Misery, p.28
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       Misery, p.28

           Stephen King
 
Page 28

  He tried to pull back in spite of the pain in his leg and knee and realized that his leg was moving but his foot wasn't. All he was doing was widening the axe-slash, making it open like a mouth. He had time enough to realize his foot was now only held on his leg by the meat of his calf before blade came down again, directly into the gash, shear through the rest of his leg and burying itself deep in mattress. Springs boinked and squoinked.

  Annie pulled the axe free and tossed it aside absently at the jetting stump for a moment and picked up the box of matches. She lit one. Then she picked up propane torch with the word Bernz-0-matiC on it and twisted the valve on the side. The torch hissed. Blood poured from the place where he no longer was. Annie held the match delicately under the nozzle of the Bernz-0-matiC. There was a floof! sound. A long yellow flame appeared. Annie adjusted it to a hard blue line of fire.

  "Can't suture," she said. "No time. Tourniquet's no good. No central pressure point. Got to (rinse) cauterize. " She bent. Paul screamed as fire splashed over the raw bleeding stump. Smoke drifted up. It smelled sweet. He and his first wife had honeymooned on Maui. There had been a luau. This smell reminded him of the smell of the pig when they brought it out of the pit where it had cooked all day. The pig had been on a stick, sagging, black, falling apart.

  The pain was screaming. He was screaming.

  "Almost over," she said, and turned the valve, and now the ground sheet caught fire around the stump that was no longer bleeding, the stump that was as black as the pig's hide had been when they had brought it out of - Eileen had turned away but Paul had watched, fascinated, as they pulled off the pig's crackling skin as easily as you might skim off a sweater after a football game.

  "Almost over - " She turned the torch off. His leg lay in a line of flames with his severed foot wavering beyond it. She bent and now came up with his old friend the yellow floor-bucket. She dumped it over the flames.

  He was screaming, screaming. The pain! The goddess! The pain! O Africa!

  She stood looking at him, at the darkening, bloody sheets with vague consternation - her face was the face of a woman who hears on her radio that an earthquake has killed ten thousand people in Pakistan or Turkey.

  "You'll be all right, Paul," she said, but her voice was suddenly frightened. Her eyes began to dart aimlessly around as they had when it seemed that the fire of his burning book might get out of control. They suddenly fixed on something, almost with relief. "I'll just get rid of the trash. " She picked up his foot. Its toes were still spasming. She carried it across the room. By the time she got to the door they had stopped moving. He could see a scar on the instep and remembered how he had gotten that, how he had stepped on a piece of bottle when he was just a kid. Had that been at Revere Beach? Yes, he thought it had been. He remembered he had cried and his father had told him it was just a little cut. His father had told him to stop acting like someone had cut his goddam foot off. Annie paused at the door and looked back at Paul, who shrieked and writhed in the charred and blood-soaked bed, his face a deathly fading white.

  "Now you're hobbled," she said, "and don't you blame me. It's your own fault. " She went out.

  So did Paul.

  23

  The cloud was back. Paul dived for it, not caring if the cloud meant death instead of unconsciousness this time. He almost hoped it did. Just. . . no pain, please. No memories, no pain, no horror, no Annie Wilkes.

  He dived for the cloud, dived into the cloud, dimly hearing the sounds of his own shrieks and smelling his own cooked meat.

  As his thoughts faded, he thought: Goddess! Kill you! Goddess! Kill you! Goddess!

  Then there was nothing but nothing.

  Part III Paul

  Chapter 1

  It's no good. I've been trying to sleep for the last half-hour, and I can't. Writing here is a sort of drug. It's the only thing I look forward to. This afternoon I read what I wrote. . . And it seemed vivid. I know it seems vivid because my imagination fills in all the bits another person wouldn't understand. I mean, it's vanity. But it seems a sort of magic. . . And I just can't live in this present. I would go mad if I did.

  - John Fowles The Collector

  1

  CHAPTER 32

  "Oh blessed Jesus," Ia moa ed, a d made a co vulsive moveme t forward. Geoffrey grasped his frie d's arm. The steady beat of the drums pulsed i his head like somethi g heard i a killi g delirium. Bees dro ed arou d them, but o e paused; they simply flew past a d i to the cleari g as if draw by a mag et - which, Geoffrey hough sickly, hey

  2

  Paul picked up the typewriter and shook it. After a tune, a small piece of steel fell out onto the board across the arms of the wheelchair. He picked it up and looked at it.

  It was the letter t. The typewriter had just thrown its t.

  He thought: I am going to complain to the management. I am going to not just ask for a new typewriter but fucking demand one. She's got the money - I know she does. Maybe it's squirrelled away in fruit-jars under the barn or maybe it's stuffed in the walls at her Laughing Place, but she's got the dough, and t, my God, the second-most-common letter in the English language -!

  Of course he would ask Annie for nothing, much less demand. Once there had been a man who would at least have asked. A man who had been in a great deal more pain, a man who had had nothing to hold onto, not even this shitty book. That man would have asked. Hurt or not, that man had had the guts to at least try to stand up to Annie Wilkes.

  He had been that man, and he supposed he ought to be ashamed, but that man had had two big advantages over this one: that man had had two feet. . . and two thumbs.

  Paul sat reflectively for a moment, re-read the last line (mentally filling in the omissions), and then simply went back to work.

  Better that way.

  Better not to ask.

  Better not to provoke.

  Outside his window, bees buzzed.

  It was the first day of summer.

  3

  had been.

  "Let me go!" Ian snarled, and turned on Geoffrey, his right hand curling into a fist. His eyes bulged madly from his livid face, and he seemed totally unaware of who was holding him back from his darling. Geoffrey realized with cold certainty that what they had seen when Hezekiah pulled the protective screen of bushes aside had come very close to driving Ian mad. He still tottered on the brink, and the slightest push would send him over. If that happened he would take Misery with him.

  "Ian - "

  "Let me go, I say!" Ian pulled backward with furious strength, and Hezekiah moaned fearfully. "No boss, make dem bees crazy, dem sting Mis'wee - " Ian seemed not to hear. Eyes wild and blank, he lashed out at Geoffrey, striking his old friend high on the cheekbone. Black stars rocketed through Geoffrey's head.

  In spite of them, he saw Hezekiah beginning to swing the potentially deadly gosha - a sand-filled bag the Bourkas favored for close work - in time to hiss: "No! Let me handle this!" Reluctantly, Hezekiah allowed the gosha to subside to the end of its leather string like a slowing pendulum.

  Then Geoffrey's head was rocked back by a fresh blow. This one mashed his lips back against his teeth, and he felt the warm salt-sweet taste of blood begin to seep into his mouth. There was a rough purring sound as Ian's dress shirt, now sun-faded and already torn in a dozen places, began to come apart in Geoffrey's grasp. In another moment he would be free. Geoffrey realized with dazed wonder that it was the same shirt Ian had worn to the Baron and Baroness's dinner party three nights ago. . . of course it was. There had been no opportunity to change since then, not for Ian, not for any of them. Only three nights ago. . . but the shirt looked as if Ian had been wearing it for at least three years, and Geoffrey felt as if at least three hundred had passed since the party. Only three nights ago, he thought again with stupid wonder, and then Ian was raining blows into his face.

  "Let me go, damn you!" Ian drove his bloody fist into Geoffrey's fa
ce again and again - his friend for whom, in his right" mind, he would have died.

  "Do you want to demonstrate your love for her by killing her?" Geoffrey asked quietly. "If you want to do that, then by all means, old boy, knock me senseless. " Ian's fist hesitated. Something at least approximating sense came back into his terrified, maddened gaze.

  "I must go to her," he murmured like a man in a dream. "I'm sorry I hit you, Geoffrey - truly sorry, my dear old man, and I'm sure you know it - but I must. . . You see her. . . " He looked again, as if to confirm the dreadfulness of the sight, and again made as if to rush to where Misery had been tied to a post in a jungle clearing, her arms over her head. Glimmering on her wrists and fastening her to the lowest branch of the eucalyptus, which was the only tree in the clearing, was something the Bourkas had apparently taken a fancy to before sending Baron Heidzig into the mouth of the idol and to his undoubtedly terrible death: the Baron's blued steel handcuffs.

  This time it was Hezekiah who grabbed Ian, but the bushes rustled again and Geoffrey looked into the clearing, his breath momentarily catching in his throat, as a bit of fabric may catch on a thorn - he felt like a man who must walk up a rocky hill with a load of decayed and dangerously volatile explosives in his arms. One sting, he thought. Just one and it's all over for her "No, boss mussun"," Hezekiah was saying with a kind of terrified patience. "It like d'utha boss be sayin". . . if you go out dere, de bees wake up from dey dream. And if de bees wake, it doan matter for her if she be dine of one sting or one-de-one t'ousan" sting. If de bees wake up from dey dream we all die, but she die firs" and de mos" horrible. " Little by little Ian relaxed between the two men, one of them black, the other white. His head turned toward the clearing with dreadful reluctance, as if he did not wish to look and yet could not forbear to.

  "Then what are we to do? What are we ft do for my poor darling?" I don't know came to Geoffrey's lips, and in his own state of terrible distress, he was barely able to bite them back. Not for the first time it occurred to him that Ian's possession of the woman Geoffrey loved just as dearly (if secretly) allowed Ian to indulge in an odd sort of selfishness and an almost womanly hysteria that Geoffrey himself must forgo; after all, to the rest of the world he was only Misery's friend.

  Yes, just her friend, he thought with half-hysterical irony, and then his own eyes were drawn back to the clearing. To his friend.

  Misery wore not a stitch of clothing, yet Geoffrey thought that even the most prudish church-thrice-a-week village biddy could not have faulted her for indecency. The hypothetical old prude might have run screaming from the sight of Misery, but her screams would have been caused by terror and revulsion rather then outraged propriety. Misery wore not a stitch of clothing, but she was far from naked.

  She was dressed in bees. From the tips of her toes to the crown of her chestnut hair, she was dressed in bees. She seemed almost to be wearing some strange nun's habit - strange because it moved and undulated across the swells of her breasts and hips even though there was not even a ghost of a breeze. Likewise, her face seemed encased in a wimple of almost Mohammedan modesty - only her blue eye peered our of the mask of bees which crawled sluggishy over her face, hiding mouth and nose and chin and brows. More bees, giant Africa browns, the most poisonous and bad-tempered bees in all the world, crawled back and forth over the steel bracelet's before joining the living gloves on Misery's hands.

  As Geoffrey watched, more and more bees flew into the clearing from all points of the compass - yet it was clear to him, even in his current distraction, that most of them were coming from the west, where the great dark stone face of the goddess loomed.

  The drums pulsed their steady rhythm, in it's way as much a soporific as the sleepy drone of the bees. But Geoffrey knew how deceptive that sleepiness was, had seen what happened to the Baroness, and only thanked God that Ian had been spared that. . . and the sound of that sleepy hum suddenly rising to a furious buzz-saw squeal. . . a sound which had at first muffled and then drowned the woman's agonized dying screams. She had been a vain and foolish creature, dangerous as well - she had almost gotten them killed when she had freed Stringfellow's bushmaster - but silly or not, foolish or not, dangerous or not, no man or women deserved to die like that.

  In his mind Geoffrey echoed Ian's question: What are we going to do? What are we to do for our poor darling?

  Hezekiah said: "Nothing can do now, boss - but she is in no danger. As long as de drums dey beat, de bees will sleep. And Mis'wess, she is goan sleep, too.

  Now the bees covered her in a thick and moving blanket; her eyes, open but unseeing, seemed to be receding into a living cave of crawling, stumbling, droning bees.

  "And if the drums stop?" Geoffrey asked in a low almost strengthless voice, and just then, the drums did.

  For a mom h hr of h m

  4

  Paul looked unbelievingly at the last line, then picked the Royal up - he had gone on lifting it like some weird barbell when she was out of the room, God knew why - and shook it again. The keys clittered, and then another chunk of metal fell out on the board which served as his desk.

  Outside he could hear the roaring sound of Annie's bright-blue riding lawnmower - she was around front, giving the grass a good trim so those cockadoodie Roydmans wouldn't have anything to talk about in town.

  He set the typewriter down, then rocked it up so he could fish out this new surprise. He looked at it in the strong late afternoon sunlight slanting in through the window. His expression of disbelief never altered.

  Printed in raised and slightly ink-stained metal on the head of the key was:

  E

  e

  Just to add to the fun, the old Royal had now thrown the most frequently used letter in the English language.

  Paul looked at the calendar. The picture was of a flowered meadow and the month said May, but Paul kept his own dates now on a piece of scrap paper, and according to his home-made calendar it was June 21.

  Roll out those lazy hazy crazy days of summer, he though sourly, and threw the key-hammer in the general direction of the wastebasket.

  Well, what do I do now? he thought, but of course he knew what came next. Longhand. That was what came next.

  But not now. Although he had been tearing along like house afire a few seconds ago, anxious to get Ian, Geoffrey, and the ever-amusing Hezekiah caught in the Bourkas ambush so that the entire party could be transported to the caves behind the face of the idol for the rousing finale, he was suddenly tired. The hole in the paper had closed with an adamant bang.

  Tomorrow.

  He would go to longhand tomorrow.

  Fuck longhand. Complain to the management, Paul.

  But he would do no such thing. Annie had gotten to too weird.

  He listened to the monotonous snarl of the riding lawnmower, saw her shadow, and, as so often happened when he thought of how weird Annie was getting, his mind recalled the image of the axe rising, then falling; the image of her horrid impassive deadly face splattered with his blood. I was clear. Every word she had spoken, every word he had screamed, the squeal of the axe pulling away from the severed bone, the blood on the wall. All crystal-clear. And, as he also so often did, he tried to block this memory; and found himself a second too late.

 
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