The Shining

Part Four. Snowbound Chapter 31-32


31. The Verdict
He stepped into the kitchen and looked at them, bouncing the passkey a few inches up off his left hand, making the chain on the white metal tongue jingle, then catching it again. Danny was pallid and worn out. Wendy had been crying, he saw; her eyes were red and darkly circled. He felt a sudden burst of gladness at this. He wasn't suffering alone, that was sure.
They looked at him without speaking.
"Nothing there," he said, astounded by the heartiness of his voice. "Not a thing."
He bounced the passkey up and down, up and down, smiling reassuringly at them, watching the relief spread over their faces, and thought he had never in his life wanted a drink so badly as he did right now.
32. The Bedroom
Late that afternoon Jack got a cot from the first-floor storage room and put it in the corner of their bedroom. Wendy had expected that the boy would be half the night getting to sleep, but Danny was nodding before "The Waltons" was half over, and fifteen minutes after they had tucked biro in he was far down in sleep, moveless, one band tucked under his cheek. Wendy sat watching him, holding her place in a fat paperback copy of Cashelmara with one finger. Jack sat at his desk, looking at his play.
"Oh shit," Jack said.
Wendy looked up from her contemplation of Danny. "What?"
He looked down at the play with smoldering ill-temper. How could he have thought it was good? It was puerile. It had been done a thousand times. Worse, he had no idea how to finish it. Once it had seemed simple enough. Denker, in a fit of rage, seizes the poker from beside the fireplace and beats saintly Gary to death. Then, standing spread-legged over the body, the bloody poker in one hand, he screams at the audience: "It's here somewhere and I will find it!" Then, as the lights dim and the curtain is slowly drawn, the audience sees Gary's body face down on the forestage as Denker strides to the upstage bookcase and feverishly begins pulling books from the shelves, looking at them, throwing them aside. He bad thought it was something old enough to be new, a play whose novelty alone might be enough to see it through a successful Broadway run: a tragedy in five acts.
But, in addition to his sudden diversion of interest to the Overlooks history, something else had happened. He had developed opposing feelings about his characters. This was something quite new. Ordinarily he liked all of his characters, the good and the bad. He was glad he did. It allowed him to try to see all of their sides and understand their motivations more clearly. His favorite story, sold to a small southern Maine magazine called Contraband for copies, had been a piece called "The Monkey Is Here, Paul DeLong." It had been about a child molester about to commit suicide in his furnished room. The child molester's name had been Paul DeLong, Monkey to his friends. Jack had liked Monkey very much. He sympathized with Monkey's bizarre needs. knowing that Monkey was not the only one to blame for the three rape-murders in his past. There had been bad parents, the father a beater as his own father had been, the mother a limp and silent dishrag as his mother had been. A homosexual experience in grammar school. Public humiliation. Worse experiences in high school and college. He had been arrested and sent to an institution after exposing himself to a pair of little girls getting off a school bus. Worst of all, he had been dismissed from the institution, let back out onto the streets, because the man in charge had decided he was all right. This man's name had been Grimmer. Grimmer had known that Monkey DeLong was exhibiting deviant symptoms, but he had written the good, hopeful report and had let him go anyway. Jack liked and sympathized with Grimmer, too. Grimmer had to run an understaffed and underfunded institution and try to keep the whole thing together with spit, baling wire, and nickle-and-dime appropriations from a state legislature who had to go back and face the voters. Grimmer knew that Monkey could interact with other people, that he did not soil his pants or try to stab his fellow inmates with the scissors. He did not think he was Napoleon. The staff psychiatrist in charge of Monkey's case thought there was a better-than-even chance that Monkey could make it on the street, and they both knew that the longer a man is in an institution the more he comes to need that closed environment, like a junkie with his smack. And meanwhile, people were knocking down the doors. Paranoids, schizoids, cycloids, semicatatonics, men who claimed to have gone to heaven in flying saucers, women who had burned their children's sex organs off with Bic lighters, alcoholics, pyromaniacs, kleptomaniacs, manic-depressives, suicidals. Tough old world, baby. If you're not bolted together tightly, you're gonna shake, rattle, and roll before you turn thirty. Jack could sympathize with Grimmer's problem. He could sympathize with the parents of the murder victims. With the murdered children themselves, of course. And with Monkey DeLong. Let the reader lay blame. In those days he hadn't wanted to judge. The cloak of the moralist sat badly on his shoulders.
He had started The Little School in the same optimistic vein. But lately he had begun to choose up sides, and worse still, he had come to loathe his hero, Gary Benson. Originally conceived as a bright boy more cursed with money than blessed with it, a boy who wanted more than anything to compile a good record so he could go to a good university because he had earned admission and not because his father had pulled strings, he had become to Jack a kind of simpering Goody Two-shoes, a postulant before the altar of knowledge rather than a sincere acolyte, an outward paragon of Boy Scout virtues, inwardly cynical, filled not with real brilliance (as he had first been conceived) but only with sly animal cunning. All through the play he unfailingly addressed Denker as "sir," just as Jack had taught his own son to address those older and those in authority as "sir." He thought that Danny used the word quite sincerely, and Gary Benson as originally conceived had too, but as he had begun Act V, it had come more and more strongly to him that Gary was using the word satirically, outwardly straight-faced while the Gary Benson inside was mugging and leering at Denker. Denker, who had never had any of the things Gary had. Denker, who had had to work all his life just to become head of a single little school. Who was now faced with ruin over this handsome, innocent-seeming rich boy who had cheated on his Final Composition and had then cunningly covered his tracks. Jack had seen Denker the teacher as not much different from the strutting South American little Caesars in their banana kingdoms, standing dissidents up against the wall of the handiest squash or handball court, a super-zealot in a comparatively small puddle, a man whose every whim becomes a crusade. In the beginning he had wanted to use his play as a microcosm to say something about the abuse of power. Now he tended more and more to see Denker as a Mr. Chips figure, and the tragedy was not the intellectual racking of Gary Benson but rather the destruction of a kindly old teacher and headmaster unable to see through the cynical wiles of this monster masquerading as a boy.
He hadn't been able to finish the play.
Now he sat looking down at it, scowling, wondering if there was any way he could salvage the situation. He didn't really think there was. He bad begun with one play and it had somehow turned into another, presto-chango. Well, what the hell. Either way it had been done before. Either way it was a load of shit. And why was he driving himself crazy about it tonight anyway? After the day just gone by it was no wonder he couldn't think straight.
"-get him down?"
He looked up, trying to blink the cobwebs away. "Huh?"
"I said, how are we going to get him down? We've got to get him out of here, Jack."
For a moment his wits were so scattered that he wasn't even sure what she was talking about. Then he realized and uttered a short, barking laugh.
"You say that as if it were so easy."
"I didn't mean-"
"No problem, Wendy. I'll just change clothes in that telephone booth down in the lobby and fly him to Denver on my back. Superman Jack Torrance, they called me in my salad days."
Her face registered slow hurt.
"I understand the problem, Jack. The radio is broken. The snow... but you have to understand Danny's problem. My God, don't you? He was nearly catatonic, Jack! What if he hadn't come out of that?"
"But he did," Jack said, a trifle shortly. He had been frightened at Danny's blank-eyed, slack-faced state too, of course he had. At first. But the more he thought about it, the more he wondered if it hadn't been a piece of play-acting put on to escape his punishment. He had, after all, been trespassing.
"All the same," she said. She came to him and sat on the end of the bed by his desk. Her face was both surprised and worried. "Jack, the bruises on his neck! Something got at him! And I want him away from it!"
"Don't shout," he said. "My head aches, Wendy. I'm as worried about this as you are, so please... don't... shout."
"All right," she said, lowering her voice. "I won't shout. But I don't understand you, Jack. Someone is in here with us. And not a very nice someone, either. We have to get down to Sidewinder, not just Danny but all of us. Quickly. And you... you're sitting there reading your play!"
" 'We have to get down, we have to get down,' you keep saying that. You must think I really am Superman."
"I think you're my husband," she said softly, and looked down at her hands.
His temper flared. He slammed the playscript down, knocking the edges of the pile out of true again and crumpling the sheets on the bottom.
"It's time you got some of the home truths into you, Wendy. You don't seem to have internalized them, as the sociologists say. They're knocking around up in your head like a bunch of loose cueballs. You need to shoot them into the pockets. You need to understand that we are snowed in."
Danny had suddenly become active in his bed. Still sleeping, he had begun to twist and turn. The way he always did when we fought, Wendy thought dismally. And we're doing it again.
"Don't wake him up, Jack. Please."
He glanced over at Danny and some of the flush went out of his cheeks. "Okay. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I sounded mad, Wendy. It's not really for you. But I broke the radio. If it's anybody's fault it's mine. That was our big link to the outside. Olly-oily-in-for-free. Please come get us, Mister Ranger. We can't stay out this late."
"Don't," she said, and put a hand on his shoulder. He leaned his head against it. She brushed his hair with her other hand. "I guess you've got a right, after what I accused you of. Sometimes I am like my mother. I can be a bitch. But you have to understand that some things... are hard to get over. You have to understand that."
"Do you mean his arm?" His lips had thinned.
"Yes," Wendy said, and then she rushed on: "But it's not just you. I worry when he goes out to play. I worry about him wanting a two-wheeler next year, even one with training wheels. I worry about his teeth and his eyesight and about this thing, what he calls his shine. I worry. Because he's little and he seems very fragile and because... because something in this hotel seems to want him. And it will go through us to get him if it has to. That's why we must get him out, Jack. I know that! I feel that! We must get him out!"
Her hand had tightened painfully on his shoulder in her agitation, but he didn't move away. One hand found the firm weight of her left breast and he began to stroke it through her shirt.
"Wendy," he said, and stopped. She waited for him to rearrange whatever he had to say. His strong hand on her breast felt good, soothing. "I could maybe snowshoe him down. He could walk part of the way himself, but I would mostly have to carry him. It would mean camping out one, two, maybe three nights. That would mean building a travois to carry supplies and bedrolls on. We have the AM/FM radio, so we could pick a day when the weather forecast called for a three-day spell of good weather. But if the forecast was wrong," he finished, his voice soft and measured, "I think we might die."
Her face had paled. It looked shiny, almost ghostly. He continued to stroke her breast, rubbing the ball of his thumb gently over the nipple.
She made a soft sound-from his words or in reaction to his gentle pressure on her breast, he couldn't tell. He raised his hand slightly and undid the top button of her shirt. Wendy shifted her legs slightly. All at once her jeans seemed too tight, slightly irritating in a pleasant sort of way.
"It would mean leaving you alone because you can't snowshoe worth beans. It would be maybe three days of not knowing. Would you want that?" His hand dropped to the second button, slipped it, and the beginning of her cleavage was exposed.
"No," she said in a voice that was slightly thick. She glanced over at Danny. He had stopped twisting and turning. His thumb had crept back into his mouth. So that was all right. But Jack was leaving something out of the picture. It was too bleak. There was something else... what?
"If we stay put," Jack said, unbuttoning the third and fourth buttons with that same deliberate slowness, "a ranger from the park or a game warden is going to poke in here just to find out how we're doing. At that point we simply tell him we want down. He'll see to it." He slipped her naked breasts into the wide V of the open shirt, bent, and molded his lips around the stem of a nipple. It was hard and erect. He slipped his tongue slowly back and forth across it in a way he knew she liked. Wendy moaned a little and arched her back.
(?Something I've forgotten?)
"Honey?" she asked. On their own her hands sought the back of his head so that when he answered his voice was muffled against her flesh.
"How would the ranger take us out?"
He raised his head slightly to answer and then settled his mouth against the other nipple.
"If the helicopter was spoken for I guess it would have to be by snowmobile."
"But we have one of those! Ullman said so!"
His mouth froze against her breast for a moment, and then he sat up. Her own face was slightly flushed, her eyes overbright. Jack's on the other hand, was calm, as if he had been reading a rather dull book instead of engaging in foreplay with his wife.
"If there's a snowmobile there's no problem," she said excitedly. "We can all three go down together."
"Wendy, I've never driven a snowmobile in my life."
"It can't be that hard to learn. Back in Vermont you see ten-year-olds driving them in the fields... although what their parents can be thinking of I don't know. And you had a motorcycle when we met." He had, a Honda 350cc. He had traded it in on a Saab shortly after he and Wendy took up residence together.
"I suppose I could," he said slowly. "But I wonder how well it's been maintained. Ullman and Watson... they run this place from May to October. They have summertime minds. I know it won't have gas in it. There may not be plugs or a battery, either. I don't want you to get your hopes up over your head, Wendy."
She was totally excited now, leaning over him, her breasts tumbling out of her shirt. He had a sudden impulse to seize one and twist it until she shrieked. Maybe that would teach her to shut up.
"The gas is no problem," she said. "The VW` and the hotel truck are both full. There's gas for the emergency generator downstairs, too. And there must be a gascan out in that shed so you could carry extra."
"Yes," he said. "There is" Actually there were three of them, two five-gallons and a two-gallon.
"I'll bet the sparkplugs and the battery are out there too. Nobody would store their snowmobile in one place and the plugs and battery someplace else, would they?"
"Doesn't seem likely, does it?" He got up and walked over to where Danny lay sleeping. A spill of hair had fallen across his forehead and Jack brushed it away gently. Danny didn't stir.
"And if you can get it running you'll take us out?" she asked from behind him. "On the first day the radio says good weather?"
For a moment he didn't answer. He stood looking down at his son, and his mixed feelings dissolved in a wave of love. He was the way she had said, vulnerable, fragile. The marks on his neck were very prominent.
"Yes," he said. "I'll get it running and we'll get out as quick as we can."
"Thank God!"
He turned around. She had taken off her shirt and lay on the bed, her belly flat, her breasts aimed perkily at the ceiling. She was playing with them lazily, flicking at the nipples. "Hurry up, gentlemen," she said softly, "time."
After, with no light burning in the room but the night light that Danny had brought with him from his room, she lay in the crook of his arm, feeling deliciously at peace. She found it hard to believe they could be sharing the Overlook with a murderous stowaway.
"What got at him?"
He didn't answer her directly. "He does have something. Some talent the rest of us are missing. The most of us, beg pardon. And maybe the Overlook has something, too."
"I don't know. Not in the Algernon Blackwood sense, that's for sure. More like the residues of the feelings of the people who have stayed here. Good things and bad things. In that sense, I suppose that every big hotel has got its ghosts. Especially the old ones."
"But a dead woman in the tub... Jack, he's not losing his mind, is he?"
He gave her a brief squeeze. "We know he goes into... well, trances, for want of a better word... from time to time. We know that when he's in them he sometimes... sees?... things he doesn't understand. If precognitive trances are possible, they're probably functions of the subconscious mind. Freud said that the subconscious never speaks to us in literal language. Only in symbols. If you dream about being in a bakery where no one speaks English, you may be worried about your ability to support your family. Or maybe just that no one understands you. I've read that the falling dream is a standard outlet for feelings of insecurity. Games, little games. Conscious on one side of the net, subconscious on the other, serving some cockamamie image back and forth. Same with mental illness, with hunches, all of that. Why should precognition be any different? Maybe Danny really did see blood all over the walls of the Presidential Suite. To a kid his age, the image of blood and the concept of death are nearly interchangeable. To kids, the image is always more accessible than the concept, anyway. William Carlos Williams knew that, he was a pediatrician. When we grow up, concepts gradually get easier and we leave the images to the poets... and I'm just rambling on."
"I like to hear you ramble."
"She said it, folks. She said it. You all heard it."
"The marks on his neck, Jack. Those are real."
There was nothing else for a long time. She had begun to think he must have gone to sleep and she was slipping into a drowse herself when he said:
"I can think of two explanations for those. And neither of them involves a fourth party in the hotel."
"What?" She came up on one elbow.
"Stigmata, maybe," he said.
"Stigmata? Isn't that when people bleed on Good Friday or something?"
"Yes. Sometimes people who believe deeply in Christ's divinity exhibit bleeding marks on their hands and feet during the Holy Week. It was more common in the Middle Ages than now. In those days such people were considered blessed by God. I don't think the Catholic Church proclaimed any of it as out-and-out miracles, which was pretty smart of them. Stigmata isn't much different from some of the things the yogis can do. It's better understood now, that's all. The people who understand the interaction between the mind and the body-study it, I mean, no one understands it-believe we have a lot more control over our involuntary functions than they used to think. You can slow your heartbeat if you think about it enough. Speed up your own metabolism. Make yourself sweat more. Or make yourself bleed."
"You think Danny thought those bruises onto his neck? Jack, I just can't believe that."
"I can believe it's possible, although it seems unlikely to me, too. What's more likely is that he did it to himself."
"To himself?"
"He's gone into these 'trances' and hurt himself in the past. Do you remember the time at the supper table? About two years ago, I think. We were super-pissed at each other. Nobody talking very much. Then, all at once, his eyes rolled up in his head and he went face-first into his dinner. Then onto the floor. Remember?"
"Yes," she said. "I sure do. I thought he was having a convulsion."
"Another time we were in the park," he said. "Just Danny and I. Saturday afternoon. He was sitting on a swing, coasting back and forth. He collapsed onto the ground. It was like he'd been shot. I ran over and picked him up and all of a sudden he just came around. He sort of blinked at me and said, `I hurt my tummy. Tell Mommy to close the bedroom windows if it rains. ' And that night it rained like hell."
"Yes, but-"
"And he's always coming in with cuts and scraped elbows. His shins look like a battlefield in distress. And when you ask him how he got this one or that one, he just says `Oh, I was playing,' and that's the end of it."
"Jack, all kids get bumped and bruised up. With little boys it's almost constant from the time they learn to walk until they're twelve or thirteen."
"And I'm sure Danny gets his share," Jack responded. "He's an active kid. But I remember that day in the park and that night at the supper table. And I wonder if some of our kid's bumps and bruises come from just keeling over. That Dr. Edmonds said Danny did it right in his office, for Christ's sake!"
"All right. But those bruises were fingers. I'd swear to it. He didn't get them falling down."
"He goes into a trance," Jack said. "Maybe he sees something that happened in that room. An argument. Maybe a suicide. Violent emotions. It isn't like watching a movie; he's in a highly suggestible state. He's right in the damn thing. His subconscious is maybe visualizing whatever happened in a symbolic way... as a dead woman who's alive again, zombie, undead, ghoul, you pick your term."
"You're giving me goose-bumps," she said thickly.
"I'm giving myself a few. I'm no psychiatrist, but it seems to fit so well. The walking dead woman as a symbol for dead emotions, dead lives, that just won't give up and go away... but because she's a subconscious figure, she's also him. In the trance state, the conscious Danny is submerged. The subconscious figure is pulling the strings. So Danny put his hands around his own neck and-"
"Stop," she said. "I get the picture. I think that's more frightening than having a stranger creeping around the halls, Jack. You can move away from a stranger. You can't move away from yourself. You're talking about schizophrenia."
"Of a very limited type," he said, but a trifle uneasily. "And of a very special nature. Because he does seem able to read thoughts, and he really does seem to have precognitive flashes from time to time. I can't think of that as mental illness no matter how hard I try. We all have schizo deposits in us anyway. I think as Danny gets older, he'll get this under control."
"If you're right, then it's imperative that we get him out. Whatever he has, this hotel is making it worse."
"I wouldn't say that," he objected. "If he'd done as he was told, he never would have gone up to that room in the first place. It never would have happened."
"My God, Jack! Are you implying that being half-strangled was a... a fitting punishment for being off limits?"
"No... no. Of course not. But-"
"No buts," she said, shaking her head violently. "The truth is, we're guessing. We don't have any idea when he might turn a corner and run into one of those... air pockets, one-reel horror movies, whatever they are. We have to get him away." She laughed a little in the darkness. "Next thing we'll be seeing things."
"Don't talk nonsense," he said, and in the darkness of the room he saw the hedge lions bunching around the path, no longer flanking it but guarding it, hungry November lions. Cold sweat sprang out on his brow.
"You didn't really see anything, did you?" she was asking. "I mean, when you went up to that room. You didn't see anything?"
The lions were gone. Now he saw a pink pastel shower curtain with a dark shape lounging behind it. The closed door. That muffled, hurried thump, and sounds after it that might have been running footsteps. The horrible, lurching beat of his own heart as he struggled with the passkey.
"Nothing," he said, and that was true. He had been strung tip, not sure of what was happening. He hadn't had a chance to sift through his thoughts for a reasonable explanation concerning the bruises on his son's neck. He had been pretty damn suggestible himself. Hallucinations could sometimes be catching.
"And you haven't changed your mind? About the snowmobile, I mean?"
His hands clamped into sudden tight fists
(Stop nagging me!)
by his sides. "I said I would, didn't I? I will. Now go to sleep. It's been a long hard day."
"And how," she said. There was a rustle of bedclothes as she turned toward him and kissed his shoulder. "I love you, Jack."
"I love you too," he said, but he was only mouthing the words. His hands were still clenched into fists. They felt like rocks on the ends of his arms. The pulse beat prominently in his forehead. She hadn't said a word about what was going to happen to them after they got down, when the party was over. Not one word. It had been Danny this and Danny that and Jack I'm so scared. Oh yes, she was scared of a lot of closet boogeymen and jumping shadows, plenty scared. But there was no lack of real ones, either. When they got down to Sidewinder they would arrive with sixty dollars and the clothes they stood up in. Not even a car. Even if Sidewinder bad a pawnshop, which it didn't, they had nothing to hock but Wendy's ninety-dollar diamond engagement ring and the Sony AM/FM radio. A pawnbroker might give them twenty bucks. A kind pawnbroker. There would be no job, not even part-time or seasonal, except maybe shoveling out driveways for three dollars a shot. The picture of John Torrance, thirty years old, who had once published in Esquire and who had harbored dreams-not at all unreasonable dreams, he feltof becoming a major American writer during the next decade, with a shovel from the Sidewinder Western Auto on his shoulder, ringing doorbells... that picture suddenly came to him much more clearly than the hedge lions and he clenched his fists tighter still, feeling the fingernails sink into his palms and draw blood in mystic quarter-moon shapes. John Tor rance, standing in line to change his sixty dollars into food stamps, standing in line again at the Sidewinder Methodist Church to get donated commodities and dirty looks from the locals. John Torrance explaining to Al that they'd just had to leave, had to shut down the boiler, had to leave the Overlook and all it contained open to vandals or thieves on snow machines because, you see, Al, attendez-vous, Al, there are ghosts up there and they have it in for my boy. Good-by, Al. Thoughts of Chapter Four, Spring Comes for John Torrance. What then? Whatever then? They might be able to get to the West Coast in the VW, he supposed. A new fuel pump would do it. Fifty miles west of here and it was all downhill, you could damn near put the bug in neutral and coast to Utah. On to sunny California, land of oranges and opportunity. A man with his sterling record of alcoholism, studentbeating, and ghost-chasing would undoubtedly be able to write his own ticket. Anything you like. Custodial engineer-swamping out Greyhound buses. The automotive business-washing cars in a rubber suit. The culinary arts, perhaps, washing dishes in a diner. Or possibly a more responsible position, such as pumping gas. A job like that even held the intellectual stimulation of making change and writing out credit slips. I can give you twenty-five hours a week at the minimum wage. That was heavy tunes in a year when Wonder bread went for sixty cents a loaf.
Blood had begun to trickle down from his palms. Like stigmata, oh yes. He squeezed tighter, savaging himself with pain. His wife was asleep beside him, why not? There were no problems. He had agreed to take her and Danny away from the big bad boogeyman and there were no problems. So you see, Al, I thought the best thing to do would be to
(kill her.)
The thought rose up from nowhere, naked and unadorned. The urge to tumble her out of bed, naked, bewildered, just beginning to wake up; to pounce on her, seize her neck like the green limb of a young aspen and to throttle her, thumbs on windpipe, fingers pressing against the top of her spine, jerking her head up and ramming it back down against the floorboards, again and again, whamming, whacking, smashing, crashing. Jitter and jive, baby. Shake, rattle, and roll. He would make her take her medicine. Every drop. Every last bitter drop.
He was dimly aware of a muffled noise somewhere, just outside his hot and racing inner world. He looked across the room and Danny was thrashing again, twisting in his bed and rumpling the blankets. The boy was moaning deep in his throat, a small, caged sound. What nightmare? A purple woman, long dead, shambling after him down twisting hotel corridors? Somehow he didn't think so. Something else chased Danny in his dreams. Something worse.
The bitter lock of his emotions was broken. He got out of bed and went across to the boy, feeling sick and ashamed of himself. It was Danny he had to think of, not Wendy, not himself. Only Danny. And no matter what shape he wrestled the facts into, he knew in his heart that Danny must be taken out. He straightened the boy's blankets and added the quilt from the foot of the bed. Danny had quieted again now. Jack touched the sleeping forehead
(what monsters capering just behind that ridge of bone?)
and found it warm, but not overly so. And he was sleeping peacefully again. Queer.
He got back into bed and tried to sleep. It eluded him.
It was so unfair that things should turn out this way-bad luck seemed to stalk them. They hadn't been able to shake it by coming up here after all. By the time they arrived in Sidewinder tomorrow afternoon, the golden opportunity would have evaporated-gone the way of the blue suede shoe, as an old roommate of his had been wont to say. Consider the difference if they didn't go down, if they could somehow stick it out. The play would get finished. One way or the other, he would tack an ending onto it. His own uncertainty about his characters might add an appealing touch of ambiguity to his original ending. Perhaps it would even make him some money, it wasn't impossible. Even lacking that, Al might well convince the Stovington Board to rehire him. He would be on pro of course, maybe for as long as three years, but if he could stay sober and keep writing, he might not have to stay at Stovington for three years. Of course he hadn't cared much for Stovington before, he had felt stifled, buried alive, but that had been an immature reaction. Furthermore, how much could a man enjoy teaching when he went through his first three classes with a skull-busting hangover every second or third day? It wouldn't be that way again. He would be able to handle his responsibilities much better. He was sure of it.
Somewhere in the midst of that thought, things began to break up and he drifted down into sleep. His last thought followed him down like a sounding bell:
It seemed that he might be able to find peace here. At last. If they would only let him.
When he woke up he was standing in the bathroom of 217.
(been walking in my sleep again-why?-no radios to break up here)
The bathroom light was on, the room behind him in darkness. The shower curtain was drawn around the long claw-footed tub. The bathmat beside it was wrinkled and wet.
He began to feel afraid, but the very dreamlike quality of his fear told him this was not real. Yet that could not contain the fear. So many things at the Overlook seemed like dreams.
He moved across the floor to the tub, not wanting to be helpless to turn his feet back.
He flung the curtain open.
Lying in the tub, naked, lolling almost weightless in the water, was George Hatfield, a knife stuck in his chest. The water around him was stained a bright pink. George's eyes were closed. His penis floated limply, like kelp.
"George-" he heard himself say.
At the word, George's eyes snapped open. They were silver, not human eyes at all. George's hands, fish-white, found the sides of the tub and he pulled himself up to a sitting position. The knife stuck straight out from his chest, equidistantly placed between nipples. The wound was lipless.
"You set the timer ahead," silver-eyed George told him.
"No, George, I didn't. I-"
"I don't stutter."
George was standing now, still fixing him with that inhuman silver glare, but his mouth had drawn back in a dead and grimacing smile. He threw one leg over the porcelained side of the tub. One white and wrinkled foot placed itself on the bathmat.
"First you tried to run me over on my bike and then you set the timer ahead and then you tried to stab me to death but I still don't stutter." George was coming for him, his hands out, the fingers slightly curled. He smelled moldy and wet, like leaves that had been rained on.
"It was for your own good," Jack said, backing up. "I set it ahead for your own good. Furthermore, I happen to know you cheated on your Final Composition."
"I don't cheat... and I don't stutter."
George's hands touched his neck.
Jack turned and ran, ran with the floating, weightless slowness that is so common to dreams.
"You did! You did cheat!" he screamed in fear and anger as he crossed the darkened bed/sitting room. "I'll prove it!"
George's hands were on his neck again. Jack's heart swelled with fear until he was sure it would burst. And then, at last, his hand curled around the doorknob and it turned under his hand and he yanked the door open. He plunged out, not into the second-floor hallway, but into the basement room beyond the arch. The cobwebby light was on. His campchair, stark and geometrical, stood beneath it. And all around it was a miniature mountain range of boxes and crates and banded bundles of records and invoices and God knew what. Relief surged through him.
"I'll find it!" he heard himself screaming. He seized a damp and moldering cardboard box; it split apart in his hands, spilling out a waterfall of yellow flimsies. "It's here somewhere! I will find it!" He plunged his hands deep into the pile of papers and came up with a dry, papery wasps' nest in one hand and a timer in the other. The timer was ticking. Attached to its back was a length of electrical cord and attached to the other end of the cord was a bundle of dynamite. "Here!" he screamed. "Here, take it!"
His relief became absolute triumph. He had done more than escape George,; be had conquered. With these talismanic objects in his hands, George would never touch him again. George would flee in terror.
He began to turn so he could confront George, and that was when George's hands settled around his neck, squeezing, stopping his breath, damming up his respiration entirely after one final dragging gasp.
"I don't stutter," whispered George from behind him.
He dropped the wasps' nest and wasps boiled out of it in a furious brown and yellow wave. His lungs were on fire. His wavering sight fell on the timer and the sense of triumph returned, along with a cresting wave of righteous wrath. Instead of connecting the timer to dynamite, the cord ran to the gold knob of a stout black cane, like the one his father had carried after the accident with the milk truck.
He grasped it and the cord parted. The cane felt heavy and right in his hands. He swung it back over his shoulder. On the way up it glanced against the wire from which the light bulb depended and the light began to swing back and forth, making the room's hooded shadows rock monstrously against the floor and walls. On the way down the cane struck something much harder. George screamed. The grip on Jack's throatloosened.
He tore free of George's grip and whirled. George was on his knees, his head drooping, his hands laced together on top of it. Blood welled through his fingers.
"Please," George whispered humbly. "Give me a break, Mr. Torrance,"
"Now you'll take your medicine," Jack grunted. "Now by God, won't you. Young pup. Young worthless cur. Now by God, right now. Every drop. Every single damn drop!"
As the light swayed above him and the shadows danced and flapped, he began to swing the cane, bringing it down again and again, his arm rising and falling like a machine. George's bloody protecting fingers fell away from his head and Jack brought the cane down again and again, and on his neck and shoulders and back and arms. Except that the cane was no longer precisely a cane; it seemed to be a mallet with some kind of brightly striped handle. A mallet with a hard side and soft side. The business end was clotted with blood and hair. And the flat, whacking sound of the mallet against flesh had been replaced with a hollow booming sound, echoing and reverberating. His own voice had taken on this same quality, bellowing, disembodied. And yet, paradoxically, it sounded weaker, slurred, petulant... as if he were drunk.
The figure on its knees slowly raised its head, as if in supplication. There was not a face, precisely, but only a mask of blood through which eyes peered. He brought the mallet back for a final whistling downstroke and it was fully launched before he saw that the supplicating face below him was not George's but Danny's. It was the face of his son.
And then the mallet crashed home, striking Danny right between the eyes, closing them forever. And something somewhere seemed to be laughing-
(! No!)
He came out of it standing naked over Danny's bed, his hands empty, his body sheened with sweat. His final scream had only been in his mind. He voiced it again, this time in a whisper.
"No. No, Danny. Never."
He went back to bed on legs that had turned to rubber. Wendy was sleeping deeply. The clock on the nightstand said it was quarter to five. He lay sleepless until seven, when Danny began to stir awake. Then he put his legs over the edge of the bed and began to dress. It was time to go downstairs and check the boiler.