Author: Stephen King.
Genre: Fiction, novella, horror, crime, ghost stories, mental health.
Publication Date: 2010.
Summary: A violence awakens inside a man when his wife proposes selling off the family homestead, setting in motion a grisly train of murder, madness, and supernatural horror.
My rating: 7.5/10.
♥ "But I love her!"
"I love her, too," I said. Which, however little you might believe it, was true. The hate I felt toward her in that year of 1922 was greater than a man can feel for any woman unless love is a part of it.
♥ Henry turned to look at me. There was blood at the corner of his mouth and his lower lip was swelling. The rage in his eyes was of the raw, pure sort that only adolescents can feel. It is rage that doesn't count the cost. He nodded his head. I nodded back, just as gravely, but inside the Conniving Man was grinning.
That slap was her death-warrant.
♥ Two days later, when Henry came to me in the new corn, I saw he had weakened again. I wasn't dismayed or surprised; the years between childhood and adulthood are gusty years, and those living through them spin like the weathercocks some farmers in the Midwest used to put atop their grain silos.
♥ If he had returned by saying that murderers had no hope of joining their victims in Heaven, I might have been stumped. But either his theology did not stretch so far or he didn't want to consider such things. And is there Hell, or do we make our own on earth? When I consider the last eight years of my life, I plump for the latter.
♥ Because I was like one of those Russian nesting dolls? Perhaps. Perhaps every man is like that. Inside me was the Conniving Man, but inside the Conniving Man was a Hopeful Man. That fellow died sometime between 1922 and 1930. The Conniving Man, having done his damage, disappeared. Without his schemes and ambitions, life has been a hollow place.
♥ We stood there in the glow of the kerosene lamps—there'd be no electricity except for generators in Hemingford Home until 1928—looking at each other, the great night-silence that exists out there in the middle of things broken only by the unlovely sound of her snores. Yet there was a third presence in that room: her ineluctable will, which existed separate of the woman herself (I thought I sensed it then; these 8 years later I am sure). This is a ghost story, but the ghost was there even before the woman it belonged to died.
♥ I remember thinking, This night will never end. And that was right. In all the important ways, it never has.
♥ Things had already gone wrong, and I was starting to realize that a deed is never like the dream of a deed.
♥ I discovered something that night that most people never have to learn: murder is sin, murder is damnation (surely of one's own mind and spirit, even if atheists are right and there is no afterlife), but murder is also work.
♥ Some of those hours I spent at the kitchen table, drinking cup after cup of black coffee. Some of them I spent walking in the corn, up one row and down another, listening to the swordlike leaves rattle in a light breeze. When it's June and corn's on the come, it seems almost to talk. This disquiets some people (and there are the foolish ones who say it's the sound of the corn actually growing), but I had always found that quiet rustling a comfort. It cleared my mind. Now, sitting in this city hotel room, I miss it. City life is no life for a country man; for such a man that life is a kind of damnation in itself.
♥ They say that loving eyes can never see, but that's a fool's axiom. Sometimes they see too much.
♥ I went back to the house, undressed, and lay down in the bed where I'd cut my wife's throat. It was a long time before I went to sleep. And if you don't understand why—all the reasons why—then reading this is of no use to you.
♥ Here is something I learned in 1922: there are always worse things waiting. You think you have seen the most terrible thing, the one that coalesces all your nightmares into a freakish horror that actually exists, and the only consolation is that there can be nothing worse. Even if there is, you mind will snap at the sight of it, and you will know no more. But there is worse, your mind does not snap, and somehow you carry on. You might understand that all the joy has gone out of the world for you, that what you did has put all you hoped to gain out of your reach, you might wish you were the one who was dead—but you go on. You realize that you are in a hell of your own making, but you go on nevertheless. Because there is nothing else to do.
♥ The bed was made, although not the way Arlette made it; my way was more Army-style, although my feet had kept me out of the war that had taken the Sheriff's son. Can't go kill Krauts if you have flat feet. Men with flat feet can only kill wives.
♥ I went back and looked at Achelois. She stood quietly, and gave me a mild look over her shoulder as I stroked her. I knew then and know now she was only a cow—farmers hold few romantic notions about the natural world, you'll find—but that look still brought tears to my eyes, and I had to stifle a sob. I know you did your best, it said. I know it's not your fault.
But it was.
♥ In the end we are all caught in devices of our own making. I believe that. In the end we are all caught.
♥ But those investigations came years later, after I left the farm, and only confirmed what I already knew.
Already? you ask, and I answer simply: Yes. Already. And I knew it not just as happened, but at least part of it before it happened. The last part of it.
How? The answer is simple. My dead wife told me.
You disbelieve, of course. I understand that. Any rational person would. All I can do is reiterate that this is my confession, my last words on earth, and I've put nothing in it I don't know to be true.
♥ Her face was slack with decay, the lower half slewed to one side, her grin wider than ever. It was a knowing grin, and why not? The dead understand everything.
♥ Her hanging face slid alongside mine. I could feel my beard-stubble pulling off tiny bits of her skin; could hear her broken jaw grinding like a branch with ice on it. Then her cold lips were pressed against the burning, feverish cup of my ear, and she began whispering secrets that only a dead woman could know. I shrieked. I promised to kill myself and take her place in Hell if she would only stop. But she didn't. She wouldn't. The dead don't stop.
That's what I know now.
♥ To this day I believe things would have ended badly for them no matter what, yet still I wish I could call to him across the years: Don't put that gun down still loaded. Don't do that, son! Green or not, put those bullets in your pocket! But only the dead can call across time; I know that now, and from personal experience.
♥ The small farm had begun to go, and I believe that in a hundred years—maybe only 75—they'll all be gone. Come 2030 (if there is such a year), all Nebraska west of Omaha will be one big farm. Probably it will be owned by the Farrington Company, and those unfortunate enough to live on that land will pass their existence under dirty yellow skies and wear gas masks to keep from choking on the stench of dead hogs. And every stream will run red with the blood of slaughter.
Come 2030, only the rats will be happy.
♥ I was a fool, and everyone I ever loved paid the price.
♥ I don't know, but I think Shannon's death probably ended that previously happy marriage. Poison spreads like ink in water.