The Shining

Part Five. Matters of Life and Death Chapter 50. Redrum


Wendy Torrance stood indecisive in the middle of the bedroom, looking at her son, who had fallen fast asleep.
Half an hour ago the sounds had ceased. All of them, all at once. The elevator, the party, the sound of room doors opening and closing. Instead of easing her mind it made the tension that had been building in her even worse; it was like a malefic hush before the storm's final brutal push. But Danny had dozed off almost at once; first into a light, twitching doze, and in the last ten minutes or so a heavier sleep. Even looking directly at him she could barely see the slow rise and fall of his narrow chest.
She wondered when he had last gotten a full night's sleep, one without tormenting dreams or long periods of dark wakefulness, listening to revels that had only become audible-and visible-to her in the last couple of days, as the Overlook's grip on the three of them tightened.
(Real psychic phenomena or group hypnosis?)
She didn't know, and didn't think it mattered. What had been happening was just as deadly either way. She looked at Danny and thought
(God grant he lie still)
that if he was undisturbed, he might sleep the rest of the night through. Whatever talent he had, he was still a small boy and he needed his rest.
It was Jack she had begun to worry about.,
She grimaced with sudden pain, took her hand away from her mouth, and saw she had torn off one of her fingernails. And her nails were one thing she'd always tried to keep nice. They weren't long enough to be called hooks, but still nicely shaped and
(and what are you worrying about your fingernails for?)
She laughed a little, but it was a shaky sound, without amusement.
First Jack had stopped howling and battering at the door. Then the party had begun again
(or did it ever stop? did it sometimes just drift into a slightly different angle of time where they weren't meant to hear it?)
counterpointed by the crashing, banging elevator. Then that had stopped. In that new silence, as Danny had been falling asleep, she had fancied she heard low, conspiratorial voices coming from the kitchen almost directly below them. At first she had dismissed it as the wind, which could mimic many different human vocal ranges, from a papery deathbed whisper around the doors and window frames to a full-out scream around the eaves... the sound of a woman fleeing a murderer in a cheap melodrama. Yet, sitting stiffly beside Danny, the idea that it was indeed voices became more and more convincing.,
Jack and someone else, discussing his escape from the pan-
Discussing the murder of his wife and son.
It would be nothing new inside these walls; murder had been done here before.
She had gone to the heating vent and had placed her ear against it, but at that exact moment the furnace had come on, and any sound was lost in the rush of warm air coming up from the basement. When the furnace had kicked off again, five minutes ago, the place was completely silent except for the wind, the gritty spatter of snow against the building, and the occasional groan of a board.
She looked down at her ripped fingernail. Small beads of blood were oozing up from beneath it.
(lack's gotten out.)
(Don't talk nonsense.)
(Yes, he's out. He's gotten a knife from the kitchen or maybe the meat cleaver. He's on his way up here right now, walking along the sides of the risers so the stairs won't creak.)
(! You're insane!)
Her lips were trembling, and for a moment it seemed that she must have cried the words out loud. But the silence held.
She felt watched.
She whirled around and stared at the night-blackened window, and a hideous white face with circles of darkness for eyes was gibbering in at her, the face of a monstrous lunatic that had been hiding in these groaning walls all along-
It was only a pattern of frost on the outside of the glass.
She let her breath out in a long, susurrating whisper of fear, and it seemed to her that she heard, quite clearly this time, amused titters from somewhere.
(You're jumping at shadows. It's bad enough without that. By tomorrow morning, you'll be ready for the rubber room.)
There was only one way to allay those fears and she knew what it was.
She would have to go down and make sure Jack was still in the pantry.
Very simple. Go downstairs. Have a peek. Come back up. Oh, by the way, stop and grab the tray on the registration counter. The omelet would be a washout, but the soup could be reheated on the hotplate by Jack's typewriter.
(Oh yes and don't get killed if he's down there with a knife.)
She walked to the dresser, trying to shake off the mantle of fear that lay on her. Scattered across the dresser's top was a pile of change, a stack of gasoline chits for the hotel truck, the two pipes Jack brought with him everywhere but rarely smoked... and his key ring.
She picked it up, held it in her hand for a moment, and then put it back down. The idea of locking the bedroom door behind her had occurred, but it just didn't appeal. Danny was asleep. Vague thoughts of fire passed through her mind, and something else nibbled more strongly, but she let it go:
Wendy crossed the room, stood indecisively by the door for a moment, then took the knife from the pocket of her robe and curled her right hand around the wooden haft,:
She pulled the door open.
The short corridor leading to their quarters was bare. The electric wall flambeaux all shone brightly at their regular intervals, showing off the rug's blue background and sinuous, weaving pattern.
(See? No boogies here.)
(No, of course not. They want you out. They want you to do something silly and womanish, and that is exactly what you are doing.)
She hesitated again, miserably caught, not wanting to leave Danny and the safety of the apartment and at the same time needing badly to reassure herself that Jack was still.
safely packed away.
(Of course he is.)
(But the voices)
(There were no voices. It was your imagination. It was the wind.)
"It wasn't the wind."
The sound of her own voice made her jump. But the deadly certainty in it made her go forward. The knife swung by her side, catching angles of light and throwing them on the silk wallpaper. Her slippers whispered against the carpet's nap. Her nerves were singing like wires.
She reached the corner of the main corridor and peered around, her mind stiffened for whatever she might see there.
There was nothing to see.
After a moment's hesitation she rounded the corner and began down the main corridor. Each step toward the shadowy stairwell increased her dread and made her aware that she was leaving her sleeping son behind, alone and unprotected. The sound of her slippers against the carpet seemed louder and louder in her ears; twice she looked back over her shoulder to convince herself that someone wasn't creeping up behind her.
She reached the stairwell and put her hand on the cold newel post at the top of the railing. There were nineteen wide steps down to the lobby. She had counted them enough times to know. Nineteen carpeted stair risers, and nary a Jack crouching on any one of them. Of course not. Jack was locked in the pantry behind a hefty steel bolt and a thick wooden door.
But the lobby was dark and oh so full of shadows.
Her pulse thudded steadily and deeply in her throat.
Ahead and slightly to the left, the brass yaw of the elevator stood mockingly open, inviting her to step in and take the ride of her life.
(No thank you)
The inside of the car had been draped with pink and white crepe streamers. Confetti had burst from two tubular party favors. Lying in the rear left corner was an empty bottle of champagne.
She sensed movement above her and wheeled to look up the nineteen steps leading to the dark second-floor landing and saw nothing; yet there was a disturbing corner-of-the-eye sensation that things
had leaped back into the deeper darkness of the hallway up there just before her eyes could register them.
She looked down the stairs again.
Her right hand was sweating against the wooden handle of the knife; she switched it to her left, wiped her right palm against the pink terrycloth of her robe, and switched the knife back. Almost unaware that her mind had given her body the command to go forward, she began down the stairs, left foot then right, left foot then right, her free hand trailing lightly on the banister.
(Where's the party? Don't let me scare you away, you bunch of moldy sheets! Not one scared woman with a knife! Let's have a little music around here! Let's have a little life!)
Ten steps down, a dozen, a baker's dozen.
The light from the first-floor hall filtered a dull yellow down here, and she remembered that she would have to turn on the lobby lights either beside the entrance to the dining room or inside the manager's office.
Yet there was light coming from somewhere else, white and muted.
The fluorescents, of course. In the kitchen.
She paused on the thirteenth step, trying to remember if she had turned them off or left them on when she and Danny left. She simply couldn't remember.
Below her, in the lobby, highbacked chairs hulked in pools of shadow. The glass in the lobby doors was pressed white with a uniform blanket of drifted snow. Brass studs in the sofa cushions gleamed faintly like cat's eyes. There were a hundred places to hide.
Her legs stilted with fear, she continued down.
Now seventeen, now eighteen, now nineteen.
(Lobby level, madam. Step out carefully.)
The ballroom doors were thrown wide, only blackness spilling out. From within came a steady ticking, like a bomb. She stiffened, then remembered the clock on the mantel, the clock under glass. Jack or Danny must have wound it... or maybe it had wound itself up, like everything else in the Overlook.
She turned toward the reception desk meaning to go through the gate and the manager's office and into the kitchen. Gleaming dull silver, she could see the intended lunch tray.
Then the clock began to strike, little tinkling notes.
Wendy stiffened, her tongue rising to the roof of her mouth. Then she relaxed. It was striking eight, that was all. Eight o'clock
... five, six, seven...
She counted the strokes. It suddenly seemed wrong to move again until the clock had stilled.
... eight... nine...
(?? Nine??)
... ten... eleven...
Suddenly, belatedly, it came to her. She turned back clumsily for the stairs, knowing already she was too late. But how could she have known?
All the lights in the ballroom went on. There was a huge, shrieking flourish of brass. Wendy screamed aloud, the sound of her cry insignificant against the blare issuing from those brazen lungs.
"Unmask!" the cry echoed. "Unmask! Unmask!"
Then they faded, as if down a long corridor of time, leaving her alone again.
No, not alone.
She turned and he was coming for her.
It was Jack and yet not Jack. His eyes were lit with a vacant, murderous glow; his familiar mouth now wore a quivering, joyless grin.
He had the Toque mallet in one hand.
"Thought you'd lock me in? Is that what you thought you'd do?"
The mallet whistled through the air. She stepped backward, tripped over a hassock, fell to the lobby rug.
"You bitch," he whispered. "I know what you are."
The mallet came down again with whistling, deadly velocity and buried itself in her soft stomach. She screamed, suddenly submerged in an ocean of pain. Dimly she saw the mallet rebound. It came to her with sudden numbing reality that he meant to beat her to death with the mallet he held in his hands.
She tried to cry out to him again, to beg him to stop for Danny's sake, but her breath had been knocked loose. She could only force out a weak whimper, hardly a sound at all.
"Now. Now, by Christ," he said, grinning. He kicked the hassock out of his way. "I guess you'll take your medicine now."
The mallet whickered down. Wendy rolled to her left, her robe tangling above her knees. Jack's hold on the mallet was jarred loose when it hit the floor. He had to stoop and pick it up, and while he did she ran for the stairs, the breath at last sobbing back into her. Her stomach was a bruise of throbbing pain.
"Bitch," he said through his grin, and began to come after her. "You stinking bitch, I guess you'll get what's coming to you. I guess you will."
She heard the mallet whistle through the air and then agony exploded on her right side as the mallet-head took her just below the line of her breasts, breaking two ribs. She fell forward on the steps and new agony ripped her as she struck on the wounded side. Yet instinct made her roll over, roll away, and the mallet whizzed past the side of her face, missing by a naked inch. It struck the deep pile of the stair carpeting with a muffled thud. That was when she saw the knife, which had been jarred out of her hand by her fall. It lay glittering on the fourth stair riser.
"Bitch," he repeated. The mallet came down. She shoved herself upward and it landed just below her kneecap. Her lower leg was suddenly on fire. Blood began to trickle down her calf. And then the mallet was coming down again. She jerked her head away from it and it smashed into the stair riser in the hollow between her neck and shoulder, scraping away the flesh from her ear.
He brought the mallet down again and this time she rolled toward him, down the stairs, inside the arc of his swing. A shriek escaped her as her broken ribs thumped and grated. She struck his shins with her body while he was offbalance and he fell backward with a yell of anger and surprise, his feet jigging to keep their purchase on the stair riser. Then he thumped to the floor, the mallet flying from his hand. He sat up, staring at her for a moment with shocked eyes.
"I'll kill you for that," he said.
He rolled over and stretched out for the handle of the mallet. Wendy forced herself to her feet. Her left leg sent bolt after bolt of pain all the way up to her hip. Her face was ashy pale but set. She leaped onto his back as his hand closed over the shaft of the Toque mallet.
"Oh dear God!" she screamed to the Overlook's shadowy lobby, and buried the kitchen knife in his lower back up to the handle.
He stiffened beneath her and then shrieked. She thought she had never heard such an awful sound in her whole life; it was as if the very boards and windows and doors of the hotel had screamed. It seemed to go on and on while he remained board-stiff beneath her weight. They were like a parlor charade of horse and rider. Except that the back of his redand-black-checked flannel shirt was growing darker, sodden, with spreading blood.
Then he collapsed forward on his face, bucking her off on her hurt side, making her groan.
She lay breathing harshly for a time, unable to move. She was an excruciating throb of pain from one end to the other. Every time she inhaled, something stabbed viciously at her, and her neck was wet with blood from her grazed ear.
There was only the sound of her struggle to breathe, the wind, and the ticking clock in the ballroom.
At last she forced herself to her feet and hobbled across to the stairway. When she got there she clung to the newel post, head down, waves of faintness washing over her. When it had passed a little, she began to climb, using her unhurt leg and pulling with her arms on the banister. Once she looked up, expecting to see Danny there, but the stairway was empty.
(Thank God he slept through it thank God thank God)
Six steps up she had to rest, her head down, her blond hair coiled on and over the banister. Air whistled painfully through her throat, as if it had grown barbs. Her right side was a swollen, hot mass.
(Come on Wendy come on old girl get a locked door behind you and then look at the damage thirteen more to go not so bad. And when you get to the upstairs corridor you can crawl. I give my permission.)
She drew in as much breath as her broken ribs would allow and half-pulled, half-fell up another riser. And another.
She was on the ninth, almost halfway up, when Jack's voice came from behind and below her. He said thickly: "You bitch. You killed me."
Terror as black as midnight swept through her. She looked over her shoulder and saw Jack getting slowly to his feet.
His back was bowed over, and she could see the handle of the kitchen knife sticking out of it. His eyes seemed to have contracted, almost to have lost themselves in the pale, sagging folds of the skin around them. He was grasping the roque mallet loosely in his left hand. The end of it was bloody. A scrap of her pink terrycloth robe stuck almost in the center.
"I'll give you your medicine," he whispered, and began to stagger toward the stairs.
Whimpering with fear, she began to pull herself upward again. Ten steps, a dozen, a baker's dozen. But still the first-floor hallway looked as far above her as an unattainable mountain peak. She was panting now, her side shrieking in protest. Her hair swung wildly back and forth in front of her face. Sweat stung her eyes. The ticking of the domed clock in the ballroom seemed to fill her cars, and counterpointing it, Jack's panting, agonized gasps as he began to mount the stairs.