The Shining

Part Three. The Wasps' Nest Chapter 16. Danny


Down the hall, in the bedroom, Wendy could hear the typewriter Jack had carried up from downstairs burst into life for thirty seconds, fall silent for a minute or two, and then rattle briefly again. It was like listening to machinegun fire from an isolated pillbox. The sound was music to her ears; Jack had not been writing so steadily since the second year of their marriage, when he wrote the story that Esquire had purchased. He said he thought the play would be done by the end of the year, for better or worse, and he would be moving on to something new. He said he didn't care if The Little School stirred any excitement when Phyllis showed it around, didn't care if it sank without a trace, and Wendy believed that, too. The actual act of his writing made her immensely hopeful, not because she expected great things from the play but because her husband seemed to be slowly closing a huge door on a roomful of monsters. He had had his shoulder to that door for a long time now, but at last it was swinging shut.
Every key typed closed it a little more.
"Look, Dick, look."
Danny was hunched over the first of the five battered primers Jack had dug up by culling mercilessly through Boulder's myriad secondhand bookshops. They would take Danny right up to the second-grade reading level, a program she had told Jack she thought was much too ambitious. Their son was intelligent, they knew that, but it would be a mistake to push him too far too fast. Jack had agreed. There would be no pushing involved. But if the kid caught on fast, they would be prepared. And now she wondered if Jack hadn't been right about that, too.
Danny, prepared by four years of "Sesame Street" and three years of "Electric Company," seemed to be catching on with almost scary speed. It bothered her. He hunched over the innocuous little books, his crystal radio and balsa glider on the shelf above him, as though his life depended on learning to read. His small face was more tense and paler than she liked in the close and cozy glow of the goosenecked lamp they had put in his room. He was taking it very seriously, both the reading and the workbook pages his father made up for him every afternoon. Picture of an apple and a peach. The word apple written beneath in Jack's large, neatly made printing. Circle the right picture, the one that went with the word. And their son would stare from the word to the pictures, his lips moving, sounding out, actually sweating it out, And with his double-sized red pencil curled into his pudgy right fist, he could now write about three dozen words on his own.
His finger traced slowly under the words in the reader. Above them was a picture Wendy half-remembered from her own grammar school days, nineteen years before. A laughing boy with brown curly hair. A girl in a short dress, her hair in blond ringlets one hand holding a jump rope. A prancing dog running after a large red rubber ball. The first-grade trinity. Dick, Jane, and Jip.
"See Jip run," Danny read slowly. "Run, Jip, run. Run, run, run." He paused, dropping his finger down a line. "See the..." He bent closer, his nose almost touching the page now. "See the..."
"Not so close, doc," Wendy said quietly. "You'll hurt your eyes. It's-"
"Don't tell me!" he said, sitting up with a jerk. His voice was alarmed. "Don't tell me, Mommy, I can get it!"
"All right, honey," she said. "But it's not a big thing. Really it's not."
Unheeding, Danny bent forward again. On his face was an expression that might be more commonly seen hovering over a graduate record exam in a college gym somewhere. She liked it less and less.
"See the... buh. Aw. El. El. See the buhaw-el-el? See the buhawl. Ball!" Suddenly triumphant. Fierce. The fierceness in his voice scared her. "See the ball!"
"That's right," she said. "Honey, I think that's enough for tonight."
"A couple more pages, Mommy? Please?"
"No, doc." She closed the red-bound book firmly. "It's bedtime."
"Don't tease me about it, Danny. Mommy's tired."
"Okay." But he looked longingly at the primer.
"Go kiss your father and then wash up. Don't forget to brush."
He slouched out, a small boy in pajama bottoms with feet and a large flannel top with a football on the front and NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS written on the back.
Jack's typewriter stopped, and she heard Danny's hearty smack. "Night, Daddy."
"Goodnight, doc. How'd you do?"
"Okay, I guess. Mommy made me stop."
"Mommy was right. It's past eight-thirty. Going to the bathroom?"
"Good. There's potatoes growing out of your ears. And onions and carrots and chives and-"
Danny's giggle, fading, then cut off by the firm click of the bathroom door. He was private about his bathroom functions, while both she and Jack were pretty much catch-as-catch-can. Another sign-and they were multiplying all the time- that there was another human being in the place, not just a carbon copy of one of them or a combination of both. It made her a little sad. Someday her child would be a stranger to her, and she would be strange to him... but not as strange as her own mother had become to her. Please don't let it be that way, God. Let him grow up and still love his mother.
Jack's typewriter began its irregular bursts again.
Still sitting in the chair beside Danny's reading table, she let her eyes wander around her son's room. The glider's wing had been neatly mended. His desk was piled high with picture books, coloring books, old Spiderman comic books with the covers half torn off, Crayolas, and an untidy pile of Lincoln Logs. The VW model was neatly placed above these lesser things, its shrink-wrap still undisturbed. He and his father would be putting it together tomorrow night or the night after if Danny went on at this rate, and never mind the end of the week. His pictures of Pooh and Eyore and Christopher Robin were tacked neatly to the wall, soon enough to be replaced with pin-ups and photographs of dopesmoking rock singers, she supposed. Innocence to experience. Human nature, baby. Grab it and growl. Still it made her sad. Next year he would be in school and she would lose at least half of him, maybe more, to his friends. She and Jack had tried to have another one for a while when things had seemed to be going well at Stovington, but she was on the pill again now. Things were too uncertain. God knew where they would be in nine months.
Her eyes fell on the wasps' nest.
It held the ultimate high place in Danny's room, resting on a large plastic plate on the table by his bed. She didn't like it, even if it was empty. She wondered vaguely if it might have germs, thought to ask Jack, then decided he would laugh at her. But she would ask the doctor tomorrow, if she could catch him with Jack out of the room. She didn't like the idea of that thing, constructed from the chewings and saliva of so many alien creatures, lying within a foot of her sleeping son's head.
The water in the bathroom was still running, and she got up and went into the big bedroom to make sure everything was okay. Jack didn't look up; he was lost in the world he was making, staring at the typewriter, a filter cigarette clamped in his teeth.
She knocked lightly on the closed bathroom room. "You okay, doc? You awake?"
No answer.
No answer. She tried the door. It was locked.
"Danny?" She was worried now. The lack of any sound beneath the steadily running water made her uneasy. "Danny? Open the door, honey."
No answer.
"Jesus Christ, Wendy, I can't think if you're going to pound on the door all night."
"Danny's locked himself in the bathroom and he doesn't answer me!"
Jack came around the desk, looking put out. He knocked on the door once, hard. "Open up, Danny. No games."
No answer.
Jack knocked harder. "Stop fooling, doc. Bedtime's bedtime. Spanking if you don't open up."
He's losing his temper, she thought, and was more afraid. He had not touched Danny in anger since that evening two years ago, but at this moment he sounded angry enough to do it.
"Danny, honey-" she began.
No answer. Only running water.
"Danny, if you make me break this lock I can guarantee you you'll spend the night sleeping on your belly," Jack warned.
"Break it," she said, and suddenly it was hard to talk. "Quick."
He raised one foot and brought it down hard against the door to the right of the knob. The lock was a poor thing; it gave immediately and the door shuddered open, banging the tiled bathroom wall and rebounding halfway.
"Danny!" she screamed.
The water was running full force in the basin. Beside it, a tube of Crest with the cap off. Danny was sitting on the rim of the bathtub across the room, his toothbrush clasped limply in his left hand, a thin foam of toothpaste around his mouth. He was staring, trancelike, into the mirror on the front of the medicine cabinet above the washbasin. The expression on his face was one of drugged horror, and her first thought was that he was having some sort of epileptic seizure, that he might have swallowed his tongue.
Danny didn't answer. Guttural sounds came from his throat.
Then she was pushed aside so hard that she crashed into the towel rack, and Jack was kneeling in front of the boy.
"Danny," he said. "Danny, Danny!" He snapped his fingers in front of Danny's blank eyes.
"Ah-sure," Danny said. "Tournament play. Stroke. Nurrrrr..."
"Roque!" Danny said, his voice suddenly deep, almost manlike. "Roque. Stroke. The roque mallet... has two sides. Gaaaaaa-"
"Oh Jack my God what's wrong with him?"
Jack grabbed the boy's elbows and shook him hard. Danny's head rolled limply backward and then snapped forward like a balloon on a stick.
"Roque. Stroke. Redrum."
Jack shook him again, and Danny's eyes suddenly cleared. His toothbrush fell out of his hand and onto the tiled floor with a small click.
"What?" he asked, looking around. He saw his father kneeling before him, Wendy standing by the wall. "What?" Danny asked again, with rising alarm. "W-W-WuhWhat's wr-r-r-"
"Don't stutter!" Jack suddenly screamed into his face. Danny cried out in shock, his body going tense, trying to draw away from his father, and then he collapsed into tears. Stricken, Jack pulled him close. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, doc. Please. Don't cry. I'm sorry. Everything's okay."
The water ran ceaselessly in the basin, and Wendy felt that she had suddenly stepped into some grinding nightmare where time ran backward, backward to the time when her drunken husband had broken her son's arm and had then mewled over him in almost the exact same words.
(Oh honey. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, doc. Please. So sorry.)
She ran to them both, pried Danny out of Jack's arms somehow (she saw the look of angry reproach on his face but filed it away for later consideration), and lifted him up. She walked him back into the small bedroom, Danny's arms clasped around her neck, Jack trailing them.
She sat down on Danny's bed and rocked him back and forth, soothing him with nonsensical words repeated over and over. She looked up at Jack and there was only worry in his eyes now. He raised questioning eyebrows at her. She shook her head faintly.
"Danny," she said. "Danny, Danny, Danny. 'S okay, doc. 'S fine."
At last Danny was quiet, only faintly trembling in her arms. Yet it was Jack he spoke to first, Jack who was now sitting beside them on the bed, and she felt the old faint pang
(It's him first and it's always been him first)
of jealousy. Jack had shouted at him, she had comforted him, yet it was to his father that Danny said,
"I'm sorry if I was bad."
"Nothing to be sorry for, doc." Jack ruffled his hair. "What the hell happened in there?"
Danny shook his head slowly, dazedly. "I... I don't know. Why did you tell me to stop stuttering, Daddy? I don't stutter."
"Of course not," Jack said heartily, but Wendy felt a cold finger touch her heart. Jack suddenly looked scared, as if he'd seen something that might just have been a ghost.
"Something about the timer..." Danny muttered.
"What?" Jack was leaning forward, and Danny flinched in her arms.
"Jack, you're scaring him!" she said, and her voice was high, accusatory. It suddenly came to her that they were all scared. But of what?
"I don't know, I don't know," Danny was saying to his father. "What... what did I say, Daddy?"
"Nothing," Jack muttered. He took his handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his mouth with it. Wendy had a moment of that sickening time-is-runningbackward feeling again. It was a gesture she remembered well from his drinking days.
"Why did you lock the door, Danny?" she asked gently. "Why did you do that?"
"Tony," he said. "Tony told me to."
They exchanged a glance over the top of his head.
"Did Tony say why, son?" Jack asked quietly.
"I was brushing my teeth and I was thinking about my reading," Danny said. "Thinking real bard. And... and I saw Tony way down in the mirror. He said he had to show me again."
"You mean he was behind you?" Wendy asked.
"No, he was in the mirror." Danny was very emphatic on this point. "Way down deep. And then I went through the mirror. The next thing I remember Daddy was shaking me and I thought I was being bad again."
Jack winced as if struck.
"No, doc," he said quietly.
"Tony told you to lock the door?" Wendy asked, brushing his hair.
"And what did he want to show you?"
Danny tensed in her arms; it was as if the muscles in his body had turned into something like piano wire. "I don't remember," he said, distraught. "I don't remember. Don't ask me. I... I don't remember nothing!"
"Shh," Wendy said, alarmed. She began to rock him again. "It's all right if you don't remember, bon. Sure it is."
At last Danny began to relax again.
"Do you want me to stay a little while? Read you a story?"
"No. Just the night light." He looked shyly at his father. "Would you stay, Daddy? For a minute?"
"Sure, doc."
Wendy sighed. "I'll be in the living room, Jack."
She got up and watched as Danny slid under the covers. He seemed very small.
"Are you sure you're okay, Danny?"
"I'm okay. Just plug in Snoopy, Mom."
She plugged in the night light, which showed Snoopy lying fast asleep on top of his doghouse. He had never wanted a night light until they moved into the Overlook, and then he had specifically requested one. She turned off the lamp and the overhead and looked back at them, the small white circle of Danny's face, and Jack's above it. She hesitated a moment
(and then I went through the mirror)
and then left them quietly.
"You sleepy?" Jack asked, brushing Danny's hair off his forehead.
"Want a drink of water?"
There was silence for five minutes. Danny was still beneath his hand. Thinking the boy had dropped off, he was about to get up and leave quietly when Danny said from the brink of sleep:
Jack turned back, all zero at the bone.
"You'd never hurt Mommy, would you, Daddy?"
"Or me?"
Silence again, spinning out.
"Tony came and told me about roque."
"Did he, doc? What did he say?"
"I don't remember much. Except he said it was in innings. Like baseball. Isn't that funny?"
"Yes." Jack's heart was thudding dully in his chest. How could the boy possibly know a thing like that? Roque was played by innings, not like baseball but like cricket.
"Daddy...?" He was almost asleep now.
"What's redrum?"
"Red drum? Sounds like something an Indian might take on the warpath."
"Hey, doc?"
But Danny was alseep, breathing in long, slow strokes. Jack sat looking down at him for a moment, and a rush of love pushed through him like tidal water. Why had he yelled at the boy like that? It was perfectly normal for him to stutter a little. He had been coming out of a daze or some weird kind of trance, and stuttering was perfectly normal under those circumstances. Perfectly. And he hadn't said timer at all. It had been something else, nonsense, gibberish.
How had he known roque was played in innings? Had someone told him? Ullman? Hallorann?
He looked down at his hands. They were made into tight, clenched fists of tension
(god how i need a drink)
and the nails were digging into his palms like tiny brands. Slowly he forced them to open.
"I love you, Danny," he whispered. "God knows I do."
He left the room. He had lost his temper again, only a little, but enough to make him feel sick and afraid. A drink would blunt that feeling, oh yes. It would blunt that
(Something about the timer)
and everything else. There was no mistake about those words at all. None. Each had come out clear as a bell. He paused in the hallway, looking back, and automatically wiped his lips with his handkerchief.
* * *
Their shapes were only dark silhouettes in the glow of the night light. Wendy, wearing only panties, went to his bed and tucked him in again; he had kicked the covers back. Jack stood in the doorway, watching as she put her inner wrist against his forehead.
"Is he feverish?"
"No." She kissed his cheek.
"Thank God you made that appointment," he said as she came back to the doorway. "You think that guy knows his stuff?"
"The checker said he was very good. That's all I know."
"If there's something wrong, I'm going to send you and him to your mother's, Wendy."
"I know," he said, putting an arm around her, "how you feel."
"You don't know how I feel at all about her."
"Wendy, there's no place else I can send you. You know that."
"If you came-"
"Without this job we're done," he said simply. "You know that."
Her silhouette nodded slowly. She knew it.
"When I had that interview with Ullman, I thought he was just blowing off his bazoo. Now I'm not so sure. Maybe I really shouldn't have tried this with you two along. Forty miles from nowhere."
"I love you," she said. "And Danny loves you even more, if that's possible. He would have been heartbroken, Jack. He will be, if you send us away."
"Don't make it sound that way."
"If the doctor says there's something wrong, I'll look for a job in Sidewinder," she said. "If I can't get one in Sidewinder, Danny and I will go to Boulder. I can't go to my mother, Jack. Not on those terms. Don't ask me. I... I just can't."
"I guess I know that. Cheer up. Maybe it's nothing."
"The appointment's at two?"
"Let's leave the bedroom door open, Wendy."
"I want to. But I think he'll sleep through now."
But he didn't.
* * *
Boom... boom... boomboomBOOMBOOM-
He fled the heavy, crashing, echoing sounds through twisting, mazelike corridors, his bare feet whispering over a deep-pile jungle of blue and black. Each time he heard the roque mallet smash into the wall somewhere behind him he wanted to scream aloud. But he mustn't. He mustn't. A scream would give him away and then
(then REDRUM)
(Come out here and take your medicine, you fucking crybaby!)
Oh and he could hear the owner of that voice coming, coming for him, charging up the hall like a tiger in an alien blue-black jungle. A man-eater.
(Come out here, you little son of a bitch!)
If he could get to the stairs going down, if he could get off this third floor, he might be all right. Even the elevator. If he could remember what had been forgotten. But it was dark and in his terror he had lost his orientation. He had turned down one corridor and then another, his heart leaping into his mouth like a hot' lump of ice, fearing that each turn would bring him face to face with the human tiger in these halls.
The booming was right behind him now, the awful hoarse shouting.
The whistle the head of the mallet made cutting through the air
(roque... stroke... roque... stroke... REDRUM)
before it crashed into the wall. The soft whisper of feet on the jungle carpet. Panic squirting in his mouth like bitter juice.
(You will remember what was forgotten... but would he? What was it?)
He fled around another corner and saw with creeping, utter horror that he was in a cul-de-sac. Locked doors frowned down at him from three sides. The west wing. He was in the west wing and outside he could hear the storm whooping and screaming, seeming to choke on its own dark throat filled with snow.
He backed up against the wall, weeping with terror now, his heart racing like the heart of a rabbit caught in a snare. When his back was against the light blue silk wallpaper with the embossed pattern of wavy lines, his legs gave way and he collapsed to the carpet, hands splayed on the jungle of woven vines and creepers, the breath whistling in and out of his throat.
Louder. Louder.
There was a tiger in the hall, and now the tiger was just around the corner, still crying out in that shrill and petulant and lunatic rage, the roque mallet slamming, because this tiger walked on two legs and it was-
He woke with a sudden indrawn gasp, sitting bolt upright in bed, eyes wide and staring into the darkness, hands crossed in front of his face.
Something on one hand. Crawling.
Wasps. Three of them.
They stung him then, seeming to needle all at once, and that was when all the images broke apart and fell on him in a dark flood and he began to shriek into the dark, the wasps clinging to his left hand, stinging again and again.
The lights went on and Daddy was standing there in his shorts, his eyes glaring. Mommy behind him, sleepy and scared.
"Get them o$ me!" Danny screamed.
"Oh my God," Jack said. He saw.
"Jack, what's wrong with him? What's wrong?"
He didn't answer her. He ran to the bed, scooped up Danny's pillow, and slapped Danny's thrashing left hand with it. Again. Again. Wendy saw lumbering, insectile forms rise into the air, droning.
"Get a magazine!" he yelled over his shoulder. "Kill them!"
"Wasps?" she said, and for a moment she was inside herself, almost detached in her realization. Then her mind crosspatched, and knowledge was connected to emotion. "Wasps, oh Jesus, Jack, you said-"
"Shut the fuck up and kill them!" he roared. "Will you do what I say!"
One of them had landed on Danny's reading desk. She took a coloring book off his worktable and slammed it down on the wasp. It left a viscous brown smear.
"There's another one on the curtain," he said, and ran out past her with Danny in his arms.
He took the boy into their bedroom and put him on Wendy's side of the makeshift double. "Lie right there, Danny. Don't come back until I tell you. Understand?"
His face puffed and streaked with tears, Danny nodded.
"That's my brave boy."
Jack ran back down the hall to the stairs. Behind him he heard the coloring book slap twice, and then his wife screamed in pain. He didn't slow but went down the stairs two by two into the darkened lobby. He went through Ullman's office into the kitchen, slamming the heavy part of his thigh into the corner of Ullman's oak desk, barely feeling it. He slapped on the kitchen overheads and crossed to the sink. The washed dishes from supper were still heaped up in the drainer, where Wendy had left them to drip-dry. He snatched the big Pyrex bowl off the top. A dish fell to the floor and exploded. Ignoring it, he turned and ran back through the office and up the stairs.
Wendy was standing outside Danny's door, breathing hard. Her face was the color of table linen. Her eyes were shiny and flat; her hair hung damply against her neck. "I got all of them," she said dully, "but one stung me. Jack, you said they were all dead." She began to cry.
He slipped past her without answering and carried the Pyrex bowl over to the nest by Danny's bed. It was still. Nothing there. On the outside, anyway. He slammed the bowl down over the nest.
"There," he said. "Come on."
They went back into their bedroom.
"Where did it get you?" he asked her.
"My... on my wrist."
"Let's see."
She showed it to him. Just above the bracelet of lines between wrist and palm, there was a small circular hole. The flesh around it was puffing up.
"Are you allergic to stings?" he asked. "Think hard! If you are, Danny might be. The fucking little bastards got him five or six times."
"No," she said, more calmly. "I... I just hate them, that's all. Hate them."
Danny was sitting on the foot of the bed, holding his left hand and looking at them. His eyes, circled with the white of shock, looked at Jack reproachfully.
"Daddy, you said you killed them all. My hand... it really hurts."
"Let's see it, doe... no, I'm not going to touch it. That would make it hurt even more. Just hold it out."
He did and Wendy moaned. "Oh Danny... oh, your poor hand!"
Later the doctor would count eleven separate stings. Now all they saw was a dotting of small holes, as if his palm and fingers had been sprinkled with grains of red pepper. The swelling was bad. His hand had begun to look like one of those cartoon images where Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck had just slammed himself with a hammer.
"Wendy, go get that spray stuff in the bathroom," he said.
She went after it, and he sat down next to Danny and slipped an arm around his shoulders.
"After we spray your hand, I want to take some Polaroids of it, doc. Then you sleep the rest of the night with us, Tay?"
"Sure," Danny said. "But why are you going to take pictures?"
"So maybe we can sue the ass out of some people."
Wendy came back with a spray tube in the shape of a chemical fire extinguisher.
"This won't hurt, honey," she said, taking off the cap.
Danny held out his hand and she sprayed both sides until it gleamed. He let out a long, shuddery sigh.
"Does it smart?" she asked.
"No. Feels better."
"Now these. Crunch them up." She held out five orangeflavored baby aspirin. Danny took them and popped them into his mouth one by one.
"Isn't that a lot of aspirin?" Jack asked.
"It's a lot of stings," she snapped at him angrily. "You go and get rid of that nest, John Torrance. Right now."
"Just a minute."
He went to the dresser and took his Polaroid Square Shooter out of the top drawer. He rummaged deeper and found some flashcubes.
"Jack, what are you doing?" she asked, a little hysterically.
"He's gonna take some pictures of my hand," Danny said gravely, "and then we're gonna sue the ass out of some people. Right, Dad?"
"Right," Jack said grimly. He had found the flash attachment, and he jabbed it onto the camera. "Hold it out, son. I figure about five thousand dollars a sting."
"What are you talking about?" Wendy nearly screamed.
"I'll tell you what," he said. "I followed the directions on that fucking bug bomb. We're going to sue them. The damn thing was defective. Had to have been. How else can you explain this?"
"Oh," she said in a small voice.
He took four pictures, pulling out each covered print for Wendy to time on the small locket watch she wore around her neck. Danny, fascinated with the idea that his stung hand might be worth thousands and thousands of dollars, began to lose some of his fright and take an active interest. The hand throbbed dully, and he had a small headache.
When Jack had put the camera away and spread the prints out on top of the dresser to dry, Wendy said: "Should we take him to the doctor tonight?"
"Not unless he's really in pain," Jack said. "If a person has a strong allergy to wasp venom, it hits within thirty seconds."
"Hits? What do you-"
"A coma. Or convulsions."
"Oh. Oh my Jesus." She cupped her hands over her elbows and hugged herself, looking pale and wan.
"How do you feel, son? Think you could sleep?"
Danny blinked at them. The nightmare had faded to a dull, featureless background in his mind, but he was still frightened.
"If I can sleep with you."
"Of course," Wendy said. "Oh honey, I'm so sorry."
"It's okay, Mommy."
She began to cry again, and Jack put his hands on her shoulders. "Wendy, I swear to you that I followed the directions."
"Will you get rid of it in the morning? Please?"
"Of course I will."
The three of them got in bed together, and Jack was about to snap off the light over the bed when he paused and pushed the covers back instead. "Want a picture of the nest, too."
"Come right back."
"I will."
He went to the dresser, got the camera and the last flashcube, and gave Danny a closed thumb-and-forefinger circle. Danny smiled and gave it back with his good hand.
Quite a kid he thought as he walked down to Danny's room. All of that and then some.
The overhead was still on. Jack crossed to the bunk setup, and as he glanced at the table beside it, his skin crawled into goose flesh. The short hairs on his neck prickled and tried to stand erect.
He could hardly see the nest through the clear Pyrex bowl. The inside of the glass was crawling with wasps. It was hard to tell how many. Fifty at least. Maybe a hundred.
His heart thudding slowly in his chest, he took his pictures and then set the camera down to wait for them to develop. He wiped his lips with the palm of his hand. One thought played over and over in his mind, echoing with
(You lost your temper. You lost your temper. You lost your temper.)
an almost superstitious dread. They had come back. He had killed the wasps but they had come back.
In his mind he heard himself screaming into his frightened, crying son's face: Don't stutter/
He wiped his lips again.
He went to Danny's worktable, rummaged in its drawers, and came up with a big jigsaw puzzle with a fiberboard backing. He took it over to the bedtable and carefully slid the bowl and the nest onto it. The wasps buzzed angrily inside their prison. Then, putting his hand firmly on top of the bowl so it wouldn't slip, he went out into the hall.
"Coming to bed, Jack?" Wendy asked.
"Coming to bed, Daddy?"
"Have to go downstairs for a minute," he said, making his voice light.
How had it happened? How in God's name?
The bomb sure hadn't been a dud. He had seen the thick white smoke start to puff out of it when he had pulled the ring. And when he had gone up two hours later, he had shaken a drift of small dead bodies out of the hole in the top.
Then how? Spontaneous regeneration?
That was crazy. Seventeenth-century bullshit. Insects didn't regenerate. And even if wasp eggs could mature full-grown insects in twelve hours, this wasn't the season in which the queen laid. That happened in April or May. Fall was their dying time.
A living contradiction, the wasps buzzed furiously under the bowl.
He took them downstairs and through the kitchen. In back there was a door which gave on the outside. A cold night wind blew against his nearly naked body, and his feet went numb almost instantly against the cold concrete of the platform he was standing on, the platform where milk deliveries were made during the hotel's operating season. He put the puzzle and the bowl down carefully, and when he stood up he looked at the thermometer nailed outside the door. FRESH UP WITH 7-up, the thermometer said, and the mercury stood at an even twenty-five degrees. The cold would kill them by morning. He went in and shut the door firmly. After a moment's thought he locked it, too.
He crossed the kitchen again and shut off the lights. He stood in the darkness for a moment, thinking, wanting a drink. Suddenly the hotel seemed full of a thousand stealthy sounds: creakings and groans and the sly sniff of the wind under the eaves where more wasps' nests might be hanging like deadly fruit.
They had come back.
And suddenly he found that he didn't like the Overlook so well anymore, as if it wasn't wasps that had stung his son, wasps that had miraculously lived through the bug bomb assault, but the hotel itself.
His last thought before going upstairs to his wife and son
(from now on you will hold your temper. No Mattes What.)
was firm and hard and sure.
As he went down the hall to them he wiped his lips with the back of his hand.