The Shining

Part Four. Snowbound Chapter 37. The Ballroom


It was the first of December.
Danny was in the east-wing ballroom, standing on an over-stuffed, high-backed wing chair, looking at the clock under glass. It stood in the center of the ballroom's high, ornamental mantelpiece, flanked by two large ivory elephants. He almost expected the elephants would begin to move and try to gore him with their tusks as he stood there, but they were moveless. They were "safe." Since the night of the elevator he bad come to divide all things at the Overlook into two categories. The elevator, the basement, the playground, Room 217, and the Presidential Suite (it was Suite, not Sweet; he had seen the correct spelling in an account book Daddy had been reading at supper last night and had memorized it carefully)-those places were "unsafe." Their quarters, the lobby, and the porch were "safe." Apparently the ballroom was, too.
(The elephants are, anyway.)
He was not sure about other places and so avoided them on general principle.
He looked at the clock inside the glass dome. It was under glass because all its wheels and cogs and springs were showing. A chrome or steel track ran around the outside of these works, and directly below the clockface there was a small axis bar with a pair of meshing cogs at either end. The hands of the clock stood at quarter past XI, and although he didn't know Roman numerals he could guess by the configuration of the hands at what time the clock had stopped. The clock stood on a velvet base. In front of it, slightly distorted by the curve of the dome, was a carefully carved silver key.
He supposed that the clock was one of the things he wasn't supposed to touch, like the decorative fire-tools in their brass-bound cabinet by the lobby fireplace or the tall china highboy at the back of the dining room.
A sense of injustice and a feeling of angry rebellion suddenly rose in him and
(never mind what t' m not supposed to touch, just never mind. touched me, hasn't it? played with me, hasn't it?)
It had. And it hadn't been particularly careful not to break him, either.
Danny put his hands out, grasped the glass dome, and lifted it aside. He let one finger play over the works for a moment, the pad of his index finger denting against the cogs, running smoothly over the wheels. He picked up the silver key. For an adult it would have been uncomfortably small, but it fitted his own fingers perfectly. He placed it in the keyhole at the center of the clockface. It went firmly home with a tiny click, more felt than heard. It wound to the right, of course; clockwise.
Danny turned the key until it would turn no more and then removed it. The clock began to tick. Cogs turned. A large balance wheel rocked back and forth in semicircles. The hands were moving. If you kept your head perfectly motionless and your eyes wide open, you could see the minute hand inching along toward its meeting some forty-five minutes from now with the hour hand. At XII.
(And the Red Death held sway over all.)
He frowned, and then shook the thought away. It was a thought with no meaning or reference for him.
He reached his index finger out again and pushed the minute band up to the hour, curious about what might happen. It obviously wasn't a cuckoo clock, but that steel rail bad to have some purpose.
There was a small, ratcheting series of clicks, and then the clock began to tinkle Strauss's "Blue Danube Waltz." A punched roll of cloth no more than two inches in width began to unwind. A small series of brass strikers rose and fell. From behind the clockface two figures glided into view along the steel track, ballet dancers, on the left a girl in a fluffy skirt and white stockings, on the right a boy in a black leotard and ballet slippers. Their hands were held in arches over their beads. They came together in the middle, in front of VI.
Danny espied tiny grooves in their sides, just below their armpits. The axis bar slipped into these grooves and he heard another small click. The cogs at either end of the bar began to. turn. "The Blue Danube" tinkled. The dancers' arms came down around each other. The boy flipped the girl up over his head and then whirled over the bar. They were now lying prone, the boy's head buried beneath the girl's short ballet skirt, the girl's face pressed against the center of the boy's leotard. They writhed in a mechanical frenzy.
Danny's nose wrinkled. They were kissing peepees. That made him feel sick.
A moment later and things began to run backward. The boy whirled back over the axis bar. He flipped the girl into an upright position. They seemed to nod knowingly at each other as their hands arched back over their heads. They retreated the way they had come, disappearing just as "The Blue Danube" finished. The clock began to strike a count of silver chimes.
(Midnight! Stroke of midnight!)
(Hooray for masks!)
Danny whirled on the chair, almost falling down. The ballroom was empty. Beyond the double cathedral window he could see fresh snow beginning to sift down. The huge ballroom rug (rolled up for dancing, of course), a rich tangle of red and gold embroidery, lay undisturbed on the floor. Spaced around it were small, intimate tables for two, the spidery chairs that went with each upended with legs pointing at the ceiling.
The whole place was empty.
But it wasn't really empty. Because here in the Overlook things just went on and on. Here in the Overlook all times were one. There was an endless night in August of 1945, with laughter and drinks and a chosen shining few going up and coming down in the elevator, drinking champagne and popping party favors in each other's faces. It was a not-yet-light morning in June some twenty years later and the organization hitters endlessly pumped shotgun shells into the torn and bleeding bodies of three men who went through their agony endlessly. In a room on the second floor a woman lolled in her tub and waited for visitors.
In the Overlook all things had a sort of life. It was as if the whole place had been wound up with a silver key. The clock was running. The clock was running.
He was that key, Danny thought sadly. Tony had warned him and he had just let things go on.
(I'm just five!)
he cried to some half-felt presence in the room.
(Doesn't it make any deference that I'm just five?)
There was no answer.
He turned reluctantly back to the clock.
He had been putting it off, hoping that something would happen to help him avoid trying to call Tony again, that a ranger would come, or a helicopter, or the rescue team; they always came in time on his TV programs, the people were saved. On TV the rangers and the SWAT squad and the paramedics were a friendly white force counterbalancing the confused evil that he perceived in the world; when people got in trouble they were helped out of it, they were fixed up. They did not have to help themselves out of trouble.
There was no answer.
No answer, and if Tony came would it be the same nightmare? The booming, the Tioarse and petulant voice, the blueblack rug like snakes? Redrum?
But what else?
(Please oh please)
No answer.
With a trembling sigh, he looked at the clockface. Cogs turned and meshed with other cogs. The balance wheel rocked hypnotically back and forth. And if you held your head perfectly still, you could see the minute hand creeping inexorably down from XII to V. If you held your bead perfectly still you could see that-
The clockface was gone. In its place was a round black hole. It led down into forever. It began to swell. The clock was gone. The room behind it. Danny tottered and then fell into the darkness that had been biding behind the clockface all along.
The small boy in the chair suddenly collapsed and lay in it at a crooked unnatural angle, his head thrown back, his eyes staring sightlessly at the high ballroom ceiling.
Down and down and down and down to-
Cthe hallway, crouched in the hallway, and he had made a wrong turn, trying to get back to the stairs he had made a wrong turn and now AND NOW-
Che saw he was in the short dead-end corridor that led only to the Presidential Suite and the booming sound was coming closer, the roque mallet whistling savagely through the air, the head of it embedding itself into the wall, cutting the silk paper, letting out small puffs of plaster dust.
(Goddammit, come out here! Take your)
But there was another figure in the hallway. Slouched nonchalantly against the wall just behind him. Like a ghost.
No, not a ghost, but all dressed in white. Dressed in whites.
(I'll find you, you goddam little whoremastering RUNT!)
Danny cringed back from the sound. Coming up the main third-floor hall now. Soon the owner of that voice would round the corner.
(Come here! Come here, you little shit!)
The figure dressed in white straightened up a little, removed a cigarette from the corner of his mouth, and plucked a shred of tobacco from his full lower lip. It was Hallorann, Danny saw. Dressed in his cook's whites instead of the blue suit he had been wearing on closing day.
"If there is trouble," Hallorann said, "you give a call. A big loud holler like the one that knocked me back a few minutes ago. I might hear you even way down in Florida. And if I do, I'll come on the run. I'll come on the run. I'll come on the-"
(Come now, then! Come now, come NOW! Oh Dick I need you we all need)
"-run. Sorry, but I got to run. Sorry, Danny ole kid ole doc, but I got to run. It's sure been fun, you son of a gun, but I got to hurry, I got to run."
But as he watched, Dick Hallorann turned, put his cigarette back into the corner of his mouth, and stepped nonchalantly through the wall.
Leaving him alone.
And that was when the shadow-figure turned the corner, huge in the hallway's gloom, only the reflected red of its eyes clear.
(There you are! Now I've got you, you fuck! Now I'll teach you!)
It lurched toward him in a horrible, shambling run, the roque mallet swinging up and up and up. Danny scrambled backward, screaming, and suddenly he was through the wall and falling, tumbling over and over, down the hole, down the rabbit hole and into a land full of sick wonders.
Tony was far below him, also falling.
(I can't come anymore, Danny... he won't let me near you... none of them will let me near you... get Dick... get Dick...)
"Tony!" he screamed.
But Tony was gone and suddenly he was in a dark room. But not entirely dark. Muted light spilling from somewhere. It was Mommy and Daddy's bedroom. He could see Daddy's desk. But the room was a dreadful shambles. He had been in this room before. Mommy's record player overturned on the floor. Her records scattered on the rug. The mattress half off the bed. Pictures ripped from the walls. His cot lying on its side like a dead dog, the Violent Violet Volkswagen crushed to purple shards of plastic.
The light was coming from the bathroom door, half-open. Just beyond it a hand dangled limply, blood dripping from the tips of the fingers. And in the medicine cabinet mirror, the word REDRUM flashing off and on.
Suddenly a huge clock in a glass bowl materialized in front of it. There were no hands or numbers on the clockface, only a date written in red: DECEMBER 2. And then, eyes widening in horror, he saw the word REDRUM reflecting dimly from the glass dome, now reflected twice. And he saw that it spelled MURDER.
Danny Torrance screamed in wretched terror. The date was gone from the clockface. The clockface itself was gone, replaced by a circular black hole that swelled and swelled like a dilating iris. It blotted out everything and he fell forward, beginning to fall, falling, he was-
C falling off the chair.
For a moment he lay on the ballroom floor, breathing bard.
(The Red Death held sway over all!)
(Unmask! Unmask!)
And behind each glittering lovely mask, the as-yet unseen face of the shape that chased him down these dark hallways, its red eyes widening, blank and homicidal.
Oh, he was afraid of what face might come to light when the time for unmasking came around at last.
he screamed with all his might. His head seemed to shiver with the force of it.
Above him the clock he had wound with the silver key continued to mark off the seconds and minutes and hours.
Part Five. Matters of Life and Death