Title: Night Shift.
Author: Stephen King.
Genre: Fiction, short stories, horror.
Publication Date: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1978 (this collection 1978).
Summary: A collection of 20 short stories. (Stories 1-10 in this post, refer to PART 2 for 11-20). In Jerusalem's Lot (1978) (a prequel to the novel Salem's Lot and story One for the Road (see Part 2 this compendium)), when Charles Boone returns to his ancestral home and comes upon the abandoned village of Jerusalem's Lot, he discovers an undead horror that has haunted his blood-line for generations. In Night Shift (1970), when a group of workers recruited to deal with a seeming infestation of rats in a decrepit textile mill's basement, they find they are not prepared for the horrors actually residing down there. In Night Surf (1969) (eventually developed into the novel The Stand), a group of young survivors from a plague that has wiped out most of the world have a single hope that they have the anti-bodies from a similar related virus that has left them immune. I Am the Doorway (1971) relates a disabled former astronaut's account of the terrifying change he undergoes after being exposed to an extraterrestrial mutagen, during a space mission to Venus. In The Mangler (1972), a police detective investigating a sudden rash of grisly deaths caused by an industrial laundry press, called a mangle, begins to suspect the machine is possessed by a demon. In The Boogeyman (1973), a man who has buried three young children describes to a psychiatrist how he believes they were taken by an entity that has been following his family. In Gray Matter (1973) (a story within the It universe), a group of men during a bad snowstorm go to investigate a small boy's claim that after his father drank a "bad" can of beer, he has been slowly transforming into an inhuman blob-like abomination that detests light and craves warm beer. In Battleground (1972), a professional hit-man who has just assassinated a toy-maker gets a package from the deceased's mother that includes a toy-sized G.I. Joe Vietnam Footlocker, which immediately begin to wage war on him, much more successfully than he could have ever expected. In Trucks (1973), the narrator and a handful of strangers find themselves trapped together in a freeway truck stop diner after semi-trailers and other large vehicles are suddenly brought to independent life by an unknown force and proceed to gruesomely kill every human in sight. In Sometimes They Come Back (1974), sixteen years after Jim's brother is killed by a group of boys, Jim encounters the boys again, unchanged, unaged, and menacing, in the highschool he comes to teach in.
My rating: 7.5/10.
♥ "They don't like the house, and I don't like the house, sir, because it has always been a bad house. ..I do not mean to say that Stephen Boone was not a fine man, for he was; I cleaned for him every second Thursday all the time he was here, as I cleaned for his father, Mr. Randolph Boone, until he and his wife disappeared in eighteen and sixteen. Mr. Stephen was a good and kindly man, and so you seem, sir (if you will pardon my bluntness; I know no other way to speak), but the house is bad and it always has been, and no Boone has ever been happy here since your grandfather Robert and his brother Philip fell out over stolen [and here she paused, almost guiltily] items in seventeen and eighty-nine. ..The house was built in unhappiness, has been lived in with unhappiness, there has been blood spilt on its floors [as you may or may not know, Bones, my Uncle Randolph was involved in an accident on the cellar stairs which took the life of his daughter Marcella; he then took his own life in a fit of remorse. The incident is related in one of Stephen's letters to me, on the sad occasion of his dead sister's birthday], there has been disappearance and accident.
"I have worked here, Mr. Boone, and I am neither blind nor deaf. I've heard awful sounds in the walls, sir, awful sounds—thumpings and crashings and once a strange wailing that was half-laughter. It fair made my blood curdle. It's a dark place, sir. ..Ghosts there may be. But it's not ghosts in the walls. It's not ghosts that wail and blubber like the damned and crash and blunder away in the darkness. ..Some die not," she whispered. "Some live in the twilight shadow Between to serve—Him!"
♥ He paused on the landing, looking at me solemnly. The lamp he held cast wild, lurking shadows on the dark draperies and on the half-seen portrait that seemed now to leer rather than smile. Outside the wind rose to a brief scream and then subsided grudgingly.
♥ The thing was a map, drawn in spider-thin strokes of black ink—the map of a town or village. There were perhaps seven buildings, and one, clearly marked with a steeple, bore this legend beneath it: The Worm That Doth Corrupt.
In the upper left corner, to what would have been the northwest of this little village, an arrow pointed. Inscribed beneath it: Chapelwaite.
♥ We entered an old and rotting tavern first—somehow it did not seem right that we should invade any of those houses to which people had retied when they wished privacy. An old and weather-scrubbed sign above the splintered door announced that this had been the BOAR'S HEAD INN AND TAVERN. The door creaked hellishly on its one remaining hinge, and we stepped into the shadowed interior. The smell of rot and mould was vaporous and nearly overpowering. And beneath it seemed to lie an even deeper smell, a slimy an pestiferous smell, a smell of ages and the decay of ages. Such a stencg as might issue from corrupt coffins or violated tombs.
♥ "It's never been touched," I finished for him.
As indeed it had not. Tables and chairs stood about like ghostly guardians of the watch, dusty, warped by the extreme changes in temperature which the New England climate is known for, but otherwise perfect—as if they had waited through the silent, echoing decades for those long gone to enter once more, to call for a pint or a dram, to deal cards and light day pipes. A small square mirror hung beside the rules of the tavern, unbroken. Do you see the significance, Bones? Small boys are noted for exploration and vandalism; there is not a "haunted" house which stands with windows intact, no matter how fearsome the eldritch inhabitant is rumoured to be; not a shadowy graveyard without at least one tombstone upended by young pranksters. Certainly there must be a score of young pranksters in Preacher's Corners, not two miles from Jerusalem's Lot. Yet the inn-keeper's glass [which must have cost him a nice sum] was intact—as were the other fragile items we found in our pokings. The only damage in Jerusalem's Lot had been done by impersonal Nature. The implication is obvious: Jerusalem's Lot is a shunned town. But why?
♥ I believe, with Moses, with Jereboam, with Increase Mather, wand with our own Hanson [when he is in philosophical temperament], that there are spiritually noxious places, buildings where the milk of the cosmos has become sour and rancid. This church is such a place; I would swear to it.
♥ It was an obscenity.
I daren't decide that elaborately-framed picture further than this: that it was done after the fleshy style of Rubens; that it contained a grotesque travesty of a madonna and child; that strange, half-shadowed creatures sported and crawled in the background.
"Lord," I whispered.
"There's no Lord here," Calvin said, and his words seemed to hang in the air. I opened the door leading into the church itself, and the door became a miasma, nearly overpowering.
In the glimmering half-light of afternoon the pews stretched ghostlike to the altar. Above them was a high, oaken pulpit and a shadow-struck narthex from which gold glimmered.
With a half-sob Calvin, that devout Protestant, made the Holy Sign, and I followed suit. For the gold was a large, beautifully-wrought cross—but it was hung upside-down, symbol of Satan's Mass.
♥ But a shadow had touched y heart, and I was afraid as I had never been. II have walked beneath death's umvrella and thought there was none daker. But there is. There is.
♥ I closed the book and looked at the words stamped into the leather: De Vermis Mysteriis. My Latin is rusty, but serviceable enough to translate: The Mysteries of the Worm.
As I touched it, that accursed church and Calvin's white, upturned face seemed to swim before me. It seemed that I heard low, chanting voices, full of hideous yet eager fear—and below that sound, another, filling the bowels of the earth. An hallucination, I doubt it not—but at the same moment, the church was filled with a very real sound, which I can only describe as a huge and macabre turning beneath my feet. The pulpit trembled beneath my fingers; the desecrated cross trembled on the wall.
♥ She would not speak more until she had brewed strong tea in her sunshiny kitchen. When it was before us, she looked pensively out at the ocean for a time. Inevitably, her eyes had mine were drawn to the jutting brow of Chapelwaite Head, where the house looked out over the water. The large bay window glittered in the rays of the westering sun like a diamond. The view was beautiful but strangely disturbing.
♥ "There has been an evil breath in the air since you took up residence. In the last week—since you set foot in the accursed place—there have been omens and portents. A caul over the face of the moon; flocks of whippoorwills which roost in the cemeteries an unnatural birth. You must leave!"
When I found my tongue, I spoke as gently as I could. "Mrs. Cloris, these things are dreams. You must know that."
"Is it a dream that Barbara Brown gave birth to a child with no eyes? Or that Clifton Brockett found a flat, pressed trail five feet wide in the woods beyond Chapelwaite where all had withered and gone white? And can you, who have visited Jerusalem's Lot, say with truth that nothing still lives there?"
♥ "The house has been the home of Philip Boone's line since the 1780s; his brother Robert, my grandfather, located in Massachusetts after an argument over stolen papers. Of Philip's side I know little except that an unhappy shadow fell over it, extending from father to son to grandchildren—Marcella died in a tragic accident and Stephen fell to his death. It was his wish that Chapelwaite become the home of me and mine, and that the family rift thus be mended."
"Never to be mended, " she whispered. "You know nothing of the original quarrel?"
"Robert Boone was discovered rifling his brother's desk."
"Philip Boone was mad," she said. "A man who trafficked with the unholy. The thing which Robert Boone attempted to remove was a profane Bible write in the old tongues—Latin, Druidic, others. A hell-book."
"De Vermis Mysteriis."
She recoiled as if stuck. "You know of it?"
"I have seen it... touched it." It seemed again she might swoon. A hand went to her mouth as if to stifle an outcry. "Yes; in Jerusalem's Lot. On the pulpit of a corrupt and desecrated church."
"Still there; still there, then." She rocked in her chair. "I had hoped God in His wisdom had cast it int the pit of hell."
"What relation had Philip Boone to Jerusalem's Lot?"
"Blood relation," she said darkly. "The Mark of the Beast was on him, although he walked in the clothes of the Lamb. And on the night of October 31, 1789, Philip Boone disappeared... and the entire populace of that damned village with him."
♥ It was as if a rotten spectre of this dwelling's sinister past had risen before us. A single chair stood in this alcove, and above it, fastened from a hook in one of the stout overhead beams, was a decayed noose of hemp.
♥ If I could leave, I should fly from this house of horror with my nightdress flapping at my heels. But I cannot. I have become a pawn in a deeper, darker drama. Do not ask how I know; I only do. Mrs. Cloris was right when she spoke of blood calling to blood; and how horribly right when she spoke of those who watch and those who guard. I fear that I have wakened a Force which has slept in the tenebrous village of 'Salem's Lot for half a century, a Force which has slain my ancestors and taken them in unholy bondage as nosferatu—the Undead. And I have greater fears than these, Bones, but I still see only in part. If I knew... if I only knew all!
♥ The town became a settled community built around the church where Boon preached—or held court. My grandfather intimates that he also held a commerce with any number of ladies from the town, assuring them that this was God's way and will. As a result, the town became an anomaly which could only have existed in those isolated and queer days when belief in witches and the Virgin Birth existed hand in hand: an interbred, rather degenerate religious village controlled by a half-mad preacher whose twin gospels were the Bible and de Goudge's sinister Demon Dwellings; a community in which rites of exorcism were held regularly; a community of incest and the insanity and physical defects which so often accompany that sin. I suspect [and believe Robert Boone must have also] that one of Boone's bastard offspring must have left [or have been spirited away from] Jerusalem's Lot to seek his fortune to the south—and thus founded our present linage. I do know, by my own family reckoning, that our clan supposedly originated in that part of Massachusetts which has so lately become this Sovereign State of Maine. My great-grandfather, Kenneth Boone, became a rich man as a result of the then-flourishing fur trade. It was his money, increased by time and wise investment, which built this ancestral home long after his death in 1763. His sons, Philip and Robert, built Chapelwaite. Blood calls to blood, Mrs. Cloris said. Could it be that Kenneth was born of James Boon, fled the madness of his father and his father's town, only to have his sons, all-unknowing, build the Boone home not two miles from the Boon beginnings</i>? If 'tis true, does it not seem that some huge and invisible Hand has guided us?
According to Robert's diary, James Boon was ancient in 1789—and he must have been. Granting him an age of twenty-five in the year of the town's founding, he would have been one hundred and four, a prodigious age. The following is quoted direct from Robert Boone's diary:
..The Village itself I had visited only once before, and I will not visit again; its Streets are silent and filled with the Fear the old Man inspires from his Pulpit: fear also that Like has mated with Like, as so many of the Faces are similar. It seemed that each way I turned I beheld the old Man's Visage... all ware so wan; they seem Lack-Luster, as if sucked dry of all Vitality, I beheld Eyeless and Noseless Children, Women who wept and gibbered and pointed at the Sky for no Reason, and warbled talk from the Scriptures with talk of Demons;...
♥ Goody Randall claims there have been Signs in the Sky of great impending Disaster. A Cow has been born with two Heads.
As for Myself, I know not what impends; perhaps 'tis my Brother's Insanity. His Hair has gone Gray almost Overnight, his Eyes are great bloodshot Circles from which the pleasing light of Sanity seem to have departed. He grins and whispers, and, for some Reason of his Own, has begun to haunt our Cellar when not in Jerusalem's Lot.
The Whippoorwills congregate about the House and upon the Grass; their combined Calling from the Mist blends with the Sea into an unearthly Shriek that precludes all thought of Sleep.
♥ I sit at my desk, where I sat when I first wrote you from Chapelwaite, and look out over the dark sea from which the last of the light is rapidly fading. I shall never see more. This night is my night; I leave it for whatever shadows be.
♥ "You shall not go alone," said he, and his face was as grim as ever I have seen it.
"Bur Calvin—" I began.
"No, not a word! We go together and do what we must, or I return you bodily to the house. You ware not well. You shall not go alone."
It is impossible to describe the conflicting emotions that swept over me: confusion, pique, hatefulness—yet the greatest of them was love.
♥ We rolled the lamb's corpse away from the book; it struck the floor with a hideous, lolling thud. The blood-stained pages now seemed alive with a scarlet glow of their own.
My ears began to ring and hum; a low chant seemed to emanate from the walls themselves. From the twisted look on Cal's face I knew he heard the same. The floor beneath us trembled, as if the familiar which haunted this church came now unto us, to protect its own. The fabric of sane space and time seemed to twist and crack; the church seemed filled with specters and litten with the hell-glow of eternal cold fire. It seemed that I saw James Boon, hideous and misshapen, cavorting around the supine body of a woman, and my Grand-uncle Philip behind him, an acolyte in a black, hooded cassock, who held a knife and a bowl.
"Deum vobiscum magna vermis—"
The words shuddered and writhed on the page before me, soaked in the blood of sacrifice, prize of a creature that shambles beyond the stars—
A blind, interbred congregation swaying in mindless, daemoniac praise; deformed faces filled with hungering, nameless anticipation—
And the Latin was replaced by an older tongue, ancient when Egypt was young and the Pyramids built, ancient when this Earth still hung in an unformed, boiling firmament of empty gas:
"Gyyagin vardar Yogsoggoth! Verminis! Gyyagin! Gyyagin! Gyyagin!
The pulpit began to rend and split, pushing upward—
Calvin screamed and lifted an arm to shield his face. The narthex trembled with a huge, tenebrous motion like a ship wracked in a gale. I snatched up the book and held it away from me; it seemed filled with the heat of the sun and I felt that I should be cindered, blinded.
"Run!" Calvin screamed. "Run!"
But I stood frozen and the alien presence filled me like an ancient vessel that had waited for years—for generations!
"Gyyagin vardar!" I screamed. "Servant of Yogsoggoth, the Nameless One! The Worm from beyond Space! Star-Eater! Blinder of Time! Verminis! Now comes the Hour of Filling, the Time of Rendering! Verminis! Alyah! Alyah! Gyyagin!"
♥ My match flared. I touched it to the book just as the pulpit exploded upward in a rending explosion of wood. A huge black maw was discovered beneath; Cal tottered on the edge his hands held out, his face distended in a wordless scream that I shall hear forever.
And then there was a huge surge of gray, vibrating flesh. The smell became a nightmare tide. It was a huge outpouring of a viscid, pustulant jelly, a huge and awful form that seemed to skyrocket from the very bowels of the ground. And yet, with a sudden horrible comprehension which no man can have known, I perceived that it was but one ring, one segment, of a monster worm that had existed eyeless for years in the chambered darkens beneath that abominated church.!
♥ A hand groped it way over the river floorboards.
My mad laughter choked in my throat. All hysteria melted into numb bloodlessness.
With terrible, vengeful slowness, a wracked figure pulled itself up from darkness, and a half-skull peered at me. Beetles crawled over the fleshless forehead. A rotted cassock clung to the askew hollows of mouldered collarbones. Only the eyes lived—red, insane pits that flared at me with more than lunacy; they glared with the empty life of the pathless wastes beyond the edges of the Universe.
It came to take me down to darkness.
..I ran because even in my crazed state, and even in the shattered ruin of that dead-yet-animated shape, I had seen the family resemblance. Yet not of Philip or Robert, whose likenesses hang in the upstairs gallery. That rotted visage belonged to James Boon, Keeper of the Worm!
He still lives somewhere in the twisted, lightless wanderings beneath Jerusalem's Lot and Chapelwaite—and It still lives. The burning of the book thwarted It, but there are other copies.
Yet I am the gateway, and I am the last of the Boone blood. For the good of all humanity I must die... and break the chain forever.
♥ Among the older residents of Preacher's Corners and Tandress there is still some idle rumor about Jerusalem's Lot (perhaps, in his day, it was this kind of harmless folk legend which started Charles Bone's mind on its fatal course), but this seems hardly relevant.
Second, Charles Boone was not the last of his line. His grandfather, Robert Boone, sired at least two bastards. One died in infancy. The second took the Boone name and located in the town of Central Falls, Rhode Island. I am the final descendant of this offshoot of the Boone line; Charles Boone's second cousin, removed by three generations. These papers have been in my committal for ten years. I offer them for publication on the occasion of my residence in the Boone ancestral home, Chapelwaite, in the hope that the reader will find sympathy in his heart for Charles Boone's poor misguided soul. So far as I can tell, he was correct about only one thing: this place badly needs the services of an exterminator.
There are some huge rats in the walls, by the sound.
♥ A skull, green with mould, laughed up at them. Further on Hall could see an ulna, on pelvic wing, part of a ribcage. "Keep going," Hall said he felt something bursting up inside him, something lunatic and dark with colors. You are going to break before I do, Mr. Foreman, so help me God.
♥ They topped the miniature rise and looked down. Warwick reached it first, and Hall saw his face go white as paper. Spit ran down his chin. "Oh, my God. Dear Jesus."
And he turned to run.
Hall opened the nozzle of the hose and the high-pressure rush of water struck Warwick squarely on the chest, knocking him back out of sight. There was a long scream that rose over he sound of the water. Thrashing sounds.
"Hall!" Grunts. A huge, tenebrous squeaking that seemed to fill the earth.
..Hall walked to the brow of the wet hill and looked down.
The rat filled the whole gully at the far end of that noxious tomb. It was a huge and pulsating gray, eyeless, totally without legs. When Hall's light stuck it, it made a hideous mewling noise. Their queen, then, the magna mater. A huge and nameless thing whose progeny might someday develop wings. It seemed to dwarf what remained of Warwick, but that was probably just illusion. It was the shock of seeing a rat as big as a Holstein calf.
♥ "Do you love me?" Susie was asking. "That's all I want to know, do you love me?" Susie needed constant reassurance. I was her teddy bear.
"No," I said. She was getting fat, and if she lived long enough, which wasn't likely, she would get really flabby. She was already mouthy.
♥ And the surf, the night surf, throwing up great bursts of foam, breaking against the headlands for as far as we could see in endless attacks. Maybe that water had been halfway to England the night before.
♥ He had been behind the wheel of a big Lincoln when we found him, semi-conscious and raving. His head was bloated to the size of a football and his neck looked like a sausage. He had Captain Trips and not far to go, either. So we took him up to the Point that overlooks the beach and burned him. He aid his name was Alvin Sackheim. He kept calling for his grandmother. He thought Susie was his grandmother. This struck her funny, God knows why. The strangest things strike Susie funny.
It was Corey's idea to burn him up, but it started off as a joke. He had read all those books about witchcraft and black magic at college, and he kept leering at us in the dark beside Alvin Sackheim's Lincoln and telling us that if we made a sacrifice to the dark gods, maybe the spirits would keep protecting us against A6.
Of course none of us really believed that bullshit, but the talk got more and more serious. It was a new thing to do, and finally we went ahead and did it. We tied him to the observation gadget up there—you put a dime in it and on a clear day you can see all the way to Portland Headlight. We tied him with our belts, and then we went rooting around for dry brush and hunks of driftwood like kids playing a new kind of hide-and-seek. All the time we were doing it Alvin Sackheim just sort of leaned there and mumbled to his grandmother.
..We went back up, all of us, and piled dead branches and twigs up to Alvin Sackheim's waist. Needles lit the pyre with his Zippo, and it went up fast. At the end, just before his hair caught on fire, the guy began to scream. There was a smell just like sweet Chinese pork.
♥ "Look." He lit a match and held it under the angle of his jaw. I could see the first triangular ambushes, the first swelling. It was A6, all right.
"Okay," I said,
"I don't feel so bad," he said. "In my mind, I mean. You, though. You think about it a lot. I can tell."
"No I don't." A lie.
"Sure you do. Like that guy tonight. You're thinking about that, too. We probably did him a favor, when you get right down to it. I don't think he even knew it was happening."
He shrugged and turned on his side. "It doesn't matter."
We smoked and I watched the surf come in and go out. Needles had Captain Trips. That made everything real all over again. It was late August already, and in a couple of weeks the first chill of fall would be creeping in. Time to move inside someplace. Winter. Dead by Christmas, maybe, all of us. In somebody's front room with Corey's expensive radio/tape-player on top of a bookcase full of Reader's Digest Condensed Books and the weak winter sun lying on the rug in meaningless windowpane patterns.
♥ I walked down to the water and looked out across it. There was nothing to see but the restless, moving humps of the waves, topped by delicate curls of foam. The thunder of the breakers was tremendous down here, bigger than the world. Like standing inside a thunderstorm. I closed my eyes and rocked on my bare feet. The sand was cold and damp and packed. And if we were the last people on earth, so what? This would go on as long as there was a moon to pull the water.
♥ There was a bed. She didn't really deserve a bed, but Needles was right about that. It didn't matter. No one was really scoring the game anymore.
♥ I got out of bed and went to the doorway. The sea breeze felt fine against my hot body. In spite of it all I didn't want to die.
♥ She was standing in the doorway wearing one of my shirts. I hate that. She sweats like a pig.
"You don't like me much anymore, do you, Bernie?"
I didn't say anything. There were times when I could still feel sorry for everything. She didn't deserve me any more than I deserved her.
♥ I put my face in my hands and clutched it, feeling the skin, its grain and texture. It was all narrowing so swiftly, and it was all so mean—there was no dignity in it.
The surf coming in, coming in, coming in. Limitless. Clean and deep. We had come here in the summer, Maureen and I, the summer after high school, the summer before college and reality and A6 coming out of Southeast Asia wand converting the world like a pall, July, we had eaten pizza and listened to her radio, I had put oil on her back, she had put oil on mine, the air had been hot, the sand bright, the sun like a burning glass.
♥ The cloud cover is equal parts methane, ammonia, dust, and flying shit. The whole planet looks like the Grand Canyon in a wind tunnel. Cory estimated windspeed at about 600 mph near the surface. Our probe beeped all the way down and then went out with a squawk. We saw no vegetation and no sign of life. Spectroscope indicated only traces of the valuable minerals. And that was Venus. Nothing but nothing—except it scared me. It was like circling a haunted house in the middle of deep space. I know how unscientific that sounds, but I was scared gutless until we got out of there. I think if our rockets hadn't gone off, I would have cut my throat on the way down. It's not like the moon. The moon is desolate but somehow antiseptic. That world we saw was utterly unlike anything that anyone has ever seen. Maybe it's a good thing that cloud cover is there. It was like a skull that's been picked clean—that's the closest I can get.
On the way back we heard the Senate had voted to halve space-exploration funds. Cory said something like "looks like we're back in the weather-satellite business, Artie." But I was almost glad. Maybe we don't belong out there.
♥ We came down hard. A guy that was in one of the copters said it looked like a gigantic baby falling out of the sky, with the placenta trailing after it. I lost consciousness when we hit.
I came to when they were taking me across the deck of the Portland. They hadn't even had a chance to roll up the red carpet we were supposed to've walked on. I was bleeding. Bleeding and being hustled up to the infirmary over a red carpet that didn't look anywhere near as read as I did...
♥ When he passed by that evening I had already been on the porch for an hour, immobile, watching. I had taken off the bandages earlier. The itching had been intolerable, and it was always better when they could look through their eyes.
It was a feeling like no other in the world—as if I were a portal just slightly ajar through which they were peeking at a world which they hated and feared. But the worst part was that I could see, too, in a way. Imagine your mind transported into a body of a housefly, a housefly looking into your own face with a thousand eyes. Then perhaps you can begin to see why I kept my hands bandaged even when there was no one around to see them.
♥ I leaned back and closed my eyes. I could hear the old ship's clock ticking on the shelf across the room. There was the high, thin drone of a jet on its way to Miami. There was the soft whisper of my own breath.
I was still looking at the book.
The realization crept on me, then sank home with a frightening rush. My eyes were closed, but I was still looking at the book. What I was seeing was smeary and monstrous, the distorted, fourth-dimensional counterpart of a book, yet unmistakable for all that.
And I was not the only one watching.
♥ I wonder what he thought, that wretched, unnamed boy with his sieve under his arm and his pockets bulging with an odd conglomerate of sandy tourist coins, what he thought when he saw me lurching at him like a blind conductor stretching out his hands over a lunatic orchestra, what he thought as the last of the light fell across my hands, red and split and shining with their burden of eyes, what he thought when the hands made that sudden, flailing gesture in the air, just before his head burst.
I know what I thought.
I thought I had peeked over the rim of the universe and into the fires of hell itself.
♥ As for me, I'm tolerated, although I have quite a reputation for eccentricity myself. After all, how many ex-astronauts regularly write their elected Washington officials with the idea that space-exploration money could be better spent elsewhere?
I get along just fine with these books. There was terrible pain for the first year or so, but the human body can adjust to almost anything. I shave with them and even tie my own shoelaces. And as you can see, my typing is nice and even. I don't expect to have any trouble putting the shotgun into my mouth or pulling the trigger. It tarted again three weeks ago, you see.
There is a perfect circle of twelve golden eyes on my chest.
~~I Am the Doorway.
♥ The crowd should be at the scene of the accident, not in the office. It was the way things worked—the human animal had a built-in urge to view the remains. A very bad one, then. Hunton felt his stomach tighten as it always did when the accident was very bad. Fourteen years of cleaning human litter from highways and streets and the sidewalks at the bases of very tall buildings had not been able to erase that little hitch in the belly, as if something evil had clotted there.
♥ "Let me tell you about something that happened two years ago in Milton," the inspector said. He took off his glasses and began to polish them slowly on his vest. "Fella had parked an old icebox out in his backyard. The woman who called us said her dog had been caught in it and suffocated. We got the state policeman in the area to inform him it had to go to the town dump. Nice enough fella, sorry about the dog. He loaded it into his pickup and took it to the dump the next morning. That afternoon a woman in the neighbourhood reported her son missing."
"God," Hunton said.
"The icebox was at the dump and the kid was in it, dead. A smart kid, according to his mother. She said he'd no more play in an empty icebox than he would take a ride with a strange man. Well, he did. We wrote it off. Case closed?"
"I guess," Hunton said,
"No. The dump caretaker went out next day to take the door off the thing. City Ordinance No. 58 on the maintenance of public dumping places." Martin looked at him expressionlessly. "He found six dead birds inside. Gulls, sparrows, a robin. And he said the door closed on his arm when he was brushing them out, Gave him a hell of a jump. That mangler at the Blue Ribbon strikes me like that, Hunton. I don't like it."
♥ "She cut her hand on something?"
"Nothing strange about tthat. There are clamps to tighten down the feeder belts, see. Sherry was adjusting them so we could do a heavier load and probably dreaming about some boy. She cut her finger and bled all over everything." Mrs. Gillian looked puzzled. "It wasn't until after that the bolts started falling off. Adelle was... you know.. about a week later. As if the machine had tasted blood and found it liked it. Don't women get funny ideas sometimes, Office Hinton?"
♥ "Haunted is a bad word. Let's say possessed. There are almost as many spells on casting demons in as there are for casting them out. Frazier's Golden Bough is replete with them. Druidic and Aztec lore contain others. Even older ones, back to Egypt. Almost all of them can be reduced to startlingly common denominators. The most common, of course, is the blood of a virgin." He looked at Hunton. "Mrs. Gillian said the trouble started after this Sherry Ouelette accidentally cut herself."
.."For the sake of conversation," Hunton said, "what are some of the other so-called common denominators?"
Jackson shrugged. "Hard to say without study. Most Anglo-Saxon hex formulas specify graveyard dirt or the eyes of a toad. European spells often mention the hand of glory, which can be interpreted as the actual hand of a dead man or one of the hallucinogenics used in connection with the Witches' Sabbath—usually belladonna or a psilocybin derivative. There could be others."
♥ "I don't mind telling you I was worried about that hand of glory. That's very black juju. Strong magic."
"Holy water wouldn't stop it?"
"A demon called up in conjunction with the hand of glory could eat a stack of Bibles for breakfast. We would be in bad trouble messing with something like that at all."
..Adelle Frawley was dead; sewed together by a patient undertaker, she lay in her coffin. Yet something of her spirit perhaps remained in the machine, and if it did, it cried out. She would have known, could have warned them. She had been prone to indigestion, and for this common ailment she had taken a common stomach tablet called E-Z Gel, purchasable over the counter of any drugstore for seventy-nine cents. The side panel holds a printed warning: People with glaucoma must not take E-Z Gel, because the active ingredient causes an aggravation of that condition. She might have remembered the day, shortly before Sherry Ouelette cut her hand, that she had dropped a full box of E-Z Gels tablets into the mangler by accident. But she was dead, unaware that the active ingredient which soothed her heartburn was a chemical derivative of belladonna, known quaintly in some European countries as the hand of glory.
There was a sudden silence of the Blue Ribbon Laundry—a bat fluttered madly for its hole in the insulation above the dryers where it had roosted, wrappingt wings around its blind face.
It was a noise almost like a chuckle.
The mangler began to run with a sudden, lurching grin—belts hurrying through the darkness, cogs meeting and meshing and grinding, heavy pulverizing rollers rotating on and on.
It was ready for them.
♥ Dr. Harper said nothing. He thought that Billings looked haggard and old. His hair was thinning, his complexion sallow. His eyes held all the miserable secrets of whiskey.
♥ "..If a kid doesn't get over being afraid of the dark when he's little, he never gets over it."
♥ "I got up and went in. The kid was dead on his back. Just as white as flour except for where the blood had... had sunk. Back if the legs, the head, the a—the buttocks. His eyes were open. That was the worst, you know. Wide open and glassy, like the eyes you see on a moosehead some guy put over this mantel. Like pictures you see of those good kids over in Nam. But an American kid shouldn't look like that. Dead on his back. Wearing diapers and rubber pants because he's been wetting himself again the last couple of weeks. Awful, I loved that kid."
♥ He looked morbidly at his hands, which had thrown dirt on three tiny coffins.
♥ "..I know, see? You can't overprotect kids. And you can't coddle yourself either. Life goes on."
♥ "Then one night, here I am coming out of a drugstore with a mobile to hang over the kid's crib. Me! Kids don't appreciate presents until they're old enough to say thank you, that was always my motto. But there I was buying him silly crap and all at once I realize I love him the most of all."
♥ "..I stated to think, see, that it lost us for a while when we moved. It had to hunt around, slinking through the streets at night and maybe creeping in the sewers. Smelling for us. It took a year, but it found us. It's back. It wants Andy and it wants me. I started to think, maybe if you think of a thing long enough, and believe in it, it gets real. Maybe all the monsters we were scared of when we were kids. Frankenstein and Wolfman and Mummy, maybe they were real. Real enough to kill the kids that were supposed to have fallen into gravel pits or drowned in lakes or were just never found. Maybe..."
♥ "One night every door in the house blew wide open. One morning I got up and found a trail of mud and filth across the hall between the coat closet and the front door. Was it going out? Coming in? I don't know! Before Jesus, I just don't know! Records all scratched up and covered with slime, mirrors broken... and the sounds... the sounds..."
He ran a hand through his hair. "You'd wake up at three in the morning and look into the dark and at first you'd say, 'It's only the clock.' But underneath it you could hear something moving in a stealthy way. But not too stealthy, because it wanted you to hear it. A slimy sliding sound like something from the kitchen drain. Or a licking sound, like claws being dragged lightly over the staircase banister. And you'd close your eyes, knowing that hearing it was bad, but if you saw it...
"And always you'd be afraid that the noises might stop for a little while, and then there would be a laugh right over your face and a breath of air like stale cabbage on your face, and then hands on your throat."
Billings was pallid and trembling.
"So I moved him. I knew it would go for him, see. Because he was weaker. And it did. That very first night he screamed in the middle of the night and finally, when I got up the cojones to go in, he was standing up in bed and screaming. 'The boogeyman Daddy... boogeyman... wanna go wif Daddy, go wif Daddy.'" Billings' voice had become a high treble, like a child's. His eyes seemed to fill his entire face; he almost seemed to shrink on the couch.
"But I couldn't," the childish breaking treble continued, "I couldn't. And an hour later there was a scream. An awful, gurgling scream. And I knew how much I loved him because I ran in, I didn't even turn on the light, I ran, ran, ran, oh, Jesus God Mary, it had him; it was shaking him; shaking him just like a terrier shakes a piece of cloth and I could see something with awful slumped shoulders and a scarecrow head and I could smell something like a dead mouse in a pop bottle and I heard..." He trailed off, and then his voice clicked back into an adult range. "I hard it when Andy's neck broke." Billings' voice was cool and dead. "It made a sound like ice cracking when you're skating on a country pond in winter."
♥ A person doesn't hardly want to believe such things, and yet there's still strange things in the world.
I once knew a fella named George Kelso, who worked for the Bangor Public Works Department. He spent fifteen years fixing water mains and mending electricity cables and all that, an' then one day he just up an' quit, not two years before his retirement. Frankie Haldeman, who knew him, said George went down into a sewer pipe on Essex laughing and joking just like always and came up fifteen minutes later with his hair just as white as snow and his eyes staring like he just looked through a window into hell. He walked straight down to the BPW garage and punched his clock and went on to Wally's Spa and started drinking. It killed him two years later. Frankie said he tried to talk to him about it and George said something one time, and that was when he was pretty well blotto. Turned around on his stool, George did, an' asked Frankie Haldeman if he'd ever seen a spider as big as a good-sized dog setting in a web full of kitties an' such all wrapped up in silk thread. Well, what could he say to that? I'm not saying there's any truth in it, but I am saying that there's things in the corners of the world that would drive a man insane to look 'em right in the face.
♥ What we saw in that one or two seconds will last me a lifetimes—or whatever's left of it. It was like a huge gray wave of jelly, jelly that looked like a man, and leaving a trail of slime behind it
But that wasn't the worst. Its eyes were flat and yellow and wild, with no human soul in 'em. Only there wasn't two. There were four, an' right down the center of the thing, betwixt the two pairs of eyes, was a white, fibrous line with a kind of pulsing pink flesh showing through like a slit in a hog's belly.
It was dividing, you see. Diving in two.
Bertie and I didn't say noting to each other going back to the store. I don't know what was going through his mind, but I know well enough what was in mine: the multiplication table. Two times two is four, four times two is eight, eight times two is sixteen, sixteen times two is—
We got back. Carl and Bill Pelham jumped up and started asking questions right off. We wouldn't answer, neither of us. We just turned around and waited to see if Henry was gonna walk in outta the snow. It was up to 32,768 times two is the end of the human race and so we sat there cozied up to all that beer and waited to see which one was going to finally come back; and here we still sit.
I hope it's Henry. I really do.
♥ It was a bomb.
Of course it wasn't, but one proceeded as if it were. That was why one had remained upright and taking nourishment while so many others had gone to that great unemployment office in the sky.
♥ The scream came again, unmistakably from the drainage ditch: "Help... meeeee..."
"He's alive," she whispered. "Oh, God. Alive."
I didn't have to see him. I could imagine it all too well. Snodgrass lying half in and half out of the drainage ditch, back and legs broken, carefully-pressed suit caked with mud, white, gasping face turned up to the indifferent moon...
"I don't hear anything," I said. "Do you?"
She looked at me. "How can you? How?"
"Now if you woke him up," I said, jerking a thumb at the kid, "he might hear something. He might go out there. Would you like that?"
Her face began to twitch and pull as if stitched by invisible needled. "Nothing," she whispered. "Nothing out there."
She went back to her boy friend and pressed her head against his chest. His arms came up around her in his sleep.
No one else woke up. Snodgrass cried and wept and screamed for a long time, and then he stopped.
♥ The sun was like a hammer and my head was starting to ache with the fumes. There were blisters in the soft webbing between thumb and index ginger. But they wouldn't know about that. They would know about leaky manifolds and bad gaskets and frozen universal joints, but not about blisters or sunstroke or the need to scream. They needed to know only one thing about their late masters, and they knew it. We bleed.
♥ You want to be their slaves? the counterman had said. That's what it'll come to. You want to spend the rest of your life changin' oil filters every time one of those things blasts its horn?
We could run, maybe. It would be easy to make the drainage ditch now, the way they're stacked up. Run through the fields, through the marshy places where trucks would bog down like mastodons and go—
—back to the caves.
Drawing pictures in charcoal. This is the moon god. This is a tree. This is a Mack semi overwhelming a hunter.
Not even that. So much of the world is paved now. Even the playgrounds are paved. And for the fields and marshes and deep woods there are tanks, half-tracks, flatbeds equipped with lasers, masers, heat-seeking radar. And little by little, they can make it into the world they want.
I can see great convoys of trucks filling the Okefenokee Swamp with sand, the bulldozers ripping through the national parks and wildlands, grading the earth flat, stamping it into one great flat plain. And then the hot-top trucks arriving.
But they're machines. No matter what's happened to them, what mass consciousness we've given them, they can't reproduce. In fifty or sixty years they'll be rusting hulks with all menace gone out of them, moveless carcasses for free men to stone and spit at.
And if I close my eyes I can see the production lines in Detroit and Dearbon and Youngstown and Mackinac, new trucks being put together by blue-collars who no longer even punch a clock but only drop and are replaced.
♥ Two planes are leaving silver contrails etched across the darkening eastern horizon.
I wish I could believe there are people in them.
♥ Davis High was a forbidding rockpile that housed a remarkably modern plant—the science wing alone had been funded at 1.5 million in last year's budget. The classrooms, which still held the ghosts of the WPA workers who had built them and the postwar kids who had first used them, were furnished with modern desks and soft-glare blackboards. The students were clean, well dressed, vivacious, affluent. Six out of ten seniors owned their own cars. All in all, a good school. A fine school to teach in during the Sickie Seventies. It made Center Street Vocational Trades look like darkest Africa.
But after the kids were gone, something old and brooding seemed to settle over the halls and whisper in the empty rooms. Some black, noxious beast, never quite in view. Sometimes, as he walked down the Wing 4 corridor toward the parking lot with his new briefcase in one hand, Jim Norman thought he could almost hear it breathing.
♥ Dead? Fifteen years old. His own mortality suddenly whispered through his bones like a cold draft under the door.
♥ "Nothing," he said. "Forgot what I was going to say."
"Must have been a lie."
♥ Simmons would think he was mad. And maybe he was. A man in a group encounter session he had attended had said having a breakdown was like breaking a vase and then gluing it back together. You could never trust yourself to handle that vase again with any surety. You couldn't put a flower in it because flowers need water and water might dissolve the glue.
Am I crazy, then?
♥ "..Some strange things have been happening. Things connected with the stabbing of my brother."
"Mr. Nell, I can't tell you. You'd think I was crazy."
His reply, quick, firm, interested: "Are you?"
Jim paused. "No," he said.
♥ "Where's the other one? The guy with the funny red hair."
"Split, man." But under his studied unconcern, Jim sensed a wariness.
"He's alive, isn't he? That's why he's not here. He's alive and he's thirty-two or -three, the way you would be if—"
"Bleach was always a drag. He's nothin'." Vinnie sat up behind his desk and put his hands down flat on the old graffiti. His eyes glittered. "Man, I remember you at that lineup. You looked ready to piss your little old corduroy pants. I seen you lookin' at me and Davie. I put a hex on you."
"I suppose you did," Jim said. "You gave me sixteen years of bad dreams. Wasn't that enough? Why now? Why me?"
Vinnie looked puzzled, and then smiled again. "Because you're unfinished business, man. You got to be cleaned up."
"Where were you?" Jim asked. "Before."
Vinnie's lips thinned. "We ain't talkin' about that. Dig?"
"They dug you a hole, didn't they, Vinnie? Six feet deep. Right in the Milford Cemetery. Six feet of—"
"You shut up!"
He was on his feet. The desk fell over in the aisle.
"It's not going to be easy," Jim said. "I'm not going to make it easy for you."
♥ Vinnie's grin widened. "Kill me? Man, I thought you knew, I'm already dead."
He left. His footsteps echoed in the corridor for a long time.
♥ Funeral. Like a dance in three acts. The house. The funeral parlor. The graveyard. Faces coming out of nowhere, whirling close, whirling off into the darkness again. Sally's mother, her eyes streaming tears behind a black veil. Her father, looking shocked an old. Simmons. Others. They introduced themselves and shook his hand. He nodded, not remembering their names. Some of the women brought food, and one lady brought an apple pie and someone ate a piece and when he went out in the kitchen he saw it sitting on the counter, cut wide open and drooling juice into the pie plate like amber blood and he thought: Should have a big scoop of vanilla ice cream right on top.
He felt his hands and legs trembling, wanting to go across to the counter and throw the pie against the wall.
And then they were going and he was watching himself, the way you watch yourself in a home movie, as he shook hands and nodded and said: Thank you... Yes, I will... Thank you... I'm sure she is... Thank you...
♥ He looked up and saw Vinnie, his face stretched into a caricature of hatred, drive his knife into the Wayne-thing just below the breastbone... and then scream, his face collapsing in on itself, charring, blackening, becoming awful.
Then he was gone.
Garcia and Lawson struck a moment later, writhed, charred, and disappeared.
Jim lay on the floor, breathing harshly. The sound of the freight train faded.
His brother was looking down at him.
"Wayne?" he breathed.
And the face changed. It seemed to melt and run together. The eyes went yellow, and a horrible, grinning malignancy looked out at him.
"I'll come back, Jim," the cold voice whispered.
And it was gone.
♥ Halfway down, something—a shadow, or perhaps only an intuition—made him whirl around.
Something unseen seemed to leap back.
Jim remembered the warning in Raising Demons—the danger involved. You could perhaps summon them, perhaps cause them to do your work. You could even get rid of them.
But sometimes they come back.
~~Sometimes They Come Back.