Joseph Fink's Alice Isn't Dead podcast becomes an addictive novel: Read an excerpt
Joseph Fink is transforming Alice Isn’t Dead into a novel.
The author is basing his new book on his acclaimed podcast of the same name, which follows fictional truck driver Keisha as she searches for her wife, Alice, who for many years was thought to be dead. Indeed, as the book’s saga goes, Keisha keeps seeing Alice in the background of news reports from all over America. Alice isn’t dead; she’s showing up at every major tragedy and accident in the country.
Just as in the popular podcast, Fink’s Alice Isn’t Dead novel soon finds Keisha unraveling a major conspiracy, going on a dark and most unpredictable journey. Anticipation for all things Alice is high right now: In addition to the upcoming third season of the Night Vale Presents podcast, launching April 10, a TV series adaptation is also in the works with Universal. And this isn’t Fink’s first foray into books, either: He’s the New York Times best-selling coauthor of It Devours! and Welcome to Night Vale.
Fortunately, EW has an exclusive preview of the Alice Isn’t Dead novel to get fans excited. Below, you can check out the book’s spooky official cover, as well as an excerpt of the first chapter, throwing readers into Keisha’s world in a whole new way. Pre-order Alice Isn’t Dead, ahead of its Oct. 30 release, here.
Excerpt from Alice Isn’t Dead, by Joseph Fink
Keisha Taylor settled back into the booth and tried to enjoy her turkey club. The turkey club did not make this easy.
A diner attached to a gas station, a couple hours outside of Bismarck. A grassy place in between towns. Keisha’s main criteria for choosing the diner had been ample parking for her truck. Once upon a time people chose food based on the season, or the migration patterns of animals. She selected her meals based on the parking situation.
Her difficult relationship with what the menu called “The Chef’s Special Club” was made more complicated by a patron in the booth adjacent to hers. The man was eating an omelet, scooping big chunks of egg with long, grease stained fingers, and shoving them into his mouth, each bite followed by a low grunt. He was a large man, with a face that sagged on one side, a lump on the top of his shoulder, and a long fold of extra skin hanging from one arm. His clothes were filthy and she could smell him from where she sat. He smelled like rot. Not bad, exactly, but earthy, like fruit disintegrating into soil. His dirty yellow polo shirt had the words THISTLE on it. He was staring at Keisha with eyes that went yellow at the edges. His chewed with his mouth open, and his teeth and food were both a dull yellow.
Keisha did her best to look anywhere else. At the crowd of bystanders behind the on-location reporter on the muted televisions, a crowd she reflexively scanned for a familiar face. Or the bathroom door as the cook took his third visit since she had arrived. At a van driving by on the highway with a cartoon logo of chickens and the name “PRAXIS!” in bubble font. But the man’s grunts were insistent and soon she couldn’t look anywhere else. And then, to her horror, he got up, omelet hanging from his lips, and limped toward her like his legs had no muscle, mere sacks of meat attached loosely to his torso.
“Doesn’t look much like rain,” he said, plopping himself across the table from her, and licking the egg off his lips in long wet passes of his pale tongue. The smell of damp earth got stronger. Her heart was pounding, as it often did when she felt trapped, which she often did. Her life, at the best of times, was a minefield of possible triggers for her anxiety, and this was not the best of times. “Hope you don’t mind if I join you,” he said. Not a question or a request, but a joke. He laughed, and his jaw sank crookedly into his neck.
“I was hoping to eat alone,” she said down at her sandwich.
“Good people deserve good things.” She didn’t know what to say to that. He scratched his cheek, and some of the skin peeled away. “It’s dangerous out here.”
She didn’t want to engage with him at all, felt even responding negatively might encourage him, so she started to slide off the duct tape patchwork that had once been a booth, grabbing her backpack and making a determined look toward the door against the pulsing of her panicked heart. He held a hand up, and she froze, wanting to leave but not able to find a way to do so.
“Want to see something funny?” he said, in a voice with no humor in it.
It is often said that bad experiences are like nightmares. But what Keisha noticed most in this moment was how real it was, how she couldn’t escape its reality, how she would never be able to convince herself she had remembered any part of that evening incorrectly.
He got up, wiping the egg from his hands onto the word THISTLE on his chest. His face was slack and not arranged right. He walked over to a table where there was this man. A truck driver probably. The man looked like a truck driver, she thought. What does a truck driver look like?
“Hey Earl,” the Thistle Man said.
“Huh?” said Earl, frowning. The Thistle Man grabbed him by the back of his neck and Earl’s face went blank.
The Thistle Man guided Earl gently out of his seat, like a parent shepherding a sleepy child. Earl’s eyes were empty pools of water. Neither Earl nor the Thistle Man paid their checks. No one made a move to help. No one looked.
Keisha didn’t know what to do. She walked toward the door, wanting to help, having no idea how.
“You planning on paying for that?” said her waitress.
“What? Yeah. I was just. Yeah.”
She handed over what she thought was the right amount, left some sort of tip, and then was outside in a night unusually hot for early Midwestern spring.
The lights on one side of the gas station were out. And in the shadows, the man in the Thistle shirt was cradling Earl. Earl was fully awake again, but the man’s arms clung like ropes around Earl, and he couldn’t move. She could see the pulsing of his muscles as he tried, the strain in his face. Behind them, in a different world, people sat eating waffles and sausages.
“Shh,” the man in the Thistle shirt said to Earl, who tried to scream in response, but the scream was lost into the baggy flesh of his captor. The loose skinned man didn’t seem human. He was like a boogey man from a vaguely recalled nightmare. The Thistle Man. He bent down and took a bite out of Earl, at the artery in his armpit. Earl made a noise like a balloon letting out air, and blood poured down his torso. He was crying, but still couldn’t move. The Thistle Man reached his long fingers into the wound and tore off fragments of flesh, lifting them to his mouth. The movement was the same mechanical movement he had made with the omelet.
Keisha had only a moment to decide how to respond and didn’t need even that. She ran, of course. Ran for her truck with her breath and heartbeat deafening in her ears. The Thistle Man chuckled as she went, slurping another fragment of Earl’s body into his mouth.
As Keisha started the engine, she looked at Earl, who looked back at her. A man who had expected to go to sleep tonight, who had ideas about what the next few days would be like for him, had some sort of plan for the future. Who was, instead, watching the one person who could help him driving herself to safety, leaving him with only the company of a monster to accompany him in his dissipation.
Although Earl and his murderer didn’t know it, there was another witness. A small figure in a hoodie, standing behind one of the fuel pumps, the hood drawn over the face. The figure in the hoodie wasn’t running away, but they were no more able to help than Keisha. Some moments can’t be changed.