The wonderful folks over at Titan sent over an excerpt from their new book FIRESTORM, an official prequel to DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - due in theaters July 11.
The novel bridges the gap between 2011’s RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES’ famously apocalyptic closing title sequence and this Summer’s Matt Reeves directed follow-up.
Here’s the excerpt…
Roger Mason was crossing the middle ground between wakeful and asleep when something snapped him to full awareness. He wasn’t sure what it was, although he felt as if it had been a sound of some sort.
He glanced around slowly to get his bearings.
Fog drifted through the massive coast redwoods, and it felt in that moment as if he wasn’t just a few miles from San Francisco, but in some distant era when this forest had stretched unbroken from what was now Santa Cruz all the way to southern Oregon. Other than his campsite, there was nothing visible of the works of man.
He was slumped against the trunk of one of the ancient titans, facing his tent. He had only closed his eyes for a matter of minutes, or so it seemed.
What had he heard?
Trying to stay still, he listened intently, but whatever it was, it didn’t repeat itself. Maybe it had just been the start of a dream, the nonsense music of hallucination.
“Nothing,” he sighed. As usual. Maybe it was time to go home. He had been out here for more than a week, alone, without a phone or any other ties to the rest of the world. Normally, he loved these trips. The illicit thrill of outsmarting the rangers, of camping where it wasn’t legal. The solitude. The possibility that finally, after all of these years, his dreams would come true. But now, at last, he began to think that not only was it time to go home, but to stay there.
For almost thirty years he had camped in the Muir Woods, among some of the tallest trees on Earth, searching for evidence of the creatures that the Native Americans called ‘Sasquatch,’ and that others called ‘Bigfoot.’ Many times in that first couple of decades, he’d felt certain that he had barely missed seeing one of the elusive, ape-like creatures, only by the smallest hair. That just one more trip would pay off big.
He knew the arguments voiced by the skeptics—that there couldn’t be just one or two Bigfoot. That for a species to survive, it needed a breeding population that numbered in the hundreds, at least, and that such numbers of giant creatures couldn’t possibly stay hidden for as long as they had. But the mountain gorilla had managed to remain hidden until the twentieth century, hadn’t it? And there were other such examples.
Bigfoot was most likely the descendant of Gigantopithecus, an ancient relative of the orangutan that had died off in Asia, but crossed the land bridge into the Americas. Orangutans lived pretty solitary lives, never in large groups. One could walk through a jungle, close to a breeding population of orangutans, and never know it. It stood to reason that Gigantopithecus had exhibited similar habits, and Bigfoot would be just as invisible.
Or so he had thought. Lately, though, he had begun to have his doubts. It felt as if he had wasted a lot of his life, and had nothing to show for it.
With a sigh, he pushed himself up and prepared to break camp.
That’s when he realized that he couldn’t hear anything. Anything. No birds singing, no squirrels chattering. The forest was silent as a church on Monday.
Roger felt the hair on his neck prick up a little.
Then, in the stillness, he heard it, the sound he had thought was a dream—something between a hoot and a grunt, a rising tone repeated again and again. Sounding almost—but not quite—human.
“Holy hell,” he muttered. Because he knew the sound, or something very like it. He had done his research, prepared himself to be able to recognize the signs. What he had just heard sounded very, very much like the long call of an orangutan.
“This is it,” he said under his breath. “This is really it.”
He tiptoed over to his sound recorder and turned it on.For a long moment he thought the call wouldn’t reoccur. But to his delight, it did—closer and louder than before.
He moved through the trees, treading as silently as possible, and reached the edge of a clearing. There he gingerly reached for his video camera and raised it, trying to keep still. Judging from past experience, he probably only had one shot at this.
These things spooked so easily.
The moments seemed to stretch on forever, the way the days before Christmas had, when he was a kid. Then he saw the trees rustle, and at the edge of a small clearing something moved. He suddenly knew what it was like to be born again, to have an epiphany, to have his life completely validated.
It walked upright, but not with a human gait, and it was entirely covered in dark fur. There could be no mistaking what it was, although perspective made it seem smaller than he had imagined all those years, when thinking of this moment.
He almost forgot to start his camera as the Sasquatch continued on its solitary journey. He zoomed in as close as possible, remaining at a safe distance, trying to get enough detail so that this film couldn’t be dismissed as some sort of a fraud—as so many others had in the past. His would be the definitive, the incontrovertible, most famous Bigfoot film of all time.
Glancing up from the eyepiece, he was startled to see another of the creatures appear behind the first.
“A pair...” he murmured, under his breath. His luck was unbelievable. Only rarely had more than one Bigfoot been found together, and never with visual proof.
But then there was another.
And another. Five, twenty...
“Oh, my God,” he gasped, still filming. “This isincredible!”
All of a sudden the one in the lead stopped and slowlyturned its head toward Roger. In that instant, all he could see in his viewfinder were its eyes—green-flecked, intense, intelligent.
And the Bigfoot saw Roger.
Suddenly he didn’t feel safe at all.
A twig broke behind him. He whirled around.
The face filled his vision—savage, inhuman, with onemilky, blind eye and a livid, glaring one. Its expression was of a malice so pure that it struck Roger like a physical blow. He felt suspended in terror, unable to speak, to move. Incapable, even, of closing his eyes against the terrible visage confronting him.
Then it opened its mouth, and it shrieked at him. Roger didn’t remember dropping the camera, or screaming, or running. But when he came back to himself, much later, his hands were empty, his lungs were heaving, and his throat was raw. He glanced behind him and saw nothing but the immense boles of the redwoods, and the fog enshrouding them.
Then he began running again.
With a decidedly grim satisfaction, Koba watched the human flee. He did not care for humans much. He had suffered at their hands and the tools those hands had held. He hoped this was the last one he ever saw.
But he had his doubts.
Once he was satisfied that the man was gone, he turned and looked out through the huge trees to where Caesar was watching him from the clearing.
He feared for a moment that Caesar would be displeased, as he had been when Koba had attacked Will, who had followed them into the trees. But then the ape leader tilted his head in approval, and Koba felt a rare flush of satisfaction. Caesar approved of his actions; therefore Caesar approved of him.
Koba dropped to all fours and ran to join his leader, but a gesture cut him short.
Food, Caesar signed.
Koba paused, chagrined that he had forgotten. Things were happening inside of him, strange things— images, thoughts, connections he had never made before. Sometimes it was distracting. The outdoors itself was distracting, the feel of wind, the smell of leaves, the great wide sky overhead. For so long he had lived in darkness, in pain and misery. And now to be free...
That was a sign and a word he had never known, until Caesar taught it to him.
He returned to the human’s camp and hunted through the things he found there. After a moment he located a bag of food. Gripping it under one arm, he returned to Caesar, lowering his head as he approached, offering the bag.
Caesar touched Koba’s arm, and then his cheek. Good, it meant. He took the bag, slung it over his shoulder in a peculiar, human-like way, and scrambled up the nearest of the trees. Koba and the others followed, to where the rest of the troop waited, still in the high canopy.
In a moment they were all on the move again, the soft rustling of the trees the only sound marking their passage.
Because now Caesar required silence. Silence was theirsurvival.
The dark sky had come and gone five times sinceKoba’s liberation and the battle with the humans and their killing tools. They had won that fight, but the humans hadn’t stopped chasing them, of course. Their flying cages crossed the skies above, and troops of them roamed the woods, but Caesar was clever. He sent out scouts to find small groups of their pursuers, or loners like the one Koba had just encountered.
They were to be frightened, though not harmed. They would report their meetings, but when hunters came, the apes would be gone to some other place. In this way they had led their pursuers in vast, twisty circles. In this way, they survived, here in this awesome place that was at once so strange and so familiar.
For this place, Caesar had taught Koba another new word, another new sign.
FIRESTORM arrives next week - and is already up for pre-order HERE.