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Home > Misery(14)

Misery(14)
Author: Stephen King

"Paul? I'm waiting. I can wait all day. Although I rather suspect that you may go into a coma before too long; I believe you are in a near-comatose state now, and I have had a lot of... " Her voice droned away.

Yes! Give me the matches! Give me a blowtorch! Give me a Baby Huey and a load of napalm! I'll drop a tactical nuke on it if that's what you want, you f**king beldame!

So spoke the opportunist, the survivor. Yet another part, failing now, near-comatose itself, went wailing off into the darkness: A hundred and ninety thousand words! Five lives! Two years" work! And what was the real bottom line: The truth! What you knew about THE FUCKING TRUTH!

There was the creak of bedsprings as she stood up.

"Well! You are a very stubborn little boy, I must say, and I can't sit by your bed all night, as much as I might like to! After all, I've been driving for nearly an hour, hurrying to get back here. I'll drop by in a bit and see if you've changed y - "

"You burn it, then!" he yelled at her.

She turned and looked at him. "No," she said, "I cannot do that, as much as I would like to and spare you the agony you feel."

"Why not?"

"Because," she said primly, "you must do it of your own free will." He began to laugh then, and her face darkened for the first time since she had come back, and she left the room with the manuscript under her arm.

Chapter 4

18

When she came back an hour later he took the matches.

She laid the title page on the grill. He tried to light one of the Blue Tips and couldn't because it kept missing the rough strip or falling out of his hand.

So Annie took the box and lit the match and put the lit match in his hand and he touched it to the comer of the paper and then let the match fall into the pot and watched, fascinated, as the flame tasted, then gulped. She had a barbecue fork with her this time, and when the page began to curl up, she poked it through the gaps in the grill.

"This is going to take forever," he said. "I can't - "

"No, we'll make quick work of it," she said. "But you must bum a few of the single pages, Paul - as a symbol of your understanding." She now laid the first page of Fast Cars on the grill, words he remembered writing some twenty-four months ago, in the New York townhouse: "'I don't have no wheels," Tony Bonasaro said, walking up to the girt coming down the steps, "and I am a slow learner, but I am a fast driver."" Oh it brought that day back like the right Golden Oldie on the radio. He remembered walking around the apartment from room to room, big with book, more than big, gravid, and here were the labor pains. He remembered finding one of Joan's bras under a sofa cushion earlier in the day, and she had been gone a full three months, showed you what kind of a job the cleaning service did; he remembered hearing New York traffic, and, faintly, the monotonous tolling of a church bell calling the faithful to mass.

He remembered sitting down.

As always, the blessed relief of starting, a feeling that was like falling into a hole filled with bright light.

As always, the glum knowledge that he would not write as well as he wanted to write.

As always, the terror of not being able to finish, of accelerating into a blank wall.

As always, the marvellous joyful nervy feeling of journey begun.

He looked at Annie Wilkes and said, clearly but not loud: "Annie, please don't make me do this." She held the matches immovably before him and said: "You can do as you choose." So he burned his book.

19

She made him bum the first page, the last page, and nine pairs of pages from various points in the manuscript because nine, she said, was a number of power, and nine doubled was lucky. He saw that she had used a magic marker to black out the profanities, at least as far as she had read.

"Now," she said, when the ninth pair was burned. "You've been a good boy and a real sport and I know this hurts you almost as badly as your legs do and I won't draw it out any longer." She removed the grill and set the rest of the manuscript into the pot, crunching down the crispy black curls of the pages he had already burned. The room stank of matches and burned paper. Smells like the devil's cloakroom, he though deliriously, and if there had been anything in the wrinkle. walnut-shell that had once been his stomach, he supposed he would have vomited it up.

She lit another match and put it in his hand. Somehow he was able to lean over and drop the match into the pot. I didn't matter anymore. It didn't matter.

She was nudging him.

Wearily, he opened his eyes.

"It went out." She scratched another match and put it in his hand.

So he somehow managed to lean over again, awakening rusty handsaws in his legs as he did so, and touched the match to the corner of the pile of manuscript. This time the flame spread instead of shrinking and dying around the stick.

He leaned back, eyes shut, listening to the crackling sound, feeling the dull, baking heat.

"Goodness!" she cried, alarmed.

He opened his eyes and saw that charred bits of paper were wafting up from the barbecue on the heated air.

Annie lumbered from the room. He heard water from the tub taps thud into the floorpail. He idly watched a dark piece of manuscript float across the room and land on or of the gauzy curtains. There was a brief spark - he had time to wonder if perhaps the room was going to catch on fire - that winked once and then went out, leaving a tiny hole like a cigarette burn. Ash sifted down on the bed. Some landed on his arms. He didn't really care, one way or the other.

Annie came back, eyes trying to dart everywhere at once trying to trace the course of each carbonized page as it rose and seesawed. Flames flipped and flickered over the edge the pot.

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