the pavement with a bone-jarring bang, sparks flying. There was nothing to stop him, he realized; he was going to careen into the lobby of the bank across the street. As he bounced across the median, Kittridge stamped the brakes and swerved to the right, bracing himself for the impact. But there was no need. With a screech of smoking rubber, the tires bit and held, and the next thing Kittridge knew, he was flying down the avenue, into the summer morning.
He had to admit it. What were Warren’s exact words? You should feel the way she handles.
It was true. Kittridge had never driven anything like it in his life.
Special thanks to our friends at Random House Canada for providing and sharing this excerpt. Excerpted from the book The Twelve by Justin Cronin.
Reprinted with permission of Random House of Canada.