Under the DomeStephen King
UNDER THE DOME
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Copyright (c) 2009 by Stephen King
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MAP BY PAUL J. PUGLIESE
DESIGNED BY ERICH HOBBING
Manufactured in the United States of America
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2009018780
"Play It All Night Long," copyright (c) 1980 Zevon Music. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Published by Zevon Music and Imagem Music.
"Talkin' at the Texaco." Words and music by James McMurtry, copyright (c) 1989 SHORT TRIP MUSIC (BMI). Administered by BUG MUSIC. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
In memory of Surendra Dahyabhai Patel.
We miss you, my friend.
Who you lookin for
What was his name
you can prob'ly find him
at the football game
it's a small town
you know what I mean
it's a small town, son
and we all support the team
SOME (BUT NOT ALL) OF THOSE
IN CHESTER'S MILL ON DOME DAY:
Andy Sanders, First Selectman Jim Rennie, Second Selectman Andrea Grinnell, Third Selectman
SWEETBRIAR ROSE STAFF
Rose Twitchell, Owner
Dale Barbara, Cook
Anson Wheeler, Dishwasher
Angie McCain, Waitress
Dodee Sanders, Waitress
Howard "Duke" Perkins, Chief Peter Randolph, Assistant Chief Marty Arsenault, Officer
Freddy Denton, Officer
George Frederick, Officer
Rupert Libby, Officer
Toby Whelan, Officer
Jackie Wettington, Officer
Linda Everett, Officer
Stacey Moggin, Officer/Dispatch Junior Rennie, Special Deputy Georgia Roux, Special Deputy
Frank DeLesseps, Special Deputy Melvin Searles, Special Deputy Carter Thibodeau, Special Deputy PASTORAL CARE
Reverend Lester Coggins, Christ the Holy Redeemer Church Reverend Piper Libby, First Congregational Church
Ron Haskell, Doctor
Rusty Everett, Physician's Assistant Ginny Tomlinson, Nurse
Dougie Twitchell, Nurse
Gina Buffalino, Volunteer Nurse Harriet Bigelow, Volunteer Nurse
Little Walter Bushey
"Scarecrow" Joe McClatchey
Judy and Janelle Everett
Ollie and Rory Dinsmore
TOWNSPEOPLE OF NOTE
Tommy and Willow Anderson, Owner/Operators of Dipper's Roadhouse Stewart and Fernald Bowie, Owner/Operators of Bowie Funeral Home Joe Boxer, Dentist
Romeo Burpee, Owner/Operator of Burpee's Department Store
Phil Bushey, Chef of Dubious Repute Samantha Bushey, His Wife
Jack Cale, Supermarket Manager Ernie Calvert, Supermarket Manager (ret.) Johnny Carver, Convenience Store Operator Alden Dinsmore, Dairy Farmer Roger Killian, Chicken Farmer Lissa Jamieson, Town Librarian Claire McClatchey, Scarecrow Joe's Mom Alva Drake, Benny's Mom
Stubby Norman, Antique Dealer Brenda Perkins, Chief Perkins's Wife Julia Shumway, Owner/Editor of the Local Newspaper Tony Guay, Sports Reporter
Pete Freeman, News Photographer "Sloppy" Sam Verdreaux, Town Drunk
Alice and Aidan Appleton, Dome Orphans ("Dorphans") Thurston Marshall, Literary Man with Medical Skills Carolyn Sturges, Graduate Student
DOGS OF NOTE
Horace, Julia Shumway's Corgi Clover, Piper Libby's German Shepherd Audrey, the Everetts' Golden Retriever
UNDER THE DOME
THE AIRPLANE AND THE WOODCHUCK
From two thousand feet, where Claudette Sanders was taking a flying lesson, the town of Chester's Mill gleamed in the morning light like something freshly made and just set down. Cars trundled along Main Street, flashing up winks of sun. The steeple of the Congo Church looked sharp enough to pierce the unblemished sky. The sun raced along the surface of Prestile Stream as the Seneca V overflew it, both plane and water cutting the town on the same diagonal course.
"Chuck, I think I see two boys beside the Peace Bridge! Fishing!" Her very delight made her laugh. The flying lessons were courtesy of her husband, who was the town's First Selectman. Although of the opinion that if God had wanted man to fly, He would have given him wings, Andy was an extremely coaxable man, and eventually Claudette had gotten her way. She had enjoyed the experience from the first. But this wasn't mere enjoyment; it was exhilaration. Today was the first time she had really understood what made flying great. What made it cool.
Chuck Thompson, her instructor, touched the control yoke gently, then pointed at the instrument panel. "I'm sure," he said, "but let's keep the shiny side up, Claudie, okay?"
"Not at all." He had been teaching people to do this for years, and he liked students like Claudie, the ones who were eager to learn something new. She might cost Andy Sanders some real money before long; she loved the Seneca, and had expressed a desire to have one just like it, only new. That would run somewhere in the neighborhood of a million dollars. Although not exactly spoiled, Claudie Sanders had undeniably expensive tastes which, lucky man, Andy seemed to have no trouble satisfying.
Chuck also liked days like this: unlimited visibility, no wind, perfect teaching conditions. Nevertheless, the Seneca rocked slightly as she overcorrected.
"You're losing your happy thoughts. Don't do that. Come to one-twenty. Let's go out Route 119. And drop on down to nine hundred."
She did, the Seneca's trim once more perfect. Chuck relaxed.
They passed above Jim Rennie's Used Cars, and then the town was behind them. There were fields on either side of 119, and trees burning with color. The Seneca's cruciform shadow fled up the blacktop, one dark wing briefly brushing over an ant-man with a pack on his back. The ant-man looked up and waved. Chuck waved back, although he knew the guy couldn't see him.
"Beautiful goddam day!" Claudie exclaimed. Chuck laughed.
Their lives had another forty seconds to run.
The woodchuck came bumbling along the shoulder of Route 119, headed in the direction of Chester's Mill, although the town was sti
ll a mile and a half away and even Jim Rennie's Used Cars was only a series of twinkling sunflashes arranged in rows at the place where the highway curved to the left. The chuck planned (so far as a woodchuck can be said to plan anything) to head back into the woods long before he got that far. But for now, the shoulder was fine. He'd come farther from his burrow than he meant to, but the sun had been warm on his back and the smells were crisp in his nose, forming rudimentary images--not quite pictures--in his brain.
He stopped and rose on his back paws for an instant. His eyes weren't as good as they used to be, but good enough to make out a human up there, walking in his direction on the other shoulder.
The chuck decided he'd go a little farther anyway. Humans sometimes left behind good things to eat.
He was an old fellow, and a fat fellow. He had raided many garbage cans in his time, and knew the way to the Chester's Mill landfill as well as he knew the three tunnels of his own burrow; always good things to eat at the landfill. He waddled a complacent old fellow's waddle, watching the human walking on the other side of the road.
The man stopped. The chuck realized he had been spotted. To his right and just ahead was a fallen birch. He would hide under there, wait for the man to go by, then investigate for any tasty--
The chuck got that far in his thoughts--and another three waddling steps--although he had been cut in two. Then he fell apart on the edge of the road. Blood squirted and pumped; guts tumbled into the dirt; his rear legs kicked rapidly twice, then stopped.
His last thought before the darkness that comes to us all, chucks and humans alike: What happened?
All the needles on the control panel dropped dead.
"What the hell ?" Claudie Sanders said. She turned to Chuck. Her eyes were wide, but there was no panic in them, only bewilderment. There was no time for panic.
Chuck never saw the control panel. He saw the Seneca's nose crumple toward him. Then he saw both propellers disintegrate.
There was no time to see more. No time for anything. The Seneca exploded over Route 119 and rained fire on the countryside. It also rained body parts. A smoking forearm--Claudette's--landed with a thump beside the neatly divided woodchuck.
It was October twenty-first.
Barbie started feeling better as soon as he passed Food City and left downtown behind. When he saw the sign reading YOU ARE LEAVING THE VILLAGE OF CHESTER'S MILL COME BACK REAL SOON!, he felt better still. He was glad to be on his way, and not just because he had taken a pretty good beating in The Mill. It was plain old moving on that had lightened him up. He had been walking around under his own little gray cloud for at least two weeks before getting his shit handed to him in the parking lot of Dipper's.
"Basically, I'm just a ramblin guy," he said, and laughed. "A ramblin guy on his way to the Big Sky." And hell, why not? Montana! Or Wyoming. Fucking Rapid City, South Dakota. Anyplace but here.
He heard an approaching engine, turned around--walking backward now--and stuck out his thumb. What he saw was a lovely combination: a dirty old Ford pickemup with a fresh young blonde behind the wheel. Ash blonde, his favorite blonde of all. Barbie offered his most engaging smile. The girl driving the pickemup responded with one of her own, and oh my Lord if she was a ticktock over nineteen, he'd eat his last paycheck from Sweetbriar Rose. Too young for a gentleman of thirty summers, no doubt, but perfectly street-legal, as they'd said back in the days of his cornfed Iowa youth.
The truck slowed, he started toward it ... and then it sped up again. She gave him one more brief look as she went past. The smile was still on her face, but it had turned regretful. I had a brain-cramp there for a minute, the smile said, but now sanity has reasserted itself.
And Barbie thought he recognized her a little, although it was impossible to say with certainty; Sunday mornings in Sweetbriar were always a madhouse. But he thought he'd seen her with an older man, probably her dad, both of them with their faces mostly buried in sections of the Sunday Times. If he could have spoken to her as she rolled past, Barbie would have said: If you trusted me to cook your sausage and eggs, surely you can trust me for a few miles in the shotgun seat.
But of course he didn't get the chance, so he simply raised his hand in a little no-offense-taken salute. The truck's taillights flickered, as if she were reconsidering. Then they went out and the truck sped up.
During the following days, as things in The Mill started going from bad to worse, he would replay this little moment in the warm October sun again and again. It was that second reconsidering flicker of the taillights he thought of ... as if she had recognized him, after all. That's the cook from Sweetbriar Rose, I'm almost sure. Maybe I ought to--
But maybe was a gulf better men than him had fallen into. If she had reconsidered, everything in his life thereafter would have changed. Because she must have made it out; he never saw the fresh-faced blonde or the dirty old Ford F-150 again. She must have crossed over the Chester's Mill town line minutes (or even seconds) before the border slammed shut. If he'd been with her, he would have been out and safe.
Unless, of course, he'd think later, when sleep wouldn't come, the stop to pick me up was just long enough to be too long. In that case, I probably still wouldn't be here. And neither would she. Because the speed limit out that way on 119 is fifty miles an hour. And at fifty miles an hour ...
At this point he would always think of the plane.
The plane flew over him just after he passed Jim Rennie's Used Cars, a place for which Barbie had no love. Not that he'd bought a lemon there (he hadn't owned a car in over a year, had sold the last one in Punta Gorda, Florida). It was just that Jim Rennie Jr. had been one of the fellows that night in Dipper's parking lot. A frat boy with something to prove, and what he could not prove alone he would prove as part of a group. That was the way the Jim Juniors of the world did business, in Barbie's experience.
But it was behind him now. Jim Rennie's, Jim Junior, Sweetbriar Rose (Fried Clams Our Specialty! Always "Whole " Never "Strips "), Angie McCain, Andy Sanders. The whole deal, including Dipper's. (Beatings Administered in the Parking Lot Our Specialty!) All behind him. And ahead of him? Why, the gates of America. Goodbye smalltown Maine, hello Big Sky.
Or maybe, hell, he'd head down south again. No matter how beautiful this particular day, winter was lurking a page or two over on the calendar. The south might be good. He'd never been to Muscle Shoals, and he liked the sound of the name. That was goddam poetry, Muscle Shoals was, and the idea so cheered him that when he heard the little plane approaching, he looked up and gave a big old exuberant wave. He hoped for a wing-waggle in return, but didn't get one, although the plane was slowpoking at low altitude. Barbie's guess was sightseers--this was a day for them, with the trees in full flame--or maybe some young kid on his learner's permit, too worried about screwing up to bother with groundlings like Dale Barbara. But he wished them well. Sightseers or a kid still six weeks from his first solo cruise, Barbie wished them very well. It was a good day, and every step away from Chester's Mill made it better. Too many assholes in The Mill, and besides: travel was good for the soul.
Maybe moving on in October should be a law, he thought. New national motto: EVERYBODY LEAVES IN OCTOBER. You get your Packing Permit in August, give your required week's notice in mid-September, then--
He stopped. Not too far ahead of him, on the other side of the blacktop highway, was a woodchuck. A damned fat one. Sleek and sassy, too. Instead of scurrying off into the high grass, it was coming on ahead. There was a fallen birch sticking its top half out onto the shoulder of the road, and Barbie was betting the woodchuck would scurry under there and wait for the big bad Two-Legs to go by. If not, they would pass each other like the ramblin guys they were, the one on four legs headed north, the one on two headed south. Barbie hoped that would happen. It would be cool.
These thoughts went through Barbie's mind in seconds; the shadow of the airplane was sti
ll between him and the chuck, a black cross racing along the highway. Then two things happened almost simultaneously.
The first was the woodchuck. It was whole, then it was in two pieces. Both were twitching and bleeding. Barbie stopped, mouth hanging open on the suddenly lax hinge of his lower jaw. It was as if an invisible guillotine blade had dropped. And that was when, directly above the severed woodchuck, the little airplane exploded.
Barbie looked up. Falling from the sky was a squashed Bizarro World version of the pretty little airplane that had passed over him seconds before. Twisting orange-red petals of fire hung above it in the air, a flower that was still opening, an American Disaster rose. Smoke billowed from the plummeting plane.
Something clanged to the road and sprayed up clods of asphalt before spinning drunkenly into the high grass to the left. A propeller.
If that had bounced my way--
Barbie had a brief image of being cut in two--like the unfortunate woodchuck--and turned to run. Something thudded down in front of him and he screamed. But it wasn't the other propeller; it was a man's leg dressed in denim. He could see no blood, but the side-seam had been blown wide open, revealing white flesh and wiry black hair.
There was no foot attached.
Barbie ran in what felt like slow motion. He saw one of his own feet, clad in an old scuffed workboot, stride out and clop down. Then it disappeared behind him as his other foot strode out. All slow, slow. Like watching the baseball replay of a guy trying to steal second.
There was a tremendous hollow clang from behind him, followed by the boom of a secondary explosion, followed by a blast of heat that struck him from heels to nape. It shoved him on his way like a warm hand. Then all thoughts blew away and there was nothing but the body's brute need to survive.