The Shining

Part Five. Matters of Life and Death Chapter 46. Wendy


Around noon, after Danny had gone into the bathroom to use the toilet, Wendy took the towel-wrapped knife from under her pillow, put it in the pocket of her bathrobe, and went over to the bathroom door.
"I'm going down to make us some lunch. 'Kay?"
"Okay. Do you want me to come down?"
"No, I'll bring it up. How about a cheese omelet and some soup?"
She hesitated outside the closed door a moment longer, "Danny, are you sure it's okay?"
"Yeah," he said. "Just be careful."
"Where's your father? Do you know?"
His voice came back, curiously flat: "No. But it's okay." She stifled an urge to keep asking, to keep picking around the edges of the thing. The thing was there, they knew what it was, picking at it was only going to frighten Danny more... and herself. Jack had lost his mind. They had sat together on Danny's cot as the storm began to pick up clout and meanness around eight o'clock this morning and had listened to him downstairs, bellowing and stumbling from one place to another. Most of it had seemed to come from the ballroom. Jack singing tuneless bits of song, Jack holding up one side of an argument, Jack screaming loudly at one point, freezing both of their faces as they stared into one another's eyes. Finally they had heard him stumbling back across the lobby, and Wendy thought she had heard a loud banging noise, as if he had fallen down or pushed a door violently open. Since eightthirty or so-three and a half hours now-there had been only silence.
She went down the short hall, turned into the main first floor corridor, and went to the stairs. She stood on the firstfloor landing looking down into the lobby. It appeared deserted, but the gray and snowy day had left much of the long room in shadow. Danny could be wrong. Jack could be behind a chair or couch... maybe behind the registration desk... waiting for her to come down,...
She wet her lips. "Jack?"
No answer.
Her hand found the handle of the knife and she began to go down. She had seen the end of her marriage many times, in divorce, in Jack's death at the scene of a drunken car accident (a regular vision in the dark two o'clock of Stovington mornings), and occasionally in daydreams of being discovered by another man, a soap opera Galahad who would sweep Danny and her onto the saddle of his snowwhite charger and take them away. But she had never envisioned herself prowling halls and staircases like a nervous felon, with a knife clasped in one hand to use against Jack.
A wave of despair struck through her at the thought and she had to stop halfway down the stairs and hold the railing, afraid her knees would buckle.
(Admit it. It isn't just Jack, he's just the one solid thing in all of this you can hang the other things on, the things you can't believe and yet are being forced to believe, that thing about the hedges, the party favor in the elevator, the mask)
She tried to stop the thought but it was too late.
(and the voices.)
Because from time to time it had not seemed that there was a solitary crazy man below them, shouting at and holding conversations with the phantoms in his own crumbling mind. From time to time, like a radio signal fading in and out, she had heard-or thought she had-other voices, and music, and laughter. At one moment she would hear Jack holding a conversation with someone named Grady (the name was vaguely familiar to her but she made no actual connection), making statements and asking questions into silence, yet speaking loudly, as if to make himself heard over a steady background racket. And then, eerily, other sounds would be there, seeming to slip into places-a dance band, people clapping, a man with an amused yet authoritative voice who seemed to be trying to persuade somebody to make a speech. For a period of thirty seconds to a minute she would hear this, long enough to grow faint with terror, and then it would be gone again and she would only hear Jack, talking in that commanding yet slightly slurred way she remembered as his drunk-speak voice. But there was nothing in the hotel to drink except cooking sherry. Wasn't that right? Yes, but if she could imagine that the hotel was full of voices and music, couldn't Jack imagine that he was drunk?
She didn't like that thought. Not at all.
Wendy reached the lobby and looked around. The velvet rope that had cordoned off the ballroom had been taken down; the steel post it had been clipped to had been knocked over, as if someone had carelessly bumped it going by. Mellow white light fell through the open door onto the lobby rug from the ballroom's high, narrow windows. Heart thumping, she went to the open ballroom doors and looked in. It was empty and silent, the only sound that curious subaural echo that seems to linger in all large rooms, from the largest cathedral to the smallest hometown bingo parlor.
She went back to the registration desk and stood undecided for a moment, listening to the wind howl outside. It was the worst storm so far, and it was still building up force. Somewhere on the west side a shutter latch had broken and the shutter banged back and forth with a steady flat cracking sound, like a shooting gallery with only one customer.
(Jack, you really should take care of that. Before something gets in.)
What would she do if he came at her right now, she wondered. If he should pop up from behind the dark, varnished registration desk with its pile of triplicate forms and its little silver-plated bell, like some murderous jack-in-the-box, pun intended, a grinning jack-in-the-box with a cleaver in one hand and no sense at all left behind his eyes. Would she stand frozen with terror, or was there enough of the primal mother in her to fight him for her son until one of them was dead? She didn't know. The very thought made her sickmade her feel that her whole life had been a long and easy dream to lull her helplessly into this waking nightmare. She was soft. When trouble came, she slept. Her past was unremarkable. She had never been tried in fire. Now the trial was upon her, not fire but ice, and she would not be allowed to sleep through this. Her son was waiting for her upstairs.
Clutching the haft of the knife tighter, she peered over the desk.
Nothing there.
Her relieved breath escaped her in a long, hitching sigh.
She put the gate up and went through, pausing to glance into the inner office before going in herself. She fumbled through the next door for the bank of kitchen light switches, coldly expecting a hand to close over hers at any second. Then the fluorescents were coming on with minuscule ticking and humming sounds and she could see Mr. Hallorann's kitchen-her kitchen now, for better or worse-pale green tiles, gleaming Formica, spotless porcelain, glowing chrome edgings. She had promised him she would keep his kitchen clean, and she had. She felt as if it was one of Danny's safe places. Dick Hallorann's presence seemed to enfold and comfort her. Danny had called for Mr. Hallorann, and upstairs, sitting next to Danny in fear as her husband ranted and raved below, that had seemed like the faintest of all hopes. But standing here, in Mr. Hallorann's place, it seemed almost possible. Perhaps he was on his way now, intent on getting to them regardless of the storm. Perhaps it was so.
She went across to the pantry, shot the bolt back, and stepped inside. She got a can of tomato soup and closed the pantry door again, and bolted it. The door was tight against the floor. If you kept it bolted, you didn't have to worry about rat or mouse droppings in the rice or flour or sugar.
She opened the can and dropped the slightly jellied contents into a saucepanplop. She went to the refrigerator and got milk and eggs for the omelet. Then to the walk-in freezer for cheese. All of these actions, so common and so much a part of her life before the Overlook had been a part of her life, helped to calm her.
She melted butter in the frying pan, diluted the soup with milk, and then poured the beaten eggs into the pan.
A sudden feeling that someone was standing behind her, reaching for her throat.
She wheeled around, clutching the knife. No one there.
(! Get ahold of yourself, girl!)
She grated a bowl of cheese from the block, added it to the omelet, flipped it, and turned the gas ring down to a bare blue flame. The soup was hot. She put the pot on a large tray with silverware, two bowls, two plates, the salt and pepper shakers. When the omelet had puffed slightly, Wendy slid it off onto one of the plates and covered it.
(Now back the way you came. Turn off the kitchen lights. Go through the inner office. Through the desk gate, collect two hundred dollars.)
She stopped on the lobby side of the registration desk and set the tray down beside the silver bell. Unreality would stretch only so far; this was like some surreal game of hideand-seek.
She stood in the shadowy lobby, frowning in thought.
(Don't push the facts away this time, girl. There are certain realities, as lunatic as this situation may seem. One of them is that you may be the only responsible person left in this grotesque pile. You have a five-going-on-six son to look out for. And your husband, whatever has happened to him and no matter how dangerous he may be... maybe he's part of your responsibility, too. And even if he isn't consider this: Today is December second. You could be stuck up here another four months if a ranger doesn't happen by. Even if they do start to wonder why they haven't heard from us on the CB, no one is going to come today... or tomorrow... maybe not for weeks. Are you going to spend a month sneaking down to get meals with a knife in your pocket and jumping at every shadow? Do you really think you can avoid Jack for a month? Do you think you can keep Jack out of the upstairs quarters if he wants to get in? He has the passkey and one hard kick would snap the bolt.)
Leaving the tray on the desk, she walked slowly down to the dining room and looked in. It was deserted. There was one table with the chairs set up around it, the table they had tried eating at until the dining room's emptiness began to freak them out.
"Jack?" she called hesitantly.
At that moment the wind rose in a gust, driving snow against the shutters, but it seemed to her that there had been something. A muffled sort of groan.
No returning sound this time, but her eyes fell on something beneath the batwing doors of the Colorado Lounge, something that gleamed faintly in the subdued light. Jack's cigarette lighter.
Plucking up her courage, she crossed to the batwings and pushed them open. The smell of gin was so strong that her breath snagged in her throat. It wasn't even right to call it a smell; it was a positive reek. But the shelves were empty. Where in God's name had he found it? A bottle hidden at the back of one of the cupboards? Where?
There was another groan, low and fuzzy, but perfectly audible this time. Wendy walked slowly to the bar.
No answer.
She looked over the bar and there he was, sprawled out on the floor in a stupor. Drunk as a lord, by the smell. He must have tried to go right over the top and lost his balance. A wonder he hadn't broken his neck. An old proverb recurred to her: God looks after drunks and little children. Amen.
Yet she was not angry with him; looking down at him she thought be looked like a horribly overtired little boy who bad tried to do too much and had fallen asleep in the middle of the living room floor. He had stopped drinking and it was not Jack who had made the decision to start again; there had been no liquor for him to start with... so where had it come from?
Resting at every five or six feet along the horseshoe-shaped bar there were wine bottles wrapped in straw, their mouths plugged with candles. Supposed to look bohemian, she supposed. She picked one up and shook it, half-expecting to hear the slosh of gin inside it
(new wine in old bottles)
but there was nothing. She set it back down.
Jack was stirring. She went around the bar, found the gate, and walked back on the inside to where Jack lay, pausing only to look at the gleaming chromium taps. They were dry, but when she passed close to them she could smell beer, wet and new, like a fine mist.
As she reached Jack he rolled over, opened his eyes, and looked up at her. For a moment his gaze was utterly blank, and then it cleared.
"Wendy?" he asked. "That you?"
"Yes," she said. "Do you think you can make it upstairs? If you put your arms around me? Jack, where did you-"
His hand closed brutally around her ankle.
"Jack! What are you-"
"Gotcha!" he said, and began to grin. There was a stale odor of gin and olives about him that seemed to set off an old terror in her, a worse terror than any hotel could provide by itself. A distant part of her thought that the worst thing was that it had all come back to this, she and her drunken husband.
"Jack, I want to help."
"Oh yeah. You and Danny only want to help." The grip on her ankle was crushing now. Still holding onto her, Jack was getting shakily to his knees. "You wanted to help us all right out of here. But now... I... gotcha!"
"Jack, you're hurting my ankle-"
"I'll hurt more than your ankle, you bitch."
The word stunned her so completely that she made no effort to move when he let go of her ankle and stumbled from his knees to his feet, where he stood swaying in front of her.
"You never loved me," he said. "You want us to leave because you know that'll be the end of me. Did you ever think about my re... res... respons'bilities? No, I guess to fuck you didn't. All you ever think about is ways to drag me down. You're just like my mother, you milksop bitch!"
"Stop it," she said, crying. "You don't know what you're saying. You're drunk. I don't know how, but you're drunk."
"Oh, I know. I know now. You and him. That little pup upstairs. The two of you, planning together. Isn't that right?"
"No, no! We never planned anything! What are you-"
"You liarl" he screamed. "Oh, I know how you do it! I guess I know that! When I say, `We're going to stay here and I'm going to do my job,' you say, `Yes, dear,' and he says, `Yes, Daddy,' and then you lay your plans. You planned to use the snowmobile. You planned that. But I knew. I figured it out. Did you think I wouldn't figure it out? Did you think I was stupid?"
She stared at him, unable to speak now. He was going to kill her, and then he was going to kill Danny. Then maybe the hotel would be satisfied and allow him to kill himself. Just like that other caretaker. Just like
With almost swooning horror, she realized at last who it was that Jack had been conversing with in the ballroom.
"You turned my son against me. That was the worst." His face sagged into lines of selfpity. "My little boy. Now he hates me, too. You saw to that. That was your plan all along, wasn't it? You've always been jealous, haven't you? Just like your mother. You couldn't be satisfied unless you had all the cake, could you? Could you?"
She couldn't talk.
"Well, I'll fix you," he said, and tried to put his hands around her throat.
She took a step backward, then another, and he stumbled against her. She remembered the knife in the pocket of her robe and groped for it, but now his left arm had swept around her, pinning her arm against her side. She could smell sharp gin and the sour odor of his sweat.
"Have to be punished," he was grunting. "Chastised. Chastised... harshly."
His right hand found her throat.
As her breath stopped, pure panic took over. His left hand joined his right and now the knife was free to her own hand, but she forgot about it. Both of her hands came up and began to yank helplessly at his larger, stronger ones.
"Mommy!" Danny shrieked from somewhere. "Daddy, stop! You're hurting Mommyl" He screamed piercingly, a high and crystal sound that she heard from far off.
Red flashes of light leaped in front of her eyes like ballet dancers. The room grew darker. She saw her son clamber up on the bar and throw himself at Jack's shoulders. Suddenly one of the hands that had been crushing her throat was gone as Jack cuffed Danny away with a snarl. The boy fell back against the empty shelves and dropped to the floor, dazed. The hand was on her throat again. The red flashes began to turn black.
Danny was crying weakly. Her chest was burning. Jack was shouting into her face: "I'll fix you! Goddam you, I'll show you who is boss around here! I'll show you-"
But all sounds were fading down a long dark corridor. Her struggles began to weaken. One of her hands fell away from his and dropped slowly until the arm was stretched out at right angles to her body, the hand dangling limply from the wrist like the hand of a drowning woman.
It touched a bottle-one of the straw-wrapped wine bottles that served as decorative candleholders.
Sightlessly, with the last of her strength, she groped for the bottle's neck and found it, feeling the greasy beads of wax against her hand.
(and U God if it slips)
She brought it up and then down, praying for aim, knowing that if it only struck his shoulder or upper arm she was dead.
But the bottle came down squarely on Jack Torrance's head, the glass shattering violently inside the straw. The base of it was thick and heavy, and it made a sound against his skull like a medicine ball dropped on a hardwood floor. He rocked back on his heels, his eyes rolling up in their sockets. The pressure on her throat loosened, then gave way entirely. He put his hands out, as if to steady himself, and then crashed over on his back.
Wendy drew a long, sobbing breath. She almost fell herself, clutched the edge of the bar, and managed to hold herself up. Consciousness wavered in and out. She could hear Danny crying, but she had no idea where he was. It sounded like crying in an echo chamber. Dimly she saw dime-sized drops of blood falling to the dark surface of the bar-from her nose, she thought. She cleared her throat and spat on the floor. It sent a wave of agony up the column of her throat, but the agony subsided to a steady dull press of pain..., just bearable.
Little by little, she managed to get control of herself.
She let go of the bar, turned around, and saw Jack lying full-length, the shattered bottle beside him. He looked like a felled giant. Danny was crouched below the lounge's cash register, both hands in his mouth, staring at his unconscious father.
Wendy went to him unsteadily and touched his shoulder. Danny cringed away from her.
"Danny, listen to me-"
"No, no," he muttered in a husky old man's voice. "Daddy hurt you... you hurt Daddy... Daddy hurt you,... I want to go to sleep. Danny wants to go to sleep."
"Sleep, sleep. Nighty-night."
Pain ripping up her throat again. She winced against it. But he opened his eyes. They looked at her warily from bluish, shadowed sockets.
She made herself speak calmly, her eyes never leaving his. Her voice was low and husky, almost a whisper. It hurt to talk. "Listen to me, Danny. It wasn't your daddy trying to hurt me. And I didn't want to hurt him. The hotel has gotten into him, Danny. The Overlook has gotten into your daddy. Do you understand me?"
Some kind of knowledge came slowly back into Danny's eyes.
"The Bad Stuff," he whispered. "There was none of it here before, was there?"
"No. The hotel put it here. The...: ' She broke off in a fit of coughing and spat out more blood. Her throat already felt puffed to twice its size. "The hotel made him drink it. Did you hear those people he was talking to this morning?"
"Yes... the hotel people..."
"I heard them too. And that means the hotel is getting stronger. It wants to hurt all of us. But I think..., I hope..., that it can only do that through your daddy. He was the only one it could catch. Are you understanding me, Danny? It's desperately important that you understand."
"The hotel caught Daddy," He looked at Jack and groaned helplessly.
"I know you love your daddy. I do too. We have to remember that the hotel is trying to hurt him as much as it is us." And she was convinced that was true. More, she thought that Danny might be the one the hotel really wanted, the reason it was going so far... maybe the reason it was able to go so far. It might even be that in some unknown fashion it was Danny's shine that was powering it, the way a battery powers the electrical equipment in a car... the way a battery gets a car to start. If they got out of here, the Overlook might subside to its old semi-sentient state, able to do no more than present penny-dreadful horror slides to the more psychically aware guests who entered it. Without Danny it was not much more than an amusement park haunted house, where a guest or two might hear rappings or the phantom sounds of a masquerade party, or see an occasional disturbing thing. But if it absorbed Danny.,. Danny's shine or Iifeforce or spirit... whatever you wanted to call it... into itself-what would it be then?
The thought made her cold all over.
"I wish Daddy was all better," Danny said, and the tears began to flow again.
"Me too," she said, and hugged Danny tightly. "And honey, that's why you've got to help me put your daddy somewhere. Somewhere that the hotel can't make him hurt us and where he can't hurt himself. Then... if your friend Dick comes, or a park ranger, we can take him away. And I think he might be all right again. All of us might be all right. I think there's still a chance for that, if we're strong and brave, like you were when you jumped on his back. Do you understand?" She looked at him pleadingly and thought how strange it was; she had never seen him when he looked so much like Jack.
"Yes," he said, and nodded. "I think... if we can get away from here... everything will be like it was. Where could we put him?"
"The pantry. There's food in there, and a good strong bolt on the outside. It's warm. And we can eat up the things from the refrigerator and the freezer. There will be plenty for all three of us until help comes."
"Do we do it now?"
"Yes, right now. Before he wakes up.,"
Danny put the bargate up while she folded Jack's hands on his chest and listened to his breathing for a moment. It was slow but regular. From the smell of him she thought he must have drunk a great deal... and he was out of the habit. She thought it might be liquor as much as the crack on the head with the bottle that had put him out.
She picked up his legs and began to drag him along the floor. She had been married to him for nearly seven years, he had lain on top of her countless times-in the thousandsbut she had never realized how heavy he was. Her breath whistled painfully in and out of her hurt throat. Nevertheless, she felt better than she had in days. She was alive. Having just brushed so close to death, that was precious. And Jack was alive, too. By blind luck rather than plan, they had perhaps found the only way that would bring them all safely out.
Panting harshly, she paused a moment, holding Jack's feet against her hips. The surroundings reminded her of the old seafaring captain's cry in Treasure Island after old blind Pew had passed him the Black Spot: h'e'll do em yeti
And then she remembered, uncomfortably, that the old seadog had dropped dead mere seconds later.
"Are you all right, Mommy? Is he... is he too heavy?"
"I'll manage." She began to drag him again. Danny was beside Jack. One of his hands had fallen off his chest, and Danny replaced it gently, with love.
"Are you sure, Mommy?"
"Yes. It's the best thing, Danny."
"It's like putting him in jail."
"Only for awhile."
"Okay, then. Are you sure you can do it?"
But it was a near thing, at that. Danny had been cradling his father's head when they went over the doorsills, but his hands slipped in Jack's greasy hair as they went into the kitchen. The back of his head struck the tiles, and Jack began to moan and stir.
"You got to use smoke," Jack muttered quickly. "Now run and get me that gascan."
Wendy and Danny exchanged tight, fearful glances.
"Help me," she said in a low voice.
For a moment Danny stood as if paralyzed by his father's face, and then he moved jerkily to her side and helped her hold the left leg. They dragged him across the kitchen floor in a nightmare kind of slow motion, the only sounds the faint, insectile buzz of the fluorescent lights and their own labored breathing.
When they reached the pantry, Wendy put Jack's feet down and turned to fumble with the bolt. Danny looked down at Jack, who was lying limp and relaxed again. The shirttail had pulled out of the back of his pants as they dragged him and Danny wondered if Daddy was too drunk to be cold. It seemed wrong to lock him in the pantry like a wild animal, but he had seen what he tried to do to Mommy. Even upstairs he had known Daddy was going to do that. He had heard them arguing in his head.
(If only we could all be out of here. Or if it was a dream I was having, back in Stovington. If only.)
The bolt was stuck.
Wendy pulled at it as hard as she could, but it wouldn't move. She couldn't retract the goddam bolt. It was stupid and unfair... she had opened it with no trouble at all when she had gone in to get the can of soup. Now it wouldn't move, and what was she going to do? They couldn't put him in the walk-in refrigerator; he would freeze or smother to death. But if they left him out and he woke up...
Jack stirred again on the floor.
"I'll take care of it," he muttered. "I understand"
"He's waking up, Mommyl" Danny warned.
Sobbing now, she yanked at the bolt with both hands.
"Danny?" There was something softly menacing, if still blurry, in Jack's voice. "That you, ole doc?"
"Just go to sleep, Daddy," Danny said nervously. "It's bedtime, you know."
He looked up at his mother, still struggling with the bolt, and saw what was wrong immediately. She had forgotten to rotate the bolt before trying to withdraw it. The little catch was stuck in its notch.
"Here," he said low, and brushed her trembling hands aside; his own were shaking almost as badly. He knocked the catch loose with the heel of his hand and the bolt drew back easily.
"Quick," he said. He looked down. Jack's eyes bad fluttered open again and this time Daddy was looking directly at him, his gaze strangely flat and speculative.
"You copied it," Daddy told him. "I know you did, But it's here somewhere. And I'll find it. That I promise you. IT find it..." His words slurred off again.
Wendy pushed the pantry door open with her knee, hardly noticing the pungent odor of dried fruit that wafted out. She picked up Jack's feet again and dragged him in. She was gasping harshly now, at the limit of her strength. As she yanked the chain pull that turned on the light, Jack's eyes fluttered open again.
"What are you doing? Wendy? What are you doing?"
She stepped over him.
He was quick; amazingly quick. One hand lashed out and she had to sidestep and nearly fall out the door to avoid his grasp. Still, he had caught a handful of her bathrobe and there was a heavy purring noise as it ripped., He was up on his hands and knees now, his hair hanging in his eyes, like some heavy animal. A large dog... or a lion.
"Damn you both, I know what you want. But you're not going to get it. This hotel... it's mine. It's me they want. Mel Mel"
"The door, Dannyl" she screamed. "Shut the door!"
He pushed the heavy wooden door shut with a slam, just as lack leaped. The door latched and Jack thudded uselessly against it.
Danny's small hands groped at the bolt. Wendy was too far away to help; the issue of whether he would be locked in or free was going to be decided in two seconds. Danny missed his grip, found it again, and shot the bolt across just as the latch began to jiggle madly up and down below it. Then it stayed up and there was a series of thuds as Jack slammed his shoulder against the door. The bolt, a quarter inch of steel in diameter, showed no signs of loosening. Wendy let her breath out slowly.
"Let me out of here!" Jack raged. "Let me out! Danny, doggone it, this is your father and I want to get out! Now do what I tell youl"
Danny's hand moved automatically toward the bolt. Wendy caught it and pressed it between her breasts.
"You mind your daddy, Dannyl You do what I sayl You do it or I'll give you a hiding you'll never forget. Open this door or FU bash your fucking brains in!"
Danny looked at her, pale as window glass.
They could hear his breath tearing in and out behind the half inch of solid oak.
"Wendy, you let me outl Let me out right now! You cheap pickle-plated coldcunt bitch! You let me out! I mean it! Let me out of here and I'll let it go! If you don't, I'll mess you up! I mean it! I'll mess you up so bad your own mother would pass you on the street! Now open this door!"
Danny moaned. Wendy looked at him and saw he was going to faint in a moment.
"Come on, doc," she said, surprised at the calmness of her own voices "It's not your daddy talking, remember. It's the hotel."
"Come hack here and let me out right NOW!" Jack screamed. There was a scraping, breaking sound as he attacked the inside of the door with his fingernails.
"It's the hotel," Danny said. "It's the hotel. I remember." But he looked back over his shoulder and his face was crumpled and terrified.