The locker room was filled with shouts, echoes, and the subterranean sound of showers splashing on tile. The girls had been playing volleyball in Period One, and their morning sweat was light and eager.
Girls stretched and writhed under the hot water, squalling, flicking water, squirting white bars of soap from hand to hand. Carrie stood among them stolidly, a frog among swans. She was a chunky girl with pimples on her neck and back and buttocks, her wet hair completely without color. It rested against her face with dispirited sogginess and she simply stood, head slightly bent, letting the water splat against her flesh and roll off. She looked the part of the sacrificial goat, the constant butt, believer in left-handed monkey wrenches, perpetual foul-up, and she was.
She wished forlornly and constantly that Ewen High had individual--and thus private-- showers, like the high schools at Westover or Lewiston. They stared. They always stared.
Showers turning off one by one, girls stepping out, removing pastel bathing caps, toweling, spraying deodorant, checking the clock over the door. Bras were hooked, underpants stepped into. Steam hung in the air; the place might have been an Egyptian bathhouse except for the constant rumble of the Jacuzzi whirlpool in the corner. Calls and catcalls rebounded with all the snap and flicker of billiard balls after a hard break.
"--so Tommy said he hated it on me and I--"
"--I'm going with my sister and her husband. He picks his nose but so does she, so they're
"--shower after school and--"
"--too cheap to spend a goddam penny so Cindi and I--"
Miss Desjardin, their slim, nonbreasted gym teacher, stepped in, craned her neck around briefly, and slapped her hands together once, smartly.
"What are you waiting for, Carrie? Doom? Bell in five minutes."
Her shorts were blinding white, her legs not too curved but striking in their
unobtrusive muscularity. A silver whistle, won in college archery competition, hung around her neck.
The girls giggled and Carrie looked up, her eyes slow and dazed from the heat and the steady, pounding roar of the water. "Ohuh?"
It was a strangely froggy sound, grotesquely apt, and the girls giggled again. Sue Snell had whipped a towel from her hair with the speed of a magician embarking on a wondrous feat and began to comb rapidly. Miss Desjardin made an irritated cranking gesture at Carrie and stepped out.
Carrie turned off the shower. It died in a drip and a gurgle.
It wasn't until she stepped out that they all saw the blood running down her leg.
The catcall came first from Chris Hargensen. It struck the tiled walls, rebounded, and struck again. Sue Snell gasped laughter from her nose and felt an odd, vexing mixture of hate, revulsion, exasperation, and pity. She just looked so dumb, standing there, not knowing what was going on. God, you'd think she never--
It was becoming a chant, an incantation. Someone in the background (perhaps Hargensen again, Sue couldn't tell in the jungle of echoes) was yelling, "Plug it up!" with hoarse, uninhibited abandon.
"PER-iod, PER-iod, PER-iod!"
Carrie stood dumbly in the center of a forming circle, water rolling from her skin in beads. She stood like a patient ox, aware that the joke was on her (as always), dumbly embarrassed but unsurprised.
Sue felt welling disgust as the first dark drops of menstrual blood struck the tile in dime-sized drops. "For God's sake, Carrie, you got your period!" she cried. "Clean yourself up!"
She looked around bovinely. Her hair stuck to her cheeks in a curving helmet shape. There was a cluster of acne on one shoulder. At sixteen, the elusive stamp of hurt was already marked clearly in her eyes.
"She thinks they're for lipstick!" Ruth Gogan suddenly shouted with cryptic glee, and then burst into a shriek of laughter. Sue remembered the comment later and fitted it into a general picture, but now it was only another senseless sound in the confusion. Sixteen? She was thinking. She must know what's happening, she--
More droplets of blood. Carrie still blinked around at her classmates in slow bewilderment.
Helen Shyres turned around and made mock throwing-up gestures.
"You're bleeding!" Sue yelled suddenly, furiously. "You're bleeding, you big dumb pudding!"
Carrie looked down at herself.
The sound was very loud in the humid locker room.
A tampon suddenly struck her in the chest and fell with a plop at her feet. A red flower stained the absorbent cotton and spread.
Then the laughter, disgusted, contemptuous, horrified, seemed to rise and bloom into something jagged and ugly, and the girls were bombarding her with tampons and sanitary napkins, some from purses, some from the broken dispenser on the wall. They flew like snow and the chant became: "Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up, plug it--"
Sue was throwing them too, throwing and chanting with the rest, not really sure what she was doing--a charm had occurred to her mind and it glowed there like neon: There's no harm in it really no harm in it really no harm--
It was still flashing and glowing, reassuringly, when Carrie suddenly began to howl and back away, flailing her arms and grunting and gobbling.
The girls stopped, realizing that fission and explosion had finally been reached. It was at this point, when looking back, that some of them would claim surprise. Yet there had been all these years, all these years of let's short-sheet Carrie's bed at Christian Youth Camp and I found this love letter from Carrie to Flash Bobby Pickett let's copy it and pass it around and hide her underpants somewhere and put this snake in her shoe and duck her King again, duck her again; Carrie tagging along stubbornly on biking trips, known one year as pudd'n and the next year as truck-face, always smelling sweaty, not able to catch up; catching poison ivy from urinating in the bushes and everyone finding out (hey, scratch-ass, your bum itch?); Billy Preston putting peanut butter in her hair that time she fell asleep in study hall; the pinches, the legs outstretched in school aisles to trip her up, the books knocked from her desk, the obscene postcard tucked into her purse; Carrie at the church picnic and kneeling down clumsily to pray and the seam of her old madras skirt splitting along the zipper like the sound of a huge wind-breakage; Carrie always missing the ball, even in kickball, falling on her face in Modern Dance during their sophomore year and chipping a tooth, running into the net during volleyball; wearing stockings that were always run, running, or about to run, always showing sweat stains under the arms of her blouses; even the time Chris Hargensen called up after school from the Kelly Fruit Company downtown and asked her if she knew that pig poop was spelled C- A- R- R- I- E: Suddenly all this and the critical mass was reached. The ultimate shit-on, gross-out, put-down, long searched for, was found. Fission.
She backed away, howling in the new silence, fat forearms crossing her face, a tampon stuck in the middle of her pubic hair.
The girls watched her, their eyes shining solemnly.
Carrie backed into the side of one of the four large shower compartments and slowly collapsed into a sitting position. Slow, helpless groans jerked out of her. Her eyes rolled with wet whiteness, like the eyes of a hog in the slaughtering pen.
Sue said slowly, hesitantly: "I think this must be the first time she ever-- "
That was when the door pumped open with a flat and hurried bang and Miss Desjardin burst in to see what the matter was.
About the book:
Carrie White is no ordinary girl. Carrie White has the gift of telekinesis. To be invited to Prom Night by Tommy Ross is a dream come true for Carrie - the first step towards social acceptance by her high school colleagues. But little does she know how much they despise her, and little do they know how much anger is bubbling inside her, and what she is capable of.
King's debut novel (also a major motion picture) that made the world sit up and take notice is an outrageously macabre tale that shocks and delights at every turn of the page.
Excerpt from The Master and Margarita
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Excerpt from The Sandman
- E. T. A. Hoffmann