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  "Here's your book, Annie," he panted, and his hand closed on more paper. This bunch was out, dripping wet, smelling sourly of spilt wine. She bucked and writhed under him. The salt-dome of his left knee whammed the floor and there was excruciating pain, but he stayed on top of her. I'm gonna rape you, all right, Annie. I'm gonna rape you because all I can do is the worst I can do. So suck my book. Suck my book. Suck on it until you fucking CHOKE. He crumpled the wet paper with a convulsive closing jerk of his fist and slammed it into her mouth, driving the half-charred first bunch farther down.

  "Here it is, Annie, how do you like it? It's a genuine first, it's the Annie Wilkes Edition, how do you like it? Eat it, Annie, suck on it, go on and eat it, be a Do-Bee and eat your book all up. " He slammed in a third wad, a fourth. The fifth was still burning; he put it out with the already blistered heel of his right hand as he stuffed it in.

  Some weird muffled noise was coming out of her. She gave a tremendous jerk and this time Paul was thrown off. She struggled and flailed to her knees. Her hands clawed at her blackened throat, which had a hideously swelled look. Little was left of her sweater but the charred ring of the neck. The flesh of her belly and diaphragm bubbled with blisters. Champagne was dripping from the wad of paper,which protruded from her mouth.

  "Mumpf! Mark! Mark!" Annie croaked. She got to her feet somehow, still clawing at her throat. Paul pushed himself backward, legs sticking untidily out in front of him, watching her warily. "Harkoo? Dorg? Mumpf!" She took one step toward him. Two. Then she tripped over the typewriter again. As she fell this time her head twisted at an angle and he saw her eyes looking at him with an expression that was questioning and somehow terrible: What happened, Paul? I was bringing you champagne, wasn't I?

  The left side of her head connected with the edge of the mantelpiece and she went down like a loose sack of bricks, striking the floor in a vast tumble that shook the house.


  Annie had fallen on the bulk of the burning paper; her body had put it out. It was a smoking black lump in the middle of the floor. The puddles of champagne had put out most of the individual pages. But two or three had wafted against the wall to the left of the door while still burning brightly, and the wallpaper was alight in spots. . . but burning with no real enthusiasm.

  Paul crawled over to his bed, pulling himself on his elbows, and got hold of the coverlet. Then he worked his way over to the wall, pushing the shards of broken bottle out of his way with the sides of his hands as he went. He had strained his back. He had burned his right hand badly. His head ached. His stomach roiled with the sick-sweet smell of burned meat. But he was free. The goddess was dead and he was free.

  He got his right knee under him, reached up clumsily with the coverlet (which was damp with champagne and striped with smeary black swaths of ash), and began to beat at the flames. When he let the coverlet fall into a smoking heap at the baseboard, there was a big smoking bald spot in the middle of the wall, but the paper was out. The bottom page of the calendar had curled up, but that was all.

  He began to crawl back toward the wheelchair. He was halfway there when Annie opened her eyes.


  Paul stared, unbelieving, as she got slowly to her knees. Paul himself was propped on his hands, legs trailing out behind him. He looked Eke a strange adult version of Popeye's nephew, Swee" Pea.

  No. . . no, you're dead.

  You are in error, Paul. You can't kill the goddess. The goddess is immortal. Now I must rinse.

  Her eyes were staring, horrible. A huge wound, pink-red, glared through her hair on the left side of her head. Blood sheeted down her face.

  "Durd!" Annie cried through her throatful of paper. She began to crawl toward him, hands outstretched, flexing. "Ooo durd!" Paul pulled himself around in a half-circle and began to crawl for the door. He could hear her behind him. And then, as he entered the zone of broken glass, he felt her hand close around his left ankle and squeeze his stump excruciatingly. He screamed.

  "DIRT!" Annie cried triumphantly.

  He looked over his shoulder. Her face was turning slowly purple, and seemed to be swelling. He realized she actually was turning into the Bourkas" idol.

  He yanked with all his might and his leg slithered footlessly out of her grasp, leaving her with nothing but the circlet of leather with which she had capped the stump.

  He crawled on, beginning to cry, sweat pouring down his cheeks. He pulled himself along on his elbows like a soldier advancing beneath heavy machine-gun fire. He heard the thud of first one knee from behind him, then the other, then the first again. She was still coming. She was as solid as he had always feared. He had burned her broken her back stuffed her tubes full of paper and still still still she was coming.

  "BIRT!" Annie screamed now. "DIRT. . . BIRT!" One of his elbows came down on a hook of glass and it jabbed up into his arm. He crawled forward anyway with it sticking out of him like a push-pin.

  Her hand closed over his left calf.

  AW! GAW. . . OOO OW. . . AW!" He turned back again and yes, her face had gone black, a dusky rotted-plum black from which her bleeding eyes bulged wildly. Her pulsing throat had swelled up like an inner-tube, and her mouth was writhing. She was, he realized, trying to grin.

  The door was just in reach. Paul stretched out and laid hold of the jamb in a death grip.

  "GAW. . . OOO. . . OW!" Her right hand on his right thigh.

  Thud. One knee. Thud. The other.

  Closer. Her shadow. Her shadow falling over him.

  "No, he whimpered. He felt her tugging, pulling. He held onto the jamb grimly, eyes now squeezed shut.

  "GAW. . . OOO. . . AW!" Over him. Thunder. Goddess-thunder.

  Now her hands scuttled up his back like spiders and settled upon his neck.

  "GAW. . . OOO. . . DIRT. . . BIRT!" His air was gone. He held the jamb. He held the jamb and felt her over him felt her hands sinking into his neck and he screamed Die can't you die can't you ever die can't you - "GA W. . . G - " The pressure slackened. For a moment he could breathe again. Then Annie collapsed on top of him, a mountain of slack flesh, and he couldn't breathe at all.


  He worked his way out from under her like a man burrowing his way out of a snowshde. He did it with the last of his strength.

  He crawled through the door, expecting her hand to settle around his ankle again at any moment, but that did not happen. Annie lay silent and face-down in blood and spilled champagne and fragments of green glass. Was she dead? She must be dead. Paul did not believe she was dead.

  He slammed the door shut. The bolt she had put on looked like something halfway up a high cliff, but he clawed his way up to it, shot it, and then collapsed in a shuddery huddle at the door's foot.

  He lay in a stupor for some unknown length of time. What roused him from it was a low, minute scratching sound. The rats, he thought. It's the r- Then Annie's thick, blood-grimed fingers poked under the door and tugged mindlessly at his shirt.

  He shrieked and jerked away from them, his left leg creaking with pain. He hammered at the fingers with his fist. Instead of pulling back, they jerked a little and lay still.

  Let that be the end of her. Please God let that be the end or her.

  In horrible pain now, Paul began to crawl slowly toward the bathroom. He got halfway there and looked back. Her fingers were still poking out from under the door. As bad as his pain was, he could not stand to look at that, or even think of that, and so he reversed direction, went back, and pushed them under. He had to nerve himself to do it; he was certain that the moment he touched them, they would clutch him.

  He finally reached the bathroom, every part of him throbbing. He pulled himself inside and shut the door.

  God, what if she's moved the dope?

  But she hadn't. The untidy litter of boxes was still there, including the ones containing the sample packets of Novril. He took three dry, then crawl
ed back to the door and lay down against it, blocking it with the weight of his body.

  Paul slept.

  Chapter 6


  When he woke up it was dark, and at first he didn't know where he was - how had his bedroom gotten so small? Then he remembered everything, and with his remembering a queer certainty came: she was not dead, even now not dead. She was standing right outside this door, she had the axe, and when he crawled out she would amputate his head. It would go rolling off down the hallway like a bowling ball while she laughed.

  That is crazy, he told himself, and then he heard thought he did - a little rustling sound, the sound of a woman's starched skirt, perhaps, brushing lightly against the wall.

  You just made it up. Your imagination. . . ii's so vivid.

  I didn't. I heard it.

  He hadn't. He knew that. His hand reached for the door knob, then fell uncertainly back. Yes, he knew he had heard nothing. . . but what if he had?

  She could have gone out the window.

  Paul, she's DEAD!

  The return, implacable in its illogic: The goddess never dies.

  He realized he was frantically biting his lips and made himself stop it. Was this what going crazy was like? Yes. He was close to that, and who had a better right? But if he gave in to it, if the cops finally returned tomorrow or the day after to find Annie dead in the guest-room and a blubbering ball of protoplasm in the downstairs bathroom, a blubbering ball of protoplasm who had once been a writer named Paul Sheldon, wouldn't that be Annie's victory?

  You bet. And now, Paulie, you're going to be a good little Do-Bee and follow the scenario. Right?


  His hand reached for the knob again. . . and faltered again. He couldn't follow the original scenario. In it he had seen himself lighting the paper and her picking it up, and that had happened. Only he was to have bashed her brains in with the fucking typewriter instead of hitting her in the back with it. Then he had meant to work his way out into the parlor and light the house on fire. The scenario had called for him to effect his escape through one of the parlor windows. He would take a hell of a thump, but he had already seen how fastidious Annie was about locking her doors. Better thumped than crisped, as he believed John the Baptist had once said.

  In a book, all would have gone according to plan. . . but life was so fucking untidy - what could you say for an existence where some of the most crucial conversations of your life took place when you needed to take a shit, or something? An existence where there weren't even any chapters?

  "Very untidy," Paul croaked. "Good thing there's guys like me, just to keep things rinsed. " He cackled.

  The champagne bottle hadn't been in the scenario, but that was minor compared with the woman's hideous vitality and his current painful uncertainty.

  And until he knew whether or not she was dead, he couldn't burn the house down, making a beacon that would bring help on the run. Not because Annie might still be alive; he could roast her alive with no qualms at all.

  It wasn't Annie that was holding him back; it was the manuscript. The real manuscript. What he had burned had been nothing more than an illusion with a title page on top - blank pages interspersed with written rejects and culls. The actual manuscript of Misery's Return had been safely deposited under the bed, and there it still was.

  Unless she's still alive. If she's still alive, maybe she's in there reading it.

  So what are you going to do?

  Wait right in here, part of him advised. -Right in here, where it's nice and safe.

  But another, braver, part of him urged him to go through with the scenario - as much of it as he could, anyway. Get to the parlor, break the window, get out of this awful house. Work his way to the edge of the road and flag down a car. Under previous circumstances this might have meant waiting for days, but not anymore. Annie's house had become a drawing card.

  Summoning all of his courage, he reached for the doorknob and turned it. The door swung slowly open on darkness, and yes, there was Annie, there was the goddess, standing there in the shadows, a white shape in a nurse's uniform - He blinked his eyes tightly shut and then opened them. Shadows, yes. Annie, no. Except in the newspaper photographs, he had never seen her in her nurse's uniform. Only shadows. Shadows and (so vivid) imagination.

  He crawled slowly into the hall and looked back down toward the guest-room. It was shut, blank, and he began to crawl toward the parlor.

  It was a pit of shadows. Annie could be hidden in any of them; Annie could be any of them. And she could have the axe.

  He crawled.

  There was the overstuffed sofa, and Annie was behind it. There was the kitchen door, standing open, and Annie was behind that. The floorboards creaked in back of him. . . of course! Annie was behind him!

  He turned, heart hammering, brains squeezing at his temples, and Annie was there, all right, the axe upraised, but only for a second. She blew apart into shadows. He crawled into the parlor and that was when he heard the drone of an approaching motor. A faint wash of headlights illuminated the window, brightened. He heard the tires skid in the dirt and understood they had seen the chain she had strung across the driveway.

  A car door opened and shut.

  "Shit! Look at this!" He crawled faster, looked out, and saw a silhouette approaching the house. The shape of the silhouette's hat was unmistakable. It was a state cop.

  Paul groped on the knickknack table, knocking figurine over. Some fell to the floor and shattered. His hand closed around one, and that at least was like a book; it held the roundness novels delivered precisely because life so rarely did.

  It was the penguin sitting on his block of ice.

  NOW MY TALE IS TOLD! the legend on the block read, and Paul thought: Yes! Thank God!

  Propped on his left arm, he made his right hand close around the penguin. Blisters broke open, dribbling pus. He drew his arm back and heaved the penguin through the parlor window, just as he had thrown an ashtray through the window of the guest bedroom not so long ago.

  "Here!" Paul Sheldon cried deliriously. "Here, in here, please, I'm in here!"


  There was yet another novelistic roundness in this denouement: they were the same two cops who had come the other day to question Annie about Kushner, David and Goliath. Only tonight David's sport-coat was not only unbuttoned, his gun was out. David turned out to be Wicks. Goliath was McKnight. They had come with a search warrant. When they finally broke into the house in answer to the frenzied screams coming from the parlor, they found a man who looked like a nightmare sprung to life.

  "There was a book I read when I was in high school," Wicks told his wife early the next morning. "Count of Monte Cristo, I think, or maybe it was The Prisoner of Zenda. Anyway, there was a guy in that book who'd spent forty years in solitary confinement. He hadn't seen anybody in forty years. That's what this guy looked like. " Wicks paused for a moment, wanting to better express how it had been, the conflicting emotions he had felt - horror and pity and sorrow and disgust - most of all wonder that a man who looked this bad should still be alive. He could not find the words. "When he saw us, he started to cry," he said, and finally added: "He kept calling me David. I don't know why. "