The Shining

Part Four. Snowbound Chapter 27. Catatonic


Wendy ran down the hall in her stocking feet and ran down the main stairs to the lobby two at a time. She didn't look up at the carpeted flight that led to the second floor, but if she had, she would have seen Danny standing at the top of them, still and silent, his unfocused eyes directed out into indifferent space, his thumb in his mouth, the collar and shoulders of his shirt damp. There were puffy bruises on his neck and just below his chin.
Jack's cries had ceased, but that did nothing to ease her fear. Ripped out of her sleep by his voice, raised in that old hectoring pitch she remembered so well, she still felt that she was dreaming-but another part knew she was awake, and that terrified her more. She half-expected to burst into the office and find him standing over Danny's sprawled-out body, drunk and confused.
She pushed through the door and Jack was standing there, rubbing at his temples with his fingers. His face was ghostwhite. The two-way CB radio lay at his feet in a sprinkling of broken glass.
"Wendy?" he asked uncertainly. "Wendy-?"
The bewilderment seemed to grow and for a moment she saw his true face, the one he ordinarily kept so well hidden, and it was a face of desperate unhappiness, the face of an animal caught in a snare beyond its ability to decipher and render harmless. Then the muscles began to work, began to writhe under the skin, the mouth began to tremble infirmly, the Adam's apple began to rise and fall.
Her own bewilderment and surprise were overlaid by shock: he was going to cry. She had seen him cry before, but never since he stopped drinking... and never in those days unless he was very drunk and pathetically remorseful. He was a tight man, drum-tight, and his loss of control frightened her all over again.
He came toward her, the tears brimming over his lower lids now, his head shaking involuntarily as if in a fruitless effort to ward off this emotional storm, and his chest drew in a convulsive gasp that was expelled in a huge, racking sob. His feet, clad in Hush Puppies, stumbled over the wreck of the radio and he almost fell into her arms, making her stagger back with his weight. His breath blew into her face and there was no smell of liquor on it. Of course not; there was no liquor up here.
"What's wrong?" She held him as best she could. "Jack, what is it?"
But he could do nothing at first but sob, clinging to her, almost crushing the wind from her, his head turning on her shoulder in that helpless, shaking, warding-off gesture. His sobs were heavy and fierce. He was shuddering all over, his muscles jerking beneath his plaid shirt and jeans.
"Jack? What? Tell me what's wrong!"
At last the sobs began to change themselves into words, most of them incoherent at first, but coming clearer as his tears began to spend themselves.
"... dream, I guess it was a dream, but it was so real, I
... it was my mother saying that Daddy was going to be on the radio and I... he was... he was telling me to... I don't know, he was yelling at me... and so I broke the radio... to shut him up. To shut him up. He's dead. I don't even want to dream about him. He's dead. My God, Wendy, my God. I never had a nightmare like that. I never want to have another one. Christ! It was awful."
"You just fell asleep in the office?"
"No... not here. Downstairs." He was straightening a little now, his weight coming off her, and the steady backand-forth motion of his head first slowed and then stopped.
"I was looking through those old papers. Sitting on a chair I set up down there. Milk receipts. Dull stuff. And I guess I just drowsed off. That's when I started to dream. I must have sleepwalked up here." He essayed a shaky little laugh against her neck. "Another first."
"Where is Danny, Jack?"
"I don't know. Isn't he with you?"
"He wasn't... downstairs with you?"
He looked over his shoulder and his face tightened at what he saw on her face.
"Never going to let me forget that, are you, Wendy?"
"When I'm on my deathbed you'll lean over and say, `It serves you right, remember the time you broke Danny's arm?' "
"Jack what?" he asked hotly, and jumped to his feet. "Are you denying that's what you're thinking? That I hurt him? That I hurt him once before and I could hurt him again?"
"I want to know where he is, that's all!"
"Go ahead, yell your fucking head off, that'll make everything okay, won't it? "
She turned and walked out the door.
He watched her go, frozen for a moment, a blotter covered with fragments of broken glass in one hand. Then he dropped it into the wastebasket, went after her, and caught her by the lobby desk. He put his hands on her shoulders and turned her around. Her face was carefully set.
"Wendy, I'm sorry. It was the dream. I'm upset. Forgive?"
"Of course," she said, her face not changing expression. Her wooden shoulders slipped out of his hands. She walked to the middle of the lobby and called: "Hey, doc! Where are you?"
Silence came back. She walked toward the double lobby doors opened one of them, and stepped out onto the path Jack had shoveled. It was more like a trench; the packed and drifted snow through which the path was cut came to her shoulders. She called him again, her breath coming out in a white plume. When she came back in she had begun to look scared.
Controlling his irritation with her, he said reasonably: "Are you sure he's not sleeping in his room?"
"I told you, he was playing somewhere when I was knitting. I could hear him downstairs."
"Did you fall asleep?"
"What's that got to do with it? Yes. Danny?"
"Did you look in his room when you came downstairs just now?"
"I-"She stopped.
He nodded. "I didn't really think so."
He started up the stairs without waiting for her. She followed him, halfrunning, but he was taking the risers two at a time. She almost crashed into his back when he came to a dead stop on the first-floor landing. He was rooted there, looking up, his eyes wide.
"What-?" she began, and followed his gaze.
Danny still stood there, his eyes blank, sucking his thumb. The marks on his throat were cruelly visible in the light of the hall's electric flambeaux.
"Danny!" she shrieked.
It broke Jack's paralysis and they rushed up the stairs together to where he stood. Wendy fell on her knees beside him and swept the boy into her arms. Danny came pliantly enough, but he did not hug her back. It was like hugging a padded stick, and the sweet taste of horror flooded her mouth. He only sucked his thumb and stared with indifferent blankness out into the stairwell beyond both of them.
"Danny, what happened?" Jack asked. He put out his hand to touch the puffy side of Danny's neck. "Who did this to
"Don't you touch him!" Wendy hissed. She clutched Danny in her arms, lifted him, and had retreated halfway down the stairs before Jack could do more than stand up, confused.
"What? Wendy, what the hell are you t-"
"Don't you touch him! I'll kill you if you lay your hands on him again!"
"You bastard!"
She turned and ran down the rest of the stairs to the first floor. Danny's head jounced mildly up and down as she ran. His thumb was lodged securely in his mouth. His eyes were soaped windows. She turned right at the foot of the stairs, and Jack heard her feet retreat to the end of it. Their bedroom door slammed. The bolt was run home. The lock turned. Brief silence. Then the soft, muttered sounds of comforting.
He stood for an unknown length of time, literally paralyzed by all that had happened in such a short space of time. His dream was still with him, painting everything a slightly unreal shade. It was as if he had taken a very mild mescaline hit. Had he maybe hurt Danny as Wendy thought? Tried to strangle his son at his dead father's request? No. He would never hurt Danny.
(He fell down the stairs, Doctor.)
He would never hurt Danny now.
(How could I know the bug bomb was defective?)
Never in his life had he been willfully vicious when he was sober.
(Except when you almost killed George Hatfield.)
"No!" he cried into the darkness. He brought both fists crashing down on his legs, again and again and again.
* * *
Wendy sat in the overstuffed chair by the window with Danny on her lap, holding him, crooning the old meaningless words, the ones you never remember afterward no matter how a thing turns out. He had folded onto her lap with neither protest nor gladness, like a paper cutout of himself, and his eyes didn't even shift toward the door when Jack cried out "No!" somewhere in the hallway.
The confusion had receded a little bit in her mind, but she now discovered something even worse behind it. Panic.
Jack had done this, she had no doubt of it. His denials meant nothing to her. She thought it was perfectly possible that Jack had tried to throttle Danny in his sleep just as he had smashed the CB radio in his sleep. He was having a breakdown of some kind. But what was she going to do about it? She couldn't stay locked in here forever. They would have to eat.
There was really only one question, and it was asked in a mental voice of utter coldness and pragmatism, the voice of her maternity, a cold and passionless voice once it was directed away from the closed circle of mother and child and out toward Jack. It was a voice that spoke of self-preservation only after son-preservation and its question was:
(Exactly how dangerous is he?)
He had denied doing it. He had been horrified at the bruises, at Danny's soft and implacable disconnection. If he had done it, a separate section of himself had been responsible. The fact that he had done it when he was asleep was-in a terrible, twisted way-encouraging. Wasn't it possible that he could be trusted to get them out of here? To get them down and away. And after that...
But she could see no further than she and Danny arriving safe at Dr. Edmonds's office in Sidewinder. She had no particular need to see further. The present crisis was more than enough to keep her occupied.
She crooned to Danny, rocking him on her breasts. Her fingers, on his shoulder, had noticed that his T-shirt was damp, but they had not bothered reporting the information to her brain in more than a cursory way. If it had been reported, she might have remembered that Jack's hands, as he had hugged her in the office and sobbed against her neck, bad been dry. It might have given her pause. But her mind was still on other things. The decision had to be made-to approach Jack or not?
Actually it was not much of a decision. There was nothing she could do alone, not even carry Danny down to the office and call for help on the CB radio. He had suffered a great shock. He ought to be taken out quickly before any permanent damage could be done. She refused to let herself believe that permanent damage might already have been done.
And still she agonized over it, looking for another alternative. She did not want to put Danny back within Jack's reach. She was aware now that she had made one bad decision when she had gone against her feelings (and Danny's) and allowed the snow to close them in... for Jack's sake. Another bad decision when she had shelved the idea of divorce. Now she was nearly paralyzed by the idea that she might be making another mistake, one she would regret every minute of every day of the rest of her life.
There was not a gun in the place. There were knives hanging from the magnetized runners in the kitchen, but Jack was between her and them.
In her striving to make the right decision, to find the alternative, the bitter irony of her thoughts did not occur: an hour ago she had been asleep, firmly convinced that things were all right and soon would be even better. Now she was considering the possibility of using a butcher knife on her husband if he tried to interfere with her and her son.
At last she stood up with Danny in her arms, her legs trembling. There was no other way. She would have to assume that Jack awake was Jack sane, and that he would help her get Danny down to Sidewinder and Dr. Edmonds. And if Jack tried to do anything but help, God help him.
She went to the door and unlocked it. Shifting Danny up to her shoulder, she opened it and went out into the hall.
"Jack?" she called nervously, and got no answer.
With growing trepidation she walked down to the stairwell, but Jack was not there. And as she stood there on the landing, wondering what to do next, the singing came up from below, rich, angry, bitterly satiric:
"Roll me over
In the clo-ho-ver,
Roll me over, lay me down and do it again."
She was frightened even more by the sound of him than she had been by his silence, but there was still no alternative. She started down the stairs.