Misery, p.40
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       Misery, p.40

           Stephen King
 
Page 40

  "Maybe you look like somebody he knew," she said.

  "Maybe so. "

  48

  Paul's skin was gray, his body rack-thin. He huddled by the occasional table, shivering all over, staring at them with rolling eyes.

  "Who - " McKnight began.

  "Goddess," the scrawny man on the floor interrupted. He licked his lips. "You have to watch out for her. Bedroom. That's where she kept me. Pet writer. Bedroom. She's there. "

  "Annie Wilkes?" Wicks. "In that bedroom?" He nodded toward the hall.

  "Yes. Yes. Locked in. But of course. There's a window. "

  "Who - " McKnight began a second time.

  "Christ, can't you see?" Wicks asked. "It's the guy Kushner was looking for. The writer. I can't remember his name, but it's him. "

  "Thank God," the scrawny man said.

  "What?" Wicks bent toward him, frowning.

  "Thank God you can't remember my name. "

  "I'm not tracking you, buddy. "

  "It's all right. Never mind. Just. . . you have to be careful. I think she's dead. But be careful. If she's still alive. . . dangerous. . . like a rattlesnake. " With tremendous effort he moved his twisted left leg directly into the beam of McKnight's flashlight. "Cut off my foot. Axe. " They stared at the place where his foot wasn't for long long seconds and then McKnight whispered: "Good Christ. "

  "Come on," Wicks said. He drew his gun and the two of them started slowly down the hall to Paul's closed bedroom door.

  "Watch out for her!" Paul shrieked in his cracked and broken voice. "Be careful!" They unlocked the door and went in. Paul pulled himself against the wall and leaned his head back, eyes closed. He was cold. He couldn't stop shivering. They would scream or she would scream. There might be a scuffle. There might be shots. He tried to prepare his mind for either. Time passed, and it seemed to be a very long time indeed.

  At last he heard booted feet coming back down the hall. He opened his eyes. It was Wicks.

  "She was dead," Paul said. "I knew it - the real part of my mind did - but I can still hardly be - " Wicks said: "There's blood and broken glass and charred paper in there. . . but there's no one in that room at all. " Paul Sheldon looked at Wicks, and then he began to scream. He was still screaming when he fainted.

  Part IV Goddess

  Chapter 1

  "You will be visited by a tall, dark stranger," the gipsy woman told Misery, and Misery, startled, realized two things at once: this was no gipsy, and the two of them were no longer alone in the tent. She could smell Gwendolyn Chastain's perfume in the moment before the madwoman's hands closed around her throat.

  "In fact," the gipsy who was not a gipsy observed, "I think she is here now. " Misery tried to scream, but could no longer even breathe.

  - Misery's Child

  "It always look dat way, Boss Ian," Hezekiah said. "No matter how you look at her, she seem like she be lookin" at you. I doan know if it be true, but the Bourkas, dey say even when you get behin" her, the goddess, she seem to be lookin" at you. "

  "But she is, after all, only a piece of stone," Ian remonstrated.

  "Yes, Boss Ian," Hezekiah agreed. "Dat what give her her powah. "

  - Misery's Return

  1

  umber whunnnn

  yerrrnnn umber whunnnn

  fayunnnn

  These sounds: even in the haze.

  2

  Now I must rinse she said, and this is how it rinses out:

  3

  None after Wicks and McKnight carried him from Annie's house on a makeshift litter, Paul Sheldon was dividing his time between Doctors Hospital in Queens and a new apartment on the East Side of Manhattan. His legs had been re-broken. His left was still in a cast from the knee down. He would walk with a limp for the rest of his life the doctors told him, but he would walk, and eventually he would walk without pain. His limp would have been deeper and more pronounced if he had been walking on his own foot instead of a custom-made prosthesis. In an ironic sort of way, Annie had done him a favor.

  He was drinking too much and not writing at all. His dreams were bad.

  When he got out of the elevator on the ninth floor one afternoon in May, he was for a change thinking not of Annie but of the bulky package tucked clumsily under his arm - it contained two bound galleys of Misery's Return. His publishers had put the book on a very fast track, and considering the world-wide headlines generated by the bizarre circumstances under which the novel had been written, that was hardly surprising. Hastings House had ordered an unprecedented first printing of a million copies. "And that's only the beginning," Charlie Merrill, his editor, had told him at lunch that day - the lunch from which Paul was now returning with his bound galleys. "This book is going to outsell everything in the world, my friend. We all just ought to be down on our knees thanking God that the story in the book is almost as good as the story behind the book. " Paul didn't know if that was true, and didn't really care anymore. He only wanted to get it behind him and find the next book. . . but as dry days became dry weeks became dry months, he had begun to wonder if there ever would be a next book.

  Charlie was begging him for a nonfiction account of his ordeal. That book, he said, would outsell even Misery's Return. Would, in fact, outsell Iacocca. When Paul asked", him, out of idle curiosity, what he thought the paperbacks rights for such a book might fetch, Charlie brushed his long hair away from his forehead, lit a Camel, and said: "I believe we could set a floor at ten million dollars and then conduct one hell of an auction. " He did not bat an eye when he said it; after a moment or two Paul realized he either was serious or thought he was.

  But there was no way he could write such a book, not yet, probably not ever. His job was writing novels. He could write the account Charlie wanted, but to do so would be tantamount to admitting to himself that he would never write another novel.

  And the joke is, it would be a novel, he almost said to Charlie Merrill. . . and then held back at the last moment. The joke was, Charlie wouldn't care.

  It would start out as fact, and then I'd begin to tart it up. . . just a little at first. . . then a little more. . . then a little more. Not to make myself look better (although I probably would) and not to make Annie look worse (she couldn't). Simply to create that roundness. I don't want to fictionalize myself. Writing may be masturbatory, but God forbid it should be an act off autocannibalism.

  His apartment was 9-E, farthest from the elevator, and today the corridor looked two miles long. He began to stump his way grimly down to it, a t-shaped walking-stick in each hand. Clack. . . clack. . . clack. . . clack. God, he hated that sound.

  His legs ached sickeningly and he yearned for Novril. Sometimes he thought it would be worth being back with Annie just to have the dope. The doctors had weaned him from it; The booze was his substitute, and when he got inside he was going to have a double bourbon.

  Then he would look at the blank screen of his word processor for awhile. What fun. Paul Sheldon's fifteen-thousand-dollar paperweight.

  Clack. . . clack. . . clack. . . clack.

  Now to get the key out of his pocket without dropping either the manila envelope containing the bound galleys or the sticks. He propped the sticks against the wall. While he was doing that, the galleys dropped out from under his arm and fell to the rug. The envelope split open.

  "Shit!" he growled, and then the sticks fell over with a clatter, adding to the fun.

  Paul closed his eyes, swaying unsteadily on his twisted, aching legs, waiting to see if he was going to get mad or cry. He hoped he would get mad. He didn't want to cry out here in the hall, but he might. He had. His legs hurt all the time and he wanted his dope, not the heavy-duty aspirin they gave him at the hospital dispensary. He wanted his good dope, his Annie-dope. And oh he was so tired all the time. What he needed to prop him up were not those shitty sticks but his make-believe games and stories. They were the good dope, the never
-fail fix, but they had all fled. It seemed playtime was finally over.

  This is what it's like after the end, he thought, opening the door and tottering into the apartment. This is why no one ever writes it. It's too fucking dreary. She should have died after I stuffed her head full of blank paper and busted pages, and I should have died then, too. At that moment if at no other we really were like characters in one of Annie's chapter-plays - no grays, only blacks and whites, good and bad. I was Geoffrey and she was the Bourka Bee-Goddess. This. . . well, I've heard of denouement, but this is ridiculous. Never mind the mess back there on the floor. Drinky-poo first, pick-uppy-poo second. First be a Don't-Be and then be a - He stopped. He had time to realize the apartment was to dark. And there was a smell. He knew that smell a deadly mixture of dirt and face-powder.

  Annie rose up from behind the sofa like a white ghost dressed in a nurse's uniform and cap. The axe was in her hand and she was screaming: Time to rinse, Paul! Time to rinse!

  He shrieked, tried to turn on his bad legs. She leaped the sofa with clumsy strength, looking like an albino frog. Her starched uniform rustled briskly. The first sweep of the axe did no more than knock the wind from him - this was really what he thought until he landed on the carpet smelling his own blood. He looked down and saw he was cut nearly in half.

  "Rinse!" she shrieked, and there went his right hand.

  "Rinse!" she shrieked again, and his left was gone; he crawled toward the open door on the jetting stumps of his wrists, and incredibly the galleys were still there, the bound galleys Charlie had given him at lunch in Mr Lee's, sliding the manila envelope to him across gleaming white napery while Muzak drifted down from overhead speakers.

  "Annie you can read it now!" he tried to scream, but only got out Annie you before his head flew off and rolled to the wall. His last dimming glimpse of the world was his own collapsing body and Annie's white shoes stand astride it: Goddess, he thought, and died.

  Chapter 2

  4

  Scenario: An outline or synopsis. A plot outline.

  - Webster's New Collegiate

  Writer: One who writes, esp. as an occupation.

  - Webster's New Collegiate

  Make-believe: Pretense or pretend.

  - Webster's New Collegiate

  5

  Paulie, Can You?

  6

  Yes; of course he could. "The writer's scenano was that Annie was still alive, although he understood this was only make-believe. "

  7

  He really did go to lunch with Charlie Merrill. All the conversation was the same. Only when he let himself into his apartment he knew it was the cleaning woman who had pulled the drapes, and although he fell down and had to smother a scream of fright when Annie rose up like Cain from behind the sofa, it was just the cat, a cross-eyed Siamese named Dumpster he had gotten last month at the pound.

  There was no Annie because Annie had not been a goddess at all, only a crazy lady who had hurt Paul for reasons of her own. Annie had managed to pull most of the paper out of her mouth and throat and had gotten out through Paul's window while Paul was sleeping the sleep of drugs. She had gotten to the barn and had collapsed there. She was dead when Wicks and McKnight found her, but not of strangulation. She had actually died of the fractured skull she had received when she struck the mantel, and she had struck the mantel because she had tripped. So in a way she had been killed by the very typewriter Paul had hated so much.

  But she'd had plans for him, all right. Not even the axe would suffice this time.

  They had found her outside of Misery the pig's stall, with one hand wrapped around the handle of her chainsaw.

  That was all in the past, though. Annie Wilkes was in her grave. But like Misery Chastain, she rested there uneasily. In his dreams and waking fantasies, he dug her up again and again. You couldn't kill the goddess. Temporarily dope her with bourbon, maybe, but that was all.

  He went to the bar, looked at the bottle, then looked back at where his galleys and walking sticks lay. He gave the bottle a goodbye look and worked his way back to his stuff.

  8

  Rinse.

  9

  Half an hour later he was sitting in front of the blank screen, thinking he had to be a glutton for punishment. He had taken the aspirin instead of the drink, but that didn't change what was going to happen now; he was going to sit here for fifteen minutes or maybe half an hour, looking at nothing but a cursor flashing in darkness; then he was going to turn the machine off and have that drink.

  Except. . .

  Except he had seen something funny on the way home from lunch with Charlie, and it had given him an idea. Not a big one. Just a small one. After all, it had only been a small incident. Just a kid pushing a shopping cart up 48th Street, that was all, but there had been a cage in the cart, and in it had been a rather large furry animal which Paul at first thought was a cat. A closer look had shown him a wide white stripe up the cat's back.

  "Sonny," he said, "is that a skunk?"

  "Yeah," the kid said, and pushed the shopping cart along a little faster. You didn't stop for long conversations with people in the city, especially weird-looking guys with bags the size of Samsonite two-suiters under their eyes who were lurching along on metal walking-sticks. The kid turned the corner and was gone.

  Paul went on, wanting to take a cab, but he was supposed to walk at least a mile every day and this was his mile and it hurt like hell and to take his mind off the mile he started wondering where that kid had come from, where the shopping cart had come from, and most of all where the skunk had come from.

  He heard a noise behind him and turned from the blank screen to see Annie coming out of the kitchen dressed in jeans and a red flannel logger's shirt, the chainsaw in her hands.

  He closed his eyes, opened them, saw the same old nothing, and was suddenly angry. He turned back to the word processor and wrote fast, almost bludgeoning the keys:

  - 1-

  The kid heard a sound in the back of the building and although the thought of rats crossed his mind, he turned the corner anyway - it was too early to go home because school didn't let out for another hour and a half and he had gone truant at lunch.

  What he saw crouched back against the all in a dusty shaft of sunlight was not a rat but a great big black cat with the bushiest tail he had ever seen.

  10

  He stopped, heart suddenly pounding.

  Paulie, Can You?

  This was a question which he did not dare answer. He bent over the keyboard again, and after a moment began to hit the keys. . . but more gently now.

  11

  It wasn't a cat. Eddie Desmond had lived in New York City all his life, but he had been to the Bronx Zoo, and Christ, there were picture-books weren't there? He knew what that thing was, although he hadn't the slightest idea how such a thing could have gotten into this deserted East 105th Street tenement, but the long white stripe down its back was a dead give-away. It was a skunk.

 
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