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       Misery, p.27

           Stephen King
Page 27

  "I was smarter than that.

  "Looking at those cartons was the Sam e as looking at the figures on the little parlor table. I thought the stuff in them had been sort of stirred around, and I was pretty sure that one of the cartons that was on the bottom before was on top of some of the other cartons now, but I couldn't be sure. And I could have done it myself when I was. . . well. . . when I was preoccupied.

  "Then, two days later, after I had just about decided to let it go, I came in to give you your afternoon medication. You were still having your nap. I tried to turn the doorknob, but for a few seconds it wouldn't turn - it was like the door was locked. Then it did turn, and I heard something rattle inside the lock. Then you started to stir around so I just gave you your pills like always. Like I didn't suspect. I'm very good at that, Paul. Then I helped you into your chair so you could write. And when I helped you into it that afternoon, I felt like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. My eyes were opened. I saw how much of your color had come back. I saw that you were moving your legs. They were giving you pain, and you could only move them a little, but you were moving them. And your arms were getting stronger again, as well.

  "I saw you were almost healthy again.

  "That was when I started to realize I could have a problem with you even if no one from the outside suspected a thing. I looked at you and saw that I might not be the only one good at keeping secrets.

  "That night I changed your medication for something a little stronger, and when I was sure you weren't going to wake up even if someone exploded a grenade under your bed, I got my little tool-kit from the cellar shelf and I took the keyplate off that door. And look what I found!" She took something small and dark from one of the flap pockets of her mannish shirt. She put it in his numb hand. He brought it up close to his face and stared at it owlishly. It was a bent and twisted chunk of bobby-pin.

  Paul began to giggle. He couldn't help it.

  "What's so funny, Paul?"

  "The day you went to pay your taxes. I needed to open the door again. The wheelchair - it was almost too big - it left black marks. I wanted to wipe them off if I could. "

  "So I wouldn't see them. "

  "Yes. But you already had, hadn't you?"

  "After I found one of my bobby-pins in the lock?" She smiled herself "You bet your rooty-patooties I had. " Paul nodded and laughed even harder. He was laughing so hard tears were squirting from his eyes. All his work. . . all his worry. . . all for nothing. It seemed deliciously funny.

  He said, "I was worried that piece of bobby-pin might mess me up. . . but it didn't. I never even heard it rattling around. And there was a good reason for that, wasn't there? It never rattled because you took it out. What a fooler you are, Annie. "

  "Yes," she said, and smiled thinly. "What a fooler I am. " She moved her feet. That muffled wooden thump from the foot of the bed came again.


  "How many times were you out in all?" The knife. Oh Christ, the knife.

  "Twice. No - wait. I went out again yesterday afternoon around five o'clock. To fill up my water pitcher. " This was true; he had filled the pitcher. But he had omitted the real reason for his third trip. The real reason was under his mattress. The Princess and the Pea. Paulie and the Pig Sticker. "Three times, counting the trip for the water. "

  "Tell the truth, Paul. "

  "Just three times, I swear. And never to get away. For Christ's sake I'm writing a book here, in case you didn't notice. "

  "Don't use the Saviour's name in vain, Paul. "

  "You quit using mine that way and maybe I will. The first time I was in so much pain that it felt like someone had put me into hell from the knees on down. And someone did. You did, Annie. "

  "Shut up, Paul!"

  "The second time I just wanted to get something to eat, and make sure I had some extra supplies in here in case you were gone a long time," he went on, ignoring her. "Then I got thirsty. That's all there is. No big conspiracy. "

  "You didn't try the telephone either time, I suppose, or took at the locks - because you are just such a good little boy. "

  "Sure I tried the phone. Sure I looked at the locks. . . not that I would have gotten very far in the mudbath out there even if your doors had been wide open. " The dope was coming in heavier and heavier waves, and now he just wished she would shut up and go away. She had already doped him enough to tell the truth - he was afraid he would have to pay the consequences in time. But first he wanted to sleep.

  "How many times did you go out?"

  "I told you - "

  "How many times?" Her voice was rising. "Tell the truth!"

  "I am! Three times!"

  "How many times, God damn it?" In spite of the cruiser-load of dope she'd shot into him, Paul began to be frightened.

  At least if she does something to me it can't hurt too much. . . and she wants me to finish the book. . . she said so. . .

  "You're treating me like a fool. " He noticed how shiny her skin was, like some sort of polymer plastic stretched tightly over stone. There seemed to be no pores at all in that face.

  "Annie, I swear - "

  "Oh, liars can swear! Liars love to swear! Well, go ahead and treat me like a fool, if that's what you want. That's fine. Goody-goody for you. Treat a woman who isn't a fool as if she were, and that woman always comes out ahead. Let me tell you, Paul - I've stretched thread and strands of hair from my own head all over this house and have found many of them snapped later on. Snapped or entirely gone. . . just disappeared. . . poof! Not just on my scrapbook but in this hallway and across my dresser drawers upstairs. . . in the shed. . . all over. " Annie, how could I possibly get out in the shed with all those locks on the kitchen door? he wanted to ask, but she gave him no time, only plunged on.

  "Now you go right ahead and keep telling me it was only three times, Mister Smart Guy, and I'll tell you who the fool is. " He stared at her, groggy but appalled. He didn't know how to answer her. It was so paranoid. . . so crazy. . .

  My God, he thought, suddenly forgetting the shed, upstairs? Did she say UPSTAIRS?

  "Annie, how in God's name could I get upstairs?"

  "Oh, RIGHT!" she cried, her voice cracking. "Oh, SURE! I came in here a few days ago and you'd managed to get into your wheelchair all by yourself! If you could do that, you could get upstairs! You could crawl!"

  "Yes, on my broken legs and my shattered knee," he said.

  Again that black look of crevasse; the batty darkness under the meadow. Annie Wilkes was gone. The Bourka Bee-Goddess was here.

  "You don't want to be smart to me, Paul," she whispered.

  "Well, Annie, one of us has to at least try, and you're not doing a very good job. If you'd just try to see how cr - "

  "How many times?"

  "Three. "

  "The first time to get medication. "

  "Yes. Novril capsules. "

  "And the second time to get food. "

  "That's right. "

  "The third time it was to fill up the pitcher. "

  "Yes. Annie, I'm so dizzy "You filled it in the bathroom up the hall. "

  "Yes - "

  "Once for medication, once for food, and once for water. "

  "Yes, I told you!" He tried to yell, but what came out was a strengthless croak.

  She reached into her skirt pocket again and brought out the butcher knife. Its keen blade glimmered in the brightening morning light. She suddenly twisted to the left and threw the knife. She threw it with the deadly, half-casual grace of a carnival performer. It stuck, quivering, in the plaster below the picture of the Arc de Triomphe.

  "I investigated under your mattress a little before I gave you your pre-op shot. I expected to find capsules; the knife was a complete surprise. I almost cut myself. But you didn't put it there, did you?" He didn't reply. His mind was spinning and diving like an out-of-control amusement-park ride. Pre-op shot? Was that what she had said?
Pre-op? He was suddenly, utterly sure that she meant to pull the knife from the wall and castrate him with it.

  "No, you didn't put it there. You went out once for medication, once for food, and once for water. This knife must have. . . why, it must have floated in here and slid under there all by itself. Yes, that's what must have happened!" Annie shrieked derisive laughter.

  PRE-OP??? Dear God, is that what she said?

  "Damn you!" she cried. "God damn you! How many times?"

  "All right! All right! I got the knife when I went after the water! I confess! If you think that means I was out any number of times, go on and fill in the blank! If you want it to be five times, it was five. If you want it to be twenty, or fifty, or a hundred, that's what it was. I'll admit it. However many times you think, Annie, that's how many times I was out. " For a moment, in his anger and dopey befuddlement, he had lost sight of the hazy, frightening concept inherent in that phrase pre-op shot. He wanted to tell her so much, wanted to tell her even though he knew that a ravening paranoid like Annie would reject what was so obvious. It had been damp; Scotch tape did not like the damp; in many cases her Ludlumesque little traps had undoubtedly just peeled off and floated away on some random draft. And the rats. With a lot of water in the cellar and the mistress of the manor gone, he had heard them in the walls. Of course. They had the run of the house - and they would be attracted by all the oogy stuff Annie had left around. The rats were probably the gremlins who had broken most of Annie's threads. But she would only push such ideas away. In her mind, he was almost ready to run the New York Marathon.

  "Annie. . . Annie, what did you mean when you said you gave me a pre-op shot?" But Annie was still fixated on the other matter. "I say it was seven," she said softly. "At least seven. Was it seven?"

  "If you want it to be seven, it was seven. What did you mean when you said - "

  "I can see you mean to be stubborn," she said. "I guess fellows like you must get so used to lying for a living that you just can't stop doing it in real life. But that's all right, Paul. Because the principle doesn't change if you were out seven times, or seventy, or seventy times seven. The principle doesn't change, and neither does the response. " He was floating, floating, floating away. He closed his eyes and heard her speak as if from a long distance away. . . like a supernatural voice from a cloud. Goddess, he thought.

  "Have you ever read about the early days at the Kimberley diamond mines, Paul?"

  "I wrote the book on that one, he said for no reason at all, and laughed.

  (pre-op? pre-op shot?) "Sometimes, the native workers stole diamonds. They wrapped them in leaves and poked them up their rectums. If they got away from the Big Hole without being discovered, they would run. And do you know what the British did to them if they got caught before they could get over Oranjerivier and into Boer country?"

  "Killed them, I suppose," he said, eyes still closed.

  "Oh, no! That would have been like junking an expensive car just because of a broken spring. If they caught them they made sure that they could go on working. . . but they also made sure they would never run again. The operation was called hobbling, Paul, and that is what I'm going to do to you. For my own safety. . . and yours as well. Believe me, you need to be protected from yourself. Just remember, a little pain and it will be over. Try to hold that thought. " Terror sharp as a gust of wind filled with razor-blades blew through the dope and Paul's eyes flew open. She had risen and now drew the bedclothes down, exposing his twisted legs and bare feet.

  "No," he said. "No. . . Annie. . . whatever it is you've got on your mind, we can talk about it, can't we?. . . please. . . " She bent over. When she straightened up she was holding the axe from the shed in one hand and a propane torch in the other. The blade of the axe gleamed. Written on the side of the propane torch was the word Bernz-O-matiC. She bent down again and this time came up with a dark bottle and the box of matches. There was a label on the dark bottle. Written on the label was the word Betadine.

  He never forgot these things, these words, these names.

  "Annie, no!" he screamed. "Annie, I'll stay right here! I won't even get out of bed! Please! Oh God please don't cut me!"

  "It'll be all right," she said, and her face now had that slack, unplugged look - that look of perplexed vacuity - and before his mind was completely consumed in a forest fire of panic he understood that when this was over, she would have only the vaguest memories of what she had done, as she had only the vaguest memories of killing the children and the old people and the terminal patients and Andrew Pomeroy. After all, this was the woman who, although she'd gotten her cap in 1966, had told him only minutes ago that she had been a nurse for ten years.

  She killed Pomeroy with that same axe. I know she did.

  He continued to shriek and plead, but his words had become inarticulate babble. He tried to turn over, turn away from her, and his legs cried out. He tried to draw them up, make them less vulnerable less of a target, and his knee screamed.

  "Only a minute more, Paul," she said, and uncapped the Betadine. She poured a brownish-red muck over his left ankle. "Only a minute more and it's over. " She tipped the blade of the axe flat, the tendons standing out in her strong right wrist, and he could see the wink of the amethyst ring she still wore on the pinkie finger of that hand. She poured Betadine on the blade. He could smell it, a doctor's office smell. That smell meant you were going to get a shot.

  "Just a little pain, Paul. It won't be bad. " She turned the axe over and splashed the other side of the blade. He could see random flowers of rust blooming on this side before the goop covered it.

  "Annie Annie oh Annie please please no please don't Annie I swear to you I'll be good I swear to God I'll be good please give me a chance to be good OH ANNIE PLEASE LET ME BE GOOD - "

  "Just a little pain. Then this nasty business will be behind us for good, Paul. " She tossed the open bottle of Betadine over her shoulder, her face blank and empty and yet so unarguably solid; she slid her right hand down the handle of the axe alnost to the steel head. She gripped the handle farther up in her left hand and spread her legs like a logger.

  "ANNIE OH PLEASE PLEASE DON'T HURT ME!" Her eyes were mild and drifting. "Don't worry," she said. "I'm a trained nurse. " The axe came whistling down and buried itself in Paul Sheldon's left leg just above the ankle. Pain exploded up his body in a gigantic bolt. Dark-red blood splattered across her face like Indian war-paint. It splattered the wall. He heard the blade squeal against bone as she wrenched it free. He looked unbelievingly down at himself. The sheet was turning red. He saw his toes wriggling. Then he saw her raising the dripping axe again. Her hair had fallen free of its pins and hung around her blank face.

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