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A Long-Ago Party at the Haunted Overlook Hotel



Snippet from

The Shining  



- Stephen King


Horror








Context: Jack Torrance has got a job as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in the off-season and his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, have accompanied him to spend the winter at the isolated hotel. But the hotel seems to be haunted by a violent past. Danny already has ‘The Shining,’ some sort of psychic powers, but now the Hotel is making Jack and Wendy aware of its evil forces too. Here, the hotel elevator seems to be moving by itself and is making thumping sounds.




--

Wendy hesitated for a moment, and it was actually Danny who began to move first. She caught up quickly, and they went out together.


Jack hadn't bothered with the lights. She fumbled for the switch that lit the four spaced overheads in the hallway that led to the main corridor. Up ahead, Jack was already turning the corner. This time Danny found the switch plate and flicked all three switches up. The hallway leading down to the stairs and the elevator shaft came alight.


Jack was standing at the elevator station, which was flanked by benches and cigarette urns. He was standing motionless in front of the closed elevator door. In his faded tartan bathrobe and brown leather slippers with the rundown heels, his hair all in sleep corkscrews and Alfalfa cowlicks, he looked to her like an absurd twentieth-century Hamlet, an indecisive figure so mesmerized by onrushing tragedy that he was helpless to divert its course or alter it in any way.


(jesus stop thinking so crazy--)


Danny's hand had tightened painfully on her own. He was looking up at her intently, his face strained and anxious. He had been catching the drift of her thoughts, she realized. Just how much or how little of them he was getting was impossible to say, but she flushed, feeling much the same as if he had caught her in a masturbatory act.


"Come on," she said, and they went down the hall to Jack.


The hummings and clankings and thumpings were louder here, terrifying in a disconnected, benumbed way. Jack was staring at the closed door with feverish intensity. Through the diamond-shaped window in the center of the elevator door she thought she could make out the cables, thrumming slightly. The elevator clanked to a stop below them, at lobby level. They heard the doors thump open. And ...


(party)


Why had she thought party? The word had simply jumped into her head for no reason at all. The silence in the Overlook was complete and intense except for the weird noises coming up the elevator shaft.


(must have been quite a party)


(???WHAT PARTY???)


For just a moment her mind had filled with an image so real that it seemed to be a memory ... not just any memory but one of those you treasure, one of those you keep for very special occasions and rarely mention aloud. Lights ... hundreds, maybe thousands of them. Lights and colors, the pop of champagne corks, a forty-piece orchestra playing Glenn Miller's "In the Mood." But Glenn Miller had gone down in his bomber before she was born, how could she have a memory of Glenn Miller?


She looked down at Danny and saw his head had cocked to one side, as if he was hearing something she couldn't hear. His face was very pale.


Thump.


The door had slid shut down there. A humming whine as the elevator began to rise. She saw the engine housing on top of the car first through the diamond-shaped window, then the interior of the car, seen through the farther diamond shapes made by the brass gate. Warm yellow light from the car's overhead. It was empty. The car was empty. It was empty but


(on the night of the party they must have crowded in by the dozens, crowded the car way beyond its safety limit but of course it had been new then and all of them wearing masks)


(????WHAT MASKS????)


The car stopped above them, on the third floor. She looked at Danny. His face was all eyes. His mouth was pressed into a frightened, bloodless slit. Above them, the brass gate rattled back. The elevator door thumped open, it thumped open because it was time, the time had come, it was time to say


(Good night ... good night ... yes, it was lovely ... no, i really can't stay for the unmasking ... early to bed, early to rise ... oh, was that Sheila? ... the monk? ... isn't that witty, Sheila coming as a monk? ... yes, good night ... good)


Thump.


Gears clashed. The motor engaged. The car began to whine back down.


"Jack," she whispered. "What is it? What's wrong with it?"


"A short circuit," he said. His face was like wood. "I told you, it was a short circuit."


"I keep hearing voices in my head!" she cried. "What is it? What's wrong? I feel like I'm going crazy!"


"What voices?" He looked at her with deadly blandness. She turned to Danny. "Did you--?"


Danny nodded slowly. "Yes. And music. Like from a long time ago. In my head."


The elevator car stopped again. The hotel was silent, creaking, deserted. Outside, the wind whined around the eaves in the darkness.


"Maybe you are both crazy," Jack said conversationally. "I don't hear a goddamned thing except that elevator having a case of the electrical hiccups. If you two want to have duet hysterics, fine. But count me out."


The elevator was coming down again. Jack stepped to the right, where a glass-fronted box was mounted on the wall at chest height. He smashed his bare fist against it. Glass tinkled inward. Blood dripped from two of his knuckles. He reached in and took out a key with a long, smooth barrel.


"Jack, no. Don't."


"I am going to do my job. Now leave me alone, Wendy!"


She tried to grab his arm. He pushed her backward. Her feet tangled in the hem of her robe and she fell to the carpet with an ungainly thump. Danny cried out shrilly and fell on his knees beside her. Jack turned back to the elevator and thrust the key into the socket.


The elevator cables disappeared and the bottom of the car came into view in the small window. A second later Jack turned the key hard. There was a grating, screeching sound as the elevator car came to an instant standstill. For a moment the declutched motor in the basement whined even louder, and then its circuit breaker cut in and the Overlook went unearthly still. The night wind outside seemed very loud by comparison. Jack looked stupidly at the gray metal elevator door. There was three splotches of blood below the keyhole from his lacerated knuckles.


He turned back to Wendy and Danny for a moment. She was sitting up, and Danny had his arm around her. They were both staring at him carefully, as if he was a stranger they had never seen before, possibly a dangerous one. He opened his mouth, not sure what was going to come out.


"It ... Wendy, it's my job."


She said clearly: "Fuck your job."


He turned back to the elevator, worked his fingers into the crack that ran down the right side of the door, and got it to open a little way. Then he was able to get his whole weight on it and threw the door open.


The car had stopped halfway, its floor at Jack's chest level. Warm light still spilled out on it, contrasting with the oily darkness of the shaft below. He looked in for what seemed a long time.


"It's empty," he said then. "A short circuit, like I said." He hooked his fingers into the slot behind the door and began to pull it closed ... then her hand was on his shoulder, surprisingly strong, yanking him away.


"Wendy!" he shouted. But she had already caught the car's bottom edge and pulled herself up enough so she could look in. Then, with a convulsive heave of her shoulder and belly muscles, she tried to boost herself all the way up. For a moment the issue was in doubt. Her feet tottered over the blackness of the shaft and one pink slipper fell from her foot and slipped out of sight.


"Mommy!" Danny screamed.


Then she was up, her cheeks flushed, her forehead as pale and shining as a spirit lamp. "What about this, Jack? Is this a short circuit?" She threw something and suddenly the hall was full of drifting confetti, red and white and blue and yellow. "Is this?" A green party streamer, faded to a pale pastel color with age.


"And this?"


She tossed it out and it came to rest on the blue-black jungle carpet, a black silk cat's-eye mask, dusted with sequins at the temples.


"Does that look like a short circuit to you, Jack?" she screamed at him.


Jack stepped slowly away from it, shaking his head mechanically back and forth. The cat's-eye mask stared up blankly at the ceiling from the confetti-strewn hallway carpet.





About the book:

Jack Torrance's new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.


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