Home > Misery(8)

Author: Stephen King

The tide was still in and he could have gone back to sleep - wanted to go back to sleep - but he had to think about this bizarre situation while he was still capable of something like rational thought.

The worst thing, he was discovering, was that he didn't want to think of it even while he could, even when he knew he could not bring the situation to an end without thinking about it. His mind kept trying to push it away, like a child pushing away his meal even though he has been told he cannot leave the table until he has eaten it.

He didn't want to think about it because just living it was hard enough. He didn't want to think about it because whenever he did unpleasant images intervened - the way she went blank, the way she made him think of idols and stones, and now the way the yellow plastic floor-bucket had sped toward his face like a crashing moon. Thinking of those things would not change his situation, was in fact worse than not thinking at all, but once he turned his mind to Annie Wilkes and his position here in her house, they thoughts that came, crowding out all others. His heart would start to beat too fast, mostly in fear, but partly in shame, too. He saw himself putting his lips to the rim of the yellow floor-bucket, saw the rinse-water with its film of soap aid the rag floating in it, saw these things but drank anyway, never hesitating a bit. He would never tell anyone about that, assuming he ever got out of this, and he supposed he might try to lie about it to himself, but he would never be able to do it.

Yet, miserable or not (and he was), he still wanted to live.

Think about it, goddammit! Jesus Christ, are you already so cowed you can't even try?

No - but almost that cowed.

Then an odd, angry thought occurred to him: She doesn't like the new book because she's too stupid to understand what it's up to.

The thought wasn't just odd; under the circumstances, how she felt about Fast Cars was totally immaterial. But thinking about the things she had said was at least a new avenue, and feeling angry at her was better than feeling scared of her, and so he went down it with some eagerness.

Too stupid? No. Too set. Not just unwilling to change, but antagonistic to the very idea of change.

Yes. And while she might be crazy, was she so different in her evaluation of his work from the hundreds of thousands of other people across the country - ninety percent of them women - who could barely wait for each new five-hundred, page episode in the turbulent life of the foundling who I risen to marry a peer of the realm? No, not at all. They wanted Misery, Misery, Misery. Each time he had taken a year or two off to write one of the other novels - what thought of as his "serious" work with what was at first certainty and then hope and finally a species of grim desperation - he had received a flood of protesting letters from these women, many of whom signed themselves "your number-one fan". The tone of these letters varied from bewilderment (that always hurt the most, somehow), to reproach, to outright anger, but the message was always the same: It wasn't what I expected, it wasn't what I wanted. Please go back to Misery. I want to know what Misery is doing. He could write a modern Under the Volcano, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Sound and the Fury; it wouldn't matter. They would still want Misery, Misery, Misery.

It's hard to follow... he's not interesting... and the profanity!

The anger sparked again. Anger at her obdurate density, anger that she could actually kidnap him - keep him prisoner here, force him into a choice between drinking dirty rinse-water from a floor-bucket or suffering the pain of his shattered legs - and then, on top of all that, find the nerve to criticize the best thing he had ever written.

"Bugger you and the effword you rode in on," he said, and he suddenly felt better again, felt himself again, even though he knew this rebellion was petty and pitiful and meaningless - she was in the barn where she couldn't hear him, and the tide was safely in over the splintered pilings. Still...

He remembered her coming in here, withholding the capsules, coercing permission to read the manuscript of Fast Cars. He felt a flush of shame and humiliation warming his face, but now they were mixed with real anger: it had bloomed from a spark into a tiny sunken flame. He had never shown anyone a manuscript before he had proof-read it and then retyped it. Never. Not even Bryce, his agent. Never. Why, he didn't even - For a moment his thoughts broke off cleanly. He could hear the dim sound of a cow mooing.

Why, he didn't even make a copy until the second draft was done.

The manuscript copy of Fast Cars which was now in Annie Wilkes's possession was, in fact, the only existing copy in the whole world. He had even burned his notes.

Two years of hard work, she didn't like it, and she was crazy.

Misery was what she liked; Misery was who she liked, not some foul-talking little spic car-thief from Spanish Harlem.

He remembered thinking: Turn the pages of the manuscript into paper hats if you want, just... please...

The anger and humiliation surged again, awakening the first dull answering throb in his legs. Yes. The work, the pride in your work, the worth of the work itself... all those things faded away to the magic-lantern shades they really were when the pain got bad enough. That she would do that to him - that she could, when he had spent most of his adult life thinking the word writer was the most important definition of himself - made her seem utterly monstrous, something he must escape. She really was an idol, and if she didn't kill him, she might kill what was in him.

Now he heard the eager squeal of the pig - she had thought he would mind, but he thought Misery was a wonderful name for a pig. He remembered how she had imitated it, the way her upper lip had wrinkled toward her nose, how her cheeks had seemed to flatten, how she had actually looked like a pig for a moment: Whoink! WHOINKK!

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