“Shambling”, a novel by Stephenie Meyer

The Okapi Factor is pleased to be able to share the following extract, taken from Stephenie Meyer's new novel, “Shambling”.

I was just closing my locker as he approached, moving so silently that I jumped and dropped the hairband I was holding. I started to bend down to pick it up, but before I could even reach it, he had it in his hand and was holding it out for me. His fingers were long and delicate, the pure white color of exposed bone. A moment later, I realized why.

"Jeez!” I exclaimed involuntarily. He seemed to shrink back. I brushed my long auburn hair out of my eyes, a habit I have had since childhood. “I'm sorry,” I said. “It’s just that you startled me.”

I looked up at him. He was taller than I was, his face pale, the fine lines of his features delicately etched out in greens and blues. His mouth hung slightly open, and strands of lank black hair descended like a midnight river around his face, falling to the faded velvet collar of his coat. Our eyes met. His were palest blue, so light as to seem almost colorless. One of them had fallen from its socket, and dangled part-way down his hollow cheek.

I forced a smile, and giggled nervously. My heart was racing. I had never seen anyone so beautiful in my life. He made me think of an Old Master painting, perhaps one of those Van Goghs with faces painted in livid blues and greens, the colors of week-old bruises.

“I'm Stephenie Bella,” I told him. “I’m new. That is … I'm new to this school. I'm not, like, new. I mean, I’m seventeen. Which is really not very new at all.”

I bit my lip and flushed. Here I was, face-to-face with the handsomest boy in the school, babbling like an idiot. His beauty was breath-taking. Or at least something was. I inhaled deeply, and gagged slightly at the smell of decay. Yet at the same time, I knew instinctively that I could grow to like this. The whiff of corruption, the smell of grave-dirt, would seem like the finest perfume when it came from him. My legs felt suddenly weak.

He looked at me seriously, his long face hollowed and thoughtful. Very slowly, he stretched out one long hand. I reached up and took it, feeling the gentle pressure of his fleshless fingers on my own. He stared into my eyes, his gaze so intense that I could feel it boring into my very soul. I read the question written on his face before he even spoke. His lips parted, revealing rotten teeth. Something writhed blackly in the cavern of his mouth.

“Brains?” he asked softly.