To his left, halfway down the hallway, was a door which stood ajar. Paul's pulsebeat quickened. That was almost surely the downstairs bathroom - he had heard her running enough water in there (including the time she had filled the floor-bucket from which he had enthusiastically drunk), and wasn't it also the place she always came from before giving him his medicine?
He thought it was.
He grasped the bobby-pin. It spilled out of his fingers onto the board and then skittered toward the edge.
"No!" he cried hoarsely, and clapped a hand over it just before it could fall. He clasped it in one fist and then grayed out again.
Although he had no way of telling for sure, he thought he was out longer this second time. The pain - except for the excruciating agony of his left knee - seemed to have abated a tiny bit. The bobby-pin was on the board across the arms of the wheelchair. This time he flexed the fingers of his right hand several times before picking it up.
Now, he thought, unbending it and holding it in his right hand. You will not shake. Hold that thought. YOU WILL NOT SHAKE.
He reached across his body with the pin and slipped it into the keyhole, listening as the sportscaster in his mind (so vivid!) described the action.
Sweat ran steadily down his face like oil. He listened... but even more, he felt.
The tumbler in a cheap lock is nothing but a rocker, Tom Twyford had said, seesawing his hand to demonstrate. You want to turn a rocking chair over? Easiest thing in the world, tight? Just grab the rockers and flip the mother right over... nothing to it. And that's all you got to do with a lock like this. Slide the tumbler up and then open the gas-cap quick, before it can snap back.
He had the tumbler twice, but both times the bobby-pin slipped off and the tumbler snapped back before he could do more than begin to move it. The bobby-pin was starting to bend. He thought that it would break after another two or three tries.
"Please God," he said, sliding it in again. "Please God, what do you say? Just a little break for the kid, that's all I'm asking." ("Folks, Sheldon has performed heroically today, but this has got to be his last shot. The crowd has fallen silent...") He closed his eyes, the sportscaster's voice fading as he listened avidly to the minute rattle of the pin in the lock. Now! Here was resistance! The tumbler! He could see it lying in there like the curved foot of a rocking chair, pressing the tongue of the lock, holding it in place, holding him in place.
It's strictly Mickey Mouse, Paul. Just stay cool.
When you hurt this badly, it was hard to stay cool.
He grasped the doorknob with his left hand, reaching under his right arm to do it, and began to apply gentle pressure to the bobby-pin. A little more... a little more...
In his mind he could see the rocker beginning to move in its dusty little alcove; he could see the lock's tongue begin to retract. No need for it to go all the way, good God, no - no need to overturn the rocking chair, to use Tom Twyford's metaphor. Just the instant it cleared the doorframe - a push - The pin was simultaneously starting to bend and slip. He felt it happening, and in desperation he pushed upward as hard as he could, turned the knob, and shoved at the door. There was a snap as the pin broke in two, the part in the lock falling in, and he had a dull moment to consider his failure before he saw that the door was slowly swinging open with the tongue of the lock sticking out of the plate like a steel finger.
"Jesus," he whispered. "Jesus, thank you." Let's go to the videotape! Warner Wolf screamed exultantly in his mind as the thousands in Annie Wilkes Stadium - not to mention the untold millions watching at home - broke into thunderous cheers.
"Not now, Warner," he croaked, and began the long, draining job of backing and filling the wheelchair so he could get a straight shot at the door.
He had a bad - no, not just bad; terrible, horrible - moment when it seemed the wheelchair was not going to fit. It was no more than two inches too wide, but that was two inches too much. She brought it in collapsed, that's why you thought it was a shopping cart at first, his mind informed him drearily.
In the end he was able to squeeze through - barely - by positioning himself squarely in the doorway and then leaning forward enough to grab the jambs of the door in his hands. The axle-caps of the wheels squalled against the wood, but he was able to get through.
After he did, he grayed out again.
He voice called him out of his daze. He opened his eyes and saw she was pointing a shotgun at him. Her eyes glittered furiously. Spit shone on her teeth.
"If you want your freedom so badly, Paul," Annie said, "I'll be happy to grant it to you." She pulled back both hammers.
He jerked, expecting the shotgun blast. But she wasn't there, of course; his mind had already recognized the dream.
Not a dream - a warning. She could come back anytime. Anytime at all.
The quality of the light fanning through the half-open bathroom door had changed, grown brighter. It looked like moonlight. He wished the clock would chime and tell him just how close to right he was, but the clock was obstinately silent.
She stayed away fifty hours before.
So she did. And she might stay away eighty this time. Or you might hear that Cherokee pulling in five seconds from now. In case you didn't know it, friend, the Weather Bureau can post tornado warnings, but when it comes to telling exactly when and where they'll touch down, they don't know fuck-all.
"True enough," he said, and rolled the wheelchair down to the bathroom. Looking in, he saw an austere room floored with hexagonal white tiles. A bathtub with rusty fans spreading below the faucets stood on clawed feet. Beside it was a linen closet. Across from the tub was a sink. Over the sink was a medicine cabinet.
The floor-bucket was in the tub - he could see its plastic top.
The hall was wide enough for him to swing the chair around and face the door, but now his arms were trembling with exhaustion. He had been a puny kid and so he had tried to take reasonably good care of himself as an adult, but his muscles were now the muscles of an invalid and the puny kid was back, as if all that time spent doing laps and jogging and working out on the Nautilus machine had only been a dream.
At least this doorway was wider - not much, but enough to make his passage less hair-raising. Paul bumped over the lintel, and then the chair's hard rubber wheels rolled smoothly over the tiles. He smelled something sour that he automatically associated with hospitals - Lysol, maybe. There was no toilet in here, but he had already suspected that - the only flushing sounds came from upstairs, and now that he thought of it, one of those upstairs flushes always followed his use of the bedpan. Here there was only the tub, the basin, and the linen closet with its door standing open.
He gazed briefly at the neat piles of blue towels and washcloths - he was familiar with both from the sponge-baths she had given him - and then turned his attention to the medicine cabinet over the washstand.
It was out of reach.
No matter how much he strained, it was a good nine inches above the tips of his fingers. He could see this but reached anyway, unable to believe Fate or God or Whoever could be so cruel. He looked like an outfielder reaching desperately for a home-run ball he had absolutely no chance of catching.
Paul made a wounded, baffled noise, lowered his hand, and then leaned back, panting. The gray cloud lowered. He willed it away and looked around for something he could use to open the medicine cabinet's door and saw an O-Cedar mop leaning stiffly in the corner on a long blue pole.
You going to use that? Really? Well, I guess you could. Pry open the medicine cabinet door and then just knock a bunch of stuff out into the basin. But the bottles will break and even if there are no bottles, fat chance, everyone has at least a bottle of Listerine or Scope or something in their medicine cabinet, you have no way of putting back what you knock down. So when she comes back and sees the mess, what then?
"I'll tell her it was Misery," he croaked. "I'll tell her she dropped by looking for a tonic to bring her back from the dead." Then he burst into tears... but even through the tears his eyes were conning the room, looking for something, anything, inspiration, a break, just a fucking br - He was looking into the linen closet again, and his rapid breath suddenly stopped. His eyes widened.
His first cursory glance had taken in the shelves with their stacks of folded sheets and pillow-cases and washcloths and towels. Now he looked at the floor and on the floor were a number of square cardboard cartons. Some were labelled UPJOHN. Some were labelled LILY. Some were labelled CAM PHARMACEUTICALS.
He turned the wheelchair roughly, hurting himself, not caring.
Please God don't let it be her cache of extra shampoo or her tampons or pictures of her dear old sainted mother or - He fumbled for one of the boxes, dragged it out, and opened the flaps. No shampoo, no Avon samples. Far from it. There was a wild jumble of drugs in the carton, most of them in small boxes marked SAMPLES. At the bottom a few pills and capsules, different colors, rolled around loose. Some, like Motrim and Lopressor, the hypertension drug his father had taken during the last three years of his life, he knew. Others he had never heard of.
"Novril," he muttered, raking wildly through the box while sweat ran down his face and his legs pounded and throbbed. "Novril, where's the fucking Novril?" No Novril. He pushed the flaps of the carton closed and shoved it back into the linen closet, making only a token effort to replace it in the same place it had been. Should be all right, the place looked like a goddam junk-heap - Leaning far to his left, he was able to snag a second carton. He opened it and was hardly able to credit what he was seeing.
Darvon. Darvocet. Darvon Compound. Morphose and Morphose Complex. Librium. Valium. And Novril. Dozens and dozens and dozens of sample boxes. Lovely boxes. Dear boxes. O lovely dear sainted boxes. He clawed one open and saw - the capsules she gave him every six hours, enclosed in their little blisters.
NOT TO BE DISPENSED WITHOUT PHYSICIAN'S PRESCRIPTION, the box said.
"Oh dear Jesus, the doctor is in!" Paul sobbed. He tore the cellophane apart with his teeth and chewed up three of the capsules, barely aware of the bruisingly bitter taste. He halted, stared at the five that were left encased in their mutilated cellophane sheet, and gobbled a fourth.
He looked around quickly, chin down on his breastbone, eyes crafty and frightened. Although he knew it was too soon to be feeling any relief, he did feel it - having the pills, it seemed, was even more important than taking the pills. It was as if he had been given control of the moon and the tides - or had just reached up and taken it. It was a huge thought, awesome... and yet also frightening, with undertones of guilt and blasphemy.
If she comes back now - "All right - okay. I get the message." He looked into the carton, trying to calculate how many of the sample boxes he might be able to take without her realizing a little mouse named Paul Sheldon had been nibbling away at the supply.
He giggled at this, a shrill, relieved sound, and he realized the medication wasn't just working on his legs. He had gotten his fix, if you wanted to be perfectly vulgar about it.
Get moving, idiot. You have no time to enjoy being stoned.
He took five of the boxes - a total of thirty capsules. He had to restrain himself from taking more. He stirred the remaining boxes and bottles around, hoping the result would look no more or less helter-skelter than it had when he first peered into the box. He refolded the flaps and slipped the box back into the linen closet.
A car was coming.
He straightened up, eyes wide. His hands dropped to the arms of the wheelchair and gripped them with panicky tightness. If it was Annie, he was screwed and that was the end of it. He would never be able to maneuver this balky, oversized thing back to the bedroom in time. Maybe he could whack her once with the O-Cedar mop or something before she wrung his neck like a chicken.
He sat in the wheelchair with the sample boxes of Novril in his lap and his broken legs stuck stiffly out in front of him and waited for the car to pass or turn in.
The sound swelled endlessly... then began to diminish.
Okay. Do you need a more graphic warning, Paul-baby?
As a matter of fact, he did not. He took a final glance at the cartons. They looked to him about as they had when he had first seen them - although he had been looking at them through a haze of pain and could not be completely sure but he knew that the piles of boxes might not be as random as they had looked, oh, not at all. She had the heightened awareness of the deep neurotic, and might have had the position of each box carefully memorized. She might take one casual glance in here and immediately realize in some arcane way what had happened. This knowledge did not bring fear but a sense of resignation - he had needed the medication, and he had somehow managed to escape his room and get it. If there were consequences, punishment, he could face them with at least the understanding that he could have done nothing but what he had done. And of all she had done to him, this resignation was surely a symptom of the worst - she had turned him into a pain-racked animal with no moral options at all.
He slowly backed the wheelchair across the bathroom, glancing behind himself occasionally to make sure he wasn't wandering off-course. Before, such a movement would have made him scream with pain, but now the pain was disappearing under a beautiful glassiness.
He rolled into the hall and then stopped as a terrible thought struck him: if the bathroom floor had been slightly damp, or even a bit dirty - He stared at it, and for a moment the idea that he must have left tracks on those clean white tiles was so persuasive that he actually saw them. He shook his head and looked again. No tracks. But the door was open farther than it had been. He rolled forward, swung the wheelchair slightly to the right so he could lean over and grab the knob, and pulled the door half-closed. He eyed it, then pulled it a bit closer to the jamb. There. That looked right.
He was reaching for the wheels, meaning to pivot the chair so he could roll back to his room, when he realized he was pointed more or less toward the living room, and the living room was where most people kept their telephone and - Light bursting in his mind like a flare over a foggy meadow.
"Hello, Sidewinder Police Station, Officer Humbuggy speaking."
"Listen to me, Officer Humbuggy. Listen very carefully and don't interrupt, because I don't know how much time I have. My name is Paul Sheldon. I'm calling you from Annie Wilkes's house. I've been her prisoner here for at least two weeks, maybe as long as a month. I - "
"Get out here tight away. Send an ambulance. And for Christ's sake get here before she gets back.
"Before she gets back," Paul moaned. "Oh yeah " Far out." What makes you think she even has a phone? Who have you ever heard her call? Who would she call? Her good friends the Roydmans?