The Shining

Part Five. Matters of Life and Death Chapter 57. Exit


The roar shook the whole facade of the hotel. Glass belched out onto the snow and twinkled there like jagged diamonds. The hedge dog, which had been approaching Danny and his mother, recoiled away from it, its green and shadowmarbled ears flattening, its tail coming down between its legs as its haunches flattened abjectly. In his head, Hallorann heard it whine fearfully, and mixed with that sound was the fearful, confused yowling of the big cats. He struggled to his feet to go to the other two and help them, and as he did so he saw something more nightmarish than all the rest: the hedge rabbit, still coated with snow, was battering itself crazily at the chainlink fence at the far end of the playground, and the steel mesh was jingling with a kind of nightmare music, like a spectral zither. Even from here he could hear the sounds of the close-set twigs and branches which made up its body cracking and crunching like breaking bones.
"Dick! Dick!" Danny cried out. He was trying to support his mother, help her over to the snowmobile. The clothes he had carried out for the two of them were scattered between where they had fallen and where they now stood. Hallorann was suddenly aware that the woman was in her nightclothes, Danny jacketless, and it was no more than ten above zero.
(my gad she's in her bare feet)
He struggled back through the snow, picking up her coat, her boots, Danny's coat, odd gloves. Then he ran back to them, plunging hip-deep in the snow from time to time, having to flounder his way out.
Wendy was horribly pale, the side of her neck coated with blood, blood that was now freezing.
"I can't," she muttered. She was no more than semiconscious. "No, I... can't. Sorry."
Danny looked up at Hallorann pleadingly.
"Gonna be okay," Hallorann said, and gripped her again. "Come on."
The three of them made it to where the snowmobile had slewed around and stalled out. Hallorann sat the woman down on the passenger seat and put her coat on. He lifted her feet up-they were very cold but not frozen yet-and rubbed them briskly with Danny's jacket before putting on her boots. Wendy's face was alabaster pale, her eyes halflidded and dazed, but she had begun to shiver. Hallorann thought that was a good sign.
Behind them, a series of three explosions rocked the hotel. Orange flashes lit the snow.
Danny put his mouth close to Hallorann's ear and screamed something.
"I said do you need that?"
The boy was pointing at the red gascan that leaned at an angle in the snow.
"I guess we do."
He picked it up and sloshed it. Still gas in there, he couldn't tell how much. He attached the can to the back of the snowmobile, fumbling the job several times before getting it right because his fingers were going numb. For the first time he became aware that he'd lost Howard Cottrell's mittens.
(i get out of this i gonna have my sister knit you a dozen pair, howie)
"Get on!" Hallorann shouted at the boy.
Danny shrank back. "We'll freeze!"
"We have to go around to the equipment shed! There's stuff in there... blankets... stuff like that. Get on behind your mother!"
Danny got on, and Hallorann twisted his head so he could shout into Wendy's face.
"Missus Torrance! Hold onto me! You understand? Hold on!"
She put her arms around him and rested her cheek against his back. Hallorann started the snowmobile and turned the throttle delicately so they would start up without a jerk. The woman had the weakest sort of grip on him, and if she shifted backward, her weight would tumble both her and the boy off.
They began to move. He brought the snowmobile around in a circle and then they were traveling west parallel to the hotel. Hallorann cut in more to circle around behind it to the equipment shed.
They had a momentarily clear view into the Overlook's lobby. The gasflame coming up through the shattered floor was like a giant birthday candle, fierce yellow at its heart and blue around its flickering edges. In that moment it seemed only to be lighting, not destroying. They could see the registration desk with its silver bell, the credit card decals, the old-fashioned, scrolled cash register, the small figured throw rugs, the highbacked chairs, horsehair hassocks. Danny could see the small sofa by the fireplace where the three nuns had sat on the day they had come up-closing day. But this was the real closing day.
Then the drift on the porch blotted the view out. A moment later they were skirting the west side of the hotel. It was still light enough to see without the snowmobile's headlight. Both upper stories were flaming now, and pennants of flame shot out the windows. The gleaming white paint had begun to blacken and peel. The shutters which had covered the Presidential Suite's picture windowshutters Jack had carefully fastened as per instructions in mid-October-now hung in flaming brands, exposing the wide and shattered darkness behind them, like a toothless mouth yawing in a final, silent deathrattle.
Wendy had pressed her face against Hallorann's back to cut out the wind, and Danny had likewise pressed his face against his mother's back, and so it was only Hallorann who saw the final thing, and he never spoke of it. From the window of the Presidential Suite he thought he saw a huge dark shape issue, blotting out the snowfield behind it. For a moment it assumed the shape of a huge, obscene manta, and then the wind seemed to catch it, to tear it and shred it like old dark paper. It fragmented, was caught in a whirling eddy of smoke, and a moment later it was gone as if it had never been. But in those few seconds as it whirled blackly, dancing like negative motes of light, he remembered something from his childhood... fifty years ago, or snore. He and his brother had come upon a huge nest of ground wasps just north of their farm. It had been tucked into a hollow between the earth and an old lightning-blasted tree. His brother had had a big old niggerchaser in the band of his hat, saved all the way from the Fourth of July. He had lighted it and tossed it at the nest. It had exploded with a loud bang, and an angry, rising hum-almost a low shriek-had risen from the blasted nest. They had run away as if demons had been at their beels. In a way, Hallorann supposed that demons had been. And looking back over his shoulder, as he was now, he had on that day seen a large dark cloud of hornets rising in the hot air, swirling together, breaking apart, looking for whatever enemy had done this to their home so that they-the single group intelligence-could sting it to death.
Then the thing in the sky was gone and it might only have been smoke or a great flapping swatch of wallpaper after all, and there was only the Overlook, a flaming pyre in the roaring throat of the night.
There was a key to the equipment shed's padlock on his key ring, but Hallorann saw there would be no need to use it.
The door was ajar, the padlock hanging open on its hasp.
"I can't go in there," Danny whispered.
"That's okay. You stay with your mom. There used to be a pile of old horseblankets. Probably all moth-eaten by now, but better than freezin to death. Missus Torrance, you still with us?"
"I don't know," the wan voice answered. "I think so."
"Good. I'll be just a second."
"Come back as quick as you can," Danny whispered. "Please."
Hallorann nodded. He had trained the headlamp on the door and now he floundered through the snow, casting a long shadow in front of himself. He pushed the equipment shed door open and stepped in. The horseblankets were still in the corner, by the rogue set. He picked up four of themthey smelled musty and old and the moths certainly had been having a free lunch-and then he paused.
One of the rogue mallets was gone.
(Was that what he hit me with?)
Well, it didn't matter what he'd been hit with, did it? Still, his fingers went to the side of his face and began to explore the huge lump there. Six hundred dollars' worth of dental work undone at a single blow. And after all
(maybe he didn't hit me with one of those. Maybe one got lost. Or stolen. Or took for a souvenir. After all)
it didn't really matter. No one was going to be playing rogue here next summer. Or any summer in the foreseeable future.
No, it didn't really matter, except that looking at the racked mallets with the single missing member had a kind of fascination. He found himself thinking of the hard wooden whack! of the mallet head striking the round wooden ball. A nice summery sound. Watching it skitter across the
(bone. blood.)
gravel. It conjured up images of
(bone. blood.)
iced tea, porch swings, ladies in white straw hats, the hum of mosquitoes, and
(bad little boys who don't play by the rules.)
all that stuff. Sure. Nice game. Out of style now, but... nice.
"Dick?" The voice was thin, frantic, and, he thought, rather unpleasant. "Are you all right, Dick? Come out now. Please!"
("Come on out now nigguh de massa callin youall.")
His hand closed tightly around one of the mallet handles, liking its feel.
(pare the rod, spoil the child.)
His eyes went blank in the flickering, fire-shot darkness. Really, it would be doing them both a favor. She was messed up... in pain... and most of it
(all of it)
was that damn boy's fault. Sure. He had left his own daddy in there to burn. When you thought of it, it was damn close to murder. Patricide was what they called it. Pretty goddam low:
"Mr. Hallorann?" Her voice was low, weak, querulous. He didn't much like the sound of it.
"Dick!" The boy was sobbing now, in terror.
Hallorann drew the mallet from the rack and turned toward the flood of white light from the snowmobile headlamp. His feet scratched unevenly over the boards of the equipment shed, like the feet of a clockwork toy that has been wound up and set in motion.
Suddenly he stopped, looked wonderingly at the mallet in his hands, and asked himself with rising horror what it was he had been thinking of doing. Murder? Had he been thinking of murder?
For a moment his entire mind seemed filled with an angry, weakly hectoring voice:
(Do it! Do it, you weak-kneed no-balls nigger! Kill them! KILL THEM BOTH!)
Then he flung the mallet behind him with a whispered, terrified cry. It clattered into the corner where the horseblankets had been, one of the two heads pointed toward him in an unspeakable invitation.
He fled.
Danny was sitting on the snowmobile seat and Wendy was holding him weakly. His face was shiny with tears, and he was shaking as if with ague. Between his clicking teeth he said: "Where were you? We were scared!"
"It's a good place to be scared of," Hallorann said slowly. "Even if that place burns flat to the foundation, you'll never get me within a hundred miles of here again. Here, Missus Torrance, wrap these around you. I'll help. You too, Danny. Get yourself looking like an Arab."
He swirled two of the blankets around Wendy, fashioning one of them into a hood to cover her head, and helped Danny tie his so they wouldn't fall off.
"Now hold on for dear life," he said. "We got a long way to go, but the worst is behind us now."
He circled the equipment shed and then pointed the snowmobile back along their trail. The Overlook was a torch now, flaming at the sky. Great holes had been eaten into its sides, and there was a red hell inside, waxing and waning. Snowmelt ran down the charred gutters in steaming waterfalls.
They purred down the front lawns their way well lit. The snowdunes glowed scarlet.
"Look!" Danny shouted as Hallorann slowed for the front gate. He was pointing toward the playground.
The hedge creatures were all in their original positions, but they were denuded, blackened, seared. Their dead branches were a stark interlacing network in the fireglow, their small leaves scattered around their feet like fallen petals.
"They're dead!" Danny screamed in hysterical triumph.
"Dead! They're dead!"
"Shhh," Wendy said. "All right, honey. It's all right."
"Hey, doc," Hallorann said. "Let's get to someplace warm. You ready?"
"Yes," Danny whispered. "I've been ready for so long-"
Hallorann edged through the gap between gate and post. A moment later they were on the road, pointed back toward Sidewinder. The sound of the snowmobile's engine dwindled until it was lost in the ceaseless roar of the wind. It rattled through the denuded branches of the hedge animals with a low, beating, desolate sound. The fire waxed and waned. Sometime after the sound of the snowmobile's engine had disappeared, the Overlooks roof caved in-first the west wing, then the east, and seconds later the central roof. A huge spiraling gout of sparks and flaming debris rushed up into the howling winter night.
A bundle of flaming shingles and a wad of hot flashing were wafted is through the open equipment shed door by the wind.
After a while the shed began to burn, too.
They were still twenty miles from Sidewinder when Hallorann stopped to pour the rest of the gas into the snowmobile's tank. He was getting very worried about Wendy Torrance, who seemed to be drifting away from them. It was still so far to go.
"Dick!" Danny cried. He was standing up on the seat, pointing. "Dick, look! Look there!"
The snow had stopped and a silver-dollar moon had peeked out through the raftering clouds. Far down the road but coming toward them, coming upward through a series of S-shaped switchbacks, was a pearly chain of lights. The wind dropped for a moment and Hallorann heard the faraway buzzing snarl of snowmobile engines.
Hallorann and Danny and Wendy reached them fifteen minutes later. They had brought extra clothes and brandy and Dr. Edmunds.
And the long darkness was over.