Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER FOUR

Herb and Vera Smith spent the week in the Bangor House, and Sarah saw them every afternoon at the hospital, waiting patiently for something to happen. Nothing did. Johnny lay in a room on the intensive care ward on the sixth floor, surrounded by life-support equipment, breathing with the help of a machine. Dr. Strawns had grown less hopeful. On the Friday following the accident, Herb called Sarah on the phone and told her he and Vera were going home.

“She doesn't want to,” he said, “but I've gotten her to see reason. I think.”

“Is she all right?” Sarah asked.

There was a long pause, long enough to make Sarah

think she had overstepped the bounds. Then Herb said, “I don't know. Or maybe I do and I just don't want to say right out that she isn't. She's always had strong ideas about religion and they got a lot stronger after her operation. Her hysterectomy. Now they've gotten worse again. She's been talking a lot about the end of the world. She's connected Johnny's accident with the Rapture, somehow. Just before Armageddon, God is supposed to take all the faithful up to heaven in their actual bodies.”

Sarah thought of a bumper sticker she had seen somewhere: IF THE RAPTURE'S TODAY, SOMEBODY GRAB MY STEERING WHEEL! “Yes, I know the idea,” she said.

“Well,” Herb said uncomfortably, “some of the groups she… she corresponds with… they believe that God is going to come for the faithful in flying saucers. Take them all up to heaven in flying saucers, that is. These… sects… have proved, at least to themselves, that heaven is somewhere out in the constellation of Orion. No; don't ask me how they proved it. Vera could tell you. It's… well, Sarah, it's all a little hard on me.

“Of course it must be.”

Herb's voice strengthened. “But she can still distinguish between what's real and what's not. She needs time to adjust. So I told her she could face whatever's coming at home as easily as here. I've… “He paused, sounding embarrassed, then cleared his throat and went on. “I've got to get back to work. I've got jobs. I've signed contracts…

“Sure, of course. “She paused. “What about insurance? I mean, this must be costing a Denver mint… “It was her turn to feel embarrassed.

“I've talked with Mr. Pelsen, your assistant principal there at Cleaves Mills,” Herb said. “Johnny had the standard Blue Cross, but not that new Major Medical. The Blue Cross will cover some of it, though. And Vera and I have our savings.”

Sarah's heart sank. Vera and I have our savings. How long would one passbook stand up to expenses of two hundred dollars a day or more? And for what purpose in the end? So Johnny could hang on like an insensible animal, pissing brainlessly down a tube while he bankrupted his dad and mom? So his condition could drive his mother mad with unrealized hope? She felt the tears start to slip down her cheeks and for the first time-but not the last-she found herself wishing Johnny would die and be at peace. Part of her revolted in horror at the thought, but it remained.

“I wish you all the best,” Sarah said.

“I know that, Sarah. We wish you the best. Will you write?”

“I sure will.”

“And come see us when you can. Pownal's not so far away. “He hesitated. “Looks to me like Johnny had picked himself out the right girl. It was pretty serious, wasn't it?”

“Yes,” Sarah said. The tears were still coming and the past tense was not lost on her. “It was.”

“Good-bye, honey.”

“Good-bye, Herb.”

She hung up the phone, held the buttons down for a second or two, and then called the hospital and asked about Johnny. There had been no change. She thanked the intensive care nurse and walked aimlessly back and forth through the apartment. She thought about God sending out a fleet of flying saucers to pick up the faithful and buzz them off to Orion. It made as much sense as anything else about a God crazy enough to scramble John Smith's brains and put him in a coma that was probably never going to end-except in an unexpected death.

There was a folder of freshman compositions to correct. She made herself a cup of tea and sat down to them. If there was any one moment when Sarah Bracknell picked up the reins of her post-Johnny life again, that was



The killer was slick.

He sat on a bench in the town park near the bandstand, smoking a Marlboro and humming a song from the Beatles” white album-'you don't know how lucky you are, boy, back in the, back in the, back in the USSR…”

He wasn't a killer yet, not really. But it had been on his mind a long time, killing had. It had been itching at him and itching at him. Not in a bad way, no. He felt quite optimistic about it. The time was right. He didn't have to worry about getting caught. He didn't have to worry about the clothespin. Because he was slick.

A little snow began to drift down from the sky. It was November 11, 1970, and a hundred and sixty miles northeast of this middle-sized western Maine town, John Smith's sleep went on and on.

The killer scanned the park-the town common, the tourists who came to Castle Rock and the Lakes Region liked to call it. But there were no tourists now. The common that was so green in the summer was now yellow, balding, and dead. It waited for winter to cover it decently. The wire-mesh backstop behind the Little League home plate stood in rusty overlapping diamonds, framed against the white sky. The bandstand needed a fresh coat of paint.

It was a depressing scene, but the killer was not depressed. He was almost manic with joy. His toes wanted to tap, his fingers wanted to “snap. There would be no shying away this time.

He crushed his smoke under one boot heel and lit another immediately. He glanced at his watch. 3:05 P. M. He sat and smoked. Two boys passed through the park, tossing a football back and forth, but they didn't see the killer because the benches were down in a dip. He supposed it was a place where the nasty-fuckers came at night when the weather was warmer. He knew all about the nasty-fuckers and the things they did. His mother had told him, and he had seen them.

Thinking about his mother made his smile fade a little. He remembered a time when he had been seven, she had come into his room without knocking-she never knocked-and had caught him playing with his thing. She had just about gone crazy. He had tried to tell her it was nothing. Nothing bad. It had just stood up. He hadn't done anything to make it stand up, it did it all on its own. And he just sat there, boinging it back and forth. It wasn't even that much fun. It was sort of boring. But his mother had just about gone crazy.

Do you want to be one of those nasty-fuckers? she had screamed at him. He didn't even know what that word meant-not nasty, he knew that one, but the other one -although he had heard some of the bigger kids use it in the play-yard at the Castle Rock Elementary School. Do you want to be one of those nasty-fuckers and get one of those diseases? Do you want to have pus running out of it? Do you want it to turn black? Do you want it to rot off? Huh? Huh? Huh?

She began to shake him back and forth then, and he began to blubber with fear, even then she was a big woman, a dominant and overbearing ocean liner of a woman, and he was not the killer then, he was not slick then, he was a little boy blubbering with fear, and his thing had collapsed and was trying to shrivel back into his body.

She had made him wear a clothespin on it for two hours, so he would know how those diseases felt.

The pain was excruciating.

The little snow flurry had passed. He brushed the image of his mother out of his mind, something he could do effortlessly when he was feeling good, something he couldn't do at all when he was feeling depressed and low.

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