The Shining

Part Five. Matters of Life and Death Chapter 39. On the Stairs


One of the things they had sold to swell their liquid assets a little before moving from Vermont to Colorado was Jack's collection of two hundred old rock 'n' roll and r amp; b albums; they had gone at the yard sale for a dollar apiece. One of these albums, Danny's personal favorite, had been an Eddie Cochran double-record set with four pages of bound-in liner notes by Lenny Kaye. Wendy had often been struck by Danny's fascination for this one particular album by a manboy who had lived fast and died young... had died, in fact, when she herself had only been ten years old.
Now, at quarter past seven (mountain time), as Dick Hallorann was telling Queems about his ex-wife's white boyfriend, she came upon Danny sitting halfway up the stairs between the lobby and the first floor, tossing a red rubber ball from hand to band and singing one of the songs from that album. His voice was low and tuneless.
"So I climb one-two flight three flight four," Danny sang, "five flight six flight seven flight more... when I get to the top, I'm too tired to rock..."
She came around him, sat down on one of the stair risers, and saw that his lower lip had swelled to twice its size and that there was dried blood on his chin. Her heart took a frightened leap in her chest, but she managed to speak neutrally.
"What happened, doc?" she asked, although she was sure she knew. Jack had hit him. Well, of course. That came next, didn't it? The wheels of progress; sooner or later they took you back to where you started from.
"I called Tony," Danny said. "In the ballroom. I guess I fell off the chair. It doesn't hurt anymore. Just feels... like my lip's too big."
"Is that what really happened?" she asked, looking at him, troubled.
"Daddy didn't do it," he answered. "Not today."
She gazed at him, feeling eerie. The ball traveled from one band to the other. He had read her mind. Her son had read her mind.
"What... what did Tony tell you, Danny?"
"It doesn't matter." His face was calm, his voice chillingly indifferent.
"Danny-" She gripped his shoulder, harder than she had intended. But he didn't wince, or even try to shake her off.
(Oh we are wrecking this boy. It's not just Jack, it's me too, and maybe it's not even just us, Jack's father, my mother, are they here too? Sure, why not? The place is lousy with ghosts anyway, why not a couple more? Oh Lord in heaven he's like one of those suitcases they show on TV, run over, dropped from planes, going through factory crushers. Or a Timex watch. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Oh Danny I'm so sorry)
"It doesn't matter," he said again. The ball went from hand to hand. "Tony can't come anymore. They won't let him. He's licked."
"Who won't?"
"The people in the hotel," he said. He looked at her then, and his eyes weren't indifferent at all. They were deep and scared. "And the... the things in the hotel. There's all kinds of them. The hotel is stuffed with them."
"You can see-"
"I don't want to see," he said low, and then looked back at the rubber ball, arcing from hand to hand. "But I can hear them sometimes, late at night. They're like the wind, all sighing together. In the attic. The basement. The rooms. All over. I thought it was my fault, because of the way I am. The key. The little silver key."
"Danny, don't... don't upset yourself this way."
"But it's him too," Danny said. "It's Daddy. And it's you. It wants all of us. It's tricking Daddy, it's fooling him, trying to make him think it wants him the most. It wants me the most, but it will take all of us."
"If only that snowmobile-"
"They wouldn't let him," Danny said in that same low voice. "They made him throw part of it away into the snow. Far away. I dreamed it. And he knows that woman really is in 217." He looked at her with his dark, frightened eyes. "It doesn't matter whether you believe me or not."
She slipped an arm around him.
"I believe you, Danny, tell me the truth. Is Jack... is he going to try to hurt us?"
"They'll try to make him," Danny said. "I've been calling for Mr. Hallorann. He said if I ever needed him to just call. And I have been. But it's awful hard. It makes me tired. And the worst part is I don't know if he's hearing me or not. I don't think he can call back because it's too far for him. And I don't know if it's too far for me or not. Tomorrow-"
"What about tomorrow?"
He shook his head. "Nothing."
"Where is he now?" she asked. "'Four daddy?"
"He's in the basement. I don't think he'll be up tonight."
She stood up suddenly. "Wait right here for me. Five minutes."
The kitchen was cold and deserted under the overhead fluorescent bars. She went to the rack where the carving knives hung from their magnetized strips. She took the longest and sharpest, wrapped it in a dish towel, and left the kitchen, turning off the lights as she went.
Danny sat on the stairs, his eyes following the course of his red rubber ball from hand to hand. He sang: "She lives on the twentieth floor uptown, the elevator is broken down. So I walk one-two flight three flight four...:'
(-Lou, Lou, skip to m' Lou-)
His singing broke off. He listened.
(-Skip to m' Lou my darlin'-)
The voice was in his head, so much a part of him, so frighteningly close that it might have been a part of his own thoughts. It was soft and infinitely sly. Mocking him. Seeming to say:
(Oh yes, you'll like it here. Try it, you'll like it. Try it, you'll liiiiike it-)
Now his ears were open and he could hear them again, the gathering, ghosts or spirits or maybe the hotel itself, a dreadful funhouse where all the sideshows ended in death, where all the specially painted boogies were really alive, where hedges walked, where a small silver key could start the obscenity. Soft and sighing, rustling like the endless winter wind that played under the eaves at night, the deadly lulling wind the summer tourists never heard. It was like the somnolent hum of summer wasps in a ground nest, sleepy, deadly, beginning to wake up. They were ten thousand feet high.
(Why is a raven like a writing desk? The higher the fewer, of course! Have another cup of tea!)
It was a living sound, but not voices, not breath. A man of a philosophical bent might have called it the sound of souls. Dick Hallorann's Nana, who had grown up on southern roads in the years before the turn of the century, would have called it ha'ants. A psychic investigator might have had a long name for it-psychic echo, psychokinesis, a telesmic sport. But to Danny it was only the sound of the hotel, the old monster, creaking steadily and ever more closely around them: halls that now stretched back through time as well as distance, hungry shadows, unquiet guests who did not rest easy.
In the darkened ballroom the clock under glass struck seven-thirty with a single musical note.
A hoarse voice, made brutal with drink, shouted: "Unmask and let's fuck!"
Wendy, halfway across the lobby, jerked to a standstill.
She looked at Danny on the stairs, still tossing the ball from hand to hand. "Did you bear something?"
Danny only looked at her and continued to toss the ball from hand to hand.
There would be little sleep for them that night, although they slept together behind a locked door.
And in the dark, his eyes open, Danny thought:
(He wants to be one of them and live forever. That's what he wants.)
Wendy thought:
(If I have to, I'll take him further up. If we're going to die I'd rather do it in the mountains.)
She had left the butcher knife, still wrapped in the towel, under the bed. She kept her hand close to it. They dozed off and on. The hotel creaked around them. Outside snow had begun to spit down from a sky like lead.